HOUSTON, Texas -- The big bowl event of the day was the Texas Bowl Luncheon held at the Aggies hotel downtown and prior to that both teams met with the media, so here is what Pokes Report thought was the best of the pre-Texas Bowl press conference with head coaches Mike Gundy of the Cowboys and Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M and the four players that each coach brought to the interview room with them.
Defense in the Big 12?
I had to ask. This is a Big 12-SEC match-up and the numbers are interesting simply between these two teams. Texas A&M only allowed 22.7 points a game and Oklahoma State allowed 27 a contest. Total defense the Aggies were over 70-yards better at 340.8-yards allowed a game and the Cowboys at 418.1-yards. Same with rushing and passing defense, but not by a lot. Oklahoma State had more sacks, A&M more tackles for loss. Oklahoma State was better in turnover margin and tunrovers gained.
Coming off watching all that video from the Big 12 as A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher did, I had to ask him, if he thought the Big 12 played any defense?
"Ha,ha,ha, there are some really good offensive players," Fisher said starting his answer. "They have really good offensive players on those teams and when they go outside their conference they are still scoring a lot of points. Yes, they do play defense, very physical, safeties tackle very well, they can rush, they (Oklahoma State) have a corner going to the Senior Bowl. They are big, long on the edges, and they can play. They are a good defensive football team and their scheme can cause you problems."
Texas A&M Has a Player Sitting Out the Texas Bowl, Oklahoma State's Chuba Hubbard is Playing
In the stand by your team category, Oklahoma State is the winner with the nation's leading rusher Chuba Hubbard playing in the game and working to get that 63-yards he needs to get over 2,000-yards on the season. Hubbard is still contemplating whether to go out int he 2020 NFL Draft. However, there was seemingly little thoguht, if any, that he gave to not finishing this season with his teammates. Texas A&M defensive tackle Justin Madubuike with 45 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks along with an interception and a blocked kick is going to the NFl and won't suit up for A&M on Friday.
"Personally, for me I think it is important that players play in bowl games," Gundy added. "Everybody has the right to their opinion. Sometimes they choose not to and that's okay. I'm glad he chose to play and our team is excited, the fans are excited, and the bowl is excited that he is playing."
Hubbard is his usual humble and "it's not about me" self. We know his offensive line really wants to get him to 2,000-yards and more. I think he could help his NFL prospects by getting another game close to or over 200-yards. He's not even thinking about the 2,000 mark.
"To be honest, not really, I kind of forgot about it," Hubbard said of the 2,000-yard threshold. Like I said, I just focus on the game. All the accolades and the 2,000-yards and stuff like that aren't as important. I just want to win the game."
“We’ve had a great year; we’ve had a few ups and downs based on things that are sometimes out of our hands, but Chuba [Hubbard is a first-class young man,” said head coach Mike Gundy.
Gundy is really staying out of it, as far as whether Hubbard comes back for another full season. The head coach is not involved much in that discussion as Gundy lets assistant athletic director for speed, strength, and conditioning Rob Glass do the most there. Glass knows the NFL people and is the point person with pro scouts and NFL administrators when it comes to Pro Day and NFL relations and situations with Oklahoma State players.
“He and his family have to make a decision based on this game and his future," Gundy added being fairly matter-of-fact. "That’s a personal matter for him. It’s different for every young man that we’ve had over the last 10 or 12 years that had the opportunity that [Hubbard] has at this point.”
When asked Hubbard confirmed again what we had reported that he received his NFL Draft packet and projection supplied by the league when practice ended in Stillwater. Asked by one reporter if he wanted to share, he did not. He did talk about the process of coming to a decision.
"I mean there are a million things that I factor into that decision," Hubbard said when I asked about the decision process. "Obviously, I've worked my whole life for this next step. Now that it's here I'm going to factor in everything and I'm not going to rush it. I'm taking my time and I want to get every resource that I can. Like I said, I'm just taking it day-by-day and focusing on this game. Then I will figure it all out."
All the Aggies defenders know and all they have to know is it is up to them to try and stop him.
"Absolutely, he is a great back and he runs hard," said A&M junior safety Keldrick Carper, who is the fourth leading tackler on the team with 47 stops. Linebackers Buddy Johnson and Anthony Hines III lead the team in tackles with 71 and 70 respectively. "It will be a great challenge to meet up with him in the hole with our linebackers and safeties and everything like that filling in those gaps."
Aggies May Need to Pass the Cowboys
Texas A&M has struggled with the run this season averaging just 151.7-yards a game rushing compared to the Cowboys 236.3, which was second in the Big 12. A&M is down to one healthy running back in starter Isaiah Spiller as 6-0, 240-pound sophomore Cordarrian Richardson is not on the trip for undisclosed reasons and 6-5, 210-pound reserve quarterback Connor Blumrick is next up.
Texas A&M will have to pass for success and they have a good receiver and a Houston native in 6-2, 218-pound Jhamon Ausbon. Ausbon finished his high school career in Florida at IMG Academy and he has been good this season. He runs good routes, has excellent ball skills, but may not be explosive fast.
Cowboys corner A.J. Green will have the most to do with keeping Ausbon from getting the A&M passing attack untracked.
"Number four (Green) and number eight (Rodarius Williams) are really good guys," Aubon said. "Both are really good cover guys, pretty smart, and they know the defense and how they tie into the concepts. I think we are playing against a very sound and technical team. They have a good secondary and we will have to play well against them."
The Cowboys will rely on some depth at safety in Tanner McCalister and Jason Taylor II as both will start with defensive leader Kolby Harvel-Peel out with a knee injury and Tre Sterling will sit out the first half as a result of the targeting penalty in Bedlam.
Ray Guy Award Winner Mann Can Flip the Field
Oklahoma State is in the first season with a new Australian punter and Tom Hutton has been solid with 21 punts inside the 20, 26 punts fair caught, but only five of 50-yards or more. The Aggies Houston native punter Braden Mann out of Cy-Fair High School has 23 punts inside the 20 and a whopping 28 of 50-yards or more with an average of 47.7-yards a punt.
Some of Mann's punts traveled further than he did to go to the bowl.
"It felt nice not having to fly anywhere and just drive over to the hotel for the bowl week," Mann said of his arrival.
With Oklahoma State's explosive offense, Mann knows there is an expectation from the coaches and his teammates to do his thing on Friday.
"Coach Fisher preaches winning field position and every meeting he hits on offense and defense, but then he always hits on special teams because he knows that is where the little yards come in and if we can pin them inside the 10 or 15 that puts pressure on their offense and gets our defense in a good position."