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January 1, 2014

Aggies discuss comeback win over Duke

Here's the transcript of the press conference held by coach Kevin Sumlin, quarterback Johnny Manziel and defensive back Toney Hurd Jr. after Texas A&M's 52-48 win over Duke in the Chick-fil-a Bowl New Year's Eve:

COACH SUMLIN: It's New Year's. Let's get questions and get going.

Q. It was obviously a tale of two halves. How were you able to keep them out of the end zone in the second half?
COACH SUMLIN: We missed a bunch of one-on-one situations I thought. Playaction pass got us. Some deep balls, some missed tackles. We had a little bit of a discussion at halftime about doing your job, not trying to do everything, take over the whole thing in one big chunk, but play each play, do your job, be accountable, be accountable to the next man.
As a coach, I think you get two of the greatest compliments you can be given is if your team plays hard and doesn't ever quit. That kind of leadership comes from the locker room and the guys that are on the field.
These guys, what we talked about at halftime was don't go back out there unless you think you're going to win the game. That belief, looking at each other in the eye, counting on the next guy, I couldn't be happier for the win, accomplished what this senior group has accomplished, something that you'll never be able to take away from them, a story that has set a tone for this program, winning 20 games in two seasons, moving to a new league, getting a new coach, the whole bit. It's a tribute to the players.

Q. You said you had a meeting on the sidelines. What was said?
JOHNNY MANZIEL: The whole thing all night was, Don't quit. We got down really big. But the main thing I kept stressing to everybody, offense, defense, special teams, kickoff, whatever it was, Don't look at the scoreboard, don't look up. No reason to do it. The game is 0-0. I kept trying to reiterate to them we worked hard, fought all year, specifically talking to the offense, it all starts with them up front. You guys are dogs. You worked hard all year, you're the strength of our offense. You need to start pushing some guys around. And I think they did a great job.
With the receivers I said, Continue to make plays. We're close. We were just a little bit off I felt in the first half. We settled down, stopped really pressing. I don't know how many incompletions we had in the second half, but it wasn't many. I know that.

Q. One.

JOHNNY MANZIEL: One.

Q. What is it like to be part of the biggest comeback in Texas A&M history?

I don't know. It's an unreal feeling, I know that. I know the way these guys fought, unreal how proud I am of them, biggest comeback in school history. Wow.

TONEY HURD, JR.: I mean first and foremost, I want to take my hats off to my coach and my teammates. We had a lot of adversity in the first half and we found a way to bounce back. It's a blessing.

Q. What happened on the touchdown pass to Labhart?

We had a little playaction bubble pass out. I didn't get a very good look. Tyrell told me it was an easy touchdown. I think the way things go down, I could make it a little bit harder.
When I left my feet originally, I thought I was in trouble because somebody from Duke was staring up at me. I don't know what happened. I kind of shot backwards, bounced off of somebody, got out of there and looked out and saw Lab sitting wide open.

COACH SUMLIN: That's coaching (laughter).

Q. Were you surprised at all finding yourself way down?

COACH SUMLIN: I said this all week, I told these guys, you get to this time of year, you don't have bad football teams. You don't beat Miami and Virginia Tech, Carolina, win 10 games luckily. David Cutcliffe and his staff did a great job. That is a really, really well-prepared, well-coached, well-disciplined football team.
That being said, you give them credit for their execution, how they played, how they came out. We had a little meeting with everybody, I think it's called a meeting. I thought we pressed early. I think we were just a little bit off, and they were on. That's a tribute to how they approached the game. They were prepared.
'Surprised' would not be the word. I said all week, you guys don't know me that much, but guys around me, if I say I think a team's good, I'm going to tell you. If I don't, that won't come out of my mouth.

JOHNNY MANZIEL: For me, I think the biggest thing was, when I came away from that game, I'll speak about this forever, I think that team plays with more heart than anybody in the entire country. I think those guys they have on their team, they play for Coach Cutcliffe and they played for their coaches and for their fans and university maybe harder than anybody in the country. It really was unreal to see how much passion, fire, energy they did coming into that game. It was pretty darn good.
It was a real credit to them how they played today. It was pretty darn good.

Q. What were you saying to your teammates on the sideline?

JOHNNY MANZIEL: Biggest thing that I kept stressing, Don't give up. No matter how dark it gets, if they come out, score, go for two, whatever the score got to, never stop quitting. I won't stop quitting on those guys. They won't quit on me. That was it, settle down, no matter what.

TONEY HURD, JR.: As a team we came out and each and every one of us was a man. We just stepped up in the end and made plays when it counted, came out with a W.

Q. How big of a win was this for your program?

COACH SUMLIN: It's big. You get confidence from a situation like this, particularly from where we were at halftime, the atmosphere, the stage, national TV. I said at the end of the game, for the seniors it's a big deal, for them moving on, setting the tone. But for our young guys who played a lot of football this year, got on the stage like the one tonight, national television with everybody watching and responding, not quitting, that really sets the tone for things to come.
A bunch of those freshmen that played a lot this year, they're going to have to draw on these experiences and get better and be leaders for us going into next year.

Q. Toney, can you walk us through the interception?

TONEY HURD, JR.: Our front seven got a little bit of pressure. The number one receiver ran a slant. I saw the ball come out of his hands. The rest is history. It was a great play.

Q. Can you explain how it feels to make a play to win a game when the offense has carried the team this year?

TONEY HURD, JR.: It's a great feeling. Not only Johnny, but the entire offense. Coach Spav and Coach McKinney throughout the whole season have dialed up great plays. It's fun to be exact.

On defense, we have to step up, make plays. It's fun to be able to watch our offense make plays each and every game, as well.

Q. (Question regarding the NFL.)

JOHNNY MANZIEL: I feel like they dared us to beat one-on-one coverage a little bit. They like to play some man in the NFL, I know that. We did a great job in the second half. Our receivers ran great routes. They continued to get open. Just tried to put it on them as much as I could.

One incompletion in a whole half of football, that's a pretty good deal by both me, I guess, and the receivers. But mainly in the second half it was up front, those guys were unreal.

Q. Can you talk about the emotional outbursts from Mike Evans?

JOHNNY MANZIEL: This is uncharacteristic of Mike. This is not Mike. A little bit out of his element, a little bit out of his comfort zone. He was just a little frustrated. Tried to settle him down. If anybody could kind of come to him and settle him down and get him out of that little zone he was in, I felt like I might have been the person to do it. He's a guy that I've roomed with all year. He's a guy I love like a brother. Tried to settle him down and get him to be the guy that he is, the incredible receiver he is.

Q. Talk about your career at Texas A&M.

JOHNNY MANZIEL: Unreal. To be with Coach Sumlin, have him come in, didn't expect him to be there when I first came there, that's for sure. But it was unreal how things played out in my career so far at Texas A&M. It's been a blessing for sure to have Coach Sumlin, guys like Coach Kingsbury and Coach Spav, everybody on the staff that does a great job week in, week out, making sure we're prepared, making sure our goal is to put partnerships up on the board and they have the game plan to do it.

Most of all I'm extremely proud to have played on the offensive line with guys like Luke, Jake ... Everybody on offense the past two years, it's been unreal towards me, they've been awesome towards me. They've helped me get to where I am today. Without them I wouldn't be anything.

Q. Can you talk about Travis Labhart and what he's meant to the team?

COACH SUMLIN: Here is a guy who we gave a scholarship to during fall camp. Nobody even knew who he was. He has a couple hundred yard games. I'll be honest with you, it is offensive guys kept talking about him during camp. Particularly this guy over there (Manziel). He said, Put Lab in the game.

I'm like, What? We recruited the number one receiver class in the country last year, and you want me to put Lab in the game?

That says a lot. He's a guy that really represents our university, really represents Texas A&M. Here is a guy that was basically playing with the women's basketball team, helping them as a scout team for the women's basketball team. Then he comes over, he's a scout team guy for our football team. Now he's got a couple hundred yard games. What did he do tonight? 76. I think he gives hope to everybody. A guy that works at it, didn't quit, plays extremely hard.

I think when you recruit, you try to recruit at the level we recruit at, I think there's always room for that guy. That's why we put him on scholarship during fall camp. That was money well spent, obviously. That's a great reward for him.

Q. Can you talk about the changes made by Coach Spavital tonight?

COACH SUMLIN: I don't know. I thought our game plan was good. We incorporated some other players. Cam Clear got a few more touches at tight end. Added him really in the formations a little bit more. All our running backs did a nice job. Our Oline did a nice job.

We were probably a little bit more multiple with utilizing different formations and multiple players. Whenever you do that, you have an opportunity to really heighten the energy level because more people are playing.

I think, you know, you like to see that with Cam because he can be a real force for us going into next year.

Q. What does a win like this tonight do for the team going into next year?

JOHNNY MANZIEL: It's unreal. Like I said, that's the word I can use to describe this game. From coming back, getting the game to three points, watching the guy tiptoe down the sideline. How he didn't go out of bounds is unreal. I was talking to people on the sidelines, saying it was unreal. ESPN Classic on NCAA football for sure.

Now it's 2014. Feel like we got our first win in 2014. Gave us momentum going forward.

COACH SUMLIN: It was interesting. I walked down to him and I said, We're going to get the ball, we're going to score, and then we're going to onside kick and we're going to win the game.

He said, "I know that."

About that time I looked up, (Hurd) was going the other way. That eliminated that part of the game. We did have that discussion right there.



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