University of Miami coach Randy Shannon sat down with Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema and several out of town reporters Wednesday to talk about the Champs Sports Bowl. Here's some of what each coach was talking about.
On playing in the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl: "It’s big for us. Our players have done a great job of working to get into this position where we are today. I think the more we continue to work is progress. I think this is one of the best bowls for us, we know that we couldn’t win up in the Orange Bowl and we feel that the Champs Sports Bowl is the next best bowl for us and our fan base. We drew a big crowd when we played Central Florida, we drew a big crowd when we played South Florida and when we played in Tallahassee against Florida State we had a great crowd there. The showing throughout the state is unbelievable and I think the fan support is going to be unbelievable when we play Wisconsin on December 29."
On whether or not playing in Orlando is advantage for the Hurricanes: "Not really. It’s a situation where you just have to go out and play. Two great teams that go out there and try to get a 10th win. When you have those kinds of teams that go out play hard and physical and know what to expect from each other and have a lot of respect for each other, were going to go out and have one of those games that one will remember and enjoy the night."
On whether the common notion that players in the South have speed and players from the Midwest have size: "Everybody recruits speed. It’s not going to be a situation where were going to be faster than those guys or they’re going to be faster than us. We have a big offensive line, they have a big offensive line. They have big guys on defense, we have big guys on defense. It’s going to work itself out. Its just a myth that if you’re down south you run faster.
On recruiting in South Florida and building the program: "I think with this young football team that we have right now with a quarterback that’s a sophomore, receivers that are sophomores, defensive backs like true freshman Ray Armstrong, redshirt freshman Vaughn Telemaque and sophomore Sean Spence, we have a lot of young guys on this football team, especially on our defensive front. These are all young football players that play hard and with a lot of excitement and experience. The more they mature, the better off we’re going to be as a football team. We’re going to continue to recruit the state of Florida and that’s the one thing that we have the most success from. We’ve got two players from Orlando and we’re going on the west coast and also getting players from South Florida. You can’t get all of them, but if you can get a nucleus of them and go outside the state, you’re going to be ok."
On the matchup against Wisconsin: "They can run the football. They are a big, hard-nosed team that believes in establishing the run and they’re not going to bend in the run game. They are not going to sit up and go “okay, if we can’t run the ball in the first 20 plays then we’ll start throwing it." They’re going to come out and still establish the run. They are going to play hard-nosed defense, stop the run and not give up big plays. They’re going to play great special teams. When you look at both team its kind of equal. I’m a defensive coach, Bret is a defensive coach. Both of us believe in running the football, playing great on special teams and playing hard defense. It’s going to be a matchup that you’ll want to see. There’s going to be thrills and some highs and lows, but the team that stays focused in the fourth quarter is the one that will win it."
On the Miami fan support: "They’ll be a lot of fans there on December 29. A lot of ex players have called in getting tickets for the game, a lot fans from south Florida and our alumni base in Jacksonville have been buying tickets. They keep selling the tickets in Jacksonville. Across the state they’re going to come see a great game and give the University of Miami great support."
Here is what Bielema had to say...
On playing in the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl: "To be able to play Miami, a quality opponent, really works on our behalf. There was talk and speculation about where we would might end up and I know our kids, if they would have told us we have the chance to play Miami, the 15th ranked team in the country, they would have been excited. To come full circle from where we were a year ago in this game and make the improvements we have is a great way to end the season."
On the mystery of the bowl selection process: "This was a very unique year, because we when we found out, we were on a plane flying back from Honolulu, Hawaii, so it was very rare in those regards. There are certain things that get slotted, but because we have been so good these last few years, we have been in Florida the last six years in a row, either in Orlando or Tampa and both bowl games here. More than anything our fans, because we got 18 inches of snow today, are excited to come down to Orlando. I don’t think anyone is going to argue with the opportunity to land here and see the sunshine. And the way we get treated here, it’s a great city, great town and a great organization with the Champs Sports Bowl and Capital One Bowl."
On the trip to Orlando: "It’s a great trip and our kids are excited to come here. You’re going to see a couple guys who have never made this trip because we had so many freshman playing significant roles for us. I know we’ll come down on Dec. 23, give them a day off so they’ll have a chance to take in Orlando on Christmas Eve and then we’ll get to work and ultimately capitalize with a good showing at the game."
On the player’s familiarity with the Orlando surroundings being an advantage: "I know they love the hotel we are staying, but I think our kids were excited about the matchup. The fans and the media can talk about where were at and the festivities, but the bottom line is you come to a bowl game to play a quality out of conference opponent and we can’t ask for anything better."
His thoughts on the Badgers regular season: "I think if you asked anybody before the season where we were picked, I think we were seventh or eighth in the league. Going into the last ballgame to be able to win a Big Ten Championship, unfortunately the right teams didn’t win, but we have made a nice transformation to what we do well. John Clay is the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Award. Chris Borland, who is Freshman of the Year for the league which is rare as a defensive player. I think this team has made giant steps, but the great news is that we are very young and we have an excellent opportunity to be very good in the future."
On Wisconsin running back John Clay: "John is a big back who runs angry. He is very gifted athletically and has done a better job this year of where he needs to be in the whole package, and the good news is he’s only a sophomore."
On the matchup against Miami: "It’s a unique matchup and that’s why we love bowl games. I’ve known Randy for a number of years and Mark Whipple, his offensive coordinator, is a good friend of mine. I think the matchup in itself will be neat because everyone is going to talk about the Florida speed versus the Midwest size of Wisconsin and we have big people, but I think a couple of our guys can run as well."