SCOTT LEIGHTMAN: Our home tomorrow is the City of Glendale. I would like to introduce Mayor Jerry Weiers for a special welcome.
MAYOR WEIERS: You didn’t come here to hear me speak so I will make this very, very quick. Glendale, Arizona, is so proud to host this game again. This is my 10th year as mayor, 10th time of doing this, different coaches all the time. Some wonderful, wonderful games. And I would not be a good grandfather if I didn’t tell you my grandson is with me today. It’s his 10th birthday this morning. So he’s over here and he’s grinning ear to ear. He’s a pretty happy guy. He’s looking forward to watching the game here real soon. So good luck to both of you. I don’t know how that works out. But seriously good luck to both of you.
COACH HARBAUGH: Thank you very much.
COACH DYKES: Thank you.
MAYOR WEIERS: Thank you so much.
SCOTT LEIGHTMAN: As we look towards tomorrow, I was poring over the stats and there were a lot of them. But I am going to pick out three that I really liked. TCU, starting with them, 19 plays of at least 50 yards this season;13 of them for touchdowns, both of those lead FBS. Michigan has outrushed its opponent by 100-plus yards in 12 of their 13 games. And then this one I really like. J.J. McCarthy, three interceptions. Max Duggan four interceptions. Those are low numbers, by the way. So low that their combined seven-interception total, there were 76 quarterbacks in FBS that have seven or more interceptions. Those guys have seven total and they each played in the conference championship game. Some pretty cool stuff. That shows the caliber of teams we have here for tomorrow. First off, let’s meet TCU Head Coach Sonny Dykes who led #3 TCU to an undefeated regular season and a 12-1 record heading into tomorrow’s battle. Coach Dykes, what’s the one thing that we can really look forward to when we watch TCU tomorrow.
COACH DYKES: Again, I just want to thank Vrbo for their support of this event, and the City of Glendale. And the Fiesta Bowl has just been outstanding. Just want to say thank you to everybody that’s made this week so enjoyable for our players and our coaches, and everybody associated with TCU football. I think our team is a team that’s going to play hard. Our guys, we play for 60 minutes, regardless of the score. We’re going to be a team that’s excited to play. We’ve been a team that has overcome a lot of obstacles this year. We’ve talked about it at length, but we were picked seventh in the preseason poll in the Big 12 this year. Probably five, maybe six players on our team have been to a bowl game before. The other 125 players have never participated in a college football bowl game, so this is new for us. But our guys have adapted incredibly well. So I think you’ll see a team that’s going to play hard, be excited to play — play physical, play a tough brand of football, and never quit. We’ve been a team that has shown a lot of resilience this year, and certainly it will be a big challenge for us playing against Michigan. But our guys are very excited about it and looking forward to going out and competing against the best. We tell our guys all the time, if you want to be the best, you have to compete against the best. You look at Michigan over the last two years, especially they’re 25-2. It’s been a heck of a run by their program and their players. And our guys are excited to compete against the best.
SCOTT LEIGHTMAN: Thank you, Coach. Gentleman, to my left doesn’t really need an introduction — 1986 Fiesta Bowl alum who led the Wolverines to a win over Nebraska that day at Sun Devil Stadium. And this year led the Wolverines to a 13-0 record, the most wins in school history. Coach, as I walked in this morning, I saw Olu [Oluwatimi] on the banner up there. Your offensive line has won the Joe Moore Award for the best offensive line two years in a row. What part does the offensive line play in your team’s success?
COACH HARBAUGH: It has been a fabulous experience for us having Olu, captain in his graduate transfer year. Been an integral part of the team. I think he’s had a great experience. The offensive line is a team within a team. Great bunch of guys that have — I guess there’s probably some schools where the offensive line doesn’t get all the recognition or the publicity, that kind of thing. It’s different at Michigan. It just has been. Our offensive line, they have been leaders. They’ve been great workers. They’ve been great examples in every way, and they’re a huge part of our team success. I also want to say how excited we are to be here; how great the treatment has been from the Fiesta Bowl. Vrbo, thank you. It’s just been first-class all the way, and all the effort everybody made to be here, including yourselves. Parents of our players, it was tough. It’s been tough with travel, cancellations of flights and things. There’s stories of our families driving 20 hours, 15 hours, 26 hours to be here and support our team. Just so thankful for the effort that they’ve made to come support the Michigan Wolverines.
Q. Coach Dykes, after you guys beat Texas, you mentioned your dad (Spike Dykes) and you wish he had been around to see that. Two months later, what do you think he would think about not only TCU is but where you are specifically as head coach?
COACH DYKES: When you grow up around the game of football, you can’t help but have a tremendous respect for the history and the tradition of the game. My dad obviously had a huge impact on my life, just the way he dealt with people and the way he treated people and the relationship he had with players, I think, was a great lesson for me to learn. People talk about the football family, but just seeing it every day, seeing the former and current players that my dad and our family interacted with really on a daily basis, you learn kind of after the fact how big of an impact coaches can have in the lives of football players and student-athletes really across all sports. I think that relationship between player and coach is a really unusual relationship. I think my dad loved teams that were unselfish. That was one of the things that he talked about all the time, was it’s amazing what can be accomplished when the people didn’t care who got the credit. I’ve heard that 1 million times from my dad growing up. I think this team really embodies that philosophy. We’ve got a group of guys that really sacrifice for each other, really invest in each other, really care about each other on a very, very deep level. And a team that, again, never quits, regardless of what the situation is. They’re going to play through the whistle, through the quarter, through the half, through the game — never quit. I think he would be proud and impressed with the level of commitment that these guys have. One of the things my dad used to do when he used to come watch our teams, he would walk around the sideline during the game, and pay attention really to more to what was happening on the bench than actually what was happening in the games. He always said you can learn really what’s going on with your team by watching the body language and the interaction of the players that weren’t playing the game. I think he would be really proud of our guys. The guys on the sideline are cheering for the other guys. They may not be the ones that are getting the credit or the acclaim or the press or whatever the case may be, but they really care about their teammates and they really have that unselfish attitude. And it’s really about what can we do together, as opposed to what can I do individually. And so in my 28 years of coaching, I think this is why this is probably my favorite team I’ve ever coached, because it’s just a real unique collection of unselfish young people. And when I think you do it as long as I have, you appreciate it when you see it. So I think he would be really proud of this team and I think he would really get a kick out of our quarterback (Max Duggan) and the way he competes and his unselfish attitude and never-say-die mentality.
COACH HARBAUGH: Coach Dykes and I were talking about this the other night, just how blessed we are to grow up in coaching families where you are around the game from a very early age. You hang out at practice. You are going to the locker room. Players come over to the house for dinner. They’re the guys you look up to. And along the way, it becomes, boy, it’s not only possible, it’s inevitable that I’m going to do something in football. And my brother (John Harbaugh), it’s generational, it’s really generational. It’s just so blessed. We were talking about that. Spike Dykes, great coach. Coach of the Year three times at Texas Tech. My dad told a great story after we were together the other night. He used to talk about going to the clinics. Back when they were assistant coaches, they would go to coaching clinics. Coaches would get up much like they do today and give their presentations. But then the real clinic was after the clinic. They’d go to the hotel bar. They would have a beer, and all of a sudden, the paper and the napkins came flying out. And they are drawing plays and they just couldn’t wait to talk football and share football, and tell them everything that you know. We don’t do that. That’s something that’s changed (chuckling). He (Jack Harbaugh) just talked so fondly about that. He was at a clinic with Spike Dykes, and one of his great memories of coaching and talking ball. So, yes, that’s deep when you start talking about your dads and how much we have learned from our dads, and how much our dads have meant to us and the opportunity they have given us. Like I said, it’s something that’s generational, that now affects our kids.
COACH DYKES: I’ll add one more thing. Jack Harbaugh and I were talking the other night at this event. We were talking about the relationships the coaches have, and how different and unusual it is. I was talking about when I was playing high school football, my dad (Spike Dykes) may be playing Texas A&M the next day, and I would come in from my high school football game, 1:00 after driving back from Amarillo or wherever we were driving back from. Walk in the living room of the house, and my dad and R.C. Slocum were in there having a drink, 1:00 a.m. the night before the game. So in that spirit, I was going to invite Coach [Jim] Harbaugh to my hotel room tonight and see if we wanted to open up a bottle of bourbon and reminisce. I don’t know if he will take me up on it (laughter).
COACH HARBAUGH: It’s way past my bedtime.
Q. Coaches, each team that you guys led this season was expected to be knocked off by people on the outside. And each week you took shots from different opponents in your conference. You went through the grind. You end the regular season undefeated. Coach Dykes, your team loses in the championship game. but the success all year, the grind week to week, what’s it like now having a month in between this and trying to prepare for that long?
COACH DYKES: It’s different. As I said earlier, this is really the first time for a lot of our guys in our program to go through bowl preparation. And there is kind of an art to it. As everything, you sit down and you say, okay, what are we trying to accomplish. Number one, you are trying to win the game. But there’s also an element of, we want to develop our young players as well. A lot of these guys, you are trying to win as you go through the season, and sometimes your young players get put on the back burner to an extent. So we kind of sat down and said, what do we want to accomplish here with this experience? And obviously it’s get to the championship game and try to win a championship. But, also, in addition to that, it’s, let’s try to get better as a program. Let’s try to develop our young players. And at the same time, try to give our guys a great experience with the idea of, again, the emphasis on winning the game. So a lot of thought and planning and conversations went into. We tried to call around and talk to some folks that have been through this before. It is a little different. Three weeks between games is a little unusual. But I think we needed to get some rest. That was first and foremost. Some guys healed up. Some guys rested. And then at the same time, try to develop our young players for the future and then prepare to play our best football on Saturday. So it’s been a heck of an experience. I think we’ve handled it well. We’ll find out Saturday. I mean, that will be the thing. If we go out and play well on Saturday, we will feel great about our preparation. If we don’t, we will feel really bad about it. And that’s kind of the way it works.
COACH HARBAUGH: That’s really well-said. It’s all about the game tomorrow. Really, everything has been said that can possibly be said. Every question has been asked, every question answered and now it’s time to go play the game and let it rip. And our guys are excited to do it. Not everybody gets this opportunity. Hardly anybody gets this kind of opportunity and it’s the best of the best playing the best. You are who your record says you are. I think Bill Parcells said that. They’re great and we’re ready to line up. It’s time to line up and have at it.
Q. Can you take me through your mindset and preparation in the event that you need your two-minute offense to go down the field and get a score to win the game?
COACH HARBAUGH: It’s something we’ve practiced, something we’ve planned. And we anticipate that situation will come up, and we feel like we are prepared for it. Like I said, if it’s successful, you have felt good about your preparation. If it’s not successful, then it won’t. That is our mindset. We expect it. We expect to be in that situation, and we have practiced it. And we feel we’ll be successful if that situation comes up.
COACH DYKES: Similar to what Coach Harbaugh said, when you sit down and talk about end-of-game situations, the way college football is now, there’s a lot of parity in this game. Again, you look at our games this year, we didn’t have a lot of games that weren’t decided at the very end of the game. Whether it was four-minute offense where we’re trying to run the clock out and get a couple of first downs to win or whether it was two-minute offense where we were playing from behind or even and we need to try to go down and win the game at the end of the game. Those situations are a small part of the game, but to me those are the situations that determine whether or not you’re up here on the podium in the College Football Playoff, really. Had we not handled some of those situations pretty well, we wouldn’t be here today. I think it all begins with your preparation, and it’s something that we’ll emphasize all spring, all fall camp, just like everybody else during the week of preparation. But at the same time, there’s such a fine line between winning and losing and you better be good in those situations, whether it’s two-minute, whether it’s red-zone goal line, whether it’s short yardage. All those situations in college football today determine the teams that win or lose every Saturday. We’re not a team — we’re not a team full of first-round draft picks or anything like that. Look, we’ve got really good players. But we’re going to have to master those situations and be really good at them to have an opportunity to win.
Q. A constant theme for you and your players this season have been the faith and love you have. Can you talk about the source of your faith and how it strengthens you and what it means to you?
COACH HARBAUGH: Faith, family, football, those are the priorities. This has been a particular team that — I mean, just a lot of rock-solid guys in their faith. It’s a family. Guys, they’re happy for the other guy’s success. They support each other. They have each other’s backs. It’s a true team. It’s a true ball team. And it just makes it enjoyable every day. Every single day to be on a team where, yeah, each guy knows they don’t have to — they don’t have to carry the whole load. Everybody else is chipping in, doing their fair share. Just like in your faith, you know? God is with you. And you’re not doing it alone. Really, when you try to do it yourself or you think you know better than our Lord, that’s when things seem to go awry. It’s been a tremendous, tremendous team and family to be around regarding our faith. Iron sharpens iron, as the Bible says. And this team is a true example of that.
Q. In those hours and minutes before kickoff tomorrow, there will be so much emotion and energy on the field, in your locker rooms, what is the message for your team in terms of trying to harness all of that energy in a productive way?
COACH HARBAUGH: For us, it’s go out and play as hard as you can, as fast as you can, as long as you can and don’t worry. Those butterflies are there. They are there every game I ever played. I think most every football player has them, until you get that first hit, whether it’s a block or a tackle. That’s what seemed to make them go away for me. See contact early and then play as hard as you can, as fast as you can, as long as you can, and don’t worry.
COACH DYKES: Similar. I think the same thing applies to us. It’s interesting. Everybody has got a different way of kind of getting ready. We will have some players that will listen to music in their headphones, get excited, and then other guys will just be in the corner and be quiet. And everybody kind of does what they do to get ready for a ballgame. I will say this, tomorrow will be a little bit of a reflection maybe for me before kickoff, just thinking about my mentor Mike Leach passing. I think that’s going to be a big part of my feelings pregame tomorrow. Just the impact Mike had on my life and really college football in general. We are going to wear a helmet sticker in remembrance of Mike Leach with a pirate flag on it. He was a big impact on me and really, as I said, football in general. I’m sure there will be a little bit of a shout-out to Coach Leach before I take the field, just again what he meant to me personally in my life. And certainly wouldn’t be here without his guidance and mentorship and the huge impact he had on my life. And just an original guy that did things his way and outside-the-box thinker. And I was just really blessed and fortunate to have a chance to work with him. I’m sure his memory will certainly cross my mind before we take the field tomorrow as well.
Q. You mentioned that opportunities like this don’t come around very often, but here you are back-to-back years in the College Football Playoff. You’ve called your team, especially in the season, “happy warriors.” That’s how you described them. But how would you describe your last two years personally?
COACH HARBAUGH: I love football. I love the game. I love the team atmosphere. I could describe that it’s been my whole life, since five years old. This team has been one of the all-time great ball teams to be on. And I include — had some great Little League teams that I was on, high school team, college teams, pro teams. This is right up there with all the best. None better. It’s been that enjoyable.
Q. Both of your teams have two of the top second-half offenses in the country. I think both rosters pride themselves on being able to finish games. In your opinion, what’s kind of led to that success and being able to close out those games, if they have to?
COACH HARBAUGH: Really I think TCU, watching them, I think they’ve been a great first-half team, too. They play 60 minutes of football and they play it really well. We aspire to be the same type of team. You’re always trying to find the formula, the game every week to let’s play our best, let’s play our best for 60 minutes of football. I think they have done a tremendous job doing that. I think we have as well. Like Bill Parcells says: You are who your record says you are. That’s what we want to do in this game. You got to play good. You have to play good. And the longer you can play good, the better off you’re going to be. There’s going to be momentum shifts in the game. They’re going to make plays. Our goal will be to try to get the momentum back in our favor and keep it for as long as we can. And then when we lose it, we’re going to try to get it back again and see how long we can keep it. That’s just the game of football. It all comes down to you got to play good and that’s what we plan. That’s what we prepared. Now it’s time to go do it.
COACH DYKES: To me I think — look, good football teams, doesn’t matter if it’s elementary school football, junior high football, high school, college, pro football, great teams are built up front. They just are. And I think that’s a big part of why Michigan has been so successful in the second half, is they just pound on you. They keep pounding, and it takes its toll on you. The four-yard gain in the first half becomes a six-yard gain in the third quarter, becomes a 10-yard gain in the fourth quarter. And great football teams get stronger as the team goes along. We are two of the better closing football teams in college football, and I think it’s because we’re built with that same kind of mentality. And understanding of the game is won up front. It just is. You want to play and compete at the very highest level, you better be good up front. And they’ve got an outstanding offensive, defensive front. That’s, to me, what their team is built around, and that’s why they’ve had tremendous success in the last two years and throughout their history of Michigan football. I mean, that’s been a trademark of those programs through the years. If you want to close a game out, recruit a heck of an offensive line, let those guys handle it. And I think both teams have done that.