The Hyundai Sun Bowl media relations staff held a press conference with North Carolina Head Coach Larry Fedora and Stanford Head Coach David Shaw on Thursday, Dec. 29 at the El Paso Convention Center. Below is a transcript of the question and answer session.
Stanford head coach David Shaw
Opening remarks: The week has been phenomenal. We tried to tell the guys before we got here – I was here with the team in 2009 – about the hospitality and you guys have not disappointed. Phenomenal people, phenomenal area. I loved spending time with the troops and seeing all the troops work in the community and on base. It’s been a great experience. Facilities have been great practice has gone really well just excited to be here really grateful for all the people who are associated with the bowl game.
Q: Coach you’ve played for a number of Rose Bowls and College Football Playoff does it take any added incentives to get these guys going for this game?
A: No, we concentrate on us and on what’s in front of us. Appreciate our senior leadership, we don’t have a big senior class but that senior leadership has been outstanding the entire year. We focus on what we’re doing right now and what we have next and our practices have been that way. We had a really rough spot in the middle of the year and those seniors really helped us have the best practices of the year, when we weren’t playing well, we were unranked and people were jumping off the bandwagon, we were going back to work. That’s continued here we aren’t worried about anything except what’s in front of us so I appreciate our senior leadership.
Q: UNC can score a lot of points, what’s the plan to slow them down?
A: Well their head coach is in the back somewhere so I can’t tell you everything. The bottom the line for us is to play sound smart defense. You got a phenomenal quarterback that can make all the throws, an outstanding receiving corps that can move the ball quickly down the field and light up the score board. For us, we’ve had a good maturation process throughout the year on our defense. We had a lot of young guys that have played and have gotten a lot of experience playing a lot better towards the end of the year. Big thing they learned is, you can’t take a play off, we’re playing against a great offense in particular and a great football player playing quarterback, you can’t take a play-off we try to defend from the back forward, try not to give up big plays and play smart, sound football
Q: They have one of the best kick-off return teams in the country, the best punt cover team in the country. Can you talk about the special team match up and what you’re going to do?
A: I’m a coach’s kid, been around this game my entire life and so many people don’t talk about special teams and special teams helps you win football games. It’s a game of field position. It’s a game of acclimating yardage and special teams is the biggest way to do that on any given play, so we take it very seriously. I have a lot of appreciation for their returner, I think he’s phenomenal. I think with all great returners it first starts with instinct and then comes to ability and that ability, the instinct, of when to know when to hit it and when to let those blocks manifest themselves before you get to full speed is an impressive thing to watch. Ima a big punt return fan and a fan of how they do it at North Carolina. As for us, and the return game goes, we got a good plan, one thing is to be smart about what we do and how we do it. But we also hope to put a returner that will give us positive yardage.
Q: Considering the fact that you don’t have Christian McCafferey and UNC doesn’t have Elijah Hood and with 42 bowls, why should the general sports fan tune into this particular game?
A: you have two talented football teams, two well coached football teams, two teams who play the game the right way, physically and tough they play it aggressively. With out those two runners, you have a lot of exciting players to watch in the game. They have one of the better quarterbacks in the nation, one of the more citing returns and young exciting players for the future in Bryce Love. I think that’s an exciting thing to watch.
Q: What do you think of Nick Saban’s comments that the CFB Playoff has sort of diminished the importance of other bowl games?
A: I completely understand what he’s saying and in part I agree with the premise of what he’s saying. I think, the media starts talking about the playoff before training camp. It’s not even the bowl games necessarily about college football. I grew up with this but I love college football if I wasn’t coaching, I’d be watching all the bowl games like I have all my life because I love it. It’s exciting it’s fun. It’s a big part of this time of the year. So, that’s why I agree with the premise which is that they playoff has now focused on just the playoff as opposed to how great college football is. I think college football is in the best shape it’s ever been, that’s why it’s so exciting, that’s why the ratings are through the roof through the entire year. Once the novelty of the playoff wears off, we’ll get back to where we should be which is appreciating every single week of the college football season and every single bowl game. So I understand where we are right now but I don’t believe it will stay that way. Once we all get used to the way things go we’ll be back to people who just love college football.
Q: do you see any parallels between this game and the last Sun Bowl that you were here with Andrew Luck out?
A: not necessarily, particularly from the Stanford standpoint, we were still growing as a program, that was the first bowl game in eight or nine years, as opposed to the two programs coming now, with good recent history with both teams, relatively established and are good programs in their own right at the moment. So the bowl games then were a novelty and we were just getting there and that is what I think that is the difference for me.
Q: What allowed you to successfully recruit Bryce Love out of North Carolina when it came down to his decision?
A: For us it starts with the individual, it started with Bryce and what he was looking for. I’m not a recruiter I’m just a guy that finds young guys that are looking for what we have. Once we got to know Bryce and his family and what they wanted for him, we showed them what Stanford has to offer both on and off the field. It was appealing to him and that was how the process begins and continued. It was a long distance and we helped him feel like he was at home. That’s the great thing about Stanford, you just don’t have people from America, you have people from around the world, but they make you feel at home and help you be successful both academically and whatever you are pursuits are outside of academics.
Q: Will Christian be here and is there any sentiment if the locker room that he quit on them?
A: He will not be here. And absolutely not. First and foremost what gets undersold because Christian hasn’t spoken publicly. This was hard for Christian, this wasn’t a flip just off the cuff, it was really really difficult because he loves those guys in the locker room, doesn’t like them he loves them and would do anything in the world for them. This was really real really hard. Just a tough decision he had to make and we completely understand and we put our arms around him and said absolutely. We love you and we understand it. I had long conversation with Christian during this process to where the last thing Christian wants to be is a distraction and after a good conversation, we came to the conclusion that it was probably best not to come so that the focus of the game could be on the guys that were playing the game and not Christian. We love him he loves us and he didn’t abandon this football team and he made a difficult decision with the team’s best interest. And we support and respect that. We look forward to him playing on Sundays because I think he will be outstanding.
Q: Three weeks ago, he practiced on a Friday then that following Monday he said he wasn’t playing, what changed during the course of that weekend?
A: it was in process, there were multiple discussions this was not a wake up one morning and not going to play, this was a painstaking – and I don’t want to speak for Christian, he’ll speak at some point – but this was a pain staking process for him. Which I’m grateful for him and his family that we communicated and had great communication during the process so nothing changed in that span.
University of North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora
On experience during bowl week…
“We’ve had a wonderful experience here. For me, being a native Texan I was extremely excited about bringing our team to the state of Texas and letting them experience everything that El Paso has to offer. From all of the activities, the Sun Bowl has done a tremendous job. This is my second time at the bowl and the thing that I do remember is the hospitality. This is a unique bowl. The whole community embraces this bowl and does such a great job with the teams that are here. Our players have just enjoyed all of the experiences. It’s been phenomenal and we’re looking forward to playing the game now.”
On special teams providing an advantage for UNC…
“We pride ourselves on special teams. One of the biggest things we talk about when it comes to special teams is we need a game-changing play. In studying Stanford, you can tell they spend a lot of time with their return teams and their coverage teams. We hope that we can create a game-changing play and we do spend quite a bit of time on it. We feel like we’ve got good return teams and good coverage teams. We think that special teams will play a major factor in this game.
On trying to stop Stanford’s running attack…
“I don’t know how confident I am (about stopping Stanford’s rushing game). But I do know that’s going to be a major factor in this game. Stanford is a physical football team that runs the ball and bring it down hill at you. Our guys know that we’re going to have to limit the run. I don’t think we’re walking into this game and saying that we’re going to stop the run because I don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t think anyone can stop the run against Stanford but we’ve got to limit the run. We can’t let them stay on the field the entire game just running the ball for five yards a carry.”
On the impact of football culture in Texas…
“Unless you spend a lot of time in this state, it’s really hard to understand the magnitude of high school football in this state. Growing up here you didn’t think it was a big deal because that’s just the way it was. You didn’t know anything different. Until I got to college coaching, that’s when I realized that a lot emphasis is put on football in Texas. If you look at the stadiums and the money that’s poured into it, it’s what some of these communities are built around.”
On Elijah Hood’s injury status…
“I can tell you that Elijah (Hood) is not here. We decided it was going to be best for him to stay back to get healthy. As far as what those conditions are, I don’t really ever talk about those things.”
On team’s health…
“Everybody else is ready to go. We’ve got some bumps and bruises but we’ve got some guys that are going to play and that are ready to go.”
On previously recruiting Stanford running back Bryce Love…
“We recruited Bryce (Love) very hard. Bryce is a very bright young man and has a great family. We spent a lot of time recruiting him. It was one of those things where it came down to us and Stanford and he chose Stanford. I didn’t know I would ever play against him and unfortunately we do but we’re looking forward to it.”
The 2016 Hyundai Sun Bowl game will be played Friday, Dec. 30, at 12 p.m. MT (2 p.m. ET) at Sun Bowl Stadium with No. 16 Stanford taking on North Carolina.
The 2016 game will mark the 83rd anniversary of the Sun Bowl game and the 49th consecutive broadcast on CBS.