Jan. 2, 2015

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#4 Ohio State (13-1) 42, vs. #1 Alabama (12-2) 35
Jan. 1, 2015
Allstate Sugar Bowl, CFP Semifinal
New Orleans, La. – Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Attendance: 74,682


THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Ezekiel Elliott and Darron Lee. Nate Meyer’s also joined us.

COACH MEYER: I want to really thank the Sugar Bowl and the city of New Orleans for their hospitality. I think a lot of times, because this new year, the playoffs, the bowl experience is somewhat different. We try to do the best we can to make sure that our players show the respect and the appreciation for all the people, the committee members and the judge and everybody that takes care of us.

It is one of the truly great bowls in college football history. I don’t want to ever lose that. I was conscious about that and made sure our players showed that respect.

I’ll tell you, I love these players, man This is a group of guys we played awful at times. We put our defense we didn’t play Ohio State football that we preach and that’s field position. And we overcame it with some excellent efforts, which you have to do at times, like the guys next to me.

But this is one of the great team wins we’ve been a part of. Because we didn’t play well at times but we found a way to win.

Q. Urban, describe for us your feelings when you came down with the interception at the end of the game. They were driving the ball but you guys came down with it and secured the win.
COACH MEYER: You start questioning why we threw that ball. It was my call to throw it down the field. And you’re going to not gain a yard anyways against very good players, they’re playing zero coverage. Everyone is within two yards of the line of scrimmage and it was my call. So, maybe it wasn’t the right call.

So, I just kept thinking I screwed this thing up. And then I have once again a lot of confidence in our defensive staff. They’ve got so much better, our players, our defense during the course of the season. The 590 game against Wisconsin and to defend Amari Cooper and hold him to 79 yards, I think it was 79 yards, 71 yards, best receiver in college football.

So, that’s what all was going through my mind is get that darn ball down so we get out of this with a win.

Q. Coach, a lot of teams play Bama, sometimes the players don’t believe they’re every bit as good. You get down on Bama a lot of teams don’t believe they’re good enough to come back. Yours obviously believed that. Was that anything that you had to coach through the last few weeks to believe that they were good enough to do those things?
COACH MEYER: That’s a great question. And that’s true. That’s true that there’s a perception out there that we’re not.

And I think Lou Holtz was the only guy that picked Ohio State, if I’m remember right. I think Robert Smith, maybe but he’s a Buckeye.

There’s a perception out here. I’ll tell you when I think the tide turned a little bit when Wisconsin beat Auburn. Everybody on our team knew that. I made sure they knew that.

When Michigan State came back and beat an excellent Baylor team. And maybe the Big Ten’s not that bad. Maybe the Big Ten is pretty damned good. And it’s certainly getting better.

And because the mind is a fragile thing. You know, all of a sudden you get down against a team like that, that’s No. 1 in recruiting every year for the past six, seven years, our guys know that.

You see them on film. Great team. But we’re pretty good, too. And we beat to go in East Lansing and beat a team that beat Baylor to put, to play the way we did against Wisconsin, a team that just beat Auburn, that’s the psychological approach to getting 18, 19 20yearolds to believe, because if you believe that was our whole we had a reflection moment with our team and a speaker on whatever Friday, the day before the game, and he talked about how strong belief can increase your level of play. Bad belief or poor belief can also lower your level of play.

So, there’s no doubt that when we saw Wisconsin beat Auburn, that was a major, major moment for us getting ready for this game.

Q. Where were you when you told them that result?
COACH MEYER: Our players saw it. Nowadays, it’s about ten seconds after it’s over, everybody knows.

Q. You said you addressed it with them. Did you just mention it?
COACH MEYER: Where was I? Dinner, the pregame meal, I think it just happened. And then we also talked about, we have a little highlight video before we get on the bus. We talked about that.

Also I watched the end of the Michigan State game. And we were pulling hard for them. And then our players you should have seen their face, man, they knew. They knew.

Q. Urban, along those lines, I think I don’t want to misquote you I think you said the SEC the king of college football and they’ve gone I think the SEC west teams went 2 and 5. And Auburn lost and the two Mississippi schools, how much has the rest of the country closed the gap. And, also, I think Oregon won by 40 today. Can you talk about
COACH MEYER: Oregon won by 40.

Q. 59 to 20?

COACH MEYER: I gotta go. We gotta go get ready for that one.

Q. Florida State had five second half turnovers. Selfdestructed?
COACH MEYER: Mark, I don’t know that the gap, all I’m worried about is, I think the Big Ten Conference, the conference that we’re a part of, certainly showed that it is getting better. That’s not saying that the last couple of years, maybe we weren’t, because there’s one way to silence people and that’s go out and play and I say that in we all do, we’re a bunch of good coaches and players that worked their tails off and investing in a lot of resources into these traditionally great programs.

So at some point you’re going to get good results and very fired up for our conference right now, because at some point it gets exhausting when you keep hearing and hearing and then you start believing.

And that’s fine if you coach, but if you’re a player, pretty damned good players sitting to my left here. They can play anywhere in the country. That legitimizes watching the bowl games today, and over the past three or four days we saw them and you’re darned right, as a coach you watch it but more importantly those players watched it.

Q. For all three of you, if this was the BCS system, Alabama and Florida State would be playing for the national title. Instead it’s you guys and Oregon, how much does this validate the playoff system and how gratified are you guys to be part of that?
EZEKIEL ELLIOTT: Obviously we’re really thankful for the playoff system. They gave us a chance to go out there show that we’re one of the better teams in the nation and we deserve to be in the national championship. So, I think the playoff system definitely helped.

DARRON LEE: I agree. I think it benefited us in this situation. I mean, you get to see the two best teams playing for it all. And it’s an honor to be in there, so I’m glad the playoff system is intact now.

COACH MEYER: I was a head coach of a Utah team if there was a playoff, there was a chance we would be able to get in. I think it’s good for college football. Once again, we’re part of history. And we also don’t want to swing and miss.

I want these players to appreciate that you’re part of college football history. And I think the playoffs are good. I asked Nick before the game, I said what do you think? And I think it’s good for college football. I really do.

My concern, and I think I’m probably going to address it again, is what are we doing for these players that they have to go one more week, and their families. Are we going to get their families to Dallas, we should. That should happen immediately that there should be an immediate committee meeting somewhere say these families can’t let’s get them to Dallas and watch their sons play in college football history. And I hope you all write that. That’s more important than anything else being said today.

How do these two players who played their hearts out for the Ohio State University, for the Big Ten Conference and for college football, let’s get their families there so they can watch them play.

Q. Urban, along the lines of what you’ve been talking about does it feel like a breakthrough kind of win, you’ve won a lot of games but you have one more to go get but is this breakthrough?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, I do. I thought the one against Wisconsin was a breakthrough. A lot of good players in that room were going to leave their careers without a championship. That’s not right. You come to Ohio State to compete for championships and win them.

A guy like Mike Bennett, he’s going to get a nice big ring. If he wins another he gets a really big ring. It was a breakthrough game against I think the career record in SEC is 010 I just started seeing things flashing, flashing, kept seeing that stuff rolling on on TV, that stuff rolling through the TV the last week.

But it was a breakthrough win against an excellent team.

Q. Ezekiel, talk about the big runs, the running lanes, how large did they look for you when you popped them and nobody is there. Safeties were missing, what was going through your mind at that point?
EZEKIEL ELLIOTT: I knew going through the game that the Alabama defense front was going to be very tough, very big, very physical. It was going to be a little bit hard for our O line to get some movement off the ball. But they did a great job.

I knew I would have to hit those holes hard and break a couple of arm tackles to break a couple.

Q. Coach, 2:55 left, first half. He gets you six instead of settling for three like the first two drives. What was the emotional impact of scoring a touchdown right then in terms of the lasting emotional uplift for your kids?
COACH MEYER: Was that the reverse pass?

Q. No, that was a run.
DARRON LEE: Ezekiel ran it in.


Q. You want this sheet of paper so you can see your own
COACH MEYER: Fouryard line. Lou Holtz used to always say this, when I worked for him, when he first hired me at Notre Dame, 1996, he said: The momentum and I’ve always believed this too the momentum, especially for a young team, which we’re still a very young team, is worth at least seven to 14 points during the course of a game.

And the most important momentum of any game is the last five minutes of the first half, first five minutes of the second half. We came out smoking in the second half, too, because I could hear it as we were walking in: We get the ball. We get the ball.

So we believe in that. I believe in it. And that’s where a lot of times we’re aggressive on both of those drives, because those are momentumchanging moments of a game, the first five and the last five and the first five.

Q. Back in Gainesville, when you were coaching the Gators, you used to say that football is a game of checkers. And I’m wondering if this game, this result means that you have better checkers than Alabama, and also is there something to be said about the man moving the checkers?
COACH MEYER: I still believe that this is all about the checkers. That’s why we’ve got to get the checkers’ families to Dallas to watch them play. Checkers are valuable things, man. And I got two very talented checkers right next to me.

I think after playing Alabama now, I think they have more depth in the defensive line. I think the talent level is pretty similar. I think they have more depth right now. They’ve been building the program. We’re still at early stages of this program.

I know it’s year three, but we’re going through that void right now. And we don’t have the depth in certain positions, and they do. And so you’re talking about the best the last few years as good a program as there is. So that’s the only difference.

Q. How about the guy moving the pieces?
COACH MEYER: The guy moving the pieces is a fortunate guy that wakes up every morning and very grateful for the opportunities given to him.

Q. Coach, yesterday you were asked about Nick Saban’s legacy and where he might rank among the game’s greatest coaches and you were very gracious. Earlier tonight you talked about the perception of the Big Ten versus the SEC. You said you had to get your players to believe that. Was it sort of the same thing for you, you haven’t seen him in five years, you haven’t coached against him for a while; was it sort of the same thing for you against him?
COACH MEYER: I think it’s I don’t think it’s a coach’s game. I know people try to make it that way. I think it’s a players’ game.

You give Coach Saban a bad group of players and he’s not a very good football coach. Same with me. If I didn’t have these guys and that group of sophomores and guys like Mike Bennett and some of these guys that really bought into what we’re doing, then we’re not.

So I do think, because he’s done it consistently, he’s going to go down as one of the alltime greats. But once again, he’d be the first one we’ve talked about this. It’s all about these players.

DARRON LEE: Love you too, Coach.


THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by the University of Alabama.

COACH SABAN: Well, you know, we’re very disappointed in the outcome of the game. But you have to congratulate Ohio State who played a really, really good game, and we probably didn’t play our best game.

And I take responsibility for that. I think everybody in the organization, from the coaches, you know, right on down, has to take responsibility for what they did or didn’t do to help prepare the team to be able to play their best game, which was certainly our goal coming into this game.

I think specifically in the game, third down was probably they hurt us on third down, lots of times on third and longs and converted, and we didn’t do very well on third down, so we didn’t continue drives, and they were able to continue driving and convert scores, specially when we were ahead 216. And they scored 28 unanswered points.

But I’m very proud of this team. This team excelled all year long.

They kept Alabama in the forefront of college football everywhere in the country, based on the hard work and the improvement that they made throughout the season.

So I’m very proud of what this team was able to accomplish and winning the SEC as well as winning 12 football games in a very tough conference.

We’re very disappointed in the outcome today. It was our goal to play our best in this game, so we would have an opportunity to play in a national championship game. But we obviously didn’t do the things that we needed to do as well as we needed to do them to have a chance to do that.

But I think there’s a lot of winners on this team. And I don’t think you necessarily have to get a trophy to be a winner. And I do think that there’s a lot of guys on this team, two of them sitting right up here with me right now, and many, many more in that locker room, that have been winners all year and did a fantastic job for our team.

Q. Coach, if you could talk about the differences that you saw when you were up 216 and what they did to grab that momentum ultimately going on 280 run?
COACH SABAN: Well, really, we were up 216 because of two turnovers and two stops in the red area. So, we really weren’t stopping them. We kind of had the momentum of the game because of the turnovers that we got and converted those into scores.

But we weren’t really playing and executing the way we needed to even then. I didn’t like the feel of the game even then. So, we just stopped them in the red zone and we got two turnovers and that was the difference. And in the second half I thought we played a little better and did a little better job.

But we did not control the football game like we usually do and it wasn’t anything that they did differently. They had a good plan. They executed it well against us. And we gave up far too many big plays in the game, which has been a problem for us toward the end of the year, and that was when you give up big plays you don’t get off the field on third down, you’ve got lots of problems.

Q. What was Ezekiel Elliott doing or what were you not doing to control him?
COACH SABAN: Well, I don’t know that we weren’t doing anything I mean he’s obviously a very, very good player, and we didn’t do a very good job of executing what we needed to do to be able to control him in the game, and consequently he made lots of good plays.

So, you know, it’s not really about what you do most of the time, it’s really more about how you do it. And they did a better job of executing what they do than what we did.

Q. Blake, last drive, you guys are moving the ball, what’s the feeling the confidence level like in the huddle. You guys thought you could pull one out?
BLAKE SIMS: Yeah, we really did. We have nothing but confidence in each other and believe that we can do anything that’s possible. And we just told each other let’s take one play at a time and just move the ball and get first down and get out of bounds.

Q. Blake, can you tell us a little bit about what you saw out there from the defense that really prevented you from getting any real open looks all evening long?
BLAKE SIMS: Ohio State’s a great defense. They played with a lot of passion today. The way they played we didn’t have good looks here and there. And the things that didn’t happen good for the team, not good for the team, I take full responsibility for it, because it’s probably something that I could have did better to help my team win. And that’s all.

Q. Landon, what was your message to Blake in the locker room, because he’s obviously putting it on his shoulders and Coach said it’s not all on him. I’m wondering what was said to him in the locker room? Did you guys lift him up? What was the team message to your quarterback and just to each other in the locker room?
LANDON COLLINS: At halftime?

Q. After the game.
LANDON COLLINS: After the game that’s our quarterback. We always tell him let’s make history. He did a fantastic job at what he’s been doing. He played his heart out. As the quarterback we look up to him, and, man, all hands down to him. I love my quarterback to death.

Q. What was the group message? Coach, you can speak to it, maybe, or the guys, what was said in the locker room if you can give us a little snippet of that?
COACH SABAN: I’ve already said it. What I said to the players about exceeding expectations this year and doing a great job keeping Alabama in the forefront and I was very proud of what they were able to accomplish and I was also apologetic to them as a coach and a coaching staff that didn’t do a better job of helping them be able to play their best in this game.

I think everybody has to take responsibility for their part of that, and I certainly feel as a coach that if we don’t play well, it’s my responsibility and I just wish, especially for this team that had great team chemistry all year, worked so hard, had great senior leadership, you know, very little divisiveness and selfishness on this team, and this was a really fun team to coach and really wanted to see them do well.

And you really like to do as much as you can. And when you feel like you come up a little short, you certainly want to take responsibility for that.

Q. You’ve been doing this a long time. When you come up short and you’re not able to go the distance, does it change the way you approach your offseason? You’re relentless, does it change your approach or the way you kind of look in the mirror in the offseason?
COACH SABAN: I think there’s a lot of lessons to be learned from everything that was done here. I think some younger players get the opportunity to see what it takes to play well in big games, to prepare well for big games.

I think there’s a lot of lessons to be learned from your behavior and how you treat other people. This experience for our team is fantastic to come to the Sugar Bowl and spend five days in the city of New Orleans. And these folks did a great job in terms of their hospitality. There’s a lot of lessons to be learned when you have success and there’s also a lot of lessons to learn when you have failings, and hopefully we’ll learn a lot from this experience and that will help us in the offseason.

But I don’t really think that we’re going to change our philosophy in terms of how we do things. That philosophy has helped us win a lot of games, and hopefully it will continue to do the same thing in the future.

Q. Landon, if you can, talk about the Alabama defense, kind of the flow of the game, Coach referred to the early turnovers, but again the 28 unanswered points. Tell me about the flow defensively for Alabama tonight?
LANDON COLLINS: Defensively we were just trying to be on the same page and on every given play and down, they broke out on some big plays on us and we just couldn’t contain the edge at points. But other than that, we just tried to fight all the way to the end and finish and get the ball back to our offense and to put points on the board.

Q. Landon, what did they do tonight that you hadn’t seen on tape and secondly what did you see tonight that you had seen but they did real well?
LANDON COLLINS: We saw everything they did tonight. Practiced against everything they did. The only thing we just didn’t do is contain the edge and they just got to the edge and broke out a big one on us.

Q. Blake, while tonight is a disappointment, you had a pretty incredible journey to get here. Coach Saban talked about things that you learned. What did you learn about yourself in this journey?
BLAKE SIMS: Not as much as I learned from myself. This O line that I had had a lot of great guys around me. I had a coach that really cared about his teammates and wanted to see them do great and for myself I wanted to see my teammates do great.

I wanted to leave it all on the field and didn’t want to leave until we got what we got. And I’m just happy that I got the opportunity to play this year, and I know Coach Saban is going to do a great job with the team next year.

Q. Coach, were they doing anything defensively that prevented you guys from handing the ball to Yeldon and Henry more and also were you surprised at how well their quarterback, Jones, was able to handle his composure and the way he played at all?
COACH SABAN: Well, you know, I think defensively they did pretty much exactly what we thought they would do. They played bump and run and played split safeties, we call that cover seven. We had ways to attack it.

I was kind of anxious to see us take more shots down the field. I don’t think we, maybe, did that enough early in the game. And they did a nice job. But we did a little better job in the second half when we went no huddle, we played faster and did better, and I think there’s obviously a lot of things that we wish we would have done differently to attack their defense. Their front did a really good job.

We didn’t handle them well in running the football like we thought we might be able to when we spread them out and they did a good job on our perimeter screens and smokes and we made the blocks but they made the plays, and you gotta give their players a lot of credit for the way they executed.

But I think that we’re certainly capable of playing a little better than we played tonight, and I think everybody would say the same if you asked them that from player to coach.

Q. Nick, I don’t know if you know it Oregon won by about 40 points today. What type of chance do you give Ohio State matching up against them?
COACH SABAN: We didn’t play Oregon. I didn’t even know what the score of that game was. But I know they got a lot of good players and they’ve got a lot of speed, but I think Ohio State really has a good football team.

I thought they were a very underrated team by everybody in terms of how people thought about them, especially the way they played against Wisconsin and the way they played later in the year.

The one thing that the new quarterback does is he has a tremendous arm. And they have some very talented receivers. And the two things that were very apparent is those things became very apparent in the last two games because of the quarterback.

Now, they were a little different and the quarterback was a great runner, when 16 was playing, and he was a good passer. But it wasn’t so obvious when you watched the film all season long that they had these great skill players that could really make plays down the field.

And I really give their team a lot of credit. I give their coaching staff a lot of credit. They’re difficult to defend. Their formations and motions they do, they play real sound and solid on defense, really good special teams and their players are all in. They’re committed. They play hard. And it was a great team effort for them and you have to give them a lot of credit, but I think they have a very good team and I think they’re capable of playing with anybody in the country.

Q. Blake, what are your goals and plans going forward from tonight?
BLAKE SIMS: Right now just spending the rest of the time I have with my teammates and just sit down with my family, just talk about the future and see what can come up.

LANDON COLLINS: Same thing, sit down with my have fun with my teammates and sit down with coach and my family to make a decision on what I’m going to do.

Q. Blake, you just heard Coach say that one goal was to get the ball down the field in terms of deep plays. I’m wondering, going after what he said, if you were seeing anything in their defense that made it look inviting or not to you for deep plays down the field?
BLAKE SIMS: I don’t think that’s my job to decide if the coaches made the right call. Whatever they called I tried to run it to the full ability that I can and just get the ball to the playmakers.

COACH SABAN: And he does a really good job of that.