ATLANTA – Scott Frost and Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn shared the stage this morning for the final pregame press conference before tomorrow’s 2018 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl between the undefeated #12 UCF Knights (12-0) and the #7 Auburn Tigers (10-3).
Tomorrow’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl kicks off at 11:30 a.m. CT on ESPN. The highly anticipated match-up is sure to enjoy blockbuster ratings throughout the Cornhusker state, as Nebraska fans eagerly await the first opportunity to see their new head coach Scott Frost and the entire 2018 Husker coaching staff in action.
Here are the highlights from today’s press conference with Coach Frost.
MODERATOR: Coach Frost, if you could just give us an opening statement and maybe talk about how your Bowl Week experience has been so far and how it’s maybe compared with other bowl trips that you’ve had.
SCOTT FROST: It’s been a tremendous experience for me, for our football team. We’re delighted and honored to be here. Some of the things that we’ve gotten to do as a team this year are special, and this Bowl game ranks right up there with them. Really thought the deal at the church with the guys, the civil rights leaders that got to speak to our team was a great experience for our guys. They are having a great time in Atlanta and we’re grateful to be here.
Q. Has any part of this experience been bittersweet for you because you so enjoy spending time with your players, but win or lose tomorrow, you’re going to say good-bye to them one more time?
SCOTT FROST: Yeah, we said our good-bye once. This has been a really great experience, this Bowl game, to spend some more time around them and be around them one more time. It will be bittersweet tomorrow. This certainly isn’t an ideal situation for the players or for me or for my staff, but we all care about each other, and I don’t know what the alternative would have been.
So we’re doing the best we can and the guys have prepared well, and it’s been an honor to be around them one more time.
Q. You did it as a quarterback at Nebraska, 13-0; how difficult is that road and what would it mean for to you do it as a coach if you can win tomorrow?
SCOTT FROST: Well, it’s hard to go undefeated. It’s hard to have an undefeated regular season, much less win a Championship Game or a Bowl game.
I was with Coach Malzahn last night, and we talked about it, a game we were both coaching in, where Auburn was undefeated and Oregon was undefeated and only one could come out of that, and they kicked a field goal at the end to beat us. They were undefeated
There’s not very many teams in the country that can run the table. I’m so proud and happy for our players that they were able to do that this year. And you know, this game, like I said, it’s an honor to be here. We’re playing a really good football team. I know our guys are going to battle. They are fighters and they are looking forward to it. But win or lose in this game, this is a special group of guys and it was a special season.
Q. Can you think back to when you took over at UCF when you were taking over the 0-12 team, what did you have to do to sort of build the team back up from that and juxtapose that atmosphere to what you’re seeing now?
SCOTT FROST: Seems like a lifetime ago. You know, I said this a bunch. First thing we had to do was get them to enjoy playing football again and to believe again. But we had a lot of guys with fight in them, and when I met with them, they all thought the team should have been a lot better than what it was, and they thought they could accomplish a lot. And I think that spirit, a little bit of chip on their shoulder, and the confidence that they could prove that they were a better team than what that record had indicated, I think that drive is a lot of what got us to where we are. Because without that motivation, I don’t know if they would have bought in as fast to what we wanted them to do. I don’t know if they
would have come together as a team quite as well.
But talking to the players this week, it’s light years from where it was then, and I love where the program is right now and where the team is, and I look forward to watching them win a lot going forward.
Q. Just wondering, what are some of the messages you’ve been hammering home to this football team since you’ve been here in Atlanta as the game
SCOTT FROST: Well, we always prepare the same way, and our kids understand that good preparation
leads to good play. By the time you get to the game, the game is pretty much already played, depending on
how prepared you are.
You know, this is going to be a tough game. These guys are really good at every position; exceptionally
good on the front lines on both sides of the football. So we have to be ready to be physical.
I know our kids and our kids have a lot of fight in them and I think they are excited to play.
Q. You talked towards the end of season about how you thought the team had started to play championship-level football and the type of momentum that you had built throughout the season. In a Bowl game like this, where you have the gap in between games, when you have the sorts of things that have happened in that meantime, what’s the key to kind of helping these guys refocus and recapture the type of play, the type of focus that they have that led to 12-0, and the type of play that you had towards the end of the
SCOTT FROST: Well, that’s always a challenge. It’s a challenge for us. It’s a challenge for everybody playing in a Bowl game. You try to manage your schedule in
between the last game and the Bowl as well as you can.
We certainly prepared well. But there are a lot of circumstances surroundings the game, and when you watch the Bowl games, a lot of teams that had coaching changes and other unusual circumstances, they are not faring very well.
Bowl games are about match-ups more than anything, and depending on what kind of match-up you get and probably just as much about who is motivated to be
there and who is not. Hopefully, our guys are excited to play. I think they are. We’ll see how the match-up goes with Auburn. They are a really good team. But I know our players, like I said, are prepared well and excited to play football.
Q. What’s the payoff going to be for you personally for putting yourself through this month? How is it going to shape you as a coach?
SCOTT FROST: You know, through this process, it’s tough. It was tough during the end of the season. It was tough when I told the team. It was tough trying to balance a couple things. I think the payoff has been being around these guys for one more week. Through all that, you know, we tried to make every decision in a way that we were doing the right thing; not the selfish thing, not the thing that was easiest for us, but what the right thing was.
It’s certainly not ideal to be wearing two hats and to be flying back and forth to two places, and those things are hard. But the right thing to do was to be here and try to help these kids as much as we could, and hopefully us being here helps a little bit. But I just don’t know what the alternative would have been. I think the payoff for all of that is going to be that, this Bowl week, and being able to spend a little bit of extra time with the UCF family and this football team. They are people that are going to be special to me for the rest of my life, so that’s probably the best part of this whole thing.
Q. There’s going to be a lot of college football fans tomorrow who are seeing your team for the first time this season, checking in to see the only undefeated team. What team do you hope that fans see tomorrow and what kind of team do you hope kind of takes the field and reveals itself?
SCOTT FROST: I hope it’s a football team (Laughter). I think a lot of people have seen us play this year. We played two really good teams at the end of the year and had two unbelievable games against USF and Memphis. I think a lot of people got to see that. I know a lot of folks are going to tune in and see this one. We have a big challenge ahead of us. Like I said, these guys are as good as we’ve seen at almost every position on the field. So our players know they have a challenge. They are excited for it.
But I know when people tune in, they are going to see a group of guys that love being around each other and play for each other. And as long as I’m coaching, that’s the type of team I want to have.
Q. With the early signing period, how much did that impact your preparation for this game? I know it’s past the three-day period, but did it feel like it had a big impact on how you prepared for this game?
SCOTT FROST: Yeah, I think it was a challenge in my situation, even moving to another university, another institution, and trying to balance all that out was tough. But like I said before to you guys, we use the same formula that we’ve used at Oregon and Nebraska and
other places I’ve been when we’ve played in these New Year’s Day Bowls. It’s tough to balance recruiting with preparation, but we had the same number of practices to get ready for this that we did at Oregon when we were getting ready for a Fiesta Bowl or a Rose Bowl. So it was tough to balance all that, but we definitely didn’t sacrifice the preparation.
Q. Coach Frost, you talked about how turnover margin is the most important stat in football. Just talk about the significance and how much emphasis both coaches are putting on the turnover battle in this game?
SCOTT FROST: Well, turnovers are always the biggest stat in football. We’ve been really good at that this season. This game is going to be the same way. We can’t turn it over to these guys. We have too big of a challenge on our hands, anyway. We don’t need to give them any extra short fields or points.
Listen, our guys need to be ready. They are playing a bigger group than we’ve probably played all year, and this group probably hits harder than any team we’ve played all year. We have small, fast guys, and they have big, fast guys, so our guys need to take care of
the ball and protect it. I’m sure turnovers will play a big part in this game just like every one.
Q. As the American Conference tries to push itself to be considered one of the power conferences, what would a win tomorrow mean for the state of the Conference, the future of the Conference and the perception nationally of the American Conference?
SCOTT FROST: It would help a lot until next year when everybody forgets about it, and they look at all the games next year (Laughter). Like I said, these Bowl games come down to matchups, and people are going to put the onus for the entire Conference on us to see if the Conference deserves to be in the conversation and if the Power Six deserves to be in the conversation or the Group of Five. There’s been games where Houston beat Florida State, and USF beat somebody good, and Utah beat Alabama, and there’s also games where you don’t win. This game is about this game. This game is not really about that. People try to make it about that, but it isn’t.
Q. With Auburn being without an All-American cornerback, what are your thoughts of them not having one of their best players and does that change anything heading into the game?
SCOTT FROST: That’s the first I’ve heard of it, so I was taking notes under the table. (Laughter). I was hoping the list would keep growing, the four defensive linemen maybe and the running back. Listen, they have got good players everywhere. They have a bunch of good players in the secondary, and you know, we’re missing a player or two, as well. You know, Aaron Evans has been a big part of what we’ve been doing and been the anchor on our offensive line. He fought through a back injury all year and just couldn’t do it anymore. So inevitably in these bowl games, there’s one or two situations like that, and I feel bad for both the kids that don’t get a chance to play in this game. But I’m sure they have got plenty of good corners.
Q. I know speed is a big part of this game plan. Talk about the impact it’s going to have on this game, the impact that it plays overall in your program, and as far as recruiting for the next level?
SCOTT FROST: It’s better to have fast guys than slow guys. We’re going to keep looking for them.
Q. We’ve heard a lot about accountability and the things that changed when you first got to the team. Can you talk about specifically some of the things, the responsibilities that you challenged this team to solve themselves, problems that you asked them to solve themselves on the roster?
SCOTT FROST: Yeah, you know, coming in, I didn’t want to give them a lot of rules, a lot of do’s and don’t’s. I wanted to get them to the point where there was one rule, do the right thing, and don’t do the wrong thing. I think any time you have an organization where the players are leading themselves, the players are fixing problems in the locker room themselves, and the coaches don’t have to do everything, then you have a really strong team and organization. That takes leaders. That takes guys that are doing the right things themselves, so they can show other people the way, and it takes a lot of courage to correct one of your teammates. We’re lucky that we’ve had some of those leaders on our team, Pat Jasinski, and Wyatt Miller, and Shaquem, and a bunch of other guys. It was an easy year for me to coach because there wasn’t much I had to do because most of the problems got fixed from within.
Q. You addressed it and Auburn has addressed it, but how has Adrian dealt with the backlash to his comments and being the focus of national attention but especially in the SEC over the last couple of weeks since he said what he said?
SCOTT FROST: We try to teach our kids not to say anything that’s going to rattle the other team up. But A.K. is confident. I think if we were running a track meet tomorrow, he might win, I really do. But we’re having a football game tomorrow. We talked to him, and I’m glad he’s confident. But I’m pretty sure Auburn is seeing a lot of fast guys this year with the teams they have played.