Dallas – The No. 9 Texas A&M Aggies got back to football basics for their first practice for the 77th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic.
Under brisk outdoor conditions, the Aggies donned full pads for a nearly 60-minute workout on the practice field adjacent to Ford Stadium on the SMU campus. The spirit of the 12th Man was in full force as a swarm of Texas A&M fans welcomed the squad prior to its first workout in preparation to take on the No. 11 Oklahoma Sooners (10-2, 8-1 Big 12 Conference).
“I thought we had great energy at practice. With all the fans and spectators that were here, I was kind of shocked at the number of people that were here. I thought that created some energy for us too,” said head coach Kevin Sumlin. “We bounced around and weren’t out here very long but that’s kind of the way we’ve
done things up to this point.” The practice was a return of sorts as Ford Stadium was the site of the team’s first win of the 2012 season,
a 48-3 victory over SMU. That win sparked a five-game winning streak before a 24-19 loss to LSU on Oct. 20. A&M rebounded from that defeat to go another five-game winning streak to close the season.
Two former Aggies, Rod Harris and Ken Reeves, were among those watching the A&M workout. Harris was an All-Southwest Conference performer who starred for A&M in 1985-89 and Reeves played in
College Station from 1981-84. The team capped off practice in celebratory fashion with happy birthday wishes and a Gatorade bath for defensive coordinator Mark Snyder. Tonight, the Aggies enjoyed a private team function and then caught some National Basketball Association action between the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs at the American Airlines Center.
Snyder, junior DE Damontre Moore and seniors DL Spencer Nealy, LB Sean Porter, LB Jonathan Stewart and DB Steven Terrell will conduct an interview session with the media Monday morning at the Omni Mandalay Hotel in Irving. A&M is back on the practice field later in the day with a traditional “Tuesday” practice session at Highland Park High School in nearby University Park.
The 77th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic will be held on Friday, Jan. 4 on FOX. Telecast starts at 6:30 p.m. with kickoff scheduled for 7:10 p.m. Gus Johnson will handle play-by-play duties with Charles Davis as the color analyst.
For the first time the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic will be heard around the world on ESPN Radio. Providing
play-by-play is Brad Sham, the “Voice of the Dallas Cowboys”. Ed Cunningham will provide color
commentary and Ian Fitzsimmons will report from the sidelines.
HEAD COACH KEVIN SUMLIN
On was there a moment when you took a step back and were just surprised about all the things
that happened this season: “As a coach, especially the way our season evolved with so many things
happening, number one the first game being postponed and really eliminating our bye week and going 12
straight weeks really was to handle the game that Saturday, deal with it win or lose and then move on to
the next game. It probably wasn’t until, I don’t know, even when we were in New York sometime, flying
around to these awards shows, I think that is when it kind of hit you that we have accomplished a lot as a
team and a lot as individuals. When you are inside it, involved in it week to week, it becomes very, very
routine, if you will. It says a lot about this team. To go through what this team went through with the
postponement of the first game. To have the first game to be a home game, number one, and to have
(College) Gameday there, the atmosphere of the first game to be against Florida. To lose that game in a
tough manner and respond into really 12 straight weeks without a bye and play the way they did, I think
that is a tribute to our senior leadership, how our guys handled it, our coaching staff and handling it week to
week. You don’t have an opportunity to think about things until a break a couple weeks after that.”
Thoughts on being only the second African-American coach to be named the SEC Coach of the
Year: “As a matter of fact, I haven’t thought about it. It is a great honor to be the SEC Coach of the Year,
number one, with the number of coaches involved in this league. There could have been an argument for a
lot of different guys. I think it, particularly from a coach’s standpoint who gets to vote and from the AP
standpoint. As it relates to race, I hope we are to the point one day where that question is not asked. What
I do, people see me as a coach and not a black coach. The more success we have, the closer we will get
to that being a reality.”
On relationship with Bob Stoops and how much he has impacted his coaching career: “Coach
Stoops has obviously had a huge influence on my coaching career. We have known each other for a long
time. People might be surprised that we played in the same league, he was leaving when I was coming to
Purdue. Mike (Stoops) was playing and so was Jay Norvell at Iowa. I was playing at Purdue. Then as we
moved in coaching we were actually recruiting South Florida together and recruiting a lot of the same
players whether I was at Minnesota or Purdue and he was at Kansas State. We were head to head all the
time on the ground down there. Both of us had tough jobs trying to get guys to leave Miami and Fort
Lauderdale to go to Manhattan, Kansas and Minneapolis, Minnesota or West Lafayette (Indiana). Over the
course of time, we have kept in touch and then he hired me. I spent five years at Oklahoma. It was five
great years from a learning standpoint. From a time where it was a difficult situation to play for two national
championships and lose, but to get close. One of those teams is one of the best teams I have ever been a
part of. Then to go through really what was a rebuilding situation, losing a bunch of draft picks, how you
handle that, how you handle adversity. I think we lost the first game in a long time at home against TCU and
we bounced that team, that program back to get to the Holiday Bowl and winning and getting the program
back on track. You learn a lot during that time. Probably the biggest thing is the daily expectations of
players, how you treat players and the expectation level you have for everybody and creating a family
atmosphere. I think it is important for wives and kids, but because it is not like that everywhere. They are a
part of what you are doing. I think people take that for granted because it affects your wife, your girlfriend
and your kids just as much as it affects you. The more you acknowledge and keep them involved I think it
keeps the energy level up. Bob (Stoops) does a great job of that and always has. From that standpoint, as
I said before, people look at this team (Oklahoma). I can’t tell you how many people have thrown out that
this isn’t one of his better teams. What are you talking about? I’m not sure how many 10-win teams he has
had. The level of expectations that has been created in the 14 years that he has been there is extremely
high. When I get a question like that or an attitude like that, it tells you what kind of program he has
On keeping team together after losses to Florida and LSU and not resorting back to attitude of
2011 team: “There was a long time between those two losses. People act like those losses happened
back to back. When we lost the first game, the first thing I did was No. 1 – we never talked about last year,
I wasn’t here. Whatever happened a year ago – win, lose or attitude – whatever that was, I wasn’t here.
We weren’t playing the same league. We are a different team with different uniforms and different coaches.
We eliminated 2011 from what we were talking about. I had a bunch of people ask me about that and we
didn’t talk about that.
“The Florida game was not a situation like that. I think people tried to compare it to the year before
because we were ahead at halftime and didn’t score in the second half. You look back at that game and we
didn’t have enough offense in against a team that was a top 10 football team that was really good. We had
a freshman quarterback in his first game, effort was not an issue we just weren’t able to play. It was
several weeks before LSU. Those two games (Florida and LSU) were irrelevant (to each other). That is the
first game and the halfway point. They didn’t have anything to do with each other. I think in year one if
people are going to be critical or ask questions about trying to compare our two losses to the year before,
I’ll take that about all the time.”
On whether this offense is the most wide-open and fun offense he has been a part of: “A lot of
that I would like to take credit for as a play designer, but we have a quarterback that has the ability to – as
Coach Kingsbury or Kliff used to say – would go rogue on us. We can’t take credit for everything. He is a
very, very dynamic and special player. I think as the season went on we understood him a little bit better.
He understood what we were trying to do a little bit better with moving around and getting him moving. We
did design more quarterback run game in the plan, but that is all part of a lot of different things that he has
taken advantage of. I haven’t had anybody and I’ve been around a bunch of really good quarterbacks, with
his skill set. It is just a different animal. For him to have the freedom to do what he has done in one year, I
think says a lot about his improvement and his skill set, but also our ability to adapt to his skill set and try to
feature some things that can help us win. I would like to take credit for all that, but he is a different guy. The
ability for him to make plays with his legs puts a whole another spin on our offense.”
On how you have handled visiting with Johnny Manziel in managing all the attention that comes
with winning the Heisman Trophy: “Sure I have talked to him about it. Winning the Heisman (Trophy)
should not be a punishment. It is a unique situation that we have in that we have freshman that has won the
highest award given in college football. It has never happened before. It is completely different situation
than anybody has ever had. Usually you are looking at a player’s last game, the bowl game he is playing in,
or he may play one more year, that’s it. This is a redshirt freshman. The advice that you are giving is day to
day advice. It is not career advice. From that standpoint, I think people are watching to see what is going
to happen, number one. You have a guy that just turned 20 (years old) in Orlando (College Football Awards
show) or in New York and he is a 20-year old kid. You have to be careful about heaping on too much of
what the expectations are for a young man. As I said we have to be very, very cognizant of what is going
on. I think he understands that. But at the same time, a lot of things that have made him who he is right
now, all of sudden you can’t shut that off.”
On season of wide receiver Mike Evans and whether he had expectations for that type of season
from Mike back in August: “He is extremely raw. He has tremendous upside. This is a guy that didn’t play
very much football period in high school. He was a basketball player. I remember watching him at camp and
he didn’t even know what a corner route was, trying to catch the ball over the wrong shoulder. He is really
raw. He has a tremendous amount of upside, he continued to get better. He understood what we were
trying to do. It wasn’t until midway through fall camp, I really thought – hey we’ve got something here. He is
big. He is a little bit stronger than you think he is, a little bit faster than you think he is. Toughness has never
been an issue with Mike. He was hurt basically the whole year. He played as well as anybody in our league.
I would say probably the last five weeks, he only practiced on Thursday because of injury situations just to
get ready. For a freshman to do that and perform the way he performed in games particularly at that
position shows a lot about where he was in the mental state during the week, during practice and during the
games. I look for him to continue to get better. He is definitely another piece we can build around.”
On the trend of teams playing with interim coaches in bowl games and whether something can be
done about that: “I have seen both scenarios. I have been through both scenarios. I got the Houston job
and I stayed through the bowl game. Last year, I got this job. I think people think a lot of times coaches
leave on their own or take off and just abandon the kids. When I left (University of) Houston to come to
Texas A&M that was dual decision with the athletic director and myself. When I met with the team, I wanted
to tell them I had accepted the job at Texas A&M, the mutual decision was that it was time to move on with
an interim coach. It’s hard to be the coach at one institution and look at your team and coach that team
where you are right now.
“I think people look at it different ways. The problem is that timing right now for other institutions is critical.
The onus is put on coaches that they can’t move or change jobs, but the jobs are offered to you in
December. But also you have a coach fired midway through the season, not for any conduct. There is
nothing said about that for the kids. You go in and face the kids for the last five weeks of the season as a
fired coach, there are some issues are there because the race to hire the next coach is on. There are a lot
of things to blame on the system right now. It puts administrators in a position where they want to be
competitive where they want to hire the best coach for their particular situation. It puts coaches in a
situation where you get offered a job. I think people would be surprised when those offers are made and
they are looked at as leaving, whatever happens, when that happens. Nobody really knows about the
coach in that situation. Everybody thinks they know but they really don’t know. I think I’ve heard that before
from a coach.
“I don’t know what can be done. I think the NFL has gotten it right with the timing. But the component the
NFL does not have is recruiting. Basically if you have a moratorium until after the bowl games and then the
(coaching) convention coming up, then there is a dead period. You have coaches coming to work at a
different university in mid-January, you have two weeks of recruiting and then that class is done. You are
done for the year. So there are a lot more moving parts in college football than in pro football. A lot of
things would have to change if you change the way things are done right now.”
T LUKE JOECKEL
On staying focused in long layoff between the last game: “That is the craziest thing. Since the last
game, you have had a month to the bowl game. You have to keep preparing. You have a good team like
OU. You have to prepare a month for them. They have a good squad there and plenty of athletes. I’ve been
watching film for like a month so I’m ready to go.”
On making the college football awards circuit: “It has been a lot of fun, going to Orlando and doing
that kind of stuff. It’s been such a blessing being a part of all that. Winning it (the Outland Trophy) was just
such a blessing. Coming from an offensive line family, you have known about the award your entire life. It
has been kind of my main goal in college to become and All-American and winning that award is what I
wanted to come to (Texas) A&M for. It is such a blessing and such an honor winning that. It has been a
On notoriety that has been brought to Texas A&M this season: “I can’t believe the season. It has
been a fun season. When I was being recruiting to A&M by Sherman and Turner a couple of years ago,
they told me you want to come to A&M and bring the spotlight back to A&M. It has been such a blessing
doing that. You come to A&M, bringing the spotlight back to A&M and just being a big deal in Texas again.
That is why I came to A&M. I’m glad to be here and I’m glad to be able to do what I wanted to do when I
DE DAMONTRE MOORE
On as a defensive lineman what makes your teammate Johnny Manziel special to defend: “A lot of
things. He has tremendous talent. Some people you can train to be good, but some people are just born
with it. That is one of the things, he trains to be good and he was born with it and that makes him a great
player. Just all his attributes he can throw, he can run, everything. He is a multi-talented threat.
“It is like that old saying, you come in there with a game plan and to the fight thinking you are going to do
this. But once you get hit in the nose all that goes out the window. I think that applies to Johnny (Manziel) a
lot. You go in saying you are going to do this and you have the perfect scheme, but he always seems to do
something amazing to change your whole thought process.”
On how the Alabama win changed perception of team that struggled in past to close out big
games: “We try not to look at the past, but you can’t help but to look at the past when people bring it up.
That win was the stepping stone that helped in turning this program around and to show we were as
talented as we knew we were the whole time. It has done great things for us, but we try not to just stay on
that. Because once you stay on that you get complacent. We soaked it in a little bit and moved on to the
task at hand the following week.”
QB JOHNNY MANZIEL
On staying focused with all the accolades and activities of the last month: “I have been enjoying it. I
have been enjoying all the stuff that has come with it. I am a big sports fan. All of you know about going to
the basketball game and the football game. It is just something that I enjoy. People just didn’t know I went
before but I still went but people didn’t care to write about it. I’ve just been enjoying it. We were so busy in
New York, the five or six days from Orlando to New York, everyone who traveled with me were just dead.
We were going to bed at 2 a.m. and waking up at 7 a.m. It was fun for us to get back and say hey let’s go
to a basketball game, let’s do some stuff and do some things in the afternoon. We made time to do it. We
are still focused. We are still going to practice, still going to workouts, still watching film, still doing the
same stuff as always just enjoying a little bit along the way.”
On Oklahoma defense: “They are very athletic. You look all around (the defense), they sit there and say
we are more athletic than you and we can beat you one on one and do some things that can distract you.
They don’t do too much that will trick you, but they say this is what we do, this is who we are and this is
what we are going to do and they stick with that.”
On whether goodwill that has been built up for A&M this year will be taken away without a win
in the Cotton Bowl..i.e. “a great season but..”: “There could always be abut at the end of that
regardless. We aren’t too focused about what people say. We have had a great year. A bowl game is a
time where you come have fun. You come enjoy all the things they put out. You come have dinner and get
to be in Cowboys Stadium. You get to have fun. That is what people don’t get. I try to explain it more and
more that football is a game of fun. We are so blessed to be able to play this game and come out here and
play. It’s a game and that is all it is. If you enjoy playing it, you might as well make the most of it. It is
nothing but fun. It is fun to run around and throw the ball around with some of your best friends.”
LB SEAN PORTER
On what would mean to end special year with win in Cotton Bowl: “It would mean a lot. We have
been talking about finishing strong all year long. It has been our theme, start fast and finish strong. It would
mean a lot to finish the season good and come out with 11 wins and be one of the few teams in Texas A&M
history to win 11 games in a season.”
On playing 12 games without a break and finally getting a chance to get healthy before bowl
game: “That was tough playing without a break. We were really beat up after the season. We finally got
our bye week a few weeks ago and so we are back to 100 percent so that will be great.”
On playing in familiar place – Cowboys Stadium: “It is always exciting when we play in Cowboys
Stadium. It is a beautiful stadium. It is a nice place to play. It is a great venue. We are excited to play here.
On maturation of defense this year: “I think we played some good defense this year. We stepped up
into the SEC and showed that we could compete in that league where all the hoopla is about defense. I
think we did a great job on defense this year. And our explosive offense didn’t hurt anything either. I think
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