football Edit

What they said: TCU's Sonny Dykes discusses Fiesta Bowl against Michigan

SCOTT LEIGHTMAN: Right now we would like to welcome you all to the 2022 College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl. Yes, we have a new name this year with Vrbo. We are proud to extend our title partnership with them, and you are going to enjoy some really new, exciting activations with Vrbo on board. First and foremost, today is about the teams, Number 2 Michigan versus Number 3 TCU. And we are going to have our one head coach, Coach Sonny Dykes, the head coach from TCU, join us right now. Coach [Jim] Harbaugh (Michigan) is unavailable. And we'll get him back on the line later on today. We will let you know what time, as soon as we can firm that up. Right now, let's go with Number 3 TCU. What a season for the Horned Frogs this year, 12-1, 9-0 in the Big 12 Conference. And the Big 12 Conference, as we know, was a battle each and every week with the teams that were in that conference. TCU, five wins over ranked teams this year. Sonny Dykes in his first year has made an immediate impact in Fort Worth along with his quarterback, Max Duggan. What a story for him. I'm sure most of you know his personal story, with his heart surgery -- nine-hour heart surgery. He's come back and really carried the team along with a bunch of other talented players that I'm sure Coach Dykes is excited to tell you about. 40 points per game. We know the scoreboard operator is going to stay busy here on December 31. Kickoff is at 2:00 p.m. Mountain Standard Time. It will be the opening game on ESPN of the two Semifinals. This is TCU's second appearance in the Fiesta Bowl. They were here in 2010 against Boise State in a 17-10 contest, and they played in two Guaranteed Rate Bowls here in the Valley of the Sun as well. Without further ado, I would like to introduce one of the head coaches of our 2022 College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl, Mr. Sonny Dykes. Coach, take it away.

COACH SONNY DYKES: Thank you. Appreciate the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl for extending the offer to TCU, and the College Football Playoff committee. We are really appreciative and thankful for the opportunity to play against the University of Michigan, who just happens to be, I believe, the winningest team in college football history. So we are excited to be a part of the playoff. We have got a fantastic football team. I have been doing this now for right around 30 years, and this is the most enjoyable football team I've ever coached. Really enjoy being around these players. They are crazy competitive. They have tremendous work ethic. I think they embody everything that's good about college football. Very selfless. We were picked seventh in the preseason media poll this year in the Big 12. Our players have done an incredible job of avoiding distractions and didn't pay much attention to the preseason rankings. Just as the season rolled along, we didn't pay attention to the college football rankings or the College Football Playoff rankings or the Big 12 rankings or any of that. We just tried to take it one week at a time. We had a heck of a ball game yesterday afternoon against a very good Kansas State team and lost in overtime. Our players were disappointed in the outcome of that game. But at the same time, we're very excited to get the good news today that we are a participant in the Fiesta Bowl. So we couldn't be more proud of our players and of TCU and our fans, and we're really looking forward to a great game against Michigan.

SCOTT LEIGHTMAN: Thank you, Coach. Congratulations on the entire season once again, and your appearance here in the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl.

Q. Hey, we talked to you a couple of minutes ago, but now that the high has come down a little bit, what are your first impressions of Michigan?

COACH DYKES: You know, honestly, I haven't had a chance to look at much of Michigan so far. Watched them a little bit last night. I was on kid duty, quite frankly, taking care of some of my kids and my daughters and my 6-year-old son and trying to help my wife, Kate, get them to bed and things last night. So I didn't get a chance to see a lot of them. The little bit I saw, looked like a very physical football team. I think that certainly at the end of the game, they were very physically imposing last night against Purdue. Saw the quarterback (J.J. McCarthy) make a ton of plays, improvised outside the pocket. Was really impressed with the things that he can do, what kind of athlete he was, how accurate he was moving outside of the pocket. And they just looked like a very, very good football team. Defensively, they were what you would expect. Big up front, physical. Saw the corner, Number 2 (Will Johnson), had a couple of interceptions. Really looked like he was a very productive player last night. So it was a big win for Michigan last night against a good Purdue team. They look like a very talented football team. As I said, we haven't had a chance to dive in deep yet and look at them. But just on the outside looking in, it looked like a heck of a team.

Q. A year ago, you were taking the TCU head coaching job and now a year later, here you are in the College Football Playoffs with a chance to play for the college football championship. Talk to me about what that means to you on a personal level.

COACH DYKES: Honestly, it's been a little bit of a blur. You get a job someplace, the first year is always a little bit crazy. There's just so much that needs to be done, from recruiting to hiring staff to getting to know your current team. Haven't had a whole lot of time for reflection, just because we had an open date week two, and then we played 11 straight weeks. So it's just been try to win a game on Saturday, go to work on Sunday, and try to prepare as quickly as you can. So we'll have a little bit more time as we have a little break this week, and get on the road and go recruiting to have a chance to reflect on the season and kind of what this whole thing means. It's been quite a journey in the last year, for sure. I just can't say enough about these players and this team, just their commitment. Typically, when you take over a program, there's a period of difficulty where you are trying to get to know your players and trying to create trust and a belief in each other. But really, since day one, these guys have jumped in, they have responded incredibly well to everything that I challenged them with. That's what makes this team so unique, is just their willingness to do whatever we ask them to do. We really trust the players, and I think they trust our staff and our support staff, the strength and conditioning staff. They have done all the little things that we have asked them to do off the field in terms of nutrition and rest and recovery and supplementation, everything that they can do to give them a great opportunity to compete on Saturday. So it's been a heck of a team to work with up to this point. Couldn't be more proud of guys than I am this team, and excited for the next challenge. That's one thing that our guys, they don't want anything given to them. They want to earn it. And they have that kind of mentality. We will be proud and excited to play and look forward to it.

Q. Coach, when we talked last night, you sounded genuinely concerned that you might not get in after that loss, when we asked you, hey, there are a lot of people saying you are going to get in, even with the loss. Where was that concern level, where was your confidence level that you would get in, even with that game yesterday?

COACH DYKES: It's hard to say. You just don't ever really know. I think -- I would imagine being a member of the College Football Playoff Committee is a very difficult job. There's a lot of things you have to consider. There's a lot of different voices in the room. There's a lot of different ways for a program to create momentum, I would think, with some of the players in the room. You just don't know how things are going to go. I truly believe that they got it right, just from the standpoint of -- conference championship games -- I don't know that you should be punished for playing in one. And I think that -- I think when you look at our body of work, you look at the strength in the Big 12 conference from top to bottom, you look at the metrics and the comparisons and all that, all those things, then you feel pretty good about our situation. As I said earlier, you just never know how those conversations are going to go. And I'm sure there are other teams that had compelling arguments. But we were fortunate to get in. I had some faith in the committee; but at the same time, this is kind of my first go-around through all this. I think TCU's had a little bit of bad history with 2014. But I just felt like it was a different time and a different place and a different set of circumstances. So, again, appreciate the committee's faith in our program.

Q. Sonny, when you were at Arizona and Jim [Harbaugh] was at Stanford, do you remember anything about those games? And did you guys develop much of a relationship during that time?

COACH DYKES: I remember they were really good. They had some really good players, Andrew Luck and some guys that were really, really good football players. They had a really physical football team. I think that's the one trademark of Jim Harbaugh teams. Certainly Stanford, and I would assume Michigan as well, they are going to be tough, physical, hard-nosed football teams. I think that's Jim's mentality. And I think that's why he's been so successful. His teams always play hard. They are going to be well-coached, they're going to be physical, and they are going to be competitive and play tough. And those are all key ingredients to having a good football team. I don't know Jim that well. I have been around him a number of occasions, but look forward to getting to know him better through the process and have a lot of respect for him as a coach and what he's done at Michigan.

Q. Sonny, congratulations. I wonder who or what you are leaning on to get through this schedule and get ready for this game? Little things like if you scout the other game, motivations, different than a bowl game. You are playing for a national championship. Have you thought about that?

COACH DYKES: Thanks for the question. We are just kind of getting into it. As I said earlier, haven't had much time to sit back and reflect. We put together a couple of different schedules last week, depending on what bowl game we got into, and we are just kind of hitting the ground running with those type of things. We are doing meetings with players today, and then we're going to hit the road and start recruiting here pretty quickly this evening as well. So there will be some people that I reach out to, some people in the industry that have been through this before and try to pick their brain the best that I can. While at the same time, we want to be consistent in what we do in terms of our players. I think that's been part of our success this season, has really been just the consistency and the approach that we have taken day in and day out. So we'll probably try to combine a little bit of that, pick some brains of some folks that have been through it, see if they learned something going through it once or twice before, and then see if we can't try to build the best mousetrap that we can to play well.

Q. If I could follow up, how do you evaluate defensive linemen, especially interior guys in terms of how long do you want them? How much stamina do you want them to have? What's your rotation? Because those kind of guys can make one play a game and that makes it worth it to wreck a game.

COACH DYKES: Yes, I think we would all like to have enough depth to be able to roll guys through. It's one of the things that we are fortunate to have. I don't know that we have any players that are high NFL draft picks or any of that. Dylan Horton, I think, will have an opportunity to play in the NFL. We have a young player, too, that I think has an opportunity to develop into a really good player. But we're kind of a defensive front by committee. That seems to be what served us well this year, is to play a number of players and try to keep them as fresh as possible, and let them really sell out every single play and know that they are going to get a rest. So we try to roll guys. We feel like we have got a really good group, and we are probably better collectively than we are individually. But it's a group that, again, has been really, really solid and certainly going to need to be solid, because that's a group for us that is going to have to hold up against a really good Michigan offensive line.

Q. You guys mentioned about going out on the recruiting trail and seeing some recruits. How much does this help you guys that you now get to go into these homes and you can say to these recruits and their families: You can come to TCU and have a chance to play for a national championship. You guys have now set the tone as a college playoff football program. How do you approach that in recruiting?

COACH DYKES: Yes, I think it's a game changer, quite frankly. I think that's everybody's message. I think the only difference is now it's something that's come to fruition for us, is getting in the '14 playoff. I think it happened one time, then it can certainly happen again. Yes, I think it is going to be a game-changer, I really do. There's already a high level of interest from some really good players across Texas and across the country, and I think this is going to do nothing but enhance our ability to go and recruit some of the best football players in the country. I believe TCU and the city of Fort Worth sells itself. I think as these players get to know our coaches and our current players, they are going to be very impressed with what kind of people that we have in our organization. Obviously, when you can also sell the fact that, look, we are going to have an opportunity to play for a national championship, that's really all you can ask for. I think that's going to be a huge feather in our cap.

Q. Just talk about your season overall, and what are some things you can do to improve when you do go ahead and play Michigan.

COACH DYKES: Yes, we have played a lot of tight football games, like we did yesterday afternoon in the Big 12 championship. We played an Oklahoma State team early in the year, and went to a double overtime and won that game in the second overtime. We had a couple of overtime games. We had a couple of games that came down to the bitter end. Obviously, Baylor, we kicked a field goal last play of the game to win that one. We've had some tough, competitive games in the Big 12, and that's what you would expect. I truly believe, from top to bottom, it's the most competitive conference in college football. There's just no lay-ups. Everybody's very competitive. The preseason team that was picked last was Kansas, and Kansas had a really good year and was ranked in the top 25 and is going to a bowl game. It shows you what kind of league we have. It's a grind every week. So really pleased to get through undefeated. Wish that we could have finished it off by winning the championship game yesterday. There's some things that we got to get better at, obviously. We had a goal-line situation in yesterday's game that we need to be able to get the ball in the end zone in overtime. We got stuck on third and fourth down inside the one. That's obviously something that we have got to get improved. Just overall, I think we are headed to a good place defensively. It's a new scheme for us in the first year. Our defense gets more and more comfortable every single week. Gave up probably more big plays than we are accustomed to yesterday, and also turned the ball over more than we are accustomed to yesterday. All those things contributed to us losing that football game. Those are things we have to get fixed and corrected, and things that have been uncharacteristic for this team this year, and that's why we've had the kind of success that we had. We've got plenty to work on. We'll utilize our 15 practices and make sure that we address those areas of concern and make sure we improve.

Q. Coach, talk about that comeback mentality. What sparks that, and how does the team do all that every game, after game?

COACH DYKES: Yes, I think that really comes from dedication and hard work and confidence. I think that confidence, to me, is always the result of being prepared and then working incredibly hard for something. I think that gives you an ability to have a never-say-die attitude because you know that you are prepared. You know that you put the work in, and I think this team certainly feels that way. I think we feel like we are capable of beating anybody. We feel like we have enough talent. We feel like we've worked hard enough. We feel like we've done everything we can do to go out and to play well. And so we don't get too high. I think that's one of the big things that I love about this team. When things are going well, we stay grounded. And at the same time, when things are not going well, we keep chipping away. I think that's a big part of being able to overcome some adversity in football games. It's going to happen every single week. You will have bad things that happen, and you have to have that true belief in each other and that confidence in the man next to you to be able to overcome it, and this team's had that.