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Meet the Press: Texas Bowl Presser

Dec. 8, 2010

Photo Gallery  | Press Conference 

Texas Bowl Executive Director Heather Houston
Opening Statement...
"Thanks so much for coming out today. I've had a smile on my face ever since selection Sunday. We feel so lucky to have these two teams in the bowl game. Most of you have been here with us. This is our fifth year of the bowl game. I think all of you in the media here agree, that this is our best matchup yet. We couldn't be more thrilled with these teams. We've had a longstanding partnership with the Big 12; they've given us some really great teams over the last couple years, but I think Baylor is the most exciting team we've had from the Big 12 yet. If the calls to our offices have any relevance, they had a lot of fans calling in, really happy that they're in the bowl game this year.

"This is our first year in a partnership with the Big Ten. I've been smiling ever since the Big Ten agreed to come here last year, when all the bowls were re-negotiating their bowl deals. We're just thrilled to have to the Big Ten play in our bowl game this year, and we're particularly thrilled that our first Big Ten participant is Illinois. Illinois is a really special school. They've got the largest alumni base in the country. We know their fans are going to be really excited to come to Houston. In addition to Coach Zook, there also is a contingent of Illinois here today, they came in for their site inspection. Ron Guenther, their athletic director, is in the room and I want to thank you for being here today. It's really special to us.

A couple of other notes about this bowl game; we're super proud of this bowl game and I hope you all are, too. We've done a lot to build it in this community. We've donated over $300,000 to the DePelchin Children's Center, our charity beneficiary over the last couple years, which is really important to us. As you know, the owner of the Texans, Mr. (Bob) McNair, wanted that charity component. We've also created a really special event for the city of Houston. We average about $25 million in economic impact on the city on an annual basis. So this truly is a really special event for Houston. We appreciate all your support. We're super glad to announce our teams, with Coach Briles here from Baylor and Coach Zook here from Illinois. Without further ado, I'll turn it over to Coach Briles."

Baylor Head Coach Art Briles
Opening statement...
"First and foremost, thank you and thank the Texas Bowl and ESPN for giving Baylor this great opportunity. We are excited. We had to look up the word `excited' in the dictionary because we hadn't been able to be that way for awhile. It's been 16 years since we've been in a bowl game and our people are pumped, and rightfully so, because when you've looked on the outside for a long time and you finally get a chance to step in the door, it's a good feeling. We know we have a great opponent in Illinois and Coach Zook is as well respected as anybody in the coaching profession over the last couple of decades. We're just extremely honored and excited to play them and represent Baylor University in the Texas Bowl.

"For our players, from a recruiting standpoint, a fan-base standpoint, it's a great advantage being in the state of Texas. We're going to have an opportunity to showcase our football team throughout this region. That's a big, big advantage for us from a recruiting standpoint, from being in Waco, Texas and playing in Houston. From a personal standpoint, I've got a lot of Houston blood in me. I came here in 1974 and had the opportunity to come back again in 2002 and coach the University of Houston. I'm just extremely humbled, honored and proud to be able to come back and come to the city that I love, that I have so many dear, dear friends in. So it's really a personal pleasure for me, also.""

On Illinois...
"I mean, (Illinois) can play. Shoot, they dropped five-hundred-and-something on Northwestern rushing the football. I don't know where that ranks all-time rushing in a game, but it's got to be up there. They're a dangerous football team, very dangerous. They're third in the nation in time of possession. That tells you something there. It means they're making first downs and running the football. It's a big concern from us on both sides of the ball, actually. Like he mentioned, the punter, the kicker; both their guys are good. We feel good about our guys. So it's a very evenly-matched game. I kind of like the underdog role, too. He's coming with the underdog role, so we may have to flip a coin and see who gets to play that. It's going to be a great match and we're very excited about it."

On what it means personally to lead Baylor back to a bowl game...
"I don't look at that one bit, I really don't. I was thinking, I was sitting here three years ago, right while at the University of Houston, getting ready for the bowl game against TCU. I just look at it as I just kind of fell into the right place at the right time. I've been fortunate to do that at two or three stops along my career. Meaning that, saying that I got into a place where people were fed up with being fed up. I mean, they were tired of things being the way they were and they were looking for a change and I happened to be the guy that walked in there at the right time when people got tired of things being the way they were. It's been a good journey. But the journey is never over. You think you've got something accomplished, or if you think you've reached where you need to get to, then you better find something else to do because it changes on a daily basis. The thing is, everybody out there is trying to beat you every day. That's the great thing about the sport, the great thing about the profession; you've got to hustle every day and you've got to work every day or it's not going to be there for you. But everybody else is doing the same thing. Like I said, we walked into Baylor at a good time, when people really wanted some momentum to happen and we had some guys who helped make it happen."

On injuries...
"We haven't played since November 20, so most of our guys are in pretty good shape. We did have a guy break his hand, a receiver, it's going to be real questionable whether he's going to be able to play or not at bowl time. I think he gets his cast off here in about two weeks. Other than that, the rest of those guys should be pretty fresh and ready to go."

On how this game will help recruiting...
"It will definitely help us. Like I mentioned, were going to recruit Texas. Ninety-five percent of our guys are from the state of Texas. Houston, I think, is the most heavily recruited city in the United States and has the best players in the United States. So it's really valuable for us to be here in the city and here for four or five days and work out and have the opportunity for some of these coaches to come by and watch us practice and get to know us a little bit better. From all those standpoints, it's a huge, huge plus. The biggest plus is that people always kind of finished their quote about Baylor was, they hadn't been to a bowl game. That's changed. We have been to a bowl game. We are in a bowl game and that, from a recruiting standpoint, is really valuable to us also."

On how he will use the bowl game to prepare for next season...
"We're looking at it as a one-game season. We're figuring, 2010 is over. We're evaluating what we did in 2010. Now we're looking at what we can do better in this bowl game. It is invaluable, the amount of time you get with your young players. It's a new thing for us. It's something that we've really taken a hold of. We've had three practices so far and we've kept our young guys out late and worked with them then. So I think it's a great chance to be around those guys a little longer, have a chance to coach them on a more personal basis and get to know them a little bit better. You can't like or dislike somebody until you're around them for awhile. So it gives us a chance to be around them a whole bunch when normally we wouldn't be. I think that's going to be a big benefit."

Illinois Head Coach Ron Zook
Opening statement...
"Thank you and just to kind of echo what Coach Briles said, already, in just a couple hours being here, so impressed with the bowl and just so happy that we had this opportunity to come here. I was mentioning to Coach Guenther on the plane on the way down here that our guys, they like being the underdog, they like being the opponent, they like to be in the visitors' (locker room). We're going to really find out what that means now because I know that we're kind of in hostile territory. But we are excited. Our guys are looking forward to it. We got back together yesterday for the first time. We played on Friday. I gave them the details that I knew and they lit up. They are looking forward to this opportunity. They know that they are playing a very, very good football team. It's going to be a great challenge. If you look at the teams statistically and kind of what we've done throughout the last couple years, there are a lot of similarities. The bowl committee did a great job in matching up two teams that are both going to be excited, both looking forward to it. Probably going to be a lot of points thrown up on the board and it will probably be a game that everyone will enjoy being at and also watching. We're excited and just honored to be here."

On if he has had a chance to see Baylor QB Robert Griffin III...
"Unfortunately, I have. He's a great player. We've played a couple pretty good quarterbacks; the quarterback at Michigan, the quarterback at Ohio State. I think he's a little bit of a cross between the two. But he's a great player. There is no question, as he goes, I think they go. I haven't studied them a lot, just a couple days here, but very, very impressed with what they do offensively. Our defensive coaches are already concerned."

On the similarities between Baylor and Illinois...
"Well, yes. That's what I said earlier. If you look at the stats, where we are, and really everything, I mean, good punters, good kickers. The kicking game has been pretty good. Offensively, scoring a lot of points. Quarterbacks that kind of make things go. Running backs that run for a lot of yards. I think our football teams are very, very similar. Whether the selection committee looked at that or not, it's amazing just how similar we are. Our guy doesn't have quite the number of yards Robert (Griffin III) has, but he's really come on and gotten a lot better for us this year as the year has progressed."

On how this game will help recruiting...
"I think the thing we're trying to do is, obviously, get into Texas a little bit. Our offensive line coach came from the University of Houston, so he's got a pretty good feel for it. We've tried to make some in-roads in the state of Texas. If you know recruiting, you know it takes a little bit of time. I think this gives us a great, great opportunity. And as Coach (Briles) mentioned, no one's going to argue with the number of players that come out of this state and the Houston area. So it gives us a great opportunity to showcase our team and give people an opportunity to get to know us as well."

On what he's look for out of this game...
"Number one, we're going to do the things that got us to this point. Obviously, I think the extra practices are very, very important. I think the fact of us just playing this past Friday really has helped us. We've got finals coming up next week, so we've got to kind of practice in and around the finals and so forth. Getting back yesterday, it's like we hadn't really gotten away from it, so it's going to help us that way. These first few practices, we want to have them a bit like spring football, particularly for the young guys and like Coach Briles, we're going to have an awful lot of players back. So it's going to be important. This is kind of like our first game, I'm looking at it, for 2011 with the people coming back. We're going to play the guys that got us to this point. It's going to be very, very important that we play the best game we've played this year."



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