Jan. 2, 2012
COACH LEVINE: Really excited about the outcome of the game. Really excited not only for our program but for our seniors. They've led this team all year. Some have been here six years, some have been here two years, everywhere in between. What they mean to us, what they mean to our program, their legacy was left with 13 wins today.
The way our entire football team prepared leading up to this game, I think you saw kind of the fruits of their labor. We had a month to prepare. Our kids wanted to go out against a really, really tremendous opponent in a January bowl game on a national stage and show the country that our loss a month ago in the championship game was not the norm, that was a fluke, not the 12 wins leading up to it.
Proud for our players, proud for our seniors, and proud for the University of Houston, really the whole city of Houston and the state of Texas.
Q. Describe the feeling at the end, the players lifting you up, the cooler dump at the end?
COACH LEVINE: I think now it has really set in a little bit that I am aware I'm the head coach here. There's so much going through your mind, even from the 6:30 a.m. wake-up call, taking roll at meals, making sure everybody is on the bus before you leave, getting here, the officials come up to the locker room to go over with you about the nuances of how they're going to call the game, the coin toss, are we going to take the ball or defer.
By the time the game was kicked off, it still hadn't sunk in. Toward the end there, seeing the rest of the coaching staff come down from the press box, coaches on the sideline taking their headsets off, really it's not cliché, I'm not trying to sound funny, but when I got hit with the Gatorade was the first time I felt like a head coach.
Q. You mentioned talking about the way the game was called. Describe what you saw that you felt you could throw that much and be that successful.
COACH LEVINE: As soon as the bowl pairings came out, saw who we were playing, the first thing we did was look at their stats and saw on paper how well they play defensively. I said this the last two weeks, I mean it, once you put the video on and watch it, it takes about two snaps to see why they play so well defensively.
We felt going in that the strength of their defense was their defensive line. We felt like our tempo offensively might give them problems based on they really hadn't played anybody similar to us all season. It's hard to prepare for us. One of the advantages we have offensively is during the course of the regular season teams got six days to prepare for us week in and week out.
We felt like, very similar to how we attacked Oklahoma State in 2009, UCLA in the opening game, we were going to try to make them go sideline to sideline and play with our tempo, play with our speed, play with our little fast guys, get them the ball in space, try to go up and down the field throwing the ball to set up the run.
Once they loosened up a little bit, bumped guys out of the box, we kind of picked our times to then run the football. Really a great job by not only our offensive staff but our defensive staff and Case executing the game plan.
Q. Coach, where would you rank Case Keenum in the annals of great college quarterbacks?
COACH LEVINE: I'm biased, obviously. I'd put him right up at the top. I think our players felt this way, you don't win 12 games by accident coming into this game today and you don't break the records he's broken by accident either. Obviously you have to have a lot of great players around you to do what he's done.
But with the records of passing, touchdown passes, obviously the wins that have gone with that, I've been around some great ones, obviously we've all seen the great ones, and I'd put him right up at the top.
Q. Defensively you were stuffing like 13 guys in the box early in the first half. What did you see on film that made you want to do this? What did you think about their backup quarterback having to play and how that entered into it?
COACH LEVINE: Personally I'm very familiar with Penn State, just having played in the Big Ten. I know their program from at least 20 years ago. Again, once we saw who we were playing, we sat down as a staff, same thing Sam asked me, we formulated our offensive game plan, and defensively we talked about stopping the run.
When you look at our guys on paper, the size of our guys, I should say, versus the size of their guys, especially up front, they've got quite an advantage in that area. Obviously, again, you look at the stats see Silas Redd has rushed for 1188 yards in 12 ballgames. That's what they like to do.
I'm a big believer you're going to stop what you're opponent likes to do. If they're going to beat you, they're going to beat you in a different way. We talked about it as a staff, if they beat us, they're going to beat us throwing the football, not running the football.
Q. Getting back to the offense a little bit. That first possession, two big plays, how big a tone setter was that for you, especially converting two third downs in the manner you did?
COACH LEVINE: That was huge. We talked about it as a staff a couple weeks ago. If we win the coin toss, would we take the ball, defer. They won, deferred, we ended up with the football anyway.
To come out and start fast, I think it gave our team confidence. Naturally converting third downs was huge. The big play for the touchdown was huge. Just set the tone. Get out ahead, starting fast I think was great for our confidence. Again, I think it set the tone for the game.
Q. The decision making for you today, so dramatically different than you've done. You've coached for a long time. Was it somewhat overwhelming or you got lost in the shuffle because you had to make a lot of calls?
COACH LEVINE: That's a great question. What we did, we did something a little bit different on Saturday. Saturday for us was an in-season Thursday practice where we normally, after we stretch, we go offense and defense separately for 30 minutes, then we do a special teams script for 20 minutes. In between the offense, defense and special teams, we actually put the headsets on a couple of coaches and went half speed through some scenarios where we had to make some decisions, for the decision making and the communication of it.
The other thing I believe, and I'm big on visualization, so we talked to our players a lot about the night before, couple nights before, whether they're laying in bed, relaxing, to visualize making plays. I believe that also in coaching. I put myself through some situations where right before half we took a couple timeouts to stop the clock when they had the football, deciding to go for it on fourth-and-short or kicking the field goal. With the way the rules are right now, they start running that 40-second clock, you have no time. If you hesitate and talk about it, you'll get a delay of game.
It was different, but those situations in my mind I had been through prior to today's game.
COACH LEVINE: Tyron going down was extremely difficult. What he means to our program, what he's done here, what he's played through is remarkable. To see him go down today and not be able to finish the game broke my heart.
We talk about Justin Johnson, Patrick Edwards, it's funny, I look back, really you're talking about one is a former walk-on who also has come back from injury. Last summer when I went out and had different speaking engagements, booster or alumni present, big question was, Who is going to be the inside receiver on the right? My answer without hesitation was, Justin Johnson. It was funny look out and see people raise their eyebrows and start whispering to the person next to them.
What he means to this team, we will not be able to replace Patrick Edwards and not come close to replacing Justin Johnson. What they've done on the field, and more importantly what they've done off the field, you can't replace their leadership and their character.
Q. After the game, you had a moment with Case. Can you tell us what was said between you two?
COACH LEVINE: I could (laughter).
No, our whole football team is special. Again, he and I are the same age, so we've grown close in that respect. I embraced a number of players. I think he grabbed me on my shoulder and I turned around. But I just thanked him for everything he's done for this program, everything he's meant to this team.
That's the thing that I love so much about college football. Really Case Keenum, Justin Johnson, Patrick Edwards, we brought 117 student-athletes on this trip, and that to me is what college football is about. They are ambassadors for everything good about college football.
Q. Marcus, talk a little bit about your game plan and execution today against their run game, limiting their offense today.
Marcus McGraw: Coming in we knew they were going to try to run the ball. We wanted to get them in third-and-longs, second-and-longs, make them start passing the ball a little bit knowing they had their second-string quarterback in. I think we did a good job accomplishing that goal.
Q. Jacolby, a lot was made about their size. Can you talk about going up against them.
Jacolby Ashworth: Penn State, they were physical guys. We knew we had to manage the physicality and strength. We just made it a point to be physical and keep getting after them, get them running side to side, run our game plan, score touchdowns.
Q. Justin, it looked like at times you were just wide open, no defenders around you. Were you surprised at how easy it was for you to catch the ball out there today?
Justin Johnson: I wouldn't necessarily say it was easy. When Jacolby and Swank and the line is blocking like that, you know better than everybody if you give (indiscernible) enough time, he's going to dissect the defense.
The line did a great job of blocking, runningbacks picking up blitzing. We just did what we did: run our routes. We just did what we were supposed to do as receivers and made the catch.
Q. Justin, how cognizant were you of how much you were going to throw the ball? Were you surprised at all at how much you threw the ball today?
Justin Johnson: No, I wasn't surprised. We're going to take what the defense gives us. They had a big front. These guys were doing a great job of giving Case time to throw the ball. That's what was working, so that's what we stuck with. We snuck a couple runs in there and gassed them a couple times. The throws were working, so we stuck with what was working.
Q. D.J., take me through the almost pick six there.
Q. 13-1, what is so special about this season that you want to reflect on that made it so sweet?
Justin Johnson: I would say the team. This group of guys. No college team year in and year out will have the same players. It will be a different team next year, different identity. I think we did a really good job of sticking together as a family. A lot of people might not have believed in us on the outside. We had a lot of naysayers, but we believed in us and stuck together as a family. At the end of the day, that's all that matters.
Q. Case, it seems like you made a decision early on they're going to play cover-two, you're going to throw it to the seams. Is that what you were deciding to do as soon as you saw the film?
Case Keenum: Yeah. I mean, great game plan. We had that game plan from the first week we watched film. I thought Coach Kingsbury and our offensive coaches did a great job of getting our guys in space, mixing up our quick game, then taking a few shots down the field, then being able to jump off some short screens.
When you have a lot of fast guys like this guy sitting next to me, makes my job easier.
Q. Did anybody touch you all day?
Case Keenum: I didn't get hit a whole lot. You have to give my offensive line a lot of credit because obviously they've got a very, very talented defensive line. Devon Still. There's a lot of other guys that rush the quarterback and are great defensive linemen.
I thought they did a great job of picking up blitzes, picking up the rush. That allowed us to operate and be successful.
Q. Case, the first drive, a couple of quick hitters to start the game with, then 30 yards, 40 yards for the touchdown. What tone does that set for you to start the game?
Case Keenum: I think it set a huge tone. I looked over and Patrick was actually calling for the play. He saw the coverage, knew what he wanted. I went ahead and looked at it to make sure. I went ahead and checked it. He made a great route, ran right by the guy, a great catch.
I think that was big, especially in bowl games where you take a lot of time off to get things rolling early, it's really important. It's tough to do that when you're playing in January. It's been about a month off.
Q. Patrick, it's been a good four years for you. How do you feel after this last game?
Q. Patrick, what was it like today working against the zone?
Patrick Edwards: It was nice working against the zone, but it was kind of tough at first because they was being physical off the line. We got into some good play calling and plays down the field worked. We stuck with it.
Q. Case, I know you answered this a million times, but of the trio of great UH quarterbacks, you're the only one to win a bowl game. What does that mean to you? Where do you feel you rank? How special has your career been?
Case Keenum: As far as rankings and all that goes, all I'm concerned with is our team ranking this year, where we're going to end up. 13-1, hopefully in the top 15 in the country. I think that's pretty special going out with a win against a good football team like Penn State.
As far as all that goes, it is special. It's been great playing at a place that's had a bunch of really good quarterbacks. I want to keep it up. I told Dave (Piland) and those guys, they need to keep it up. This is their team now. They need to get it going.
Q. Case, assuming you won't apply for a seventh year of eligibility next year, how do you rate your chances at the next level?
But I feel really good. I'm going to go out there. I've definitely been blessed and that door hasn't closed yet, that I haven't played my last football game. I don't feel like I played my last football game. I'm excited about my future and what it holds.
Q. You put up a lot of big numbers. Today you threatened a number of all-time bowl records. Did anybody inform you of any of that stuff?
Honestly, we left a lot out there. There were some throws that I missed, just different plays that we didn't get run, executed well enough. I think we executed when we needed to. Just goes to show how good a football team we are because Penn State is a good football team. I think we're a really good football team.
Q. It really looked so easy out there. Did it feel easy?
Case Keenum: Well, I think it's a combination of us preparing very well, putting in the right work. I mean, I've been running this offense for four years now. I've been throwing the ball to this guy for four or five years. That's just what we did. That's what we do. We did it today.
Doesn't matter who we're playing. We're playing the No. 5 pass ranked defense in the nation, No. 10 defense in the nation. That just goes to show, you can call it what it is, but it is what it is.
Q. Case, this was the final game of your collegiate career. Take us through your emotions at the end of the game when it was over. Seemed like you were trying to savor every moment.
Case Keenum: You're exactly right. I was trying to savor every moment, do everything I wanted to do after a game. I've seen guys like Anthony Alridge on our team direct the band. I went up there, gave everybody hugs. Threw the Gatorade on Coach Levine. It was just an awesome game. I'll remember this forever. I know all the guys in there will. Couldn't think of a better way to go out.
Q. Pat, Coach Levine talked about you proving the one loss was a fluke, not the 12 wins. Did you feel like you did that today?
PENN STATE QUOTES
COACH BRADLEY: We were trying to survive the first quarter. We didn't survive it. The other things, two big plays, we had them trapped in the first series in the scramble, he jumped up on us. Two big plays after that, the long touchdown passes kind of put us in a bind. We knew he was going to get his yards. Excellent passing attack. Obviously he got a lot of yards today.
Those two big passes are the ones that killed us.
We couldn't get anything going offensively. We couldn't run the ball early in the game in the first quarter to keep us off the field, which was one of our goals, so that was disappointing. I thought we'd be able to do that in the first quarter to at least slow them down a little bit. Didn't happen today.
Q. Did you feel like the distractions got to you at all this week?
JUSTIN BROWN: I don't think the distractions got to us at all. We were used to it from the whole season and whatnot.
The coaches did a great job of preparing us, focusing on the task at hand, so I wouldn't say distraction was a problem.
Q. From a personal standpoint, last year you had a rough go. How does it feel to bounce back and put up some good numbers?
JUSTIN BROWN: First, you'd rather take a win over everything. I guess I did okay. But, I mean, you got to look at the film and see some things you didn't do quite as well.
I didn't have that good of a game last year in the Outback Bowl. That was one of the things I was thinking about coming into this bowl game.
Q. Talk about what their defense was doing to keep you off balance.
JUSTIN BROWN: They're a good defense. I think people underestimated them a little bit. They have some pretty good athletes. I think they just did a pretty good job overall.
Q. Did Rob seem rattled in the huddle at all today? How do you think he handled the situation?
JUSTIN BROWN: I don't think he seemed rattled. He maintained his composure in the huddle, on the sideline, talking to him, talking about coverages. He didn't seem rattled at all.
COACH BRADLEY: Drew Astorino was to be up here with us. He suffered a concussion during the game and I don't think he felt right coming in and talking today.
Q. When you were walking off the field a few minutes ago, did it feel like an end of an era for Penn State?
COACH BRADLEY: Well, obviously we're going to have a new football coach next year here for sure, whoever that may be. So in that regard, yes.
I was disappointed in the way we played. I thought we'd play better today, I thought we'd play better defensively. I didn't anticipate us giving up those big plays. But it's going to be obviously new around here for a lot of people.
Q. You said you're going to have a new football coach for sure. Why are you convinced it's not going to be you?
COACH BRADLEY: I didn't say it wasn't going to be me. Can't give you guys all the secrets.
I don't know who it's going to be. I said this before. Dr. Joyner's committee are going to make this decision. I don't have a date when it's going to be. He hasn't set a time frame exactly when it's going to happen. I also said I had the opportunity to go speak to the committee. I had an opportunity to plead my case.
I think one thing different for me coaching now is I turned the defense over to Johnson and Vandy. I didn't think it was fair chirping in when I wasn't sitting in every meeting and going over every detail. I didn't think that was fair to them. On offense, we just tried to get better at the things we're doing. Next year we'll have a totally different look on offense one way or the other.
I'm not sure what their timetable is going to be. Obviously I have some concerns because of recruiting. We can go on the road Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, which we're going to do.
I told you I'm going to work till the very end until they tell me I'm no longer needed. That's what Penn State paying me to do and what is in my heart that I am going to do because I love this university and I love the people.
Q. What did they do defensively to keep you guys off balance?
COACH BRADLEY: Well, I don't know if it was anything they did as much as just the backside linebacker kept making plays. We weren't cutting him off. It took us so long to get going, to get in the flow of things.
I thought we could get this thing coming out of halftime, just into one score, we could maybe have a shot at them. We just couldn't sustain any drive. I was surprised. How many, three interceptions today? You can't turn the ball over against Case Keenum.
That was another thing we didn't want to do. Three 15-yard penalties on kickoff returns. Playing a team like this, you can't lose field position like that. All the things you can't do to lose a game, we did today.
Q. On the first series, they hit those on third-and-long.
COACH BRADLEY: The first one was really frustrating. If we just stayed back in coverage, we're off the field. I elected to kick to show confidence in the defense. If we won the toss, I thought long about it. I thought our defense would set the tone a little bit and get them off. If you get off on the first third down, might be a different game. Just stay back. He's not going to make it to the sticks anyway. So that's a fundamental mistake.
I think the 75 yards just broke our back. Drew kind of patted his feet a little bit, kids started to scramble. He started to settle down. Need to get depth there. That's a common, once again, fundamental thing. It's not like they beat you on anything except just fundamentals.
You know the way we play defense around here the last 10, 11 years: keep the ball in front of you, leveraging numbers, those things. We've been fundamentally sound. I don't think we tackled particularly well today. You anticipate that a little bit in a bowl game. You're a little bit out of sync. You haven't had the opportunity to do a lot of tackling practice against each other. Obviously their offense, they threw a lot more bubble screens than we do, so the perimeter game was going to be totally different.
Q. Did you consider going more to a three-man front and drop more people into coverage?
COACH BRADLEY: We talked about it. That's not our style. They had some what we call penny looks. We didn't get into a whole bunch of it today.
Once again, I don't stick my two cents into that. I just don't think that's fair to chime in when you haven't been sitting there for the last couple weeks putting it all together. So I deliberately stayed out of it.
Q. What did you tell your team? Did the finality of it all sink in after the game?
COACH BRADLEY: I told my team very simply, I said I wanted to thank them for all the things that they did for all of us, for what they had been through. I told them we still had a lot to be thankful for. Things didn't go our way today. I told them in life it doesn't always work out that way. I said, it's not what happens to you, it's how you react to it.
I thought they had a tough go for four weeks, 50 some days, whatever it was, unique situation, obviously different. But I told them to stick together as a team. They're always going to be teammates for the rest of their life, be proud of what they did accomplish. I said, Hey, we have a lot to be thankful for, and we said a prayer.
Q. There were a few throws that Rob didn't make that maybe Matt makes. If he plays, is there a different outcome in this game?
COACH BRADLEY: I can't answer that question. I really can't. You got the cards you had. That's what we went into the game with. I think we could have helped Rob today. The one throw to Moye was as good as you could throw. We didn't make plays when we had to.
Offensively we've been like that now for the last couple plays. We can't make the big plays when we have to. That's a killer.
Q. Did you think about going to McGregor at all?
COACH BRADLEY: You know, I did. I thought about giving him a shot two minutes at the end. Great young man. Hard-working. He looked awful good in practice. I thought it wouldn't be the right thing to do to Rob for next season.
Q. You talked about surviving the first quarter. How you would grade your team on that?
COACH BRADLEY: F. I would give us an F. That's the one thing about bowl games, you have to get caught up to speed as fast as you can. You can't duplicate because you haven't played in five weeks. You're just not used to it.
That's the one thing that always worries you. You got to get caught up, and we didn't today. Since I've been in all those bowl games here, I know the games we win it's because we come out first quarter at least even or close to it.
Q. I know you mentioned you're going to be going out recruiting as of Wednesday. If you're not going to be the guy here, how long are you willing to afford to wait given you said you have other opportunities out there for you?
COACH BRADLEY: Till the absolute end. That's what they're going to pay me to do. That's what I'm going to do. I told you before, they can do what they want to me. I want these players to know those coaches, those managers, those trainers, everybody there fought till the end.
10 years from now, they're going to say, Hey, maybe it didn't work out for them. We don't know that yet. I want them to respect every one of us. All those guys weren't looking for jobs. They weren't running around doing other things. They were busting their tails to help this team win this bowl game.
I'm proud of them and I'm thankful for the efforts they gave me. Nothing changed me. They worked like dogs the whole way through this things. What they do from here, that's their decision.
Q. Tom, I know you don't make excuses and Devon doesn't make excuses. Can you address his health?
COACH BRADLEY: He had turf toe today. He's been limping. Even before the game today he was limping. It was painful. He wasn't himself. I guess if you asked him, he's maybe playing half speed. He wasn't at all a factor in today's game, which usually he's going to give us some pressure in there. I knew he was in that situation before we got there.
It's not an excuse, it's just where he was.