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Gallery+Story: Fans and Traditions Keep Hyundai Sun Bowl Fresh, Fun

It was a day of family, food and football as the Stanford Cardinal took on the Pitt Panthers in El Paso’s 85th Annual Sun Bowl Game. The energy was high, both on the field and in the stands.

Out in the parking lot, before the game, the connection of community, both local and from afar, was everywhere.

This was my first time covering the Sun Bowl, and only the second Sun Bowl game I’ve ever been to. I decided to go out and discover what people like best about the city and the game.

No matter who I spoke to, there was one common theme – El Paso is a great city with great people.

The Villarreal family, all Stanford alums, were out to show their support for both their school, their team, and the city of El Paso.

“Well, the Sun Bowl is, you know, it’s our marquee event,” says Jose Louis Villarreal of El Paso. “Growing up here, it’s a matter of pride to showcase the city.”

For Jose he attends every Sun Bowl game Stanford has ever played in, beginning in 1977 when he was only in the sixth grade. He’s also attended a total of 30 Sun Bowl games!

“Both things run in my blood, Stanford and the Sun Bowl, and it’s just a great day,” said Jose. “The Sun Bowl has a reputation of being the most hospitable bowl,” says Jose. “Stanford has been to other higher tier bowls, and they say there is no comparison to the way they’re treated here.”

“First time at the Sun Bowl, first time in El Paso,” says Jeff Gamza of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “It’s a beautiful area.”

Before today’s game, he spent three days in El Paso, and what stands out to him?

“The landscape and all the mountains,” said Jeff. “This is a beautiful area.” He also spoke of the people and the fan fiesta.

“People of El Paso have been very friendly,” he said. “The Sun Bowl committee has done a great job here. The fan fiesta was great; it was open to the entire public for free. They had some great stuff there for the kids and the families. It was a great time.”

Lynn and Matt Watson made the trip to the Sun Bowl from Claysville, Pennsylvania.

“We are huge Pitt fans, we’ve been at every Pitt game since he was six-weeks-old,” said Lynn Watson as she pointed to her son Matt, who is not seventeen years old.

Matt will be graduating from high school soon and will be heading off to college not long after. What does he want to do?

“I’m not sure yet,” says Matt, “but probably something to do with sports.”

Don Barr, who is originally from Pennsylvania, and now lives in Phoenix came to El Paso to cheer on Pitt.

“I love everything about Pitt, we’re very close to Pitt,” says Don. “I like the basketball, especially when they were in the Big East, now they are in the ACC. We’ve always been Pittsburg Fans.”

Barr added that Pitt has played one of the toughest football schedules in their division.  “At one point they played about seven teams that were in the top twenty,” said Don.

Patricia and Doug have a daughter in the Pitt Marching Band.  “She’s a senior,” said Patricia as Doug said they were so proud of her.
“And we love El Paso,” said Patricia. “People are so friendly here. Every Uber we’ve taken has been wonderful.”  This was their first time in El Paso and Texas.

For everyone who came from out of town, they could not stop talking about how friendly El Paso is, or how much they loved the food – even Chico’s Tacos.

As I continued to walk through the crowds, talking to people, they were just amazed that El Paso is as friendly as it is.  Then, there are those, like the Villarreal family, who are from El Paso, who’ve made the Sun Bowl game a family tradition.

“We always come to the Sun Bowl,” says Ray Lopez. “It’s our tradition,” says his wife, Cynthia.

The Lopez family has been to at least fifteen games they say. Who are they cheering for? Let me tell you; their answer was one of the best I’ve ever heard.

“We are only going for Stanford ‘cuz we have our annual tickets that we pay for,” says Cynthia Lopez. “We’re right next to the band. So, whoever’s on our side, that’s who we root for, who I root for.”

Then there is the food. In every parking lot, there are people who’ve brought out the grills and began cooking. I was treated to everything today, from hamburgers to burritos. But the best ones came from Carl Townsend.

“We have about 20-25 people that we tailgate at the Sun Bowl every year,” said Carl Townsend. “I try to make what I call the world’s best burritos.”

Let me tell you, they were made from smoked filet mignon and they literally melt in your mouth!

“I’ve been to probably the last twenty-five in a row,” said Carl Townsend, talking about how many Sun Bowl games he’s attended. “Sometimes we have really good games; sometimes we don’t. But you know what? We always have a good time.”

“It’s a very positive image for the city of El Paso,” said Carl of the Sun Bowl. “We have the best weather in the United States. We are a progressive town, a good town. It’s seen nationally.”

He was rooting for Pitt, as he is originally from the mid-west. But there was a bit more behind his decision.

“Stanford, their top boys, don’t like to show up, so I root for the Pitt Panthers,” he said.

It was about this time that I caught up with Drew, a member of the Stanford band.

“This is my first time in El Paso,” said Drew. “It’s beautiful. I’ve never been in a desert like this before; I don’t really know if this is a desert. It’s beautiful, and the people are really nice.”

Now, if you’ve never seen the Stanford Marching Band before, I don’t know what to tell you. They are a band that has as much fun as humanly possible.

“They are fun,” says Aubrey, a ten-year-old from Pittsburgh. “It’s not boring when they play.”

She’s right, and Drew agrees.

“It’s a lot of fun,” says Drew. “It’s a good way to express ourselves, a good way to just have a good time on campus. I love it. We rock out every day.”

I also spoke with Brad Townsend, the band director for Pitt. Ten years and twelve years ago he was at the Sun Bowl when he was with Oregon State.

“I like, it’s just a big event,” said Brad. “Everybody in town is so into it and so appreciative of the teams being here.”

Those fans, the people from El Paso, from out of town, this game is big. Even if you are Robles, an excited four-years-old, who is attending his first Sun Bowl. His dad has attended the past four Sun Bowl games. What does he like best?

“The excitement, the marching bands, battling it out. Everybody hitting hard on the field,” said Robles. “A good family environment.”

What does he say to those who have never attended a Sun Bowl game before?

“You’ll see a great game, a lively game,” said Robles. “The two teams are going to play very hard, all the way to the fourth quarter. You’re going to see two great marching bands. Very loud and thunderous. It’s just an excellent atmosphere.”

Simi Fehoko, wide receiver for Stanford, who took a two-year break from football to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Korea made his bowl debut today.

It’s been good; it’s been fun this whole week of games and events. People are very nice,” said Simi. “Football is big in Texas. We went to the mall the other day, and everybody was stopping us, ‘oh, you play football for Stanford,’ it was just awesome.”

To sum it up, the one thing almost everyone had to say was that this is an amazing game, a tradition that continues. For those who came
from out of town, they simply couldn’t believe how friendly everyone is.

El Paso is, as I’ve discovered through the eyes of visitors, an amazing place.

Story in Many Pics: Stanford Slips by Pitt 14-13 to Take Hyundai Sun Bowl

For the second time in three years the Stanford Cardinal came to El Paso and were outgained yardage-wise by their opponent, and for the second time in three years the team from the Pac-12 came out with a Sun Bowl victory as the Cardinal outlasted the Pittsburgh Panthers, 14-13, to win the 85th Annual Hyundai Sun Bowl.

Stanford (9-4), which had to stave off a late North Carolina rally in 2016 to win by two points, had to do the same on Monday in front of 40,680 fans to hold on to a one-point win over Pitt (7-7). It is the first one-point final in the Sun Bowl since 2006.

The game was also turnover-free for the first time in 20 years.

With the win the Cardinal move to 4-1 in the Sun Bowl. The four wins are the most my any team, other than El Paso’s own UTEP (five wins), in Sun Bowl history.

Stanford was outgained in total yards 344-208, lost the time of possession battle by over seven minutes and went 1-for-10 on third downs, but found a way to pull out the victory on a lost fumble by quarterback K.J. Costello at the 3-yard line that somehow found its way right into the hands of running back Cameron Scarlett who was standing in the end zone.

“It’s not about yards, it’s about points. There’s so many different stats and I appreciate the Pro Football Focus stuff, but that doesn’t win football games,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “You’ve got to run the ball well, you’ve got to stop the run, you’ve got to be great on first down, you’ve got to be great on third down and you’ve got to be great in the red zone.”

Pitt had a final possession to try and steal the win, and after a 4th-and-11 conversion from its own 3-yard line with 2:27 left it seemed as if it might just be the Panthers’ day. But another fourth-down conversion fell short a few plays later and sealed the win for the Cardinal.

Scarlett finished with 94 yards on the ground and two touchdowns for Stanford on his way to being named the C.M. Hendricks Most Valuable Player of the game. Costello finished with 105 yards through the air while senior wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside had three catches for 90 yards, including the biggest catch of the game, a 49-yard catch and run that set up the wacky winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. Defensive end Thomas Booker nabbed the Jimmy Rogers, Jr. Trophy as the game’s best lineman.

“Coach Shaw referred to it in the locker room, I mean this game was a lot like the season, the first half of the season, but effort was never a question with these guys, they are going to figure it out,” Costello said.

On the Pitt side, quarterback Kenny Pickett finished 11-of-29 for 136 yards passing. Senior running back Darrin Hall finished with a game-high 131 yards on the ground while receiver Taysir Mack accumulated 68 yards on four catches.

“I look at our 208 yards rushing and 344 total yards to their 208 and I just doesn’t add up how that score ends up being 13-14 but that’s really the only stat that matters,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said.

The game got off to a slow start as the Sun Bowl had a scoreless first quarter for the first time in six years.

The Panthers drove into Cardinal territory during its first two drives, including getting to the Stanford 28-yard line on its second drive of the day. But a loss of yardage during a running play and a 10-yard sack thwarted the Panthers’ drive.

Pitt finally broke through on the second play of the second quarter as its third drive ended on a 29-yard field goal by Alex Kessman. The biggest play on the 6-play, 54-yard drive was a 47-yard scamper by Hall. Kessman was named the John H. Folmer trophy winner as the game’s top special teams player after going 2-for-3 on field goals.

“Really we just wanted to take advantage of the coverage that they were showing. We felt that we could get the ball out quick and do some work there, which I thought we did,” Pickett said. “We only had a couple of explosives down the field passing. I wish we had some more deep shots that would’ve ended up in touchdowns.”

Stanford, on the other hand, could not getting anything going during its first four drives as the team from the Pac-12 started the game with four consecutive three-and-outs. The Cardinal were held to a total of three yards in the first quarter and did not get their initial first down until the 10:53 mark of the second quarter.

But after its initial first down, the Stanford offense finally came alive as the Cardinal went on a 7-play, 64-yard drive that was capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run by Scarlett.

Even though Stanford was outplayed by the Panthers, they still held a 7-3 lead midway through the second quarter.

Pitt, however, had an answer. The Panthers showed the power of their running game as they answered the Cardinal touchdown with one of their own.

Pitt’s 75-yard drive ate up over five minutes of playing time and culminated with a 6-yard touchdown run by Hall, who finished with 93 yards rushing in the first half. The touchdown gave the Panthers a 10-7 led at the half.

The teams traded three-and-outs to start the second half, but with Pitt at midfield during it s second drive, Pickett hit Mack down the left sideline for a 41-yard hookup that put the ball at the Cardinal 9-yard line.

The Panthers could not punch it in the end zone, however, as they settled for Kessman’s second field goal of the day, a 28-yarder that increased the Pitt lead to 13-7 at the 8:13 mark of the third quarter. It would be the only score of the quarter.

“Offensively we have to finish drives in the red zone,” Narduzzi said. “Overall, offensively and defensively we outplayed them we just didn’t win on the scoreboard which is unfortunate and I feel bad for our seniors.”

Stanford’s winning drive began in the third quarter, and after eight plays and 78 yards the Cardinal marked the final points of the game with 11:28 left.

Pitt drove down the field on its next possession trying to answer Stanford’s score as it had in the first half. The Panthers drove to the Cardinal 35-yard line, but a couple of negative plays forced a 55-yard field goal, which Kessman missed short and wide right.

Pitt would get its final try after forcing a Stanford punt, but the drive ended after a non-conversion of a 4th-and-three with 1:44 left.

Gallery by Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta, Chief Photographer, El Paso Herald Post

FINAL: Stanford 14 (9-4, 6-3 PAC-12), Pitt 13 (7-7, 6-2 ACC)  |  Attendance: 40,680

The 17 combined points at halftime were the least since Dec. 31, 2012 when USC and Georgia Tech combined for 14 points. Georgia Tech and Utah combined for 17 points at the half on Dec. 31, 2011.
The 20 combined points through three quarters were the fewest since 21 points combined by USC and Georgia Tech on Dec. 31, 2012.
Stanford’s one-point win over Pitt was the first one-point margin of victory since Oregon State edged Missouri, 39-38, on Dec. 29, 2006.
The combined 27 points was the least since Oregon State’s 3-0 victory over Pitt on Dec. 31, 2008. The 2012 Sun Bowl saw 28 combined points (Georgia Tech 21, USC 7).
The three combined touchdowns were the least since USC and Georgia Tech combined for four touchdowns on Dec. 31, 2012.
The combined 552 total yards was the least since 451 yards were combined for in 2008 (Pitt vs. Oregon State).
Stanford and Pitt combined for zero turnovers. It’s the first time since Dec. 31, 1998 (TCU vs. USC) that neither team committed a turnover in the Sun Bowl game.

With Stanford’s victory, it now has four wins in the Sun Bowl game, the second most ever behind UTEP’s five victories. The Cardinal also defeated North Carolina, 25-23 (Dec. 30, 2016), Michigan State, 38-0 (Dec. 31, 1996) and LSU, 24-14 (Dec. 31, 1977).
Stanford has won its last two Sun Bowl appearances, but has been outgained yardage wise in both contests. North Carolina outgained Stanford 398-283 on Dec. 30, 2016, while Pitt outgained Stanford, 344-208.
Stanford punter Jake Bailey punted nine times (401 yards), ranking tied for seventh most in Sun Bowl history. Bailey’s three punts inside the 20-yard line ranks tied for sixth most in Sun Bowl history.
Jake Bailey, who tallied 401 yards on nine punts, is one of seven punters in Sun Bowl history to hit 400-plus yards.

Pitt’s Alex Kessman connected on a 29-yard field goal, first points for Pitt in the Sun Bowl since Dec. 30, 1989. Henry Tuten caught a 44-yard touchdown from Alex Van Pelt in the fourth quarter that year.
Darrin Hall rushed for 123 yards. He’s the first player to rush for over 100 yards in the Sun Bowl game since Stanford’s Bryce Love rushed for 119 on Dec. 30, 2016. Hall added a touchdown, six-yard rush in the second quarter.

Stanford RB Cameron Scarlett was named the C.M. Hendricks MVP
Scarlett rushed for 94 yards on 22 carries and scored two touchdowns
Scarlett is the seventh RB to win the C.M. Hendricks award since 2005
Scarlett gave Stanford a 7-3 lead on a one-yard TD run during the second quarter
Scarlett gave Stanford the go-ahead lead with a fumble recovery in the end zone in the fourth quarter with 11:28 to play
Scarlett had a long rush of 16 yards during the third quarter

First Quarter Notes
First scoreless first quarter since in the Hyundai Sun Bowl since 2012.
Pitt outgained Stanford in total yards, 114-1.
Pitt RB Darrin Hall rushed for 67 yards.
Stanford LB Sean Barton tallied four total tackles.

Second Quarter Notes
Pitt tallied 112 yards compared to Stanford’s 84.
Pitt threw for 53 yards and rushed for 59.
Stanford threw and rushed for 42 yards, respectively.

Halftime Notes
Pitt outgained Stanford in total yards in the half, 226-85.
Pitt edged Stanford in total possession time, 19:43 – 10:17.
Pitt went 4-of-9 on third down, while Sanford went 0-of-5.
Stanford linebacker Sean Burton finished the first half with seven total tackles.
Pitt running back Darrin Hall rushed for 93 yards, which was more than his previous game in the ACC Championship.

Third Quarter Notes
Pitt outgained Stanford in total yards, 65-16.
Pitt held Stanford to zero pass yards in the third quarter.
Stanford rushed for 16 yards compared to Pitt’s 15 rushing yards.

Fourth Quarter Notes
Stanford regained the lead (14-13) with a fumble recovery touchdown by Cameron Scarlett at the 11:28 mark.
Stanford outgained Pitt in the final quarter, 107-53.
Stanford tallied 46 pass yards compared to Pitt’s 38.

Story in Many Pics: Hyundai Sun Bowl Fan Fiesta

Sunday featured the party before the big game, as fans and bands from both Stanford and Pitt headed downtown for the annual Fan Fiesta.

Our very own Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta was there and we bring you his view of the fun in this ‘Story in Many Pics’

Hyundai Sun Bowl Fan Fiesta, El paso Convention Center, El Paso TX , December 30, 2018, Andres Acosta | El Paso Herald-Post

Herald Post Preview: 85th Annual Hyundai Sun Bowl – Pitt vs Stanford

The 85th edition of the Hyundai Sun Bowl features, the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Pittsburgh Panthers meeting the Pac-12’s Stanford Cardinal.

The two storied programs look to add another winning chapter to their history in the Hyundai Sun Bowl, the second-oldest bowl game in the nation.

Pitt, who finished the 7-6, was the ACC-runner up after losing in the ACC Championship game to undefeated and current No. 2 in College Football Playoff, Clemson. Stanford finished third in the Pac-12 at 8-4, ending the season on a three-game winning streak.

Three of Pittsburgh’s losses were to undefeated teams, two currently in the CFP, the aforementioned Clemson, No. 3 Notre Dame and eighth ranked University of Central Florida (UCF). The Tigers and Fighting Irish are set to play each other in the CFP Semifinal on Dec. 29, while UCF will be facing LSU in the Fiesta Bowl. In addition to playing three top-10 ranked CFP teams, Stanford will be the 11th bowl participant on Pitt’s schedule this year.

“Our invitation to the Hyundai Sun Bowl presents us with a tremendous challenge as well as an exciting opportunity,” Narduzzi said. “I have a great deal of respect for Coach Shaw and the outstanding program he has built at Stanford. They are entering this game with a lot of momentum, having won their last three games. I know our team will be excited about facing a strong Pac-12 program like Stanford.”

Stanford started the season with four straight wins, capped off with an improbable comeback victory in overtime at Oregon, 38-31. Despite the hot start and ranking as high as No. 7, the Cardinal would end up losing four of their next five games, beginning with a loss at Notre Dame 38-17. Notre Dame also defeated Pitt 19-14 earlier this season.

“They’re always talented. They’re physical, and they’ve always got great quarterbacks and fullbacks, so it’s going to be a great game,” said Narduzzi. “I’m honored to be able to get a chance to go play Stanford again.”

This will be the first meeting between the two programs since 1932, and the fourth meeting overall. Pitt leads the series 2-1, Pitt won the first meeting 16-7 at Stanford in 1922, while Stanford won the rematch, 7-0 in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2, 1928. Pitt’s only loss in 10 games that season. Four years later, Pitt responded with a 7-0 victory over Stanford at Pitt Stadium in 1932.

Pop Warner, legendary football pioneer, coached both programs, Pitt from 1915-23 and Stanford from 1924-32. Warner led Pitt to 29 straight victories and three National Championships (1915, 1916 and 1918). Warner also led Stanford to a National Championship in 1926.

Warner led Stanford to its lone victory over Pitt in the 1928 Rose Bowl, the win over his former team was his last appearance in the Rose Bowl. Warner’s name is also associated with the “Pop Warner Little Scholars program”, a nonprofit youth football organization for kids aged 5-to-16 in the United States. He started the program in 1929 to keep kids busy and out of trouble.

Pitt returns to a bowl this year after missing a bowl for the first time in 10 years. This will be the 34th bowl game for Pitt (13-20 overall), and fourth Sun Bowl for a team looking to give coach Pat Narduzzi his first bowl win (0-2). Pitt is also looking to avenge an infamous 3-0 loss to Oregon State in 2008, their last Sun Bowl appearance.

The lowest scoring bowl game since Air Force and TCU played to a scoreless draw at the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 1959.

Although, Narduzzi has yet to win a bowl game as Pitt’s coach, he did top Stanford in the 2014 Rose Bowl, 24-20, as Michigan State’s defensive coordinator. This will be Narduzzi’s first Sun Bowl.

On the other side of the field, Stanford is making their 30th appearance in a bowl, going 14-14-1 all time in bowl games. They are making a school record 10th straight trip to a bowl game. The Cardinal will be playing in Texas for the third year in a row, returning to the Sun Bowl it won in 2016, for the fifth time. Stanford is 3-1 in previous Sun Bowl appearances. Stanford went to the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio in 2017.

Stanford head coach, David Shaw, 4-3 in bowls, has been named Pac-12 Coach of the Year four times (2011, 2012, 2015 and 2017). He has also coached three Heisman Trophy finalists – quarterback Andrew Luck, RB’s Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love. Stanford will seek their fourth straight victory and fourth straight season of at least nine wins.

“Our players had a great time in El Paso,” Coach Shaw said on a conference call on Selection Sunday, “The hospitality was off the charts. The reception (for the players and coaches) is the best of all the bowls.”

Sun Bowl fans could witness a high scoring affair as teams put up over 400 yards of total offense and 23 points a game. Pitt allowed 401.4 total yards per game and 28.8 points, while Stanford allowed 415.6 yards per game and 23.75 points per game.

Both teams averaged over 370 yards of offense and 25 points a game. This will be a clash of offensive approaches, as Pitt loves to run the ball. For the first time in school history, Pitt had two 1,000-yard rushers, Qadree Ollison (1,222) and Darrin Hall (1,046).

Pitt’s success is due to its tremendous ground game, averaging over 229 yards per game. While the Panthers have found success on the ground, the Cardinal is winning through their air attack, averaging over 287 yards per game.

Stanford has not averaged more passing yards than rushing yards per game since 2014, but had to adapt and become pass-focused due to Love struggling with injuries.

“Well the biggest thing for us, after this difficult season we had,” said Shaw, “is getting our guys healthy.”

Stanford saw the return of junior guard Nate Herbig and team MVP senior wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside last week in the rivalry game, against California and will hope to return junior tight end Kaden Smith and senior wide receiver Trenton Irwin, among others.

Love previously had success playing in the 2016 Sun Bowl, filling in for Christian McCaffrey and finishing with 119 yards on the ground and a 49-yard touchdown reception. However, this season an ankle injury limited Love to 834 total yards (739 rushing and 99 receiving) and six touchdowns.

Leading the newfound Stanford air attack is junior K.J. Costello who passed for 3,429 yards and 29 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. Costello took over as the leader of the offense when 2017 Heisman runner-up Bryce Love, went down with an injury early in the season.

JJ Arcega-Whiteside, quickly established himself as Costello’s favorite target, leading the team with 60 receptions, 969 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Cardinal’s jump ball specialist is looking to be one of the first wide receivers drafted next season.

Despite the injury setback suffered by Love, many draft insiders project him as one of the first running backs that will be selected. If this were to happen, it would add to the long line of Sun Bowl participants being selected early in the NFL draft.

Whether you are turning in to see the bright futures of pro prospects or are a fan of either of these esteemed programs, the 85th Annual Hyundai Sun Bowl is sure to entertain diehard football fans in a matchup that has been decades in the making.

Story in Many Pics: Pitt, Stanford Visit Fort Bliss

The players and staff from the Pitt Panthers and Stanford Cardinal took time after practice Friday to visit our troops at Fort Bliss.

Players heard from Fort Bliss officials, then made their way to motor pool and were introduced to Military Equipment Simulators before heading off to dinner on post.

Our very own Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta was there and we bring you his view of the tour in this ‘Story in Many Pics.’

Pitt Panthers visit with the Troops at Ft Bliss Texas, December 28, 2018, Andres Acosta, El Paso Herald-Post

Story in Many Pics: Pitt Panthers Practice at Socorro ISD’s SAC

The Pitt Panthers took to the practice field Friday morning at Socorro ISD’s Student Activities Center (SAC) in Far East El Paso.

Our very own Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta was there and we bring you his view of the practice in this ‘Story in Many Pics.’

The Stanford Cardinal will face off against the Pitt Panthers in the 85th annual Hyundai Sun Bowl on New Years Eve, El Paso Texas, Andres Acosta | El Paso Herald-Post

Video+Gallery+Quotes: Hyundai Sun Bowl Coordinators Press Conference

On Thursday, the offensive and defensive coordinators for both Stanford and Pittsburgh met with the press to talk about their approaches to the Hyundai Sun Bowl, as well as key information regarding players and the season.

Pitt Offensive Coordinator – Shawn Watson
Opening Statement…
“Appreciate the opportunity to be here. The hospitality has been unbelievable. We’ve been here a day, but you guys have been awesome to us. We’re excited about having the opportunity to play Stanford, a great opponent, a classy program, a well-coached football team.”

On strengths of the offense throughout the season.
“We’ve done a nice job of running the football. I think we’ve gotten a lot of guys included in that. Being able to present counters to our base run game. We’re continuing to grow in the area of passing the football. That’s some place that we’ve got to continue to grow at and that’s a process. Especially with young receivers, young quarterbacks and we’re making our way through that. We’re really excited about the effort the kids have given us. We came through our mid part of our season and did an excellent job.”

On getting over the ACC Championship loss.
“We did not play our best that day. The thing we’ve got to do… I’ve got a great group of guys, they are really prideful people and they want to get that taste out of their mouth and get back to business.”

On how teams they have already faced compare to Stanford.
“We’ve played teams that are similar in terms of how they structure themselves with their fronts. They do some things that are just different. We’ve seen the odd front. We’ve seen the even front. We’ve seen the four down front. What they do a nice job of, is they close the back end and they play a lot of single spoke back ends, cover 3 coverages which is different. In looking at that film you see why they do what they do because of the league they play in. That’s what’s so cool about these bowl games. The leagues are so different that you get into another aspect of football and you’ve got to be creative. Their league is a little bit different than ours with the offenses they see and how they structure themselves to beat those offenses so it’s always a nice challenge.”

On whether the offense feels pressure to get going during the last game of the season.
“For our guys, the coaches too, it’s a matter of pride. We were rolling and doing really well and we want to get back to being us. And that’s just us getting back to the fundamentals of the game and going back to work and we’ve been able to do that during our prep time. It’s been good to get that behind us and now we’ve got to go prove it.”

On whether they can put in any new wrinkles into the offense.
“You always can because you’ve got time so you’ve always got a chance to add to yourself or put new things in that come off of what you do. You try to scout yourself and do things that look similar, but they’re really not.”

On establishing a run game.
“In today’s game, you’ve got to really balance yourself. You’ve got to be able to throw the ball efficiently as well as run the football. To run the football, you’ve got to throw it is what I’m saying. Our plan, without giving away too much, we’ve got to take advantage of the pass game to open up the run game. We’ve got to help that run game out with the passing game.”

Pittsburgh Defensive Coordinator Randy Bates
Opening Statement…
“Before I get started I would like to say thank you to the bowl people. I have been to many bowls over my young career and this is the most welcoming I’ve ever been at, couldn’t be more excited.

On the importance of winning the eighth game…
“I don’t count. I just go one (game) at a time. I couldn’t even tell what number of game this is. I think this probably is the first time in my career we’ve played 14 games. We don’t count the number we’re playing one team, one week at a time. It’s always important to win a game doesn’t matter if it’s the first win, the fourth win, the 10th win or the 14th win. The important thing is that we’re here to win the game.”

On having enough time to recover from loss in ACC Championship game…
“We met today this morning for the first time with the kids since they had five or six days off. And they’re wide-eyed and ready to go. I’m excited with the attention tat we had and the excitement I felt a level of energy at our meetings. We’re headed to practice right now and I expect nothing else at practice.”

On what he’s learned as a long-time defensive coordinator…
“I think it’s been a learning experience not just for me but also for our players. It took a little while to used to each other and hopefully at this point we all feel like we’re really beginning year two. As a group, I think they know what the expect from me, I know what to expect from them and we can move forward.”

On how different Stanford is without running back Bryce Love…
“I don’t think they (change). If you look at the season, all of their running backs have played quite a bit so I don’t think they’ll change their offense. Coach (David) Shaw does what he does and does it very well. He’s one of the best offensive coordinators in the country. They do what they and I’m sure they’ll have some wrinkles but they do what they do very well and that’s why they’ve been success so I don’t expect a big change in their offense.

On playing a Cover 2-man defense against Stanford…
“I think we’re going to do a lot of different things coverage-wise and front-wise. The beautiful thing about having as many games as we have is we’ve done several things throughout the course of the year so we can go back and draw many of the things that we’ve done over the last 13 games. Yes, they’ll be some changes and exactly what they’ll be… tune-in and you’ll be able to see.”

Stanford Offensive Coordinator – Tavita Pritchard

Opening Statement…
“I’d like to just say it’s great to be back. I had the great fortune of being my third time here. Played in this game in 2009 and was back as a coach the first time and now. This third time is fun because I have a 20-month old but seeing it through his eyes now. We got of the plane and saw Amigo Man and dancing it was a lot of fun. It’s been just what I remember, the hospitality has been off the charts amazing and our guys are having a phenomenal time so far.”

On adjusting without Bryce Love…
“Bryce Love is we believe the best back in college football, unfortunate that he won’t be with us. You know it’s cliche, but football is a man up sport. We’ve felt that in a few different ways this year up front and at different positions and we’ll treat this no differently. We have to come out, we have to find guys that do what he gives us, or what he gave us. Kind of as a committee, but we have a couple of guys that we feel like will fill in.”

On Pitt against guys like JJ Arcega-Whiteside…
“When you compare to some other guys they’ve played, obviously Clemson has a very talented receiving core, we saw that it was their most recent game. The challenge to playing the Pitt defense obviously is that they have a system that they believe in, and they play it extremely well, they play it very hard. They know that system inside and out. I wouldn’t even say its what they’ve done against certain guys necessarily but just in how they play generally. The two corners outside are phenomenal players, they really do a good job of coming down and challenging you, mixing in their different techniques. The safeties, like I said they know that defense really well. You can tell by how they communicate, you can tell by how quickly they diagnose plays and they go fill their gaps or get into coverage. So i think the biggest challenge isn’t necessarily how they’ll play us specifically but just how they play.”

On their focus leading up to the Sun Bowl…
“ I would say we’ve had a wrinkle here and there, just because you have more time to prepare for the game. I think probably like maybe Pitt echoed and coach Lance will say, when you get to this point in the season you kind of are who you are and you stay in your lane. So, we’re gonna do what we feel we do best. So it’s a combination of those two things, we were perfecting some of the things that we’ve already had in but also adding a couple things we feel can attack Pitt’s defense. That’s a permissible challenge, so we feel like we do have to have some other things in there.”

On passing more than expected…
“Yeah I think so. We haven’t run the ball as well as we would like this year. I don’t think that’s any big mystery. We’ve talked about it at different times and points in the season. We want to be a team that can run or throw the football. By necessity we’ve had to throw it a little bit more this year, but in varying degrees we’ve had success doing that.”

Defensive Coordinator – Lance Anderson

Opening Statement – On the Hyundai Sun Bowl and El Paso…
“I’m excited to be here. This is my third Sun Bowl as well. We had 2009 against Oklahoma, 2016 against North Carolina and then looking forward to this year’s matchup against Pittsburgh. One of the things I like most about the Sun Bowl is, I’m a huge college football fan. I love a game of college football and this is the second oldest bowl game. So just the history, tradition – you look at some of the players that have played in this game, the teams that have been a part of this, it’s fun to be a part of this history and tradition. Also what I like about this is the whole community – this is the whole El Paso area is so invested and involved in this bowl game. You get here and you feel how important this bowl game is to the entire community and it’s fun to be a part of that as well. So, looking forward to being here, looking forward to all the activities and things going on throughout the week, but most importantly most excited about the matchup with Pittsburgh. They’re a good physical football team, they run the football well, so it’s going to be a good challenge for us. You know, defensively we’ve been a little bit up and down, a little bit inconsistent, we’ve had some really good games, others where we maybe didn’t play as well, so we’re looking for that one last opportunity where we can go out and play some good football and we know it’s going to be a tough physical matchup.”

On Pitt Establishing a Run Game…
“I think they’ve run the ball really well all year long – 2,000 yard rushers that are both big physical running backs, a couple tight ends that are almost like offensive linemen, so I would expect that they would come out and try to run the football.”

On This Past Season…
“I think one of the things we’ve done best throughout the year is our guys have played hard, they’ve really bought in mentally to what we’re doing, they understand the defense well, there are just times we need to execute better and make more plays, we need to play a little bit more physical, but I’ve really been pleased with the effort of our guys all season long.”

On The The Difference of Respective Conferences…
“Yes, it is different, there is no question about that but you go back to the beginning of the season and we opened the season with San Diego State. That was another very run oriented team, a lot of big personnel groups where they would put multiple tight ends and fullbacks on the field, very committed to running the football – play action, bootlegs were a big part of their game, so there are definitely some similarities between what San Diego State did and what you see from Pittsburgh.”

On Pitt’s Play Difference In Last Two Games After Losing Key Starters…
“You go back and you watch the offensive line in those games. I think the center was a good football player, so I think they definitely feel his loss, but as a unit that’s a very good group – a big physical group, we expect them to play well. I think having this month or so time of preparation will allow them more time to gel as a unit. I think that’s so important on the offensive line and they have a lot of talented big physical guys, so I expect they play well upfront.

On Sophomore Cornerback No. 11 Paulson Adebo…
“Paulson Adebo is a tremendous talent, he’s a guy that we recognize shortly after we got here that thought could be pretty special. Great length, runs really well, great ball skills, but until the guy gets on the field and performs then that is just potential. But he has maxed out potential this year and he’s played at a high level. You’ve seen everything that he does, you see his speed, you see his length, you see his ball skills. Another thing I’ve been impressed with is his willingness to tackle, he does not shy away from contact. We’ve had some games this year where he’s missed tackles and he understands that’s a place where he needs to get better. He never shies away from contact, always working to get better where I think he’s had a great season for us but he’s got a huge upside. He can be really special.”

Story in Many Pics: Stanford, Pitt Arrive for Hyundai Sun Bowl

Under a West Texas sky that seemingly displayed all the seasons under the sun in just a few minutes, Stanford and Pittsburgh winged their way to the Sun City ahead of next week’s annual Hyundai Sun Bowl.

Our very own Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta was there and we bring you his view of the arrivals in this ‘Story in Many Pics.’

The Standford Cardinal arrival in the Sun City for the 85th Annual Hyundai Sun Bowl, Atlantic Aviation, El Paso TX, December 26, 2018, Andres Acosta | El Paso Herald-Post
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