Florida Gators coach Will Muschamp and Louisville Cardinals coach Charlie Strong spoke Sunday about their teams earning bids to the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
The game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 2 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
Here is the complete transcript from the coaches’ Sunday teleconference:
COACH MUSCHAMP: Thanks to the Allstate Sugar Bowl for the invitation on behalf of the University of Florida, Dr.Machen and Jeremy Foley, we are honored to play in New Orleans. It’s a great place for the Gators, first National Championship in 1996 and this will be our 7th BCS Bowl appearance which is first in the SEC. A lot of respect for Louisville and the football team they have.
And of course Charlie Strong was a huge part of two national championships here at the University of Florida in 2006 and 2008, he was an outstanding defensive coordinator and a good friend. They have a good staff, Shawn Watson I’m familiar with from his days at Nebraska; Vance Bedford is an outstanding coach; Teddy Bridgewater, a quarterback form Miami, he’s done a nice job for their football team and really looking forward to January 2, and I’ll open for any questions.
Q. Under the system coming up a couple years, you would have been in the playoffs. Do you sell your team on that this year; that you are good enough to play for the National Championship?
COACH MUSCHAMP: Well, you know, again, it is what it is, and the system we have in place is what we have. So we had our opportunities in Jacksonville and didn’t quite get it done but to get into the National Championship Game.
We’re looking forward to playing in the Sugar Bowl and representing our conference. That’s a huge honor in itself and representing the University of Florida every time you step on the field. So we have great motivation for this game regardless of the circumstances.
Q. Taking on Louisville, are you surprised that you had this great of a year coming off last year, 7‑6, the 2011 college football season?
COACH MUSCHAMP: Really at this time last year, we had a great preparation for the Gator Bowl. Really recommitted ourselves to being physical and being tough on both line of scrimmages and doing the things we were going to do to be successful.
Brent Pease, been a great addition to our coaching staff, as well as Tim Davis; our strength coach, Jeff Dillman. They have all done an outstanding job. We moved through and had a great off‑season program and really a good spring practice. I felt really good about this team heading into camp and for the most part we have stayed injury‑free in some critical positions. We got very productive play with Jeff Driscoll as our quarterback, and played much better on both lines of scrimmage and the defense has come along to where I thought it would be.
I think we have played very good defense throughout the year and our specialists have been outstanding as far as playing good defense and field position. And offensively, we have done some nice things. We have to be more consistent in getting the ball down the field vertically, but been real pleased with this team.
Q. Can you just take us through where you first came across Charlie and your guys’ relationship and where you might have crossed paths?
COACH MUSCHAMP: I was defensive coordinator at LSU and he was at Florida. Just being a guy that in this profession, you see guys and their resumé on the field and what they do, and everywhere we’ve been, they have been good on defense and they played hard and they play physical. He does it the right way. Just got a lot of respect for him, and a guy that in this profession is one of the good guys in this profession.
Q. What makes your defense so effective to be No.1 in the nation on passing efficiency defense?
COACH MUSCHAMP: Well, it starts with our front, we are able to pressure with four. And you have got to rush five‑plus or you’re going to put yourself in some tough situations. We can consistently rush the passer with four guys, but we have three corners that have played really well this year: Marcus Roberson, Jaylen Watkins, have all played really good for us in covering. Matt Elam is a guy that can cover in the slot and a lot of things that we are able to do, more coverage things with him because of his coverage ability and our linebackers, Bostic and Jenkins, are guys that can cover in space.
Q. Does Teddy remind you of any quarterback you’ve faced before or any quarterback in particular?
COACH MUSCHAMP: Well, that was a gutsy performance there the other night against Rutgers. I didn’t see the whole game but I saw parts of it. Again, a guy that I know was very talented coming out of Miami, and certainly has done a fantastic job.
His efficiency as far as completion percentage is off the charts. So he’s a guy that gets the ball in the right spots and is obviously very accurate with the football and he’s a winner. He’s won a lot of at football games directing their offense.
Q. When he’s healthy, he can really move around, whether he throws or runs; how do you look to contain that when you face Louisville?
COACH MUSCHAMP: Well, any time you have a dual‑threat quarterback, no different than our quarterback, Jeff Driscoll, a guy that can hurt you with his legs is tough to defend because of the off‑rhythm plays those guys are able to make that you can’t account for within the scheme.
Again you play a little bit more zone and you have your eyes on the ball a little bit more and you try to fill in the rush lanes and you have to stay disciplined when you are rushing the passer against guys like him that are able to pull it down and hurt you running, as well.
Q. I know the whole BCS standings and all that was out of your hands and the way it shook out. I was just curious your thoughts on the way it kind of lined up for the SEC this year and you get that second spot and Georgia doesn’t get in the BCS. Are you as frustrated with the system as I guess your colleagues in the SEC?
COACH MUSCHAMP: Well, again, you know, I’ve been on both ends of this. I think I was at LSU when we had the opportunity to play Oklahoma for a National Championship in the Sugar Bowl, and we had that opportunity; granted, that probably BCS in the voting or whatever the calculation is. I was on the flipside of that at Texas when we tied for the Big12 Championship there as far as the south division and didn’t get an opportunity to play in the National Championship and Oklahoma did.
Again, we all sit there before the season and we agree on all these rules and this is what we are going to do. I’m not saying we have to like them but when we sit down and agree with something, and then at the end of the day we want to complain about the rules, I mean, we started the season understanding the rules of engagement.
It is what it is and obviously it’s going to change in two years. It will be a little different spin to it. I am frustrated from the standpoint of playing in our league and being limited to only two teams getting in. I think that that’s‑‑ obviously Charlie would feel the same way having coached in this league and understanding how difficult it is. But these are the rules we started the year with; so be it.
Q. Are you worried what might happen in a couple of years where these conferences now, the schedules get more unequal as the leagues get bigger and of course you played a tougher schedule than Georgia, on and on. With the division championships, the way all this stuff works out; is it possible we may be headed for more confusion?
COACH MUSCHAMP: Again, I don’t know how they have it structured in two years. I have no idea. So it’s hard for me to make any judgments on that.
But it is a little frustrating that the bigger the conferences get, the less opportunity you have to play everyone in your league. So sometimes there isn’t a true champion; so from that standpoint.
Again, we started this expansion stuff going, and here we are. These are the rules of engagement, you play with it, and we had our opportunities this past year and we didn’t get it done.
Q. I just wanted to ask, what is the players’ reaction? Have you been able to talk to anyone and how excited are they to be able to represent the SEC in the Sugar Bowl?
COACH MUSCHAMP: Our guys were jacked up after we beat Florida State, and we knew we would be in a BCS game and probably the Sugar Bowl. They were extremely excited. We had a team meeting on Monday after that game, and our guys were thrilled to have this opportunity.
So they will be excited about the game. We have been out recruiting and now we are on the road, so I haven’t been able to talk with them much other than sending them texts congratulating them on the season they have had.
THE MODERATOR: Coach Strong, if you could just give a brief opening statement and then we’ll open it up to questions.
COACH STRONG: Well, just say thank you to the Sugar Bowl committee and the poll, and our athletic director Tom Jurich and Dr. Ramsay, they send their thanks.
And we are so excited here at the University of Louisville to be playing an opponent like University of Florida. I spent so many years there and I just think back; it seems like it yesterday we was in the Sugar Bowl playing Cincinnati for the last time being at the University of Florida.
So very familiar with that program and Coach Will has done an outstanding job. He’s a really good friend of mind. And I know when he took over that program, I told him, if there was anything I could do, I would be more than willing to help, even though I was moving on to Louisville.
You look at the defense and you’re so familiar with the guys there, when you think about those guys. Willie, he has been there forever, Omar and Jenkins, all those players, Frankie Hammond at wide receiver; and Caleb Sturgis, I thought my man was done but he’s still kicking there. You look at Bostic and how well he’s played and. Then you look at the quarterback position with Driscoll being a dual threat where he can run and throw the ball.
But that’s an outstanding program; a program that’s built with toughness, offensive and defensive line, a very tough program. So it’s going to be an exciting matchup.
But it’s our second BCS; in ‘06 and we are coming back again this year. You know, our football team, it’s a great job. It’s a resilient team and a team that we had two stumbles there late in the season, but from the off‑set we played pretty well and I’m so happy for this program and I’m happy for this university.
Q. I was wondering, how many kids that are still on the roster, that you or Vance or anybody recruited?
COACH STRONG: I just can’t give you a number, just looking at a lot of those players, I’m very familiar with them because at the time I left they were young, so now they are in their fourth or fifth year. So it’s a large amount of them.
Q. This team against different SEC teams during your time here, do you feel like this is going to be kind of a barometer playing them in the Sugar Bowl to assess where this program is right now?
COACH STRONG: If you look at this team and Will said it earlier, they didn’t get the job done in Jacksonville but this is a team that was one game away from playing for a national title and we are nowhere near that right now. But it’s an outstanding football team. I don’t know how are going to ‑‑‑ but we can say a barometer to see where we are, but it’s an outstanding football team that we are playing.
Q. Can you reflect what kind of week it’s been for Louisville, going on the road to win your conference championship and now coming to the Sugar Bowl. Sounds like you’re on a pretty good roll.
COACH STRONG: It’s been a great week. It’s just been a great week for the university, and you’re right, we’re getting selected to the ACC. And then you go on the road and have to win a championship on the road, and Rutgers, the Big East Championship; watching a quarterback that goes out and had to throw itbecause he was injured; and now we get a chance to go to the Sugar Bowl.
We are taking small steps here. We still know that this program is nowhere near where it should be and just try to get better and better and get this program headed in the right direction.
Q. And you mentioned a little bit, but just your sentiment about your time at Florida.
COACH STRONG: I spent a number of years there, and their athletic director, Jeremy Foley, is an outstanding leader for their program.
You just look at a program that’s been consistent year‑in and year‑out and they are going to compete on a national level. It’s a program of excellence, and I really enjoyed my time there and there’s so many memories there. Every time you look back, you always look at the programs that you follow and I watch the program every week.
Q. Teddy’s performance last week, seems like it took everything he had to get it out there yet he was able to lead you guys to the win.
COACH STRONG: Earlier in the week, we just didn’t know how well Teddy, health‑wise, if he would be able to be mobile enough to run around and get away from the pressure.
We felt like that he would be able to throw the ball because he was able to end the ball in the second half‑‑ but if you talk about someone just putting on an unbelievable performance, he’s an outstanding quarterback.
I look at college football and I know there’s some athletic quarterbacks out there but I think wherever the best one is, I think Teddy should be linked there with them. His performance the other night where we were able to win that football game‑‑ kind of like what Teddy did. But Stein was able to getand was able to get us ‑‑ any time we needed a short‑yardage play we were able to get the first down and then allow Teddy to sit back and throw the ball.
Q. Will Teddy be completely healthy for the Sugar Bowl?
COACH STRONG: We have enough time here that I think we have three or four weeks before that game. So we will get a chance and we will have medical staff around the clock, and we have medical staff here now, unbelievable job, so now they have enough time.
Q. Following up there on Teddy, what kind of precautions or actions medically are going to be needed for him and will he sit out for a period completely before starting preparation?
COACH STRONG: Well, we’ve got to be smart on how we handle it, because we know his injuries and he’ll need rest and how much rest it will depend on just our medical staff just telling us what we need to do with him day‑to‑day.
You look at last week, we only had four days to prepare for Rutgers and we were able to get ready in four. We have enough weeks that we should be able to take our time. I know when we were preparing for Rutgers, it was around the clock. We don’t have to be around the clock because of the preparation we’ll be able to have, but also we need to get Teddy healthy, especially facing an outstanding team like Florida.
Q. What will you tell your team, you have a special insight into that Florida program, what will be the message to your players trying to go in and compete with them?
COACH STRONG: I don’t think there’s much I need to say. So many of our players are from the State of Florida and they know how good that program is and a lot of them grew up watching that program. A lot won’t need to be said; you are looking at the No. 3, No.4 team in the country. So you don’t need to think much at all; the respect is already there.
Q. You seem to have thrived in the underdog role in the past; seems like Florida is going to be a pretty heavy favorite. Does that play into your hands?
COACH STRONG: Well, you’re facing a better football team‑‑ but like I said earlier, you don’t have to say much. Our players know who they are playing against and they have respect for that program and they know how good that program is.
After winning two National Championships there, and then coming into this program where we’ve only been to two BCS games, they understand what they are facing.
Q. Given your history there, would you prefer maybe a different opponent in a BCS game than the school that you love and spent so much time at?
COACH STRONG: Well, I think that I’m just happy for this program to get to a BCS Bowl game and I think that’s more important than who you have to play; that they worked hard enough and these players deserve to go play in the BCS Bowl game.
So I don’t really know if it really matters who we play. I love the University of Florida but I’m just so happy for our players.
Q. Are there guys that you’ve spoken to since you took the Louisville job, keeping a relationship with some of those guys that you recruited?
COACH STRONG: Well, what it is, those guys‑‑ every now and then you get a call from a Lerentee or a Bostic, and hey, coach, I’m excited for you, happy to see you guys playing the way you’re playing.
So I recruited a lot of those guys, and you don’t ever‑‑ anyone that you’ve ever recruited like wherever you are, you like to watch them and just watch their success and see how well they are doing. That’s why I pay so much attention to that program.
Plus I was a part of it, and I know that Will has done a great job of coming in and making those players better football players and not only that, just making them grow up into top‑quality men.
Q. When you left to take the Louisville job, you were excited for the opportunity, but was there a part of you that was excited or torn about leaving those guys and leaving the program?
COACH STRONG: I had a chance to go be a head football coach so now you have a chance to run your own program, so you know that your memories are still there, and you have a chance to add another chapter to your life where you have a chance to go run your whole program.
Q. Somebody called the SEC a last scrimmage league. Do you agree with that, and having said that, do you think you have the athletes to match up with Florida’s guys who battle in the trenches?
COACH STRONG: When you look at the Southeastern Conference, it is a very difficult league. And if you watch that game last night, and Alabama goes to rush 360 yards, and the game has to be won at the line of scrimmage; and that’s where you play the game at the line of scrimmage. And then they have enough athletes where they can win the one‑on‑one battles if you load the box.
So it’s going to be an interesting matchup for us, because they play that way the whole season. When it came down to where they need to go win games, they lined up and they were able to knock people off the ball and they were able to go win the fourth quarter. If you can’t validate (ph) a team in the fourth quarter, you have no chance; and that’s what the University of Florida was able to do this year, go win that fourth quarter.
Q. You touched on it briefly before, but just talk about what it means for you, all those years waiting for the right head coaching job. You come to Louisville, just a matter of a few years, you got your team 10‑2, going to a BCS Bowl game, what does that mean for you after the hard work all those years?
COACH STRONG: I don’t look so much at what I’ve done; it’s the players. When you get a program, like everything is a process and it’s going to be rebuilding years and you have to get the right players in your program and you have to do it the right way.
That’s what we have been able to do, get an outstanding coaching staff and I think that earlier we were talking about looking at our offensive coordinator, Shawn Watson, has done an outstanding job; our defensive coordinator, Vance Bedford.
But I’ve been able to surround myself with some really outstanding coaches, and they understand the process and what we had to do to build a program. It’s been step‑by‑step and each year we try to make this program better and better with the direction of our athletic director, TomJurich. That’s what has happened here.
Now we have established ourselves, and the foundation is‑‑ we have laid some foundation that is more foundation than can be laid; and once that happens, this program can become a program like the University of Florida.
Q. Just talk about joining the ACC, and we have our men’s basketball team in the Final Four in the spring and now going to a BCS game in the fall; what does it say about the University of Louisville on the national stage?
COACH STRONG: Well, you have a program with a Final Four basketball team and a football team‑‑ the programs here, you just watch the women’s softball team, they were able to go play and have an outstanding record. But each sport here gets better and all of the coaches at Louisville sports have done an outstanding job and they want the national recognition.
Courtesy ASAP Sports