PASADENA, Calif. — Oregon defeated to Wisconsin, 28-27, in the Rose Bowl Wednesday.
Ducks coach Mario Cristobal, quarterback Justin Herbert and safety Brady Breeze spoke after the win.
Here is a transcript of Oregon’s postgame press conference:
COACH CRISTOBAL: Number one, we’d like to thank everyone associated with the Rose Bowl on just doing an unbelievable job of making us feel at home. First-class, first-class from the beginning all the way through and even now. Our families had an unbelievable time. The pageantry, the tradition, the energy, the enthusiasm, the stadium, the way this thing lit up, it’s the most incredible possible event for our guys. And incredibly proud of this football team. Not only the seniors but the entire team and the way they’ve been resilient, have continued to press on and moved forward and ended up not only Pac-12 champions but also Rose Bowl champions.
Q. Brady, can you just kind of go through the touchdown off the fumbled punt and also forcing the fumble, and then beyond that what’s this year and this game meant to you after the years you put in there to try to get to this point?
BRADY BREEZE: One of my teammates came through the gap and made a great play on the ball and blocked it, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, the ball’s sitting right there. And I pick it up and I’m running in the end zone. I’m thinking to myself, wow, this is just like when Washington scored that touchdown against Florida State. And I’m looking — when I scored the touchdown — I went and looked at the section I was sitting when I was at that game as a fan, and now I’m scoring the touchdown in the Rose Bowl. And life’s come full circle and I’ve stayed faithful as a team. We’ve been down and out. We’ve had three head coaches in four years. I mean, three D coordinators in four years. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world because it’s made us better men and better teammates. And we’ve got this guy as our head coach. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s been a blessing and our team has just stayed faithful. And to be able to make plays in the Rose Bowl like that is just incredible. We’ve worked so hard as a defense and as an offense and special teams, it’s nice to see us come together and come together as teammates. And seeing them run out the clock at the end, it was amazing to see. Everyone cheering and high-fiving each other and people crying because we’ve been through so much — 4-8 my freshman year. And a guy from Eugene, Oregon scoring touchdowns in the Rose Bowl, tying Vince Young’s records or something. It’s just amazing. And it’s cool to see all these people waving at us in the stands and stuff, all these fans, all these little kids, just like I was when I was at the game watching Ohio State play Oregon and watching Florida State play Oregon. I was just a fan, dreaming of playing in these type of games. And being able to get this opportunity to play for Oregon, I was happy with that. But I kept working and finally got an opportunity to finally start a game, and finally got to make some plays. And now we’re Rose Bowl champions. It’s just incredible. And I just want to give all my glory to God and so thankful for the opportunity. And the stars aligned and God has answered all my prayers as a kid — all I wanted to do was to play for Oregon. And I couldn’t have dreamed or even fathomed playing in a Rose Bowl let alone winning the Rose Bowl, scoring a touchdown in a Rose Bowl and seeing Justin score three touchdowns, it’s just amazing, two kids from the state of Oregon just going out there having fun and playing football and I made sure to take it all in. It’s just incredible. I want to make sure to give thanks to Coach and my teammates, thanks for all the guys that stuck together and stuck through it. We’ve been through a lot as a team and as a defense and offense and special teams, we’ve been through so many ups and downs. It’s just been incredible.
COACH CRISTOBAL: We’re done with questions; he got them all. (Laughter).
Q. Coach, you held Justin from running for about 11 games, then the last two games, Pac-12 and this game. Huge difference maker the plays he made with his feet. Was he able to make these plays because you held him back from doing so for most of the season?
COACH CRISTOBAL: No, I think he’s pretty capable of making those plays with or without us calling plays. No, again I’ll always say this, I think he’s the best college football quarterback and he’s going to have an unbelievable NFL career as well. He can beat you in so many ways. You see the legs, you see the arms and the decision-making, but what you don’t see is the leadership and the heart. And in the end that was the biggest difference, in my opinion.
Q. Coach, Wisconsin, in particular, known for the offensive line, in the trenches, but today you guys came out forced your way in the trenches, if you will. What can you say about your offensive line and the impact that they had in opening up some things for Justin today?
COACH CRISTOBAL: I think the offensive line and the defensive line deserve a ton of credit because, again, and I think Wisconsin is an excellent football team. They are. They’re physical. They’re tough. They’re well-coached. All the respect in the world for them. Our guys knew this was going to be a 15-round fight, right? And rounds 10 through 15 usually decide which heavyweight walks away with the hardware. And our guys just found a way to keep swinging, get up one more time, throw one more punch. And it’s a testament to what they are, what their DNA is. And I really believe that these guys are just getting started.
Q. Justin, as good a passer as you are, as you envisioned how this game might play out this week, did you ever imagine it would be your feet and not your arm that would be the difference?
JUSTIN HERBERT: Realistically, no. I just hope that we put up more points than the opponent. Whether it’s through the air or on the ground, doesn’t matter who is scoring them as long as we have more points at the end of the game. The offensive line have done such a great job all year, and those guys don’t get enough credit. And they deserve everything, and I wish them all the credit in the world.
Q. Justin, growing up, obviously, being a quarterback, who were some of the guys you looked up to as far as quarterbacks are concerned and some of the guys you look at now that’s currently in the NFL?
JUSTIN HERBERT: Growing up I was always the biggest Duck fan, so I grew up watching guys like Joey Harrington, Jeremiah Masoli, Darron Thomas, Marcus Mariota. And I think Marcus and Joey are such great examples of men off the field, and I look up to them so much. And for them to reach out, it’s meant the world to us. And those are the guys that I want to be like when I’m older.
Q. Justin, the Wisconsin defense made it really difficult to move the ball throughout the game. How did you make sure that that didn’t frustrate you and the offense so that when it came time, you could still execute?
JUSTIN HERBERT: To not let ourselves get down, not to distract us and not to take away from our focus. We’re a pretty good offense and we’re able to move the ball, so you have to pick up whatever you can. And fortunately it bounced our way this time. And was really proud of the way the offensive line and the running backs and the receivers blocked and ran their routes. I thought overall the offense did a good day.
Q. Mario, what did you think about Brady when you got the job? And when did he kind of win you over in terms of the guy who deserved playing time?
COACH CRISTOBAL: This guy?
COACH CRISTOBAL: This guy’s always been impressive. And a tribute and a testament to his character as well, when you’re a really good football player and coaches are trying to figure it out, and sometimes it works out exactly right and sometimes it doesn’t, it’s difficult because you have a lot of guys competing for playing time. And he just — he never stopped competing. He never stopped bringing it. And he proved a lot. He proved that he needs to be out there. He’s proved he’s one of the better players on our football team. And we’re fortunate and lucky to have him as part of this organization. I mean, not only tonight but throughout the entire season, what he brings to this football team is enormous. And so, again, super proud of him. Super grateful to him and his resiliency to keep pressing on and make his opportunity count.
Q. Another one about Justin. What does winning this specific game do to enhance the legacy he already had?
COACH CRISTOBAL: Well, I think Justin, you know, he — I mean, I mess with him all the time. I tell him it’s legendary. I think he’s a guy that you can’t — it’s hard to even script this kind of Hollywood story, right? Right down the road, born and raised, just like Brady, been watching Oregon Duck football forever. And they’re sitting here in front of you as Rose Bowl champions — not only as Rose Bowl champions but as MVPs of the Rose Bowl after winning the Pac-12 Championship. As I go on and speak, I forget about the question. I did get doused in really cold Gatorade, so my brain is half frozen. But it doesn’t get any better. You go your entire career hoping to coach guys like this. And this question in particular, we’re talking about Justin, and it’s — these dudes right here, I want to be like these guys. That’s why I have them around me all the time. They’re not — I’m not going to let them get on the microphone anytime soon, but I want to be just like these guys. That to me is the greatest compliment you can give a young man.
Q. Coach, the perception going into this game was that the Pac-12 really needed you guys to win tonight. Are you aware of that? Is that true? Do you see that at all?
COACH CRISTOBAL: The outside noise never really becomes part of our process. I mean, to us anything outside is, with respect to everyone, really irrelevant because it’s not there with us at 5:00 in the morning when we’re training, it’s not there late at night when we’re getting extra treatment. We know we have a good football team, and we know we’ve done all the things in regards to becoming physical, disciplined, tough, execute at a high level, with so much room to grow. We’re still getting better and better. But I think Oregon is, all the respect — we’ve warranted any and all respect that we’ve received. So in terms of — I don’t know, if that’s the question and we’re asking if we represented the conference well, I would say that we did.
Q. Justin, a couple days ago you got a video that Joey Harrington and some others sent you, and you said I can’t believe my time here is almost coming to an end. After this game, you go over to your mom and dad give them a hug on the sideline. What did it mean for your career at Oregon to end this way and end it with your parents, been through it all?
JUSTIN HERBERT: I wish I wasn’t over. It’s been the best four years of my life.
COACH CRISTOBAL: We can ask for a sixth year. There’s things — (laughter).
JUSTIN HERBERT: I’ve been honored to be a part of this team and to represent Eugene and the university. It’s humbling and it’s been such a great experience. And for them to be there and supportive throughout these years, it’s meant a lot to me. I’m excited. And the direction of the program, I couldn’t be more happy about it.
Q. Justin, how do you feel like the program is kind of set up now, that you’re walking out the door here with this win, a lot of momentum? And then the offense sputtered at times, but what was the key in staying focused and positive and getting the win?
JUSTIN HERBERT: They’re in good hands. They’ve got the right coaches, they’ve got the right guys coming up. And they’ll have a really good defense next year and some really explosive offensive players. And I’m excited to watch them, for sure.
Q. Justin, how crazy is it to you that you were the starting quarterback on the 4-8 team, and now you’re the starting quarterback on the Rose Bowl champions? What’s your emotions after just picturing that?
JUSTIN HERBERT: Amazed. That’s something that all of us have talked about these past couple of weeks. And to realize where we were and where we are now, it’s been a great journey. And for us to stick together through those tough times, just a testament to all the guys on the team and all the hard work that we’ve put in.
Q. Justin, on that run, what’s going through your heart and mind when you see pay dirt in front of you, you see very few of the opposition there and you see the path to eventual touchdown?
JUSTIN HERBERT: It’s a rare opportunity. It’s something I haven’t experienced too often. But it was great, and Johnny and Mycah did a great job blocking on the outside. And that’s what led me to get in the end zone, and a big thanks to those guys for leading the way.
Q. Justin, if you can go back, knowing what you know now and all you’ve accomplished, if you can go back and give your freshman self any advice or tell your freshman self anything, what would that be?
JUSTIN HERBERT: I would tell him to stay tough. Don’t let adversity shake you. Rely on your guys. Trust them. Stick together and everything will work out, and things can have a funny way of working out. And for us to come together, it’s been a great year and a great run. And I wouldn’t change anything over these past couple of years.
Q. Mario, you came into this program when it was at its lowest. You changed the culture. You changed the mentality of this team. And I think you changed the brand. Can you maybe just generally talk about what it feels like now to be here as the head coach of the Rose Bowl champion team, when you came in, when this program was at its lowest?
COACH CRISTOBAL: I think the best way to talk about it and describe it is I’m a member of this family. And everyone here, everyone back in that locker room, everyone that was here the previous couple — they were all involved in changing it. This is in no way, shape or form a one-man operation. Never has been. Never will be. We do things as a family. We stick together, and we got it. And we go hard now. What we do is not kind and cuddly, and it’s certainly not for everybody. So we all stuck to a blueprint that is as demanding as it gets and that will push you right to the edge until you get a breakthrough. That’s what these guys had. And because of that, I’ve learned as much from them, hopefully as much as they’ve learned along this process, all of us have. That’s the way I like to look at it because I think that’s the reality when you are part of a program, and certainly I consider myself just a part of this program.