Dec. 3, 2011
An Interview With: COACH LES MILES and TYRANN MATHIEU
KEVIN TRAINOR: We're joined now by LSU. A reminder that LSU's locker room is now open. We're joined by head coach Les Miles and MVP Tyrann Mathieu. A reminder, Tyrann Mathieu is the third defensive player to win most valuable player honors since 1994. Coach, if you'll just open with an opening comment.
COACH MILES: First of all, I'd like to congratulate the Georgia team. I thought that they played extremely hard. It was a tremendously competitive game. I thought the defensive game plan that they had was just really excellent. It took our team to rebound from a deficit to play. I'm very proud of this team. This team down 14 and the target's on, down 10 to a very quality Georgia team comes back and rebounds. Never are they out of it. They're a team that there's never any question that they were going to get their feet, get their bearings, and compete. The defense started extremely fast, and offense obviously, we did not get a first down in the first half. In the second half, we basically got it. Great quality group of young people. Great team.
KEVIN TRAINOR: Tyrann, if you'll just give us opening comments on what it means to win an SEC Championship.
TYRANN MATHIEU: I'm so blessed, just so privileged to represent LSU and win most valuable player. I think a lot of credit goes to my team and to my coaches to put me in the right position to make a big time play for my team.
KEVIN TRAINOR: Thank you. If you have a question, please raise your hand.
Q. Les, what kept you from turning to Jarrett when the offense was struggling in the first half?
COACH MILES: We gave thought to it. I promise you, there was that piece that we'd like to have gotten him on the field and seen him play. There were some parts of the offense that he didn't give us, and we decided we need to stay with that course.
Q. Why the ultimate confidence, then, in Jordan to pull it through?
COACH MILES: We just knew that eventually he would manage the game well, that we'd hit the passes enough that it would keep them honest. And then his ability to move his feet and run certainly some of the plays off the option allowed us to want to keep him.
Q. Tyrann, talk about the first punt return for a touchdown. Your team obviously needed a spark. What were you thinking before that play? Obviously the game was not going the way you wanted it to go.
TYRANN MATHIEU: Obviously, we got off to a slow start. So I just felt that I needed to change the momentum of the game. It was the perfect time with that punt return. Just trying to make one guy miss and just get up the field.
Q. Tyrann, I wanted to ask you about the touchdown. It looked like replay showed you may not have crossed the goal line when you pitched it to the official. Were you worried about that at all when you pitched it?
TYRANN MATHIEU: Yeah, kind of. I could see the referee looking at me kind of strange. I'll be sure next time to make sure I cross the goal line.
Q. This is for Tyrann, and then, Les, if you could address it also, I'd appreciate it. The Heisman Trophy is supposed to go to the best player in college football regardless of position. Do you think you've earned a trip to New York?
TYRANN MATHIEU: Well, I don't think I should be the judge of that. I just try to go out there, just play my best football for my team and my coaches. I think we practice hard, and these are the type of games that we set our eyes on at the beginning of the season. This is what we work so hard for. So I won't be the judge of that.
COACH MILES: I really thought that was a great answer. That's who he is. He's a guy that gives everything he can to his team, and his view is that.
It's so hard for us in this conference, in a segment of -- really just a segment of college football to give view, an overview. But I can tell you this, as the conference champions in the SEC and as one of the key players on that team, I think he needs real consideration.
I think he's a special player and has a special place and maybe warrants, if the judges can make a quality decision, for him to attend in New York.
Q. For Les, we're going to have, in all likelihood, two teams from the SEC playing in the BCS Championship game. Can you talk about the significance for the conference to be the first to do that?
COACH MILES: It's a tremendous conference top to bottom. You play hard-nosed, quality football every Saturday. I certainly understand the -- we went through a Western Division that was very, very capable, and we come and find a very quality Georgia team, and the teams that we've played along the way are spectacular.
I certainly understand, if college football decides there should be two SEC teams playing for the National Championship. It's a very special conference, very quality teams.
Q. Your thoughts on playing Alabama again.
COACH MILES: I can tell you that they're a great team. We'll look forward to competing well against them. I think I'm going to enjoy this evening first.
Q. Coach, you mentioned it -- and, Tyrann, you can answer this too -- about last week having fallen behind by two touchdowns early and coming back. How much did you go back to that? Was there any mention of it?
COACH MILES: I've got to be honest with you. I don't want to go back to that or go down 10 either. I'd just as soon take the lead and start that way.
Again, it's a quality team and a team that will compete.
We started really backed up, and we did not have great special teams play to start. We were coming off our own goal line. Offensively, we were not moving the football. Frankly, it was just a matter of time that this team would rebound and this team would get their feet underneath them and play.
So it certainly was a very tremendous play that Tyrann Mathieu made. It seemed to be a few more than just one guy he made miss.
KEVIN TRAINOR: Tyrann, your thoughts on being down early.
TYRANN MATHIEU: We knew we were well-prepared. Like Coach said, it was just a matter of time. I think we made a lot of mistakes in the beginning of the game. Georgia has a great program, but I think we gave them a few points. It's just corrections we had to make and just us believing in our coaches and the scheme that we had learned the previous weeks. So hat's off to our coaches.
Q. For Tyrann and for Coach after that. Tyrann, you always talk about dreaming about making big plays and that kind of thing. What did you envision for yourself last night when you thought about this game? And, Coach, could you just talk about Tyrann opening up the last two games with punt returns for touchdowns?
TYRANN MATHIEU: Last night I envisioned me having three touchdowns. I think I came close to that. What it came down to is me trying to do what I can for my team. I put the pressure on myself at times. I think Morris does the same thing. It's just about me trying to shift the momentum and just put my team in the position to win the game.
COACH MILES: I think he's a play maker, and he's given an opportunity, he will do what he can, and that's pretty special, to make a difference in a game.
Again, he ignites this team twice in the last two games with great punt returns.
Q. Tyrann, I'm from New York so this question is very fashion conscious. When did you go with the honey hair, and how much does it take to maintain? Every week you have to get it? Once a month?
TYRANN MATHIEU: You know, my youngest sister, she decided that I should go with the blond hair. So I started it back in June, and it's just me trying to keep up with it month by month.
Q. How often do you have to touch up?
TYRANN MATHIEU: Every month or so. I told myself I wouldn't dye it again unless we make it to a National Championship. So I think we're well on our way to that.
Q. Tyrann, you've got one of the best nicknames in college football, the Honey Badger. I'm wondering when the first time you saw that video, when's the first time you heard that nickname, and I'm wonder what Coach Miles thought the first time he saw that YouTube video and what he thinks.
TYRANN MATHIEU: Our defensive coordinator John Chavis showed me that video coming back from the West Virginia game. I definitely thought it was entertaining. The narrator on there was definitely a funny guy. Me and my teammates love the name. I think it depicts me on the field.
So I just go with it. My teammates do a great job of having my back. Anything I can do for those guys to lift their spirit. I think the Honey Badger do that sometimes.
Q. Coach, your thoughts?
COACH MILES: I think there's a part of Tyrann Mathieu that is definitely the Honey Badger. I think on the football field he takes what he wants or what he can get his hands on. But I know Tyrann Mathieu to be much more than just a Honey Badger, very quality young man, does a lot for his team. He's a leader. I like the Tyrann Mathieu tag myself.
Q. Les, for all your confidence in your team's ability to get its feet and define its game, when you're not getting a first down and you're 10 points down and you're playing Georgia in the Georgia Dome, is there ever a moment there where you think this isn't going to be our night?
COACH MILES: That defense, the way that defense is playing, I think that they had scored their -- when they had 10, I thought that that would be it, and we needed just frankly to get it started. Again, I just had great faith in that defense, and they were not moving the football. They had a surprise onside, the reverse pass. You could just tell that there was a need for them to make plays, and I just believed that that defense could keep them out of the end zone.
Now, we had to get the offense started. There was a -- any time you put a defense on the field that length of time, offense had to get it going, and they did, just in the right time.
Q. Coach, can you talk about all aspects of your special teams tonight and how important they were, including the punt in the second quarter that kind of changed the field?
COACH MILES: We spend a lot of time on special teams. Thomas McGaughey does a great job. He's our special teams coordinator. We kicked it off well. We covered kicks. Wing's punts, I think he punted eight times. He's definitely a weapon for us. He was really on. Just, again, another piece of the team you had to have. We didn't return kicks, in my opinion, like we're capable, but we really didn't have that many opportunities either. And then, of course, the punt returns that Tyrann carried certainly were key to the game.
So special teams, we win special teams. Offensively, they won the first half. We won the second half. And defensively, we won the game with the way that defense played start to finish. Q. Tyrann, you got a lot of national attention early in the season, and based on tonight's performance, you probably will get a lot more again. How much better are you prepared to deal with that? And if so, why?
TYRANN MATHIEU: You know, I think I learned a lot from the beginning of the season up to this point. I think I've matured. I'm more grounded. And just put my teammates first. I think that will take you a long way with football. So hat's off to my team. I'll just go celebrate with those guys. I'm not really into individual awards. Tonight was just about winning the SEC.
Q. You just said you're not into individual awards, but if you are invited to New York for the Heisman as a finalist, what would that mean to you? Would you ever think you'd be in that kind of position earlier this season?
TYRANN MATHIEU: I definitely think I was in position to make that trip to New York, but I'd definitely be honored to represent LSU as a program and represent my team in New York. So I'm looking forward to it, if the position is there.
Q. Question for Tyrann. You guys have had 13 challengers. You beat everybody, with distractions off the field and everything that's happened, you guys just keep overcoming, and oftentimes look pretty invincible. What can stop this team?
TYRANN MATHIEU: I think we can stop us. I think we made a lot of bad decisions, personal mistakes, but we corrected it. We never gave up on each other.
As everything was going on, I definitely think we grew closer. We started to believe in our coaches more. We started to definitely come closer within the locker room. So I think the leaders definitely started to stand up, and hat's off to our leaders.
Q. Les, could you talk about Kenny Hilliard and why he was the right fit tonight after the offense did get going, I guess the momentum that you all felt on the sidelines because of that.
COACH MILES: Kenny made a couple of key cuts and some very key runs in that game. It really looked like he had a hot hand and we didn't want to go away from him. He makes great cuts, and he's very physical. And that was that kind of game.
I would also like Blue, and for that matter, Ware. Michael Ford. What we get out of our running backs is enough to give our opponents real issues when it comes to defending us.
TYRANN MATHIEU: I think as a defense we look forward to our running game, just running downhill, using the size and the equipment and the speed to our advantage. It's definitely entertaining to watch those guys just pound for yardage, play after play.
KEVIN TRAINOR: Thank you, Coach. Thank you, Tyrann.
An Interview With: COACH Mark Richt
KEVIN TRAINOR: We're joined by Georgia head coach Mark Richt. Coach, if you'll make an opening comment, and then we'll take questions from the audience.
COACH RICHT: I guess the audience is still on the field, huh? Okay. Well, congratulations to Coach Miles and LSU. They did a wonderful job. Outstanding football team. We saw what -- or at least we lived out a lot of the things that other people have been living out playing those guys, their ability to get stronger as the game goes on. It was very evident that they were able to do that. Of course, turnovers and momentum swings certainly didn't help us in the second half.
I was proud of the way we started. We missed a couple of opportunities for more points. Probably could have had 21 points in the first half if we just catch the football, but we're not able to do that.
And then the second half, gosh, so many things that happened. Basically, just lost the momentum; they gained it, and we really couldn't slow it down once it got going. So my hat's off to them. I am -- I'm proud of our team. I'm proud of the season that we've had, the regular season, of course, and the ability to even get to this game was a great accomplishment considering how we started.
We wanted to have a lot better show than we ended up showing for the 60 minutes that we played football. I don't think anybody quit, although it might have looked like it a couple times. We'll look at the film to see on that one drive that went 90 what happened in there, but for the most part, we played pretty darn good defense. At times we made some plays offensively, and then, of course, the special teams touchdown certainly hurt us in the first half as far as them being able to grab some momentum. In a half that we dominated statistically, we just didn't put enough points on the board and keep them off. Anyway, my hat's off to them. They are a championship football team. I'm sure they'll do well in the last game.
KEVIN TRAINOR: At this time we'll prepare to take questions.
Q. Coach, obviously, a pretty good offensive game plan, some execution issues.
COACH RICHT: Yeah, I thought we got people open. I thought we actually -- as I mentioned earlier, we dropped one in the end zone. We dropped one that looked like a sure score in the first half.
And then there were some times in the second half where we certainly thought we had some guys open but didn't protect well enough. But that's football. I mean, that's to their credit that they can pressure the quarterback and keep you from throwing it on rhythm and things of that nature.
But I thought we did some good things. We'll look at the film. I don't think we're going to look and say that we had a bad scheme. As you said, I think we had some execution issues. But that's what happens when you play a good defense too. You have execution issues. They had some issues, too, trying to execute against our defense too.
Q. Coach, you mentioned the punt return in the first half. Could you just talk about Tyrann Mathieu? He just seems to be one of those kids that good things happen to him.
COACH RICHT: When you play as hard as he does, good things do happen to you. He's very athletic. He's very competitive, very tough. I'll be honest with you, I enjoy watching the guy play football other than what he plays against us, because when you do see a guy like that, you can appreciate it. You really can appreciate it because of how he plays. But they all play hard. Our guys play hard too. There's something about him that he seems to find a way to do something special just about every game, and he did it again.
Q. Mark, you had some success throwing the ball early on, but as the game went on, you couldn't run well, establish the running game. That made it tougher. I guess they could tee off a little more on Aaron Murray that way.
COACH RICHT: Well, yeah, and then the point differential got to where you couldn't be as patient as maybe you wanted to. Second half, we did not run the ball very well. It wasn't until Ken Malcolm started running the ball that we had a little bit more success. He ran extremely hard. I was proud of him.
I think they all were trying to run hard, but I think Kenny probably had an opportunity to get a little bit more space than the other guys in that they were, I'm sure, defending the run and keeping -- trying to keep the big play away. When we did run the ball in those situations, there was a little bit more space.
So I'm not saying the other guys didn't run hard, but Kenny did run hard. He did show some hard fight, which is what we had seen in him when we recruited him. He was a guy that could get yards after contact, and he showed a little bit of that tonight.
Q. Mark, at first glance here, what does a game like this tell you about where you need to go from here to compete with the elite in this conference?
COACH RICHT: Well, if you don't turn it over and you don't do some of the things that help them grab momentum -- you know, I don't know how far off we are. If the game ended at halftime, I don't know how we'd feel about can we compete with the elite teams in the league.
But it is a 60-minute ball game, there's no doubt about it. The final 30, we did things that will ignite a very good football team. Not to say they didn't knock the ball out. The ball came out on Murray's fumble, but they had something to do with that too, no doubt. I'm not trying to belittle anything that they did.
But yeah, I think I'll probably have to watch the film and really study it to see how far off we are really. We do need to be -- we've got to get -- well, you know, I don't know. I've got to look at the tape to really answer that question, but I don't think we're that far off. I really don't. KEVIN TRAINOR: Thank you, Coach. FastScripts by ASAP Sports