Sunday, January 7, 2018

Game Day Information

GAME DAY PARKING FEES

• Standard Vehicles: $60 each
• Limousines: $150 each
• RVs and Buses: $175 each

LOT OPENING TIMES 

The 2018 national championship game kicks off at 8 p.m. ET.
Parking lots will open at various times.
Visit www.collegefootballplayoff.com/parking for updated lot opening times.
Please do not try to access your lot earlier than the listed time or you will not be allowed to park.

TAILGATING 

• Tailgating is allowed in all surface parking lots
• Tailgating is specifically prohibited in the campus multi-level garages
• Vehicles may take up only one parking space
• Tailgating equipment may not extend beyond the parking space or impede vehicles driving through the lot
• Grills, chairs, coolers and other equipment may not take up a parking space
• Tailgating is confined to the area directly behind the vehicle
• Adjacent landscaped areas are common areas and may not be claimed exclusively
• Dispose of trash in appropriate receptacles
• Dispose of coals in coal containers provided in the lots

Game Day Schedule 
Eastern Standard Time

10 a.m. Championship Tailgate Plaza INTERNATIONAL PLAZA

10 a.m. Playoff Fan Central GEORGIA WORLD CONGRESS CENTER BUILDING A

Noon AT&T Playoff Playlist Live! CENTENNIAL OLYMPIC PARK

3 p.m. Box Office/ Ticket Windows Open MERCEDES-BENZ STADIUM GATE 1, NORTHWEST SIDE

5:30 p.m. Gates Open MERCEDES-BENZ STADIUM GATES 1, 2, 3, 4, C and S

7:30 p.m. Pregame Show MERCEDES-BENZ STADIUM FIELD

8 p.m. 2018 National Championship Game MERCEDES-BENZ STADIUM (ON ESPN)

BAG POLICY 

Fans are allowed to carry the following style and size bag, package, or container in stadium plaza areas, stadium gates or when approaching queue lines of fans awaiting entry into the stadium:

• Bags that are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12" X 6" X 12"

• One-gallon clear plastic freezer bag (Ziploc bag or similar)

• Small clutch bags, no larger than 4.5" X 6.5", with or without a handle or strap can be taken into the stadium with one of the clear plastic bag options

• Exceptions will be made for medically necessary items after proper inspection at a gate designated for this purpose

National Championship Sunday Press Conference


Kirby Smart: 

First I'd like to thank all the NCAA CFP staff, the SEC office for what a tremendous job they've done in supporting our program and helping us get to this point. The last event we were at we thought was a first-class event, and it's been the same way since our arrival here. Our kids are certainly excited. I think what you've seen over the course of the last few weeks is what college football is all about. You've got a great group of student athletes for four teams who have been given an opportunity to do special things, and our kids are really excited.

I think it's really great for our fan base to be right here in Atlanta, Georgia, a special place for us, also the home of SEC football and championships, and we've got two SEC teams in it. I'm certainly honored and privileged to be competing against a great university that's kind of been the landmark of college football over the last 10 to 12 seasons, and I know my experiences there working with the late Mal Moore, Bill Battle, Coach Saban himself have helped me tremendously in my career, but we're honored and privileged to compete against what's a great program, and they've done a tremendous job, and I think it's kind of lost in the shuffle of how well they have been able to compete at a high level for a long time and almost take it for granted at times.

But we're expecting an exciting football game Monday night. Our players are just enthused, excited to be in this opportunity, and we're going to make the most of it, and really want to appreciate the coverage that you guys give us. Thanks.

Nick Saban: 

I'd also like to thank the College Football Playoff and Executive Director Bill Hancock. This has certainly been a first-class event for our team and our organization and the people in our organization. We're certainly excited and happy to have the opportunity as an organization to play in the College Football Playoff, the Championship Game, in Atlanta, Georgia, which has been a place where we've had several opportunities to play, and I think our players always look forward to the challenges of playing here.

I've been really, really pleased with what this team has been able to accomplish this year. We had to overcome a lot of adversity, and each and every time guys have stepped up and continued to compete at a high level, something that we have a tremendous amount of appreciation for, our staff and all the players on our team for what they've done and the opportunity they've created for themselves to play in the Championship Game.

I think we're playing against an outstanding team. I think Kirby and his staff have done a fabulous job at Georgia in terms of the high level that their players compete at, the quality of players that they have, how well they play together as a team, and certainly they deserve a lot of congratulations for what they've been able to accomplish this year, and I think it's two great teams, will be a great, competitive game, and our players are certainly looking forward to the challenges and the opportunity of playing in the Championship Game.

A lot has been made about the relationship the two of you had coaching with one another. Coach Smart, if there's one single biggest thing that you learned from Coach Saban, what was it?  

Kirby Smart:

Well, this is not the first time I've answered this question this week, so I'll be happy to answer it again. But probably the single greatest thing is just the level of commitment to the organization, holding everybody in the organization to a standard that he kind of embraced himself. He never asked anybody in the organization to work any harder than he did. He held every person on the staff -- and I'm not talking about just the coaching staff, I'm talking about the entire organization, to be at their best.

And I think that's sometimes a lost art in some organizations. You see successful business organizations run that way, but you don't always see athletic programs run that way, and I think he does a tremendous job of that, and if there's anything I took, it's being in that seat and having to be in command, make decisions, and make sure that everybody understands the message that's coming from the top down and the standard that you want people to work to. I've got a lot of respect.

I don't think people appreciate what he's been able to do in the most competitive college football league for a long time, and when you start talking about what he's been able to do, I think it's pretty incredible.

Nick, you talk a lot about the challenges of guarding against complacency and human nature that comes when you have success, to try to be successful again, that's hard. Your goal is to try to manage that in others and your team. What motivates you to not be complacent? 

Nick Saban: 

Well, I think that I'm always looking for the next challenge. I don't know if it's the way I was raised or whatever, that you're kind of only as good as your last play, as your last game. I think everyone has heard me talk a lot about the fact that success is not a continuum, it's momentary, and it's human nature to get satisfied and get a little complacent when you have success.

But in a competitive business like we're in where there's always a next challenge, there's always a next game, there's always a better team to play, if you have that mindset, you're not going to be able to play with any consistency, and if you can't play with consistency in performance, you're not going to really have a lot of success long-term. I hate to lose, and I've been around Kirby long enough and he's been on my basketball team long enough that I know he hates to lose, too, and I think that has something to do with it. You're always ready for the next challenge, and you always understand that people are going to be a little bit satisfied, and you have to make sure that everyone is ready for the next challenge.

For both coaches, Kirby, with your team flying back from Los Angeles, and Coach Saban, yours coming back from New Orleans, were you able to approximate practice during the week, kind of get it close to a normal week as you could? How satisfied were you the way they adapted to that situation? 

Kirby Smart:

You know, I think it was a challenge. I think everybody forgets last year there was nine days between these games, and I certainly think it's a fast turnaround. I think a big deal has been made about it. But we all know that both teams really had the same time. Our travel was different, but they played a much later game. So they had to play much later at night and get finished much later at night, so it's tough in both parts.

I think I saw early in the week the trouble with it, but as the weeks passed, these guys have been practicing for 15 games, and also they've had practice for bowls really 15 practices. You start looking at some of the cumulative effect, and you've got to be smart with your team. You've got to know what you're doing. In a perfect world I'd like to have a little more time between the championship games, but that's the way it fell this year, and that's the way it is. So much time to prepare for one game, and then a really quick turnaround that creates a lot of pressure on these kids for the short turnaround.

Nick Saban: 

Basically as coaches, we had probably about a normal amount of time that we would have for a normal game during the season. I think the circumstances are a little bit different because of the travel, bowl games, staying in a place, trying to get back, those types of things. But it was a little tougher turnaround for the players. I don't know if it's physically, emotionally, psychologically, however you want to put it, early in the week, to refocus on another big game. But I think as the game, as the week went on, you saw them recover, and I think they're all excited about playing in the game.

The situation is the same for both teams, and I don't think it'll have any effect on the outcome based on the circumstances. It'll just be about the players who go out there and how they compete in the game.

Coach Saban, in 2015 right before Kirby was hired at Georgia, you said the guys you coached with for a long time start to feel like part of your family. A lot has been made of the Xs and Os of playing with former assistants, but what is it like to see someone go through the highs and lows of being a head coach and ultimately end up here? 

Nick Saban: 

Well, I'm extremely proud of anyone on our staff who goes on and does a good job. One thing that I've said is I always tell guys, and I told Kirby this when he left, be your own man, be yourself, do it the way you think it ought to be done. Don't try to be somebody else. I think he's done a fantastic job of that.

What you all don't understand is this guy was on our staff for, I don't know, 10 years. Terry was there when his babies are born. I mean, you become a part of a family. That's what you do when you're together for a long time. I think there's a special appreciation for those people in your family, the contribution they made to the success that you had, and you always want to see them do well when they leave because that's what they worked hard for, and you're glad that they got the opportunity.

And it isn't personal when we have to compete against each other. I'm sure he wants a win for his players, and we certainly want to win for our players, and it's not a personal thing.

For both coaches, what would you say is the single biggest concern entering tomorrow's game? 

Kirby Smart:

For us, it's probably simple. They've got an extremely physical offensive and defensive lines. They are as big and as physical as we've faced, and we know we like to run the ball and we like to stop the run, but when you look at the unit that he's comprised and got, it's a dominant, physical team. We've got to match the physicality.

They do a tremendous job in all phases. There's no weakness when you look across the board. They play their best players on special teams. We've taken a lot of pride in special teams this year at University of Georgia, and we know what we're up against in these guys because they've got tremendous athletes, tremendous speed, and they've had some injuries to deal with, they've overcome those and created some depth with a lot of the injuries they've had getting some guys back.

But the biggest concern for us will be the size of the offensive and defensive lines and the physicality of those guys.

Nick Saban: 

I would say that my biggest concern is how do we execute in terms of things that are important in having success in a game. Some of them Kirby mentioned; because they're two physical teams, can you control the line of scrimmage; are you going to make the kind of errors in a game that are going to be critical factors in the outcome of the game, and turnovers would be a big part of that.

Tackling, I always worry about in bowl games and games where you haven't played for a long time. We missed some tackles in last week's game, and the quality of running backs that they have and the skill players that they have, I think those factors are going to be huge in a game in terms of doing a good job in those areas.

When you're playing against a really good team, and probably two teams that are fairly evenly matched and two teams that philosophically are not a whole lot dissimilar in terms of the things they want to do to win. Run the ball, don't turn the ball over, play good field position, be good on special teams, so it's going to be the errors and execution that have a critical effect on the outcome of the game.

With the hay kind of in the barn, I wonder what each of you are doing today specifically and how long you'll do it. 

Kirby Smart:

I'm just doing whatever he did, so not a whole lot of difference. I mean, we're trying to go watch a movie tonight, and they're trying to go watch the movie at the same place, so we're having to offset 10 minutes.

But I think every program I've ever been a part of there's some similarities in what they do the day before the game, and I think every coach has his -- I don't know if you'd call it superstitions or routine might be a better word that they use to get themselves ready, get their staff ready and get their players ready. I think the next 24 hours can be critical.

I've talked a long time about this Playoff being perspective, with what perspective do you take this game. And I think that's the one spot that Alabama had a competitive advantage because they've got a huge chip on their shoulder thanks to you guys and some of you guys saying they shouldn't have been included, so they've got something to prove.

And I think every team that gets in the Playoff has got something to prove. But how you approach things in the last 24 hours and what you do mentally are really important to your team's success.

Nick Saban: 

I think the hay in the barn analogy that you used is probably not something that I ever really think of it that way. I think that from yesterday's practice, which is about 48 hours from the game, give or take, I think the mental practice that a player has, whether it's making calls, watching film, whether you have meetings, whether you have walk-throughs, whether you have chair drills, I think those mental reps that they get, I think physically the hay is in the barn.

You're not out there blocking and tackling people, and we've always tried to focus in those -- from Thursday's practice until the game, having several opportunities for guys to get the kind of mental practice that may be able to eliminate some mental errors in a game that could affect the outcome of the game.

Kirby, which movie are you going to see? 

Kirby Smart:

To be honest with you, I'm not sure of the name of it. I'm excited about it, but I've been told it has a lot of purpose. We've got a special release. I think Alabama was able to watch it last week. I think it's 12 Strong.

Nick Saban: 

Yeah, it's a good movie. I don't know what we're watching. Don't ask.

Nick, as long as you were with Kirby, watching your game from afar, you seemed to yell at Kirby a lot less on the sideline than some assistants. I wonder is he the assistant you've been most aligned with in terms of philosophy and game day adjustments as you've ever been with? And do you have to change all your signals before Monday's game? 

Nick Saban: 

You know, I don't know -- I don't yell at my assistants very much at all, I don't think, but there are occasions where you get upset with, whether it's a circumstance in the game or a situation in the game, or maybe you did something that's sort of out of the plan, and you get a little upset about it. I don't really ever recall getting really upset at Kirby. I'm sure that he can remember a few times that I got on him unjustifiably, and maybe a couple times where maybe it was justified, I don't know.

But look, it's always about trying to make somebody better and make them understand, and I think we play a very emotional game sometimes, so I never want to get angry, and I never want to be mad, and I never want to show disappointment in a player or a coach.

But Kirby did as good a job as anybody ever did for us in the time that he was with us and whatever his role was and especially when he was in a position of responsibility

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

College Football Playoff Georgia Media Teleconference

Kirby Smart 

I would like to open with compliments to the Tournament of Roses committee. They did a tremendous job hosting us. It was a great event. This is my second time being involved in the Rose Bowl. They do just an impeccable job of treatment of our team and hosting us. Our transition has occurred kind of through the night. We were able to fly back last night after the game and took some time getting out of LAX and got back into Atlanta and got the buses back over to Athens and got a little nap in and then back to work today, beginning on what I know and respect is a really good football team in Alabama, and looking forward to an opportunity to play for a National Championship in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. I think it says a lot about our conference and the competitive nature of it for two teams to come together and to play that are from the same conference and have put themselves in a situation to do something really special.

Our team is really excited. A very emotional game last night, which concerns me, and talked to the players immediately afterwards about not burning any more energy or emotion on that game and moving on. You know, Alabama had a little more sound victory, so they probably didn't burn quite as much emotion, although I know it was emotional to beat a team that beat them last year. The focus moving forward will be on preparing for Alabama and what a great program Coach Saban has got.

I wondered about what you might be recall from when you first went to work for Nick Saban and got that job all those years ago? Do you remember what was going through your mind at the time and how badly you wanted that job? 

I really don't remember much about that. That's a long time ago. I don't even know, whatever year it was I went to LSU, '04 maybe. I'm not really sure. I just remember the interview in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, and Coach Muschamp, a good friend of mine, Will, connected us, and we met in the airport and visited. I had a lot of respect for the program that Nick had put together at LSU. I remember wanting the job, but I wanted the job because I was a GA, I didn't want the job because it was Nick Saban. I wanted the job because I didn't have a job, and it was my first career SEC job, so it was a great opportunity for me.

Is there something about working on a staff under Coach Saban that is different than other coaching jobs in college football? 

I don't know that there is. I haven't been on many more staffs. I've been on a couple other staffs. I've been on an FSU staff, a UGA staff, an Ohio State staff, and I think all staffs got great continuity, at least the ones that won, you like each other. Winning makes you happier. I've been on some really pleasant staffs because I've been very fortunate to coach at places that have a chance to win. But I wouldn't say it was like any different than those staffs I've been on.

You obviously had a lot of success in state with this recruiting cycle, but I was wondering what's the biggest difference you've noticed after this season with some of those recruits from out of state that are interested in Georgia? 

Well, I think any time you get to play on the national stage and get national exposure, it certainly helps. We've got a great brand. We've got Atlanta, Georgia, which is 70 miles from our campus, and there's a lot of access to the Atlanta airport. When you start talking about kids that want to play in the SEC, they want to play on the big stage, and they want to be able to get to and from home very easily, there's nowhere better to play than Georgia. So you're able to go to Philly and get a Mark Webb or D'Andre Swift or you're able to go get a Jacob Eason or whoever it might be because they want to play on the big stage and they've got great transportation avenues. It's a great education, too, so we're able to attract some really good students.

Last night you talked about the defense didn't play well in the first half and then you go into the second half with the two overtimes. Did you change anything schematically, get more pressure on Mayfield, or just the guys themselves turning up their own intensity to have that good second half and overtime period? 

I think it was a combination of what you just mentioned. You know, we got more pressure. page 1 of 6 We called the game a little more aggressively. I thought the kids tackled a little better. We still didn't tackle real good in the second half, but it was better than we did in the first half. I really just think they settled down. It's hard to put a finger on why they weren't settled early. I know you could say, well, it was the Rose Bowl; well, it was Baker Mayfield. Yeah, we knew all that. And our team has got to play big in big moments and can't play what we call rat-trap and have mental errors, and I thought in the first half, man, we had a lot of mental errors and just really not indicative of who we are defensively, and I thought they did a much better job of staying in our style of defense, and it was not a lot of schematic changes as much as it was getting more comfortable with what Oklahoma was doing.

In the kind of cutthroat world of college football, is it difficult to maintain friendships with coaches you used to work with like Nick Saban or anyone else? 

No, I don't think -- in the coaching profession, I think that me personally, the way I was raised and been around coaching is we take care of each other. We take care of each other's kids. We hire them. Coach Saban has hired probably 15 to 20 different coaches' kids that have either worked for him or he knew, and I'm the same way now that I get my opportunity. I mean, if anything, we take care of our own. We take care of each other. When a coach is out of a job, you try to help him get a job. When he's no longer working for you, you help him out every way you can. The cutthroat part is more for media attention. Maybe you feel that way in recruiting or you feel that way to beat somebody. Yeah, you want to win the game for your players and your program, but I mean, it's not personal for me and their staff. I have a lot of friends on their staff. I respect their staff. It's not really cutthroat to me. The competitive nature is to go win, but outside of that, they're good people.

You mentioned something there at the top about how concerned you are about the emotions of that game, not letting it bleed into this game. What does, I guess, make you feel that your team will be able to respond with the right emotions going into Monday's game? 

Well, I mean, the best way to know is to look at the history of this group. I mean, they've overcome a lot of obstacles. They've had coaching change during their career; they've overcome that. They've embraced what we wanted to do. They've been through a lot of adversity last year, and a lot of this team that is playing this year played last year. And then you look at this year, they've overcome losing a quarterback, they've overcome a lot of adversity, overcome a big loss on the road, and that's kind of who they are. I know they'll handle it the right way. I just think the management of that is really critical. We're playing a road game in LA, and to turn around the next week within seven days, I mean, you think about that -- everybody talks about last year, but last year Clemson had nine days, but this is a seven-day, really a six-day turnaround to play a National Championship game coming off a game in LA. I think when you have one that emotional and you play an extra, whatever it was, two periods of overtime, you've got to be smart about your team and where they are.

How do you manage that in that regard with these six days now? 

Well, you emphasize rest, recovery. You emphasize what we talk about all the time is getting your sleep, getting your dark hours, getting off your phone. A lot of our kids are on social media. Get in recovery, go to treatment, getting extra time to watch tape and spend it -- we're starting school this week, too, so that's another deal on top of our kids that they get to deal with. When you start dealing with a lot of outside influences on your kids' time, you've got to be smart as a coach and understand you've got to get the most out of them, but we've got to be smart with our practice time and our recovery time.

I'd like to have you talk a little bit about D'Andre Swift from St. Joe's Prep who has been able to get on the field and do some things for you this year. 

Yeah, what an unbelievable kid, first of all. He is from a wonderful family. Their family is unbelievable, great two parents that have really raised him the right way. He's a very humble kid. He's come in and embraced the role of being on special teams, of being a utility back, has done a lot of different things. He's really bright. He's probably got the best hands on the team. You combine that with a really great low center of gravity, and you've got yourself a good ball player. He's going to be a force to be reckoned with in my opinion in the SEC for a long time because he's such a competitive kid and he's done really well in school, as well. So we're proud of him and think that coming from where he came from that school system did a great job, one of the most prestigious schools there is in the country.

You mentioned Mark Webb. Talk a little bit about him because he was a great player coming out of Archbishop Wood here in Philly. 

Yeah, Mark was probably one of the most talented guys we signed in this class early on. page 2 of 6 He was making some plays at wide-out early in camp. We lost two corners to injury, and we really had to move him over to corner, and he's done a great job there. He hasn't gotten to play as much as I know he would like to, but he's going to be a really good football player. We are excited about him. He's playing on special teams. He's tough. He's competitive, good tackler. We're excited about where he's at.

Just wondering with your guys having to spend a whole week out on West Coast time, what do you do as a coach to get them adjusted and reacclimated to being three hours ahead on the time scale? 

Well, there's no real good way to do it. We encouraged them while they were out there to kind of try to stay around central time if they could because you go to bed a little bit earlier, get up a little bit earlier so the transition coming back wouldn't be real bad, and of course a lot of our guys were getting tired early in the night, so they wanted to go to bed earlier, and their bodies were naturally getting up earlier. So if you just let that flow happen and you remain a little bit neutral, it's not as big a transition when you get back. So we're hoping today they get some rest and recovery. A lot of emotion spent last night, and you have a lot of adrenaline after a game like that, so it's not easy to go straight to bed. Just not easy to say, hey, sleep it off on the plane. We're trying to get them plenty of rest today and allow us to do some game planning, then get them back and we'll go back to work tomorrow to get ready for a big game.

What's Charlie Warner's status with the leg injury, and can you confirm Dan Lanning hired as an outside linebackers coach after the playoffs is over? 

Yeah, on Charlie Warner, still not sure of the verdict on it yet. It is lower leg, but we don't know the extent of anything more than that right now. And then, yeah, I can confirm the hiring of Dan Lanning. He'll be replacing Kevin Sherrer, one of our assistant coaches, after the bowl game, or the National Championship game.

I wondered if you'd address the perception the SEC was down this year; do you agree with that, or maybe it was just a very top-heavy conference? 

Yeah, you know, I don't like getting into that subject. I think it's a matter of opinion. I'm not the expert of that because I don't watch all the other conferences. You know, I had the fortune of watching the Big 12 Conference because I had to go through all the Oklahoma film and prepare for that. But how can I be an expert on conferences that I don't watch play? I will speak on the behalf of the SEC, that I think that it's extremely difficult week in, week out, because you've got really good teams, and everybody points to the fact that they beat up on each other and there's more parity -- outside of what Alabama has been able to do, there's been more parity in our conference in recent years. I'd put our conference up against anybody's, and I'm not doing that braggingly, I just believe in that. I believe that there's good coaches in this league. There's really good programs in this league. It's not to knock another league. I just think top to bottom it's one of the toughest conferences to live and survive in week in and week out. But that's just a matter of opinion.

As far as coaching with Nick Saban for as many years as you did, you have to know his tendencies and strategies probably as well as anybody that goes up against him; where would that maybe be an advantage for you either in preparation or during the game on Monday? 

Yeah, I don't know that it's an advantage. You know, his tendencies and his strengths are recruiting really good players that are really big and really fast, and then you have to block them, okay, or you have to be able to run the ball against them or you have to be able to defend the wide-outs and the corner -- it comes down to a lot more than his tendencies because his tendencies are very similar to a lot of good coaches: Smart, good decisions, protect the ball, play great defense, kick your butt on special teams. There's not a lot of tendencies that he has that are just going to be ground-breaking to allow us a benefit. The bottom line is our players got to go out and we've got to play a really good football game to stay with these guys.

And the last question, Nick told us earlier this afternoon that he wouldn't necessarily want two weeks between semifinals and finals, but given the travel, especially in y'all's terms, maybe an extra day might be in order. How do you see that going forward? Is six or seven days just too little? 

Yeah, you know, it's probably a moot point now, but I do think that you deal with the hand you're dealt, and I do think in the future it would be advantageous or at least be smart to look into. But I think last year is more realistic, the nine days I was told they had between games. That makes sense. You're dealing with travel from all over; it's a little different. I don't know the reasons for why it ended up like it did this year, but we've known that all along, so it hurts as much the preparation for Oklahoma as it did this game because we had to be prepared for the turnaround. We were planning things out for this week even last week, which is tough, really tough mentally on a coach because you never want to look past anybody, but we page 3 of 6 had no choice but to do that. It makes it really tough, and I know it's probably a little easier on the other two being in New Orleans, but it's tough on anybody. It's tough on these players when you add in the fact that we start school earlier than anybody in the country this week, and a lot of those other schools are not going back to school, so they won't have classes, they'll be able to have the kids over there all day, and we've got kids taking classes.

Just wondering if you can speak to kind of the dynamic you have with Kevin Sherrer, still on your staff, and Jeremy Pruitt still on their staff. Obviously those two guys know each other and they're trying to kind of manage, I guess, two jobs to some extent, or are they not trying to do anything with that other job? You obviously went through that yourself. Can you talk about how that dynamic figures in this game? 

I'm not following you. Are you asking are they working for Tennessee right now, or how are they doing what they're doing? I don't understand what you're --

Yeah, how do they handle that, and obviously I guess those guys have a good relationship, too. You probably can speak to that, as well.

Yeah, I've got a good relationship with Jeremy. I've got a good relationship with Kevin. They've got a good relationship with each other. Kevin has got a good relationship with Nick. There's a lot of relationships across the board. I mean, I don't -- I really don't know what you're hinting at. I know that Kevin wants to win this game for the University of Georgia, and Kevin wants to finish something he was a part of. I think it speaks to his brand the rest of his career if he's able to win a National Championship here, and I certainly think Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy, all the kids he's coached for the last four years I guess it's been, and he wants to do well for those guys, and I'm sure Jeremy is the same way for the players that he recruited to Alabama. I mean, I think both parties are working independent of each other knowing that on the recruiting side of things they're working together, and there's not a whole lot of recruiting going on right now with the dead period, but I mean, I went through that. I think you've got to separate what you're doing. When you're working for the game, you're working for the game. You're working for recruiting, you're working for Tennessee, and if you're professional about your job, that's not really a problem.

You spoke of the emotional drain for your players, and I'm just wondering, there's been a season's worth of bucket list items this year from Notre Dame to Rose Bowl, winning the SEC Championship. How is your emotional tank these days? 

Oh, I'm good. I was ready to get out of there as soon as the game was over. I was running across the field as fast as I could to shake his hand so I could leave. I was ready to get back. Emotionally I'm excited about the opportunity. You can coach a long time and not get opportunities like this, and I've been blessed to be part of games of this magnitude and nature before. Obviously never as a head coach, but I know that every minute and every second counts, and that's what's important to me, and I want to make sure these players understand that, because a lot of them don't. They don't understand that 20 minutes with the media, 45 minutes waiting on a bus or two hours waiting in traffic, those all add up when you start adding them, and that's what's important to me is to lead these young men the right direction so they have the best opportunity at success as they can have.

Roquan Smith And Sony Michel 

Roquan, I wanted to ask you about your feelings about Jake Fromm when he first came into the program. It seems like he's kind of a galvanizing guy that people sort of are drawn to and got early respect, but I just wanted to get your take on Jake in that way. 

Roquan Smith: Yeah, I think he's a phenomenal guy, first-class guy. When he first got here, prior to him even being the starter, the way he carried himself was like a senior or something like that. It was pretty good, and just seeing what the guy has done is like -- hasn't surprised me one bit.

Roquan, I'm sure you didn't get to see the Alabama game last night, but I'm sure you've heard about how they dominated that game. Do you see Alabama maybe as an underdog since they were kind of the last team to get in this four-team playoff and obviously took it out on Clemson? 

Roquan Smith: No, I don't see them as an underdog, I see them as a team in the SEC, so in the SEC any team can win on any given Saturday, whatever day the game is. No, I don't look at them as an underdog.

How do you see Alabama? 

Roquan Smith: A great football team.

A lot has been made about Nick and Kirby's relationship, and Nick said earlier these games aren't about the coaches, but for players, do y'all kind of buy into any of the talk that it's master versus pupil kind of thing or just kind of seeing how the two coaches prepare for this game? 

Sony Michel: I believe it's more for Coach Smart and the Georgia football team as a whole. It's special for all-around players and coaches because we all work hard for the same goal in the off-season and throughout the season. In my opinion, I think it's special for the coaches and the players of the University of Georgia.

Roquan Smith: And my take, just piggy-backing off of what he said, I think it's very special for the university, the players, the coaches because everyone put in a lot of work throughout the year and just to say one particular group is excited or happy or something like that, I think that would be shorting itself. I definitely think it's a lot of excitement, and it's for more in the players and the coaches and the fan base and everyone else associated.

I wanted to ask you about the emotions that you had last night in the game and flying back to the other side of the country. What was today like, and is it going to be tough to kind of, I guess, have the right mindset? How much energy was spent, and how do you have to watch yourself and how do you prepare for this week? 

Sony Michel: We were very excited. I'm sure there's still a lot of excitement around this program in the building, but we won games around here, so we know how to handle situations like this. We know our task at hand. We've just got to move forward. We've got a big -- a good opponent we're about to face, so I'm sure this team, this coaching staff knows what we've got to focus on from here on.

Roquan Smith: I would say the same thing. There's a lot of excitement winning the Rose Bowl and whatnot, but the focus has to shift back to the bigger picture, and that's the National Championship game. I think everyone knows, and I think everyone knows that they have to shift their focus back.

I actually had one for each of you. Roquan, I'm wondering, I don't know how much chance you've had to see Jalen Hurts, but what kind of stands out to you about him because he can make plays both ways? 

Roquan Smith: Oh, definitely. I haven't seen like too much but more so was going to hone in on that today. But yeah, from like just seeing games and whatnot, I think he's a heck of an athlete, can beat you on the ground, and he has a pretty solid arm, as well, to give his receivers a chance to make a play on the ball, in the air, as well.

Sony, what have you seen from Alabama's run defense because that's obviously something over the years that they've prided themselves on a lot, and they did a pretty good job last night against Clemson's running game? 

Sony Michel: That's what Alabama is known for, page 5 of 6 having good run defense, just an overall good defense. I'm excited for the challenge. I'm sure this offense is, the team is, and I'm looking forward to it.

Talking about the emotion of that win and the logistics of getting back from California and back over here, are you guys in any way wiped out because of the emotional energy expended, and do you think there's any way that you won't be at 100 percent ready to go by the time you've got to play that game on Monday? 

Roquan Smith: Well, you know, that game happened -- there was a lot of excitement around and whatnot, but we just have to shift our focus back because the main thing is to win the National Championship, and we know that if we're not honed in and like doing everything we can in our power to prepare ourselves for that game, then we know we'll be shorting ourselves, but I definitely don't think -- I think we'll be 100 percent, though, for sure.

Sony Michel: Just to piggy-back off of that, the Rose Bowl, there was a lot of excitement, but our ultimate goal was to get to the National Championship, and I think that's everybody's focus. Everybody has shifted their focus onto that game, and I think everybody is prepared and ready to move on. I don't think any more energy was wasted on celebration. I think we celebrated enough, and we're kind of getting ready to move on to our next opponent.

Roquan, talking to Coach Kirby, he said you just didn't play Georgia defense in the first half, good as the Sooners were. Something really changed the second half when their offense was held to 10 points and then the overtimes. Was it a case of schemes changing or did you guys just try to dial the pressure and play with more intensity? And then for Sony, the 75-yard run last night, it looked very similar to the 77-yard run you had against Florida this year. Was it the same type play or the case of the offensive line opening that hole real quick? 

Sony Michel: That's the type of play, but we're a downhill team, so we run the ball. We've got plenty of plays running downhill, and our offensive line did a tremendous job blocking. Receivers did a tremendous job blocking downfield, and I think those guys just gave a lot of effort yesterday with their blocking, which made it so much easier for me to make that 75-yard run happen.

Roquan Smith: Yeah, I would say we definitely had to make some halftime adjustments and whatnot, but we knew going into the game that that was going to create some challenges for us on defense and a lot of things. We were just missing assignments in the first half, and they were just taking advantage of it. We know we can't afford to do that when we're facing a team like that. And then the second half we just had to come in -- it wasn't more so changing the scheme, it was more so just doing our scheme to the best of our ability, and once we did that, we figured out that we can actually stop those guys on offense, which we knew all along, but we didn't show that in the first half.

I don't know how much you guys can really talk about this yet, but with all the ties between the schools and everything, is it almost like playing a team that's a mirror image of yourself? 

Sony Michel: As far as comparisons, I would just say we play hard-nosed football.

Roquan Smith: I would say the same thing. Just two physical football teams. I wouldn't say -- we both do what we do different and whatnot, and we're just not the same, but I will say we both are very physical football teams and both protect the ball on the offensive side of the ball and play stingy defense.

College Football Playoff Alabama Media Teleconference

Nick Saban 

Well, first of all, our team is really excited about having the opportunity to play in the National Championship game. It's certainly a reward for all the hard work that the players and coaches have done all year long to give themselves this opportunity, and obviously playing against a really, really good fantastic Georgia team that has great balance and has played well on both sides of the ball all year. Kirby has done a fantastic job there. I do think, if you're asking me to make a comment about this turnaround, it's very difficult to come from a bowl game and just have seven days to prepare. I mean, they're coming from the West Coast; we're coming from New Orleans. Then we've got to be someplace else on Friday. I mean, this is -- I think that some kind of way, somebody has got to think about the players a little bit when it comes to these games and not just what's convenient for the media or TV or whatever.

I wanted to ask you about Kirby; what led you to hire him the first time you hired him? And what led you to continue hiring him for jobs?

Well, Kirby was young, and I think really what -- I like hiring young guys and helping them develop in our system and teaching them what we do. He was a secondary guy, and we were looking for a secondary coach. Some of the other coaches on the staff knew him. Will Muschamp and Derek Dooley recommended him highly. I was very impressed with him from day one. He was very bright. He learned quickly. I would hire him anytime, anywhere, on any staff based on the body of work that he did over the nine or ten years that he was with us. He did a fabulous job.

Obviously a lot of things have changed on the recruiting landscape, but what's the biggest thing you've maintained in your approach when you're trying to deal with bringing out-of-state talent into Alabama? 

Well, first of all, our philosophy really hasn't changed. We want to do a great job of recruiting our state, and then we want to do a great job of recruiting a five-hour radius from Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama. But then we also want to recruit the best players in the country that have an interest in our program, and our program is all about creating value for players, whether it's helping them be more successful in life through personal development, academic support, developing a career off the field or developing a career on the field as a football player. That philosophy really has not changed, and it's really what we work at.

On Jalen Hurts, seems like sometimes it's pretty hard to judge a quarterback based on stats because he didn't have great stats last night but seemed in command, running the offense well and making good decisions. Is that your take on his performance last night? 

Well, I think Jalen did a good job of controlling the tempo of the game, and I think that every player on our team would probably say that there were things that he could have done better in the game. You know, Clemson has got a really, really good defense. They put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. I think all in all, he handled it pretty well. But there were some things that I think we need to do better offensively, and I think that's a team thing, not just a quarterback thing.

How determined was he? What was his attitude kind of after the Auburn game when there probably were some other things he would have liked to have done better? 

Well, I think the entire team was sort of trying to reestablish the identity and didn't feel like we played like we wanted to play at Auburn, and I think everybody had to take ownership of that. I think our players did. I think that was more of a team thing than any one individual.

Is there any update on Anfernee Jennings, and if he's not able to play, who will you play at that outside linebacker spot? 

Well, we don't have complete medical information on either one of those guys. They're being evaluated today in Birmingham. You know, we'll let you know when we find out that information probably tomorrow. But you know, we have Christian and Terrell Lewis and page 1 of 6 Jamey Mosley has played before and some of the guys that had to play when the other guys were out got some valuable experience, so that's where we would go.

Obviously you've been in the league a long time, you're the dean, and you've always known Kirby better than anybody. Are you surprised at the rate at which he's gotten Georgia into this position, or is this kind of what you expected? 

Well, Georgia had a pretty good nucleus of players there. I think they won 10 games the year he took over. Now, he has done a fantastic job of bringing those players along, getting those players to play with discipline, getting them to play together. They play hard. They're very relentless, and I think this last game was sort of a reflection on the attitude that he's been able to instill to overcome adversity and come back in a game like they did against Oklahoma. They're playing extremely well, which is a reflection on his ability and his leadership to get everybody to buy in to doing things the way he wanted them done so that they could play at a very high level, and they certainly are. They have a lot of good players, and they're all playing at a very high level, and I think that's a compliment to the coach and the coaching staff.

Last evening after the win, you continually used the word ferocious to describe your defense's effort. When have you been more impressed with a team's preparation turned into an effort like that? 

I think there's only one that I remember, and that was when we played LSU in the championship game in New Orleans in I think it was 2011. I thought the defense played with sort of a ferocious, relentless sort of I-won't-be-denied attitude in the way they competed in the game. But I'd say those two probably rank up there with the best, best of them.

Bradley Bozeman told me earlier this week that Jonah Williams is maybe one of the fastest learners he's ever been around in terms of picking up stuff with the playbook. I was curious, is that something you saw in him when you were recruiting him? 

Well, Jonah is a very intelligent young man, and I think he's got all the right stuff when it comes to his disposition toward being successful, paying attention to detail, doing the little things right, and a combination of that and being a very intelligent guy, I think he's very aware and plays with a lot of intelligence out there, and he's a fast learner. I think that's helped his development, and that's probably why he was able to play so effectively for us last year as a freshman.

I wanted to ask about obviously not only did Kirby work for you for so long, but he obviously recruited a lot of the guys that you have. Do you feel like it gives him any kind of advantage because he sort of knows tendencies, and I know it's been two years removed, but do you think that gives him any kind of advantage or helps him out in terms of preparing for you all because he knows you guys so well? 

Well, I can't answer that. You know, I think it always is helpful when you know the other team's personnel. But systematically, especially on the defensive side of the ball, I don't think we're all that different in terms of what we do. So I really can't answer that. I think you're probably better off asking him.

When you look at the kind of game, talking about the guys up front, not only did they make the plays as far as the interception, but what would you say about the overall performance in being able to control that inside, the Clemson run game? 

Well, I thought our front guys played as well as they have all year in that game. They were very aggressive. They struck blockers out of their hips and controlled the line of scrimmage, and that enabled us to play the way we wanted to play in the back end, to be able to cover some of their passes and disguise and hopefully make it a little more difficult for the quarterback, and I think because of that, we got pretty good pressure on the guy, as well, rushing four guys. So I thought our front played as well as they had all year.

You mentioned the quick turnaround for both teams; would you like to see two weeks between the semifinal games and the final? 

No, not necessarily. I just think that it's a little bit different when you're playing in the season and you go to a game on Friday, you play on Saturday, you come home after the game. The players are kind of off on Sunday or some people do it differently and give them off on Monday and then you start the new week on Monday. But when you go to a bowl game and you're there for a week, it's really kind of hard to pack up and leave at 1:00 in the morning to get home. We spent the night and had to come back this morning, and this is like a regular Sunday preparation for us. I do think it's a little quicker turnaround for the players, and obviously a pretty quick preparation for both teams, as well. I don't think you need two weeks. I think just an extra day, just put a travel day in there.

About two SEC teams making the final, do you get a lot of satisfaction in that, the perception nationally that maybe the league was a little bit down this year?

Yeah, you know, I'm proud of the SEC, and I'm proud of the competition in our league, and I'm proud of the good teams that we have in our league. I certainly think that Georgia has an outstanding team, and I think that there were other very good teams in our league. You know, sometimes your team gets affected if you lose a quarterback like Mississippi State or something like that. You know, I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for the competition in our league, and I don't think there's any question about the fact that Georgia is maybe the best team in the country right now the way they're playing. It's going to be a real challenge for us to be able to stop them and be able to move the ball against them and play effectively.

How hard is it to maintain good relationships with former coworkers, former coaches that worked under you in this competitive coaching business when it can be kind of cutthroat in the recruiting business? 

Well, you know, look, you don't have to dislike somebody to compete against them. I have a lot of respect for all the guys that worked for me and the guys that did a great job for us when they worked on our staff. I'm happy to see them doing well wherever they go, and when we have to play against them, I'm sure they're doing everything they can to beat us for their team and their players, and we're going to do the same with our players. It's not personal. It's not personal. It's just you don't -- Dabo and I are very good friends, and he never worked for me, but we -- we certainly know each other really well. He played at Alabama, and there's a lot of guys out there that we've had to play against in the past. It's not personal. I mean, it's just -- I don't dislike the guy that you play against. You compete against him and do the best you can and want to do the best you can for your players on your team.

You mentioned about helping to develop young coaches in your system. I'm wondering about Glenn Schumann, kind of a behind-the-scenes guy with you over there, what you remember about his contribution to your program? 

Oh, he did a great job. Schu is a really bright guy, learned very quickly and made a great contribution in terms of his input, his knowledge, his work ethic. And I know even though he wasn't allowed to coach players, they all had a tremendous amount of respect for him, as well.

What do you make about your success against former assistants when you've gone up against them? 

Well, I don't think the game is about the coaches. I think it's about the players. And I think in most of those games if the other guy had the players that we had, they might have beat us. So it's not about the coaches. I mean, I didn't catch any passes. I didn't make any tackles last night. I didn't do any of that. I mean, the players did it all. You prepare the players the best you can, but we've had pretty good teams around here, and most of the guys were going to rebuild programs, so maybe we're a little bit ahead of them, and if they had had our team, they'd have probably beat us.

You recruited Jake; I think he was committed to you at one time. What do you remember about him as a high school quarterback? What did y'all see in him, and what do you look forward to seeing from him in this game? 

Well, we thought he was a fantastic player, very instinctive, very smart, makes great choices and decisions, doesn't -- always puts his team in the best play that they can be in. I think he does a lot of check-with-me's, which for a freshman quarterback probably demonstrates his knowledge of the game and preparation and intelligence. He's always been a -- was a fantastic passer and remains that way. We thought he was a great player. We had him in camp, and we were excited to have him be a part of our program, but we also understood when Kirby went to Georgia and Kirby was recruiting him that there was a chance of that happening.

There's talk about kind of you changing things up in practice this week, kind of reducing some of the workload on some of the players. Can you just talk about the mindset going into it, why you made that little change this week compared to maybe in previous years? 

Well, we had a little different schedule. The game was one day later. It has been on New Year's Eve. So we really only had four practices after Christmas, which was a normal week. So we didn't do any less work. We just spread it out over five days, I think. And sort of front-end loaded it a little bit so the players had a little less to do later in the week. We had practiced -- I think we practiced 12 total practices for that game. I think the players get a little tired of practicing sometimes and just wanted to change it up a little bit for them.

Your personal relationship with Tony Brown, obviously given his situation with his father, your own situation, what's it like seeing him succeed and the game he had this last game, and as a senior just step up the way he has? 

Well, you know, Tony has done a really good job for us, and when he has the right mindset, page 3 of 6 which we work really hard with him to try to keep him in the right place, he's done a really, really good job for us on special teams as well as a defensive back, and he did a nice job last night in the game in both those areas. We're proud of the progress that he's made, and hopefully he'll be able to continue and play with that consistency.

Da'Ron Payne

Da'Ron, what did you see from both Raekwon and Isaiah last night, and how well do you think you guys played as a whole in the defensive front? Coach Saban just said that was probably the best you guys have played all year. 

Well, I knew those guys, they were pumped up to go out there and compete. They had a really good week of practice, and they had their mindset straight when they went out there, and I was just excited to see them go out there and ball.

Da'Ron, Coach said that that was about as -- one of the most intense defensive efforts he's seen. How motivated were you guys given the way the last two Clemson games had gone and how proud this defense is? 

I think our defense, we had wanted to prove ourselves to the world because I think we felt a little disrespected, and I think all my fellow teammates, we just went out there and just tried to prepare and just listened to everything Coach had to say and just tried to do everything the right way. I think as a defense, we just went out there and executed the game plan and just tried to get after it.

What kind of challenge do you see -- you haven't faced too many running back tandems like Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. From what you've seen on TV or film, how good are those guys? 

Oh, they're some excellent backs. I think as a defensive front, we're just going to keep trying to create a new line of scrimmage up front and wreak havoc in the trenches and as a defense just like we did this week, keep being focused and just follow Coach Saban's game plan.

I know that Kirby was, I believe, your main recruiter or one of your main recruiters for Alabama. I was just curious what was it about your relationship with him or your connection with him that helped you sort of pick Alabama? 

My main recruiter was Coach Cristobal.

But it was Kirby who delivered your offer I thought, right?

I don't -- I really don't know.

Da'Ron, three-part question: Number one, how often did you guys practice that play? Two, how successful were you in catching it? And three, how much did you practice the toe tap that you did there because it looked like you had practiced that before? 

We practiced the play a couple times coming into the game. What was the other questions?

How many times did you catch it, and did you practice the toe tap? 

Oh, I caught it every time they threw it to me in practice, and the toe tap, I think that just came natural.

Jalen Hurts

Jalen, just how would you assess in terms of your play, obviously spreading the ball around, how would you assess your play, and did you know Payne had those kind of feet to keep his feet inbounds on a play like that? 

I think we did a good job offensively. Obviously there are some areas that we can improve, do a little better job of executing and just doing the little things right. But obviously we did enough to get the win, and Payne does have great hands and great feet.

I'd like to ask what you thought about all the criticism that the SEC was down this year, now that you've got two teams in the finals.

Well, I always say everything happens for a reason. Regardless of what's been said, I think everything happened the way it was supposed to happen, and I think we have two really good teams playing for the National Championship.

Did you think the league was down at all?

I don't think the league is ever down. I mean, we always have a lot of talent in the SEC, a lot of guys capable of making those -- a lot of teams capable of making long runs and having good seasons, so I think it's a very competitive league.

My question is for Jalen regarding the Georgia defense. I don't know how much film you guys have had a chance to look at, but what have you seen out of them that you guys are really preparing for in practice this week?

Well, you know, just off the top of my head, I can tell you that they're fast. They play really physical. You know, kind of try to have the same mindset that we have defensively, and they do it well. They're really good, and we're going to have to be ready to play against them.

Jalen, obviously we saw up on the stage last night you and Nick with the hats backwards and all that. I was kind of curious, how much does that speak to how he's evolved as a coach and just his relationship with the players, that he's more comfortable now than maybe he was just even a year ago doing something like that?

I think he's gotten comfortable, I page 5 of 6 guess, kind of being able to connect with his players. I actually asked him, I asked him if he liked the way my hat was, and he said I looked like a gangster, so he didn't want to wear his hat like that. But Coach Saban has always been one to evolve and be able to connect with his players and build a great relationship with his players.

Jalen, I'm pretty sure you've noticed that media and fans and everybody on social media have liked to kind of analyze your performances, whether you were really good or whatever. How critical are you? Do you kind of watch what you do good or do you watch what you do bad? How do you evaluate your own performances, especially last night's?

Well, I'm my biggest critic. I've said it plenty of times before. Nobody can be more critical on me than I can myself, and the biggest thing is just being able to learn from experiences and being able to fix them in the future. So like every game, we try and learn from the mistakes and get better at them and not make them again.

Does it amuse you at all or bother you that you're so analyzed by people that probably don't know what's going on around you?

That's probably the nature of the beast. It comes with it, and my job is to win football games here and handle things the appropriate way.

Georgia Post Game Quotes

Kirby Smart: 

First off I'd like to thank the Tournament of Roses College Football Playoff Committee. They've done a tremendous job hosting both teams. This is a really unbelievable atmosphere. To think about both sides, both fan bases did a tremendous job. I want to give a lot of compliments to Oklahoma. You know, Coach Riley does a great job. Lincoln has been a problem for a lot of defenses, and he created a lot for us tonight. He does a really good job.

But our kids are so resilient. They never stopped chopping wood. They kept fighting. They believed. There were offensive players affecting defensive players in the locker room at halftime and they kept fighting. We didn't play the way we were capable of, but the best news is we get a chance to play again. So I'm really proud of the fight, the resiliency of our seniors and our fan base. 

I also want to say this, guys. The Tournament of Roses people have been tremendous here. They do a great job with this. We got treated with the utmost respect all week, and they really catered to our players and they absolutely enjoyed this event. And that was win or lose, they got a class act and they do it the right way. Thank you, guys.

The other day we asked Roquan could you guys imagine winning a game like 48 to 45, and he laughed and said it would probably give you a heart attack. So you're obviously thrilled that you guys won, but is a part of you like dead on the inside as a defensive guy that you gave up 48 points? 

Yeah, I'm really disappointed and upset. I didn't think we played to the level that we're capable of. I do think that the players fought, and they are a good offensive football team, but, man, we stunk it up and played really bad. I want to give a lot of kudos to the offense for staying behind us and fighting, and the defensive players for doing that. 

It looked like things changed in the third quarter when you kind of went to a four-three instead of a three-four? 

Yeah, I wouldn't say it was that simple. I can't sit here and say we did that exclusively. We did play a little more four down in the second half. But I don't know that was it. I really just think the emotion in the players settled down and played with a little more discipline and a little more passion and energy. It wasn't like there was a magic sprinkle dust. We called the same defenses we called in the first half. We just played them better. We didn't even get them to third down in the first half, I don't think, once. It's not indicative of who we are, and we've got to do a better job as coaches to put our players in a successful situation, and that's my most disappointing thing that I didn't do a good job.

Jake Fromm has played well for you all season long, but how impressed were you with the way he performed today, especially with all the pressure on, down a couple scores, never seemed to be rattled. Made some huge plays, scrambling around making touchdown throws, how impressed were you that a true freshman can play that well on a stage this big? 

I think when you've got 1 and 27 it makes it a little more doable. You've got 6 and fives outside and some good people around him. But Jake continues to grow as a player. He puts us in the right play. He makes good decisions with the ball, he protects the ball. He does a lot of good things, and I'm really proud of his growth. I think the kid has a bright future. As long as you have a good run game and the offensive line creates running lanes for 1 and 27, it's hard to play defense against these two guys. I mean, it's tough. 

It seemed like the game either changed or momentum swung your way significantly with the run for the roses that Nick had, that 50-yard run. Your emotions during that time? 

Just proud. I mean, look, 27-1, that put this team on their shoulders, and all they do is do it right. They come to all the meetings. They're in special teams meetings, they compete. To see them racing down the field, I mean, it really embodies what this team is about. They say adversity kind of reveals character. I think it exposes character, for sure. We found out we've got a pretty good character team. 

Sony Michel:

Sony, could I ask you what it was like on that last run? Did it seem like a fast run, a slow run? Could you get to the goal? Was it any faster than that? What was going through your heart and mind when you realized you had won the game? 

 I mean, when the play was called, everybody just looked each other in the eyes. There were 11 guys just executing the play, and everybody did their job. It was successful for us. 

What was going through your mind? 

I mean, when I scored a touchdown, I knew it was over. We finally get a chance to play for something big.

Kirby Smart: But if it was a measure of heart attack, I'd be on the Rector scale pretty high.

Sony, was there anything particular that you or Nick saw in the Oklahoma defense that you took advantage of? You guys had a really big game running. 

We just wanted to play our style of football. Oklahoma has a great defense. They created a lot of three-and-outs for us. We just had to keep pounding. We had faith in each other, and all 11 guys on offense just kept grinding. 

Sony, you had a 38-yard touchdown run. It looked like before the run you said something to Jake like changing the play. What was it you said to him and what did you see? 

Just clarification of what the play was. He called the play. I was just making sure that was the right play.

Kirby Smart: One of them was on the shot clock. He told him to hurry up. 

Roquan Smith: 

Roquan, at halftime Kirby said he thought you guys just needed to settle down. That you were playing a little nervous. Did you feel that? Did you feel you were maybe just overly hyped? 

I don't exactly know what the feeling was. I just knew it wasn't playing to our style and whatever that was. So we had to make those adjustments, and we did. We played a little better in the second half. But not to our standard. We expected that from a great Oklahoma team. 

Kirby and Roquan, you guys were lit up pretty good in the first half but not in the second half, where you had ten possessions in the second half and scored ten points. What did you do differently? You really got after Baker. He didn't have time to throw much in the second half. What was different after halftime? 

Kirby Smart: We played with passion, we played with energy, we played with enthusiasm. We ran to the ball better. We tackled a little better, and we played a little more aggressive. 

Roquan Smith: It was just the halftime adjustments, we had to come in, we knew we were going to face adversity throughout the game, and we had to make those adjustments and just come out and play with a little more passion.

Oklahoma Post Game Quotes

LINCOLN RILEY: 

Yeah, it's tough to describe right now. It's a hell of a college football game. You know, an epic Rose Bowl Game. You know, being on this side of it is difficult to describe, the disappointment, the hurt that we feel, that those guys in that locker room feel right now. Some of them came in telling me sorry and telling us sorry, and I said don't tell us you're sorry. Our team put it on the line. They laid it on the line every snap.

We weren't perfect. We did a lot of really good things on both sides of the ball, but we certainly weren't perfect. Had some opportunities, let the game get back a little bit closer there in the third quarter, and at that point it became -- it was going to come down to one play here or there, and it did.

But it's been a great run. The senior class has been tremendous. I mean, to win three straight Big 12 Championships, being in this College Football Playoff twice, and then just, especially this year, there are a lot of reasons this team could have turned the wrong direction. From the coaching change, the Iowa State loss, just all the things that this team had to battle through, and I'm proud to be their coach. It's been a great, great season, and I think we'll set the stage for even bigger things here in the next few years. So we'll go to questions from there.

If you could pick out one thing among a number of things that you'll never forget or that really haunt you, the squib kick at halftime or them getting pressure on Baker or something, the field goal? What really eats at you maybe more than anything? 

I don't know that there's one thing. Just that we had an opportunity to win the game. We had some -- we'd separate ourself a little bit there in the first half and weren't able to maintain it. Probably just overall as a team how we played there coming out of halftime. We just didn't put our best foot forward.

But, look, give Georgia credit. There's a reason they're in this game too. They're a very, very talented team. But, no, I will never say one play in particular. There is no one play that lost this game for us or won it for Georgia. There was a ton of good plays on both sides of the ball, and they made one more than we did. 

It looked like you had a lot of trouble protecting after halftime. What was the difference between the first half offensive, particularly the passing game, and then the second half where you didn't have a lot of time to do much? 

Yeah, I think early in the half we didn't run it as well. We got a little one-dimensional. I probably hung our guys out there a little bit too much, especially against a talented front. They're going to get there sometimes. They're good up front. We are too. We move the ball on them like nobody has even close all season. But they're a good defense.

Eventually they were going to make some plays, and they did. I've got to protect our guys a little bit better. But, again, it was a great battle. Both sides made a lot of great plays. 

The squib kick at halftime, you brought that up. Did the team just lose some momentum there? What happened in the third quarter, because you dominated the first half? 

Yeah, I mean, I don't know that we necessarily lost momentum. That probably gave them a little bit of juice. They were able to steal three points on us. It was a good call. And Austin's been great with those. He just didn't hit it well and ended up going right to their guy, which that's the one thing you can't do and we did.

Then they did a good job of executing. It was kind of right there on the edge of do they throw a Hail Mary or not, and we certainly didn't want to give up the Hail Mary, so we went into a defense against that. He made a nice throw on the out ball and the guy made a bomb. So, yeah, give them credit. Gave them a little bit of juice, and then, yeah, we just didn't play well though early in the second half. That was the stretch of the game that I was probably most disappointed in.

I think in overtime you threw into the end zone once with arguably the best player in the country. It got intercepted and you got a break on the offsides. Could you have been more aggressive as a play caller in overtime? 

We didn't get a break. We knew it was offsides. But, yeah, sure I'll look back at it, and there will be calls that I wish I would have done different. You know, I've never had a game, even the ones that have went incredibly well, where there wasn't some of that.

So you do the very best you can in that moment. I called the plays at that time that I thought were the very best, and, yeah. Will there be ones that I want to have back? Yeah. But, again, you learn from those, but I'm not going to dwell on them. You call enough plays, you're going to call some bad ones, so -- but we laid it all on the line, coaches and players. 

You and Baker have had so much success over the last few years leading this program. What will you guys cherish the most about being able to lead this program? 

Yeah, it's a little difficult to summarize right now. It's been a great run. It's been an historic run. He's been a big part of it, as have all the players. I just told them I appreciate how much they bought in and had my back all year. I made plenty of mistakes and they helped our team overcome them the entire year.

I love him, love the rest of these guys. It's been a hell of a run. One we'll be proud of for a long, long time.

When you have a big lead and there is a lot to lose in a championship game like this, a championship setting, do you have to battle the desire to not -- to coach to not lose? In other words, you have to battle against conservative play calling or prevent defense or going -- not going for it on third down versus a field goal, that kind of thing?

No, I've never felt that at all. I think you just try in each individual situation to do the best thing for your team to win that game. We were still plenty aggressive at times when we thought it was appropriate. We've been able to win a lot of games around here, and hey, again, are there ones I wish I could have back? Sure. I've never had a game where there wasn't. But there was never a time where we were thinking conservative. We were always thinking how are we going to win this thing, and felt like we would until the last snap. 

Was part of the thinking that that still just gets you first down? That doesn't guarantee a touchdown?

Sure, yeah, if it had been on the same thing, it had been on the 1-yard line, I probably would have went for it. But, yeah, I just didn't think -- I didn't think the risk was worth the reward, and plus, that's kind of their most-talented point right there is kind of stopping short-yardage runs. They're pretty good at it. And our kicker's good, so that's why I did it. 

Coach, how close were you to going for it on that 4th and 1 in the first overtime, and why didn't you? 

I was close. I was close. I went back and forth on it a little bit, and I had a lot of confidence in Austin like I have here the second half of the season. Then we had just held them to a field goal, I think, defensively, so I felt good about the second run at it. I don't know. My gut said to kick it, and we did, and we made it. 

BAKER MAYFIELD:

You spent a lot of time on the field after the game talking to teammates, Georgia players, the fans. What was that like for you?  

Obviously I would have liked to have been on the other side of things, but I was taking in the last moments with my teammates and also trying to find Jake Fromm. You know, the true freshman that led his team to a playoff victory. You don't typically see that. He's an incredible player. You can tell he commands his offense and he has respect of his teammates. For me, that's about the greatest character trait you could have. Just told him to go win the whole thing. Got a lot of respect for him and keep working hard.

For him, I think the sky's the limit.

Can you talk about how you felt tonight? I mean, didn't start out in the half well in the third quarter, and then you had the 22-yard run and got that drive going. Was there any fatigue that was abnormal for you going through what you went through this week? 

No, no, no. I felt fine. Just, quite frankly, just missed throws. Didn't make the throws I normally make and that showed.

It looked like you had a lot of trouble protecting after halftime. What was the difference between the first half offensive, particularly the passing game, and then the second half where you didn't have a lot of time to do much? 

No, they blitzed a lot more on the first and second down. For us -- for me, it's getting the ball out of my hands out to the guys open. We had people open, and like Coach Riley said, they had some good up front. It wasn't like we were just blowing assignments. They have good players. 

You and Lincoln have had so much success over the last few years leading this program. What will you guys cherish the most about being able to lead this program? 

Being with the best coach in the country. There is a reason I'm sitting here today. There's a reason we've won three Big 12 titles in a row and that I've put myself in a good position going forward in the future. There's a reason our team's in the playoffs this year. Words can't describe what he's meant to me and for the other guys, it's the same. 

Baker, they had that big run there in the third quarter, and it looked like they might run away with it. You guys went, I think, 90 yards or so, really, in three plays. What was going through your mind during that sequence and what happened there? And after you get the scoop and score, you're probably feeling pretty good at that point?

Yeah, no, we talked about it. We just need to do our job, and that was going to be good enough. We let them back in the game and made a costly error on the interception in our own territory and they scored.

So we needed to respond, and we did just that. The defense made a great play. So then that lit a fire on our sideline, had the energy back, and we were back in the game. 

You've obviously been a great leader for this program the last few years. In the coming days, what do you think you'll say to the young guys that are coming back, and how do you feel about the future of this program?

They're in great hands. Got the best coach in the country. I think they have the best coaching staff as well. We've had a lot of young guys that have impacted our team this year, and them coming here and having experience, knowing what it takes. Also having this sick taste in your mouth of getting this close but not finishing, that's going to motivate them. They're going to be just fine. Yeah, love to have it back, but they're going to be just fine. I guarantee they finish it up the right way in the next couple of years. 

You talked about how you were feeling physically during the game, but can you talk to us about your emotions while you were taking that final lap around the field and kind of what you're feeling right now? 

Oh, I can't believe it's over. It's been a wild ride.
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO:

What was so tough about stopping Michel and Chubb tonight? Was it anything the offensive line was doing for Georgia? They're obviously very talented runners?  

I mean, they're talented backs. You know, they're really good guys. We knew that going in. They're going to make plays. You know there's only so much you can do. You know those guys play divisional football too.
 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Dawgs Win Rose Bowl Thriller in 2OT, 54-48

UGA Sports Communications

A blocked field goal opened the door for a game-winning score in the Dawgs’ 54-48 double overtime Rose Bowl victory against the No. 2-seeded Oklahoma Sooners Monday evening at the Rose Bowl Stadium.

Oklahoma offense went first in the second overtime and got to the 10-yard line for a 27-yard field goal attempt. The outstretched hand of senior linebacker Lorenzo Carter blocked the field goal to set the stage for a game-winning score. The second play of Georgia’s series was the game-winner as senior running back Sony Michel got the corner and sprinted 27 yards into the end zone.

Georgia, seeded No. 3, advances to face the winner of the other CFP semifinal matchup in the CFP National Championship game on Monday, January 8th, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

“What a game,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “What an atmosphere. My heart goes out to the Oklahoma team, because they played their tail off. And so did ours. Nobody ever quit and everybody fought hard. I’m so proud of these kids. The seniors never quit. This is a great university and these kids fought their tail off.”

The Dawgs amassed 527 total yards with 317 on the ground and 210 through the air. Michel, the offensive player of the game, finished with 181 rushing yards and three touchdowns, while also adding 41 yards on four receptions and a score. Senior back mate Nick Chubb collected 145 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Jake Fromm went 20-of-29 for 210 yards and two touchdowns, while becoming just the second true freshman to start the Rose Bowl game. Fromm’s most frequent target was senior Javon Wims who finished with 73 yards on six catches and a touchdown

Defensively, junior linebacker Roquan Smith collected a team-leading 11 tackles including a key 3rd-down tackle in the first period of overtime and was awarded defensive player of the game. Georgia tallied five sacks with single sacks coming from Jonathan Ledbetter, David Marshall, Tyler Clark and D’Andre Walker. Senior safety Dominick Sanders had a third-quarter interception that led to the Dawgs’ third touchdown in the second half.

Georgia trailed 31-17 at halftime as the game featured both teams with over 250 total yards of offense and six total touchdowns. Redshirt sophomore placekicker Rodrigo Blankenship drilled a Rose Bowl record 55-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

Storming out of the break, the Dawgs defense forced a Sooner 3-and-out and then scored on their first play. Nick Chubb fought off multiple would-be tacklers for a 50-yard touchdown run which put him over the 100-yard rushing mark. Sophomore return specialist Mecole Hardman helped set up the favorable field position with a 21-yard punt return.

The equalizer at 31-all came in the last minute of the third quarter when Michel took a 3rd-and-7 handoff 38 yards for his third touchdown of the game. On Oklahoma’s next possession, Sanders intercepted an overthrow by Baker Mayfield and returned it 39 yards to the four-yard line. Two plays later, Georgia obtained its first lead of the game with a 4-yard pass and catch from Fromm to Wims.

Next it was Oklahoma’s turn to tie it as Mayfield found Dimitri Flowers in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown pass. The score notched it a 38-all with 8:47 left in regulation. The Sooners then recaptured the lead shortly after on a 46-yard scoop-and-score off a Michel fumble.

Trailing by 45-38 with 3:22 left in regulation, Fromm methodically marched the Dawgs for the game-tying touchdown drive that spanned seven plays and 59 yards. On the drive, Fromm was 3-for-4 passing for 48 yards. A defensive pass interference in the end zone put Georgia at the goal line and Chubb ran it in on a direct snap.

Georgia forced two Oklahoma punts in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter to send the game into extra time and eventually outlasting the Sooners.

38 and 27

The numbers don't lie.

1942 Dawgs play in the Rose Bowl and win the National Championship.

38 years later.....

1980 Dawgs win the National Championship.

38 years later.....

2018 Dawgs play in the Rose Bowl and now play for the National Championship

Nick Chubb's 27....

The field goal attempt blocked in overtime by the Dawgs was a 27 yard attempt.

Sony Michel's winning TD run was for 27 yards.

If that's not enough, 2018 in the Chinese Zodiac is "The Year Of The Dog."

Post Game Notes

UGA Sports Communications
Overtime: With tonight’s 54-48 victory, Georgia (13-1) ties a school record with its 13th win of the season (2002 team went 13-1). The Dawgs are now 8-5 overall in overtime including 3-1 in bowl games. Before tonight, the last OT game for the Dawgs came in 2015 as Georgia beat Ga. Southern 23-17. The last Dawg bowl game in OT was 2012 Outback when #12 Michigan State edged #18 Georgia 33-30 in triple-OT. 

Tonight, senior Lorenzo Carter blocked a field goal in the second overtime as Georgia took over with a chance for the win and ultimately Sony Michel scampered in 27 yards for the game-winning TD, his fourth of the night, a Georgia bowl record for Points (24) and TDs (4). Roquan Smith (LB) and Sony Michel (RB) were the Players of the Game for the offense and defense. 

Bowl History: This was Georgia’s second-ever appearance in the Rose Bowl after posting a 9-0 win over UCLA in the 1943 Rose Bowl to win a national title. Georgia made its 22nd consecutive appearance in a bowl game and owns an overall record of 31-19-3 in bowl games.

Defense Faced Stiff Test and then OT: The Dawgs came in ranked 3rd nationally in Scoring Defense, allowing only 13.2 points a game while the Oklahoma Sooners led the nation in Total Offense (583.3 yards a game) and 4th nationally in Scoring at 44.9 ppg. At the half, OU had built a 31-17 advantage, outgaining Georgia 360 to 291. It was the most first half points allowed by the Dawgs since Ole Miss carried a 31-0 lead to halftime in Oxford last season. This year, Missouri was the only other team to put at least 21 points on the Dawgs in the first half this year as Georgia led 34-21. OU was forced to punt for the first time on its fifth possession. OU finished regulation with 45 points and 512 yards of offense on 73 plays and ended up with 531 yards on 81 plays and 48 points.

In the second half, Georgia forced OU to punt on its first three possessions and forced an interception on its fourth (snagged by Dominick Sanders, his school record-tying 16th of his career) and bolstered by a 50-yard TD run by Chubb and a 34-yard TD scamper by Michel, the Dawgs had tied the contest at 31 with 41 seconds left in the third quarter. It was Michel’s third TD of the game (2 rushing, 1 receiving) to tie a Dawg bowl record for Points Scored and TDs held by tailbacks Rodney Hampton (1989 Gator vs. Michigan State and Robert Edwards, 1998 Outback vs. Wisconsin). Sanders returned it to the OU four and Georgia eventually scored (4-yard TD pass Fromm-Wims) to take its first lead at 38-31 with 13:57 left in the contest. Sanders already owns the school record for interception return yards and today’s 39-yarder gives him 381 for his career, which is 2nd in SEC history.

OU tied it at 38 with 8:47 left in the game on a six-play, 88-yard drive and took the lead on a fumble return TD in the 4th quarter. Dawg junior WLB Roquan Smith, who came in with a team-best 113 tackles on the year, had a team-high 10 tackles while senior Lorenzo Carter had nine. Also, the Dawgs registered five sacks.

Rushing Into History: Senior Nick Chubb tallied 145 rushing yards on only 14 carries while senior Sony Michel had a career high 181 yards on just 11 carries with a Georgia bowl record four total TDs. Chubb came in already second in SEC history in rushing yards, trailing only Dawg legend Herschel Walker (5,259). Also, Chubb and Michel already rank No. 2 and 3 in school history for rushing yards. Chubb now has 4,744 career yards while Michel now has 3,540 yards.

Michel’s 75-yard rushing TD was the longest in Georgia bowl history, eclipsing Kent Lawrence’s 74-yarder in the 1966 Cotton Bowl and Robert Edwards 74-yarder in the 2000 Outback Bowl. It cut the deficit to 21-14. Also on that TD run, Michel went over 1,000 yards for the season and marked the second time in his career he has done that. Michel and Chubb became the first Dawg duo to register 1,000-rushing yards in the same season. Michel’s 75-yarder today was the longest TD run of the year and longest by a Dawg for a score since Nick Chubb went 83 yards against Alabama in 2015.

In the second half, Chubb’s first carry resulted in a 50-yard TD scamper to trim the deficit to 31-24.

It was the second time this year that Chubb and Michel had 100 yards each in a game, also doing it at Vanderbilt. Chubb added a two-yard TD to tie the game at 45 with 55 seconds left. Georgia’s five rushing TDs gave it a school record 41 on the ground for the season.

Final Numbers For Fromm: True freshman Jake Fromm completed 12-of-17 passes for 109 yards and 1 TDs, directing the offense that finished the first half with 291 yards on 28 plays but trailed 31-17. Georgia tallied 182 rushing yards. OU won the toss and elected to defer the ball until the second half. They forced Georgia to punt after gaining 24 yards and one first down. Senior Javon Wims was the leading receiver with six for 73 yards. Fromm finished 20-of-29 for 210 yards and 2 TDs with no INTs.

Fromm is now 2-1 when the Dawgs face a halftime deficit, winning at #24 Notre Dame 20-19 (trailed 13-10) and lost at #10 Auburn 40-17 (trailed 16-7) and tonight, Georgia was down 31-17 and went to overtime where it won 54-48.

Blankenship Booms 55-Yarder: Redshirt sophomore Rodrigo Blankenship set a Georgia bowl record with a career-best 55-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to cut the deficit to 31-17. He was 1-for-2 in the first half on field goals and had 2 PATs. His previous long was a 49-yarder at Kentucky in 2016 and versus Miss. State in 2017. The previous long field goal by a Dawg in a bowl game was 52 yards in the 2008 Sugar Bowl by Brandon Coutu. Blankenship added a 38-yard field goal in overtime for a 48-45 lead.

Points to Ponder: The Dawgs came in today averaging 34.9 points a game including ranking 4th in the nation in Red Zone Offense, going 48-for-50 with 35 touchdowns. In regulation, Georgia finished 3-for-3 in the Red Zone with three TDs Meanwhile OU was 6-for-6 in the Red Zone, scoring 34 points.

Points Off Turnovers: Georgia is now +5 in Turnover Margin, scoring 84 points off 19 turnovers. The Dawgs got seven points off one Sooner miscue. Opponents have forced 14 turnovers and turned them into 48 points. OU forced a Sony Michel fumble and it was returned for a TD to give OU a 45-38 edge with 6:52 left. It was Georgia’s first turnover since the Kentucky game on Nov. 18

For Starters: Senior strong safety Dominick Sanders made his 52nd career start which ties the record for most in school history for non-kickers, joining QBs David Greene (52 from 2001-04) and Aaron Murray (52 from 2010-13). PK Blair Walsh started a record 53 games from 2008-11. On offense, a trio of seniors made their 39th career start today in Jeb Blazevich (TE), Nick Chubb (TB) and Isaiah Wynn (LT).

Captains: Today’s captains were seniors Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Isaiah Wynn and junior Roquan Smith.

Up Next: Georgia (13-1) advances to the CFP National Championship game against either No. 1 Clemson or No. 4 Alabama. The CFP title game will be Monday, January 8th in Atlanta in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.