Coach Meyer, MVP Chris Leak, and defensive MVP Derrick Harvey share their experience with the media after blasting Ohio State in the National Championship Game. ALSO: Quotes from Ohio State.
Q. Chris, how would you compare this Ohio State team to some of the tough SEC teams you guys faced this year?
CHRIS LEAK: Well, I think Ohio State, they have their own style, their own aura about themselves. So we knew coming into this game it is going to be a different type team, a different type scheme that we were going to be playing against. And that’s why we tried to just make sure we managed things on offense because we knew they were a great defense and that they capitalize on such things as turnovers and fumbles and those such things.
Q. Chris, sometimes it can be hard to read your emotions. It was pretty clear how you were feeling there at the end of the game. Can you describe what it was like holding up the crystal football on that stage?
CHRIS LEAK: It is the greatest feeling to be national champs. I’m just so thankful to be around. I have great teammates, great coaches. We have worked so hard to get to this point. I’m just so proud of, you know, how hard we worked over the four years and we finally got to this point, that we took advantage of this opportunity.
The guys have worked so hard this year, and we have been very blessed.
Q. Chris, let me ask you two questions. First of all, can you talk about what emotions are going through you? You come across as a very calm, relaxed gentleman right now. Are you excited?
CHRIS LEAK: Oh, yeah, I am excited, especially for my coaches and my teammates. This is a great feeling. This is what you work for. It is very humbling at the same time, just to know, you know, when you work hard, when you keep doing the right things and you are a good person, you know, you get your school work done, you graduate, when you are doing all the right things, eventually your time is going to come. This team has worked so hard, done all the right things. I am so proud of these guys, the way they have handled themselves.
Q. What do you have to say to people who were so convinced that Ohio State might win, that you would put up a good fight but it was going to be Ohio State? What do you say to the so-called experts?
CHRIS LEAK: They are entitled to their own opinions. The main thing we did, we just focused on Gator football, how we can put each other, offense, defense, special teams, how we can help each other to be successful. We knew we would have to play our best game of the season to be successful.
And I think we were able to do that today.
Q. Chris, coming off of Ted Ginn’s touchdown to open up the game, you came out and were 5-5 on the opening drive, connected on your first nine passes. Can you talk about how important that early success was?
CHRIS LEAK: We knew it would be important to get in an early rhythm. When you go against great defenses, that’s real important because you open up the offense so much more of what you can do. We were able to just hit on all cylinders, get everybody comfortable, settle everybody down, get into a rhythm.
That was very important for our success throughout the game.
Q. I know it is just after this big win, but can you reflect on your career at this point? Going out the way you do, there has been ups and downs, can you reflect a little bit on what all this finally means for you?
CHRIS LEAK: We are national champs. That’s what you strive for. That’s what you play for. Ever since you were a kid, this is what you dream about. And we are able to accomplish this goal. My legacy was to get Florida—University of Florida football back here and with my teammates and my coaches, we were able to do that.
And, I mean, what better way to play against a great team like Ohio State.
Q. Chris, would you say—a lot was made of the 51-day lay-off for Ohio State. Would you say the biggest problem for Ohio State in this game was the 35 days that Coach Meyer was able to put together an offensive game plan with you guys?
CHRIS LEAK: I think we took advantage of the time we had off, getting guys back healthy and being able to game-plan things to perfection and rep it out in practice and get as many reps as possible during the week. I think that helped to be successful and be ready for the spirit of the game and being prepared to go in there and just run offense and play Gator football.
Q. Chris, you look on the other side of Troy Smith, Heisman Trophy winner, the guy is known as being the big-game quarterback, even Coach Tressel said a few minutes ago that your accomplishments are understated a lot. To come out and do what you did tonight, can you just give a little personal look into how did it affect you as far as your career and the way you finished off?
CHRIS LEAK: During my career, we have played in some huge games. Coming into a game like this, you really—you really just have to go back to all those big games you played in and all those great teams that you were able to play against.
And that really helped me get a comfort level of going into this game, knowing what the atmosphere was going to be like and what was going—what I was going to have to do for us to be successful. So that really—my experience through my four years in college football really helped me out throughout the game.
Q. Chris, I have seen a lot of teams going in with huge leads at half time, and obviously this is the biggest stage in the world for college football. What did your coaches tell you at half time that you were able to keep the pedal down when you came out?
CHRIS LEAK: Well, yeah, I mean, we were—we wanted to come out and attack and keep doing the things we were doing offensively and we knew we had—we had the opportunity to do something great and we didn’t want to let back anything because we knew that Ohio State, their offense—they have the type of offense that can really stress the field and score a lot of points so we knew we had to come out and get into a rhythm early and continue to score points.
Q. Chris, did you guys get a sense that you guys were just the hungrier team tonight than they were?
CHRIS LEAK: I mean, we’re hungry every game we go into. This is a—this is the national title game and both teams are going to be hungry and eager to get out there and play because it is such high expectations of yourself in a game like this.
We just came out and just really wanted to play our best football because we knew it was going to take the entire team playing together, working together for us to be successful.
Q. Chris, would you talk about, you came out, you hit your first eight passes, nine of your first ten. You just seemed so relaxed tonight. Did you feel like you were in a groove from the time you stepped out there and played, and would you talk about how that first quarter—how you guys just took command in the first quarter?
CHRIS LEAK: The offensive line did an excellent job up front handling the front pressure. Receiver able to get open and in the zones when they had it. We were able to get in the early rhythm. We were able to do that against a great defense. You can really control what you do offensively throughout the game.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, we’ll turn it over to you for an opening comment.
COACH MEYER: I want to thank the City of Glendale and I thank John Junker, what a great experience for a bunch of young people that found a way to fight. And if I had my choice of being around what kind of people I would be around, I would be around the people who fight. We fought all year. I made this comment in the middle of year that these seniors earned my admiration because they have been through an awful lot. Someday down the road we will write a book and tell you what some of the seniors have been through.
I love them. I can’t tell you how much they mean to me. I told Chris Leak, you know, Cornelius, we have no choice now, we have to hang out together the next 30 years because they are national champions.
So I will answer some questions for you.
Q. Coach, your emotions right now, and did you ever think it would be—I know you probably don’t like this word, this relatively easy a win?
COACH MEYER: You are right, I don’t like that word, because it is not easy. First of all, Ohio State is a great football team, but we have all been in those games. Last year we had one in Alabama where you get some turnovers, short field. Make no mistake about it, Ohio State is a great football team. You don’t go 12-0. And great coach.
We played very well. You play defense like that, you don’t lose. Our defense did that all year against some great teams. And this guy to my direct right played very well. Very efficient. We knew they would play zone coverage against us and he managed the game very well. All those bubble screens, we forced them to get out of the box and I thought he played brilliantly.
What does it mean to me? I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it yet. Chris Leak, Urban Meyer, attached at the hip for the next 30 years, right? We have no choice (smiling).
Q. Coach, would you talk about the fact that there has been so much talk about all for the last two years about Chris being the square peg in the round hole. He looked pretty good tonight, didn’t he?
COACH MEYER: He is officially one of the top two quarterbacks to play at the University of Florida. We made this comment two years ago, it is the way you are judged at Florida. It started back with Shane Matthews all the way through, you are expected to win SEC championships. There have only been two in 100 years of football, there have been two quarterbacks win a national championship, and Chris Leak is one of them.
Q. Urban, can you talk about what you pulled out of your pocket right after you sent your kick team out and what you had in your hand during the course of the game?
COACH MEYER: It is personal. I have had that for six years with me, and it is just something that helps me make good decisions, I guess.
Q. Urban, I think I heard you say on T.V. afterward the whole idea you guys thinking you didn’t deserve to be here and what the motivation was for the last 30 days. Can you talk about that again?
COACH MEYER: Coaches and players, we got a bunch of hard-working guys now. You start messing around with people’s pride, and I try not to watch, but for 30 days we have been watching it, too. I agree, I think Ohio State is a tremendous team. There are a bunch of NFL players on that team and a great coach.
I also got to take care of my football team. You start rubbing that for a day or two and we will get over it. You do it for 30 days and you have a bunch of tigers. I really enjoyed coaching this team and it wasn’t hard for the last 30 days. Like I said, there is a lot of pride now. You can come watch our workouts in February and March and you can say people don’t belong, don’t do this, don’t do that. Motivation was easy for the last 30 days especially with guys that are very invested.
And obviously just look at these young people’s faces, you can tell they are very invested.
Q. Coach, can you talk about the personal fulfillment for you? You came here two years ago and some of the communication wasn’t there. It has been well-documented—first couple—watching film with Chris and he would sit there for a couple hours and not say anything. Obviously you guys are close now. What you have brought out of these players and how it has paid off, it has to be personally fulfilling for you and the whole Gator Nation?
COACH MEYER: Everybody knows the way our coaching staff coaches and the relationships we develop with the players. There is no personal fulfillment. It is fulfillment when you are around your players and family. What does it mean for my personally? Of course I love it. I am very appreciative.
What’s really important is watching the reaction, those players in that locker room. I got to experience that now twice in 12 months. I got to experience Billy Donovan’s crew win a championship. I walked away saying there is a bunch of young people in there doing it the right way and they can say they are the best at what they do. I just walked into the locker room and they are doing the same thing.
Q. How big was your defensive speed overall especially from the edge, how big a factor was that tonight?
COACH MEYER: I have to watch the film. I think the combination of mixing up coverages, we used to be a man coverage team solely and I don’t think we can do that much, not against a team like this. Not with the speed. You saw how fast Teddy was out in opening kick-off. I saw him walk out to the locker room. I don’t believe he came back. The thing that makes Ohio State different than some other teams, they match speed with the physicalness.
But I think we were the faster team tonight. As a person watching it when Teddy Ginn went out, we covered their wide outs and put a lot of pressure on the quarterback with the speed off the edge with Jarvis and Derrick Harvey.
Q. Urban, you are national champions. There is one team left standing undefeated. For people who want to make some controversy out of that, do you have comments?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, let’s play them next week. I know Boise State. I would not want to do that. We’re good. We’re done. We’re finished. (Smiling) I watched that game up until I fell asleep. I know those guys. I studied when Coach Hawkins was there and Coach Petersen is a great coach. I imagine they will end up number two. I don’t know that. I know USC looked like a million dollars too when I saw them play.
I learned a lesson when I made some comments about a month ago, whenever that was, that there is probably five, six, seven great football teams in this country and there is one way to figure out who the better team is and that’s to go play the game.
That’s the best thing about college football.
Q. Derrick, can you talk about when you guys go back to campus, talk to the basketball guys, I know you guys talk about both of you becoming national champions kind of thing. What are you going to say to Joakim Noah and all those guys?
DERRICK HARVEY: We just got a national championship. Both basketball and football worked hard all year.
Q. Urban, you talked about your first night before your first game as head coach at Bowling Green. Could you have fathomed six years later you would fastforward and be in the state? Talk about that?
COACH MEYER: That’s all true, that we made the comment. I have been so fortunate. I will do that in this off-season. I will write down every great player I have had play for me in the last six years. Not many coaches have the opportunity to coach Chris Leaks and Derrick Harveys and Jarvis Mosses and Percy Harvins and Tim Tebows and guys screaming for the ball on the sideline. That doesn’t happen very often. I have been very blessed from Josh Harris to Alex Smith through all the great defensive players. I will do that because not many guys get that opportunity.
It has only been six years and I have coached I can’t tell you how many great football players.
Q. Derrick, can you describe the effect, the pressure began to have on Troy Smith? What did you see from him?
DERRICK HARVEY: We pressure anybody, get them out of their rhythm, and we just had enough practice, good coaching and we came out with a win.
Q. What did you see from him?
DERRICK HARVEY: I mean —
COACH MEYER: Come on, Harv, let it go.
DERRICK HARVEY: He was rattled. Running for his life (smiling). That’s what good D made him do.
Q. Derrick, would you talk about how the defensive tackles got that push up the middle and how that freed it up for you and Jarvis on the outside?
DERRICK HARVEY: It is always easy. He did get the spotlight but Ray McDonald, Steve Harrison got the push out the middle and me and Jarvis came out the edge and did the easy job.
Q. Urban, you were urging Derrick to let it go. Your players did a pretty good job of holding it in through the 30 days, whatever they were feeling there. Did you counsel them to do that? And how much did they then release it on the field, do you think?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, you have to take some counseling. I had to go through some counseling for the last 30 days. We are a very close team. And I think the first thing I think we have a couple rules, and that is never say anything that’s going to embarrass our program. Always say great things about your opponent. If you are going to talk, talk about your teammates. Every time I read our players talk like that, that makes you feel good. That’s what people read. We are not into the other nonsense that goes on.
Like I said, motivation, it was not an issue. If you are looking for a great pregame speech, didn’t have to have any. We had one for 30 days there.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys.
COACH MEYER: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Coach, I’ll turn it over to you for an opening comment.
COACH TRESSEL: First off, we have to congratulate the University of Florida. They did a great job, and earned a national championship, and there’s no question about it.
We scored on the first play of the game, and from that point on really couldn’t keep the pressure where we needed it to be, all the way beginning with the second play of the game, when we allowed the kick to get returned and had a penalty and allowed them to not be under the gun of being down 7-0 and really didn’t do things all the way along to do what you need to do to be a champion.
But with that being said, starting with these four guys up here, who have been great leaders and 14 other seniors and a bunch of great kids, we’ve been awfully proud of the way they’ve represented college football and represented Ohio State and they’ve achieved a lot on the field. Fell short this evening. But, you know, they’re champions in my book.
MODERATOR: Open it up for questions. Please state who your question is for.
Q. Jim, the 4th and one call with like four minutes left in the second quarter, is that one of those all or nothing sort of calls that you’re looking to spark your team?
COACH TRESSEL: We thought we could make it, and the good news was is our defense did a great job of holding them to three, which was outstanding.
But, you know, it ended up being the wrong call, obviously.
Q. Troy, how would you describe this night? It’s not the way you wanted to go out obviously. Was it sort of a nightmare out there just trying to get something going offensively? The way you were harassed by their defensive ends, just describe your feelings now about the night and the frustration of getting something going offensively?
TROY SMITH: In this kind of situation I’m a realist. I have an understanding that not everything in life is going to go the exact same way that you want it to.
You know, you’re not going to be able to come out and score points like you want to score every night. And Florida is extremely well-coached and they’re a great team. Can’t say enough about those guys. They came out and fought for 60 minutes and they did exactly what they needed to do to get the win.
I don’t have any regrets, though. I really don’t. We came out. We fought. If we come up short and you know this is the worst thing that happens in life to us, then I’m pretty cool. But, you know, the other guys, my seniors, I want to apologize to them because wasn’t able to send them out on the right note. And I think I could have played better.
Q. Doug, was there anything they were doing defensively upfront that you hadn’t seen or was there some confusion there to allow them to get the pressure on Troy?
DOUG DATISH: I think in any big game, especially when you have this long of a lay-off, teams are prepared and ready to bring something new to the table each week. This week seemed like they brought something new. We’ve seen it a couple times. Just a credit to them, how good they really were, and they did some different blitzes and did different things and we weren’t able to get done what we needed to.
Q. Troy, was it more of a lack of execution on your part, the offense’s part, or was it what Florida did and maybe you weren’t prepared for it?
TROY SMITH: I have to say it’s a lack of execution on my part as a quarterback. Simply because I am the one guy out there that, you know, pretty much can control everything. And I didn’t do a well enough job in controlling what was going on.
Florida did do some great things defensively, but not nothing that we couldn’t have handled. And I have to take all the blame in the world for that.
Q. Jim, could you talk about—tell us exactly when Ted got hurt and how much that hurt you guys not having him out there for most of the game?
COACH TRESSEL: If I could respond first to rebuttal on Troy there. I think we at times put Troy in a situation that was tough, you know, from a scheme standpoint. And, you know, didn’t give ourselves, you know, as good a chance as we could.
Our goal as coaches is to get our guys in the best possible positions versus the things that are thrown your way. So I appreciate Troy’s willingness to burden a lot, but he’s burdened a lot this whole year. And I have to say, you know, it was a combined effort, starting with the coaches. And as far as when Ted got hurt, I don’t know exactly when it happened. I guess it was in the first quarter at some point.
And I don’t know exactly what it is. But, you know, obviously we would have loved to have had Ted in there, but it wasn’t to be.
Q. Troy, Doug talked a little bit about he mentioned the lay-off. Is the quarterback offensive, is it tough to get it going almost after two months off?
TROY SMITH: No. Again, you know, you want to go out and have great games and whether it’s X amount of days off or a week off, sometimes we have great games and sometimes you don’t.
I can’t talk about the lay-off because I don’t believe in that, not for one bit. We all prepare the same way regardless of how long the lay-off is.
Q. Doug, comment was made about their speed. Where they had an advantage up front were they quicker than what you thought?
DOUG DATISH: They looked fast on film and they proved to be as fast as they looked on film. But I’d say it makes a big difference when they get up, when they build a lead they can then dictate to us what we’re going to do. We’re more or less predictable of what we needed to do. We needed to get points. We were coming from behind, and any time you allow guys especially with that type of spin to pin their ears back and not have any reads it’s tough. It’s something difficult and something they dictated to us where we would have liked to have dictated to them.
Q. Quinn, for various reasons Florida’s offense spent a good part of the first half on your end of the field defensively. When you’re on the ropes like that, you feel like you have so little margin for error? Did that come into play at all in some of the outcomes of the results?
QUINN PITCOCK: It’s difficult being on the plus side of the 50 like that, but we were in a lot of situations like that this year.
And we take pride in being that. It does give them a momentum. You can see them charged up. And, you know, Florida does a lot more, you know, different plays, trick plays, stuff like that when they’re on the plus side. So it kept us on our toes. But they’re a great team. From the beginning I always said it’s going to be a battle to the end, and it was.
Q. Question for Coach and David. Everyone talked about who was going to be bigger and faster and stronger. Did this game come down to who was hungrier tonight?
COACH TRESSEL: Oh, I’m not sure I would say that for sure. Obviously I don’t know for sure, but I think games usually come down to who makes the plays that need to be made. And we felt going into the football game we needed to be flawless in our kicking game to start with.
And outside of the opening kickoff return our punting game probably wasn’t what it needed to be. You know, our return game didn’t—after the first one didn’t give us the edge. And then offensively we didn’t do the things you need to do.
Now, is that because we weren’t as hungry? You know, I don’t know for sure if that’s the case. I guess that’s the coach’s responsibility to create the appetite.
But I think our kids prepared, did everything we asked them to do and we just didn’t get the job done across the board. Not just Troy or not just this person or that person. But Ohio State didn’t get it done.
DAVID PATTERSON: We as a football team just did not do the things that it takes to win. We lost a rusher. I mean, we didn’t cause any turnovers. We lost the turnover margin. It doesn’t have anything to do with being hungry or anything like that. We wanted to win the game. We just didn’t do the things it takes to win.
Q. Jim and Troy, how much did losing Ted, though, take away from just your game plan of things you wanted to get done out there tonight? What effect did that have on that?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, you know, I think sometimes when you lose a guy that’s a big part of what you do and constantly gave you sparks throughout the course of the years, you know, it affects you.
But, again, that’s part of the game. And you have to create the depth. You have to create the broad approach so that you know if you lose a guy here or there you’re going to survive.
But it certainly didn’t help.
TROY SMITH: It was very noticeable, but even at that, you know, we were getting a lot of positive publicity on the year about how deep we were with different guys. So that’s not an excuse. I’ve never been a believer in things like that can take us out of a game.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great player, sensational player. Phenomenal player. On and off the field.
When we’re on the sideline, he gives us a boost and a lift in those kind of ways. And not having him in spirits definitely took a little bit away from the team. But we can’t harp on that simply because we have great guys coming up in the ranks also.
Q. Jim, defensively, for the first 11 games, you guys dominated the opposition. The last two games you gave up a total of 80 points. What happened in the last two games defensively where you guys were dominated in the other way?
COACH TRESSEL: I think if you look at the last two games, in both cases we turned it over back in there. And earlier in the year I think after about eight or nine games, we’re in the top few in the country in turnover margin, and that helps your defense.
And so, you know, very seldom do we get into an evaluation process that leaves any part of our game out, whether it’s what the special teams did or didn’t do to affect the defense or what the offense did or didn’t do to affect the defense.
I would say this, you know, Florida is a good offense. And I thought for a good majority of this year that Chris Leak was a little underappreciated. I think he’s an outstanding player. Makes things happen. He’s in command of what they do. Gets the ball spread around to some very good guys.
And so I’m sure part of it is that Florida is very good. Part of it is that the other components of the whole team left the defense in some tough situations, as we did in our last game in the regular season.
But I’m sure we can turn on the defensive film and see where we could have done better there.
Q. Jim and Troy, after what a great regular season dominating teams, obviously you know you can lose any game. It’s possible. But does it shock you that a team was able to dominate you the way they did tonight, with the score being so one-sided and does that hurt?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, when you look at what transpired in the game, it’s not surprising that the score ended up the way it did. And we gave them every opportunity to make it a 40 whatever to whatever game.
And does that hurt? Absolutely. You know you always want to do your best. Most especially when you know you don’t get a chance to go out and play again for a while.
But we always talk about you get as your works deserve, and we didn’t deserve to be the champions.
TROY SMITH: I’m a firm believer in, you know, what happens to you is meant to happen. Obviously, you know, for some reason this was meant to happen today.
Can’t say enough about the University of Florida and their play. When you are going into a game and you lose this way, obviously you lost this way for a reason. You know, the spread and the score, whomever—who would have ever thought it would be like that. But there’s not that much that you can really do about it. Life goes on.
There’s so many other things that makes these seniors smile. Everybody happy. And I know this year made so many people happy in the state of Ohio. You’re not going to be able to do things and have a storybook ending all the time. That’s life. I’m a firm believer in that.
And I think after this point, you know, your true character comes out. And, again, I’m a big fan of college football. I love everything about it. Wouldn’t have it any other way.