THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Coach Kelly. We'll ask coach for a few opening comments, then go to questions.
COACH KELLY: First of all, want to thank the Fiesta Bowl. We've had an outstanding week. Everything has been really seamless.
We do have one more day of prep today. Got a chance to go and look at the stadium, walk?through at 11, then we have a practice. We always practice a day before a game. We'll have meetings tonight and we're excited about the challenge.
It's a great football team we're going to play. Conference champions. One of the top teams in the country. We're really looking forward to it and excited about it.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Four BCS bowls in a row. What have you learned as a coach coaching bowls these last four years?
COACH KELLY: I think you learn really how hard it is to get there. That's the one thing I think as a team, as a staff, as a group of players, to not take it for granted. It's a truly special thing to be able to play in a BCS game.
Some of our freshmen that came in as freshmen four years ago, they think it's kind of the norm. We make sure they understand it's extremely hard to get there and appreciate it and understand what it takes to get there. And make sure to pass on to the younger guys what it takes to get there. It's not a surprise that you made it there. It's not luck that you made it there. It's about our preparation, always constantly trying to hammer home that issue to our guys. Don't take anything for granted.
Q. One of the recent trends in the NFL is more pistol formation. People are tracing that back to you. Your thoughts on what seems to be a melding of the NFL and college games.
COACH KELLY: Don't know. Haven't been there. Don't run the pistol offense. That's not what we do.
Chris Ault at Nevada invented the pistol offense. Just retired. Great football coach out there.
There's a lot of ways to play football. Pistol, don't know that very well. We're more of a spread run team. Trends go one way and the other. I said this a long time ago, if you weren't in the room with Amos Alonzo Stagg and Knute Rockne when they invented this game, you stole it from somebody else.
Any coach is going to learn from other people and see how they can implement it in their system. Anything you do has to be personnel driven. You have to adapt to the personnel you have. There's a lot of great offenses out there, but does it fit with the personnel you have. The key is making sure what you're doing is giving your people a chance to be successful.
Q. Now that you're on the eve of this bowl game, can you reflect back on what it's been like for you to coach this squad.
COACH KELLY: I'm not a big 'reflect back' guy, to be honest with you. We're getting ready to play a game, we're excited about it.
But it has been fun. This group, we're young. We have 65 freshmen and sophomores. The older core group we have, there's not a lot of them, Dion Jordan, Michael Clay, Kiko, Kenjon, have done an unbelievable job of making sure these young kids understand what this is all about. Our young kids matured very quickly, but a lot of that is because of what those guys did.
The same things that come out of Kenjon's mouth are the same things that come out of my mouth and Coach Campbell's mouth. The one thing about our team is that we're all on the same page.
Q. You were talking about different offensive approaches and how they develop. How did you develop what you do?
COACH KELLY: Really started for us, to be honest, when we were at New Hampshire and we were running out of fullbacks. We still wanted to be able to run the ball, but get our best 11 guys on the field. It really just started to develop more out of necessity than we wanted to change.
It was how can we still be an effective team. We were in the northeast. You have to be able to run the ball when you're in areas because of the weather. What's the best way to try to expand our running game but still get our best personnel on the field. That's how it started for us.
Q. Bill Snyder likes contact in practice and preparations.
COACH KELLY: Personally (smiling)?
Q. In practice.
COACH KELLY: His team, but not coach himself, I don't think (smiling).
Q. Do you have a philosophy on balancing the conditioning side of it with contact in bowl preparation?
COACH KELLY: We're kind of similar in that manner. Every Monday it's in shoulder pads, Tuesday and Wednesday we're in full pads. I believe you have to practice in a certain manner at the college level to keep that physicality when you play games on Saturday.
We've kept to the same script. All we do when we practice and prepare, those days are spaced out. So we don't put two Tuesdays back to back. We're going to have a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday practice, take a couple days off, then start the cycle back over again.
Great blocking, great tackling all those other things are by?products of fundamentals and I think they need to be practiced on a daily basis.
Q. Just a follow?up question on your offense and how you developed your offense. You mentioned fullbacks were tough to come by. Is that a recruiting issue.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I mean, it's hard. That's a tough sell. Come to our program, you're 6'2", we want you to play fullback. You're a glorified guard in the back field, you'll graduate at 5'10," you're just going to run full speed and slam your head into people. No one is going to know who you are. We put a 30 number on you, but you should have a 60 number. There's not a lot of kids out there that want to play that position.
If you see somebody that has a build, that athletic style, most of those guys want to be linebackers. I don't fault them. I don't know if that's a fun position.
You have to look at what's out there. Seems like there's taller, leaner, basketball type people. They don't fit well at the fullback spot. How do you adapt and adjust.
The game is cyclical. But if you're a good coach, you still have to adapt to what your players have.
We had the opportunity to get a great fullback, like the kid at Stanford a couple years ago. If you have them, you have to use them to your advantage. Going out and recruiting, we're looking for more tight ends, receivers and running backs than we are for fullbacks.
Q. A lot of people look at this game and see two very different teams. What kind of similarities do you see, especially run first on offense, that type of thing?
COACH KELLY: I think we're a lot more similar than people think. Offensively we rely on running the football, play?action pass. They do, as well. We preach special teams. They preach special teams. That's going to be a huge matchup in the game tomorrow night.
We're a little bit different in our spacing on the defensive side of the ball than they are. Still the same fundamentals. They run to the ball extremely well on defense. We do, as well. I think we're more similar than I think people really think when you look at it, so...
Q. You mentioned special teams. So often that is overlooked in this day and age, especially with the explosive offenses. How key is that? Is it really a third of the game? How key is that for you specifically?
COACH KELLY: Numbers?wise it's actually 20% of the game by how many snaps you have. The difference is how much yardage can be gained.
There's such a huge turnover. If you can have a punt that's for zero yards, you're changing field position 40, 50 yards at a whack. I think that's where the key is. It's those hidden yards, can you get a decent return. Sometimes a decent return is eight yards. It's not the highlight on ESPN. But that can be the difference in you getting in a position to score.
When you have two great teams that get matched up, the two big stats we always talk about as a group is that turnover battle and the response after turnover, then what happens in special teams. That's really going to be a key tomorrow night.
Q. I know you're focused on this game. There's been a lot of talk about whether your offensive approach would adapt to the NFL. Have you given any thought to that whatsoever?
COACH KELLY: No. I get asked the question. I don't think anybody knows any answers until someone does it. The Washington Redskins are doing a pretty good job. I forgot the name of their quarterback, but I think he's done a decent job (smiling).
The kid at Carolina has done a pretty good job.
But it depends. I don't know. I've never coached in that league. I visited practices and talked to people about it. The one thing about that, about everything, you have to have good players. Sometimes the coaching aspect is way overrated. We don't play the game.
I think college football is a personnel?driven game, so is the NFL. Your job as a coach very simply is to put your players in positions to make plays, get out of the way and go make them.
Q. Snyder is not known for liking to have to deal with the media. Talk about personally your take on that aspect of your own job.
COACH KELLY: I think that's probably where myself and Coach Snyder differ (smiling). It's certainly the highlight of my day. I love when it's the first thing in the morning because it can't get any worse after this. We may have the worst ever practice (laughter).
But it's part of the game. One thing I talk to our players about all the time, I have to check myself on it, too, you have to be a selective participant. You can't choose what you do. If we did, it would be total anarchy in this world, you know, we'd just do what we'd like.
There's certain thing you do that probably that aren't the highest on your priority list in terms of what you have a full passion for. But it comes with the territory. You know, as long as there's insightful questions like the one you just asked, I'm very engaging.
Q. After that answer, you're going to love this question. Your name has been thrown around quite a bit for the numerous open NFL jobs. I'm sure your players hear that. How do you answer those kind of questions from your players?
COACH KELLY: I've never been asked a question by one of my players. I think one of the tenets of how we do in our program is we don't like outside influences control our lives. It's kind of just noise to us.
They've never said a word to me. I've never said a word to them. I always believe that praise and blame is all the same.
You can't, again, be a selective participant and listen to things that are good being said about you and block out bad things being said about you.
Our team is extremely focused. If you get a chance to get inside our team, which is never going to happen, if you ever did get a chance, what we talk about, what we focus on really has nothing to do with what's going on outside. That's the great thing about coaching kids of that age. They don't get caught up in it.
I don't think our kids read message boards, newspapers. They want to hang out with each other, have a good team, excited to get back to position meetings. We're getting ready to go play the Fiesta Bowl. That's what we're excited about.
Q. Marcus has done some incredible things statistically this year. Is there something that we're missing just beyond the numbers as a first?year player?
COACH KELLY: I don't think you're missing it because I think people have touched base on it.
What he's done I think is obviously very, very unique for a freshman to do in that short of time. But I think the best compliment I can give Marcus is it wasn't a surprise to anybody inside our football program.
I think people knew instantly, almost instantly when he first arrived on our campus, what a special player he was. There were days when he was just in pre?season camp as a true freshman where he would make some plays, and I'd look over at our quarterback coach, one of our other players, just kind of shake your head and go, Wow.
I think we all knew he was pretty special. But we had a really good quarterback a year ago. It was for him to get a chance to show it.
The ultimate compliment to him is what he's done ever since he stepped foot on our campus, he just continues I think to develop and to grow. He rarely makes the same mistake twice. You kind of sit back and catch yourself.
The maturity he has as a player, realizing he was a redshirt freshman, is just a real compliment to him, so...
Q. You've had guys like Kenyon around for a while, some of your seniors. What is it going to be like to have those guys leave after the big game tomorrow?
COACH KELLY: That one's going to hurt, to be honest with you. That group, Kenjon, Dion, Kiko, Michael Clay, they're special. They deserve all the credit. They're just an unbelievable bunch of guys to be around. I think our players have stayed extremely focused at the task at hand.
Our players play for each other. There's no better players to play for than those guys that get their last chance to play in an Oregon uniform. That's going to be pretty sad when that one comes around, so...
Q. How much of tomorrow's game is going to come down to simple pace? If it's going fast, it favors you guys, if it slows down a little bit, it favors K State?
COACH KELLY: God, I hope so. There's a lot more involved in the game than just the pace. It's going to come down to execution, which teams can execute, which teams can tackle.
Obviously for us we've got some kids in Kenjon, DeAnthony, that are great with the ball in their hands. You have to tackle them. Can the first guy there get them down. Same thing goes for them. How much guys can we get to the ball to tackle Collin Klein, tackling the running backs, Harp, Lockett and guys like that. They have a great return game. We have to negate that.
That means we have to come back to fundamental football. We have to get out of blocks on special teams and defense. They have to do the same thing.
I think it is too simplistic to think the game is going to be about pace. It's going to go back to what every football game is about, it's about fundamentals.
Q. Last year after you ultimately turned down Tampa Bay, you said you'd listen to options to everybody. Do you expect to do that in the next week?
COACH KELLY: I'm waiting for an offer from you. I will listen and I am excited if you do want to give me a call.
Q. Do you expect to field some offers here in the next week?
COACH KELLY: I don't expect anything. I said this a million times. I'm never surprised by anything. I do not know what the future holds. I do know we have a football game tomorrow night and I'm going to be there.
Q. You have one loss. Kansas State had one loss. If there was some sort of playoff system, you both could be in the running for the national championship. Is that something you would advocate?
COACH KELLY: Unfortunately they don't ask us. We don't get a vote.
I think everybody went crazy when they said, We're going to have a playoff. But then they said it was going to be implemented two years from now. The same format, that no coach had any input on, was going to be implemented in a test period for 10 years to see if it works or doesn't work.
I don't know. I mean, I think obviously the game should be settled on the field. What's the exact right formula? I don't know. You get into that game of if you pick four, five is going to complain. If you pick eight, then nine is going to complain.
I think they're moving in the right direction, but they don't ask us, to be honest with you. We have no input. That's done at a different level.
I've always been pretty good at it, and our guys are, if we don't really have a say, we're not going to weigh in on it. If we knew this season what the rules of engagement were when the season started, and I've always believed the regular season, the way it is right now in college football, is a playoff game starting from Game 1. If you lose, you put it in the hands of other people. We understood that going in.
That formula has held true for us. We went undefeated two years ago, got a chance to play for the national championship. Every other year we had one loss. If we have one loss, we're not going to have a chance to play for a national championship.
Had a loss to Stanford that played in the Rose Bowl yesterday. Our next challenge to finish this thing off the right way. We believe a bowl game is about improvement. That's what we'll do.
Where this falls, how it gets to some other things, I think it should be going that direction. But you ask us the questions. They're good questions to ask. But the people that are making the decision don't ask us questions, so...
Q. Coach, what similarities do you see between these two programs as far as the identity?
COACH KELLY: I think as a coach you don't look at it as an identity. We're real kind of nuts and bolts. We're breaking down offense, defense, special teams, matchup, personnel, situational things. I don't look at it as what is the identity of their football program versus our football program.
I think that goes on on the outside. When it comes down to the game, it's still about the game. That's the great thing for us and the great thing for them is that this is still going to be a game that's going to be played out between the lines between two really talented football teams.
I can't really speak to the identity aspect of things. I know when I watch them on film, they're good. That's the one thing that if you're a competitor, you get really, really excited about. We're going to be challenged. They're going to bring their best game. Coach Snyder's teams are always well?prepared.
You wouldn't want it any other way if you're a competitor. You want to get excited about this month we've had of preparation and finally see if our plan matches and works compared to what their plan is and how you implement it. That's why we play the game.
Q. Any interesting stories that happened with you guys this week?
COACH KELLY: We stayed away from the life?and?death situations. Here again I thank the Fiesta Bowl people for creating good environment for us. Although I didn't go with them when they went and ate at Fogo de Chao. We had kids the next day that looked like they had meat?induced coma. We didn't have a case where anybody had to perform the Heimlich like Mark did last year (smiling).