Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, right, is congratulated on his touchdown by quarterback Marcus Mariota during the first half of their NCAA college football game against Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore., Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012. In the background is Oregon's Nick Cody.(AP Photo/Don Ryan)
“Our players got an opportunity, like our coaches at times, to go home for Christmas, so we’ve been off since the 22nd. I actually had an opportunity to go home, so it was pretty good. We tell our players every year, our goal is to spend Thanksgiving together, Christmas with our families and New Year’s together. So for the fourth year in a row they’ve done it. We’re excited to be here. There’s a familiarity for us as a group. About 50 of our players and our entire coaching staff was here two years ago (for the 2011 Tostitos BCS National Championship Game). Had a great experience. We’re practicing at the same high school, we’re staying at the same hotel, so I think that part of it will give us a little bit of an understanding of what’s going on. We know where everything is an d can point the younger guys in the right direction. We’re excited to get going. We’ll have a brief team meeting tonight and we start back in earnest tomorrow.”
Q: Has the team rebounded from the loss to Stanford?
A: “There’s not much you can do about the past. If you’re still thinking about what happened when we played Stanford, and we got beat by a real good team in overtime. We all know the rules of engagement when this thing started, and we’ve talked about it. If you lose in the regular season, there’s an opportunity that you’re not going to get there. We lost. We understand it. We make our own beds. We lie in them. We got ready to go. I think the way our kids responded and played the next week, in our next game, really told you what this team was all about. I think on that Monday after the Stanford game our kids understood what was at stake.”
Q: On whether he is interested in an NFL job?
A: “I’m coaching the Fiesta Bowl, and that’s where my sole attention is. That’s all I’ve always had my plan to do. I’m going to coach this team, and that’s it.”
Q: Are the rumors (about NFL jobs) distracting?
A: “It doesn’t bother me. It gives you guys stuff to write about, so I think you’re entertained by it. But because I don’t read it, it doesn’t mean anything to me.”
Q: Do you have NFL ambitions?
A: “My whole thing since I’ve been here is that I’m going to do the best job I can every single day. If that’s good enough that other people look at you sometimes, I don’t really care about that. I think too many people live in the future. We live in the moment. Our football team lives in the moment. I think how you’ve watch us play over the last four years, we’ve always lived in the moment. The only thing we can control is today. I’m always worried about today, always concerned about today. I’m going to get up tomorrow and try to replicate that again. Our whole thing about our football team is about being consistent, so if my approach was to look at what’s going to happen five years down the road, ten years down the road…it’s never been my philosophy, never will be my philosophy. I’m excited about a team meeting we’re going to have h ere in about an hour and a half, and that’s about it…My heart is to win the day, and that’s it. I know everybody wants to hear a different answer, and I know at times when I don’t give you guys the answer you guys want, then I’m being evasive. I’m not being evasive. My job is to coach the University of Oregon football team, and I love doing it. And that’s what I’m going to do.”
Q: Why arrive more than a week before the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl?
A: “Because we gave them such a break at Christmas, we felt like this was what we had to do, because we weren’t going to fly everybody back to Eugene and then relocate for a day and then come back…I thought it was really important for our guys to get home for an extended period of time because we’ve had them since August 6. These kids haven’t had a break at all. Went through Thanksgiving. So we felt it was important for them to get the break that we gave them over Christmas.”
Q: Does your bowl prep stay the same every year?
A: “We’re pretty consistent…Our game plan’s been implemented, offense, defense, special teams, so now it’s just refining it, getting back. I don’t anticipate having any rust. They didn’t have enough time off to get it...We’ve been pretty consistent with this being our fourth BCS game.”
Q: Do your players take BCS games for granted?
A: “That’s never been our mentality, because we’re always a positive-looking operation and going forward. I don’t sense that from our guys, the kids that we coach. There’s still a youthful enthusiasm to this team. There’s 65 freshmen and sophomores that weren’t here two years ago. The one thing that I think is unique, especially in college football, is it’s turned over every year. There’s a bunch of guys coming in, so there’ll be a bunch of new faces…It’s a good mix. You never know, but I don’t think in anything in life you can take for granted. That’s the one thing you’ve got to really realize, and we try to teach as a teachable moment, is that these opportunities aren’t given to anybody. You’ve got to earn them, and I think our players understand that. They understand the pain after w e lost to Stanford but know that we had a great chance to go to something else if we go out and played well against Oregon State, and I was really proud of how they played that week, so I don’t think they take it for granted.”