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P.J. Fleck Post-Game Quotes

January 1, 2020

Outback Bowl: Auburn vs Minnesota
Wednesday, January 1, 2020
P.J. Fleck
Minnesota Gophers
Minnesota 31, Auburn 24

DAVID DENO, CEO, BLOOMIN BRANDS: Good afternoon, everybody. On behalf of Outback, I want to congratulate the Auburn Tigers. The winning University of Minnesota Golden Gophers for their great win. As a native of Minnesota, it's just so tremendous to see what Coach Fleck has done for this program. Just want to say thank you on behalf of everybody from Minnesota and the university. Congratulations on such a great win, such a great season.

Coach Fleck.

P.J. FLECK: Thank you very much. I guess that's why they don't have an on-field presentation. Pretty nice. Pretty crystallized there.

First and foremost, give credit to Auburn, one of the blue bloods in college football, most traditional programs in college football. Gus Malzahn is one of the best coaches and best people in the country.

I told him after the game it is an honor to coach against him. I remember when we got the matchup, I was so excited because you get a chance to coach against one of the best people in college football. I have a lot of respect for him and his football team. A heck of a football team that our team just beat.

I want to thank our president, Joan Gabel, our athletic director Mark Coyle for having this vision. I want to thank our players. Really this is all about them. They found a way to win a game, I don't think many people thought we had a chance.

That just shows the resolve, the resiliency of this program and these kids who have been through so much. Whether you want to talk about Casey O'Brien's cancer battle for the fifth time, coaches moving on, we didn't play with three of our best players tonight.

Talking about quality control coaching coming right into full position coaches for the last two weeks. It's been amazing to watch everybody just come together.

It just shows the power of culture. There's five four-star kids on our football team. Everybody else is two- or three-star kids. They love the game of football, play so hard.

We're very honored. Want to thank our fans. It was a tremendous turnout tonight. Felt like a home game. Appreciate everybody making the trip. Want to thank the state of Minnesota for supporting us all year. Obviously our band, our student body. This is what it's all about. This is for you.

We challenged every one of our players before, if you want to be a blue blood, you got to beat blue bloods. We used to be blue bloods back in the '30, '40s, '50s and '60s. We talk about the word is 'restore'. We want to restore that tradition. We haven't won a championship yet in the Big Ten, but we stayed, we found a way to be resilient and a way to be champion at the end of the year.

Co-Big Ten west champs, now Outback Bowl champs. Guys like Tyler Johnson, who decided to stay for his senior year, means so much.

Very honored, very proud of our staff, very proud of our players and our university.

I'll open it up for questions.

Q. Is this the high point of your career?
P.J. FLECK: I think you always change and evolve. There's always peaks, there's always valleys. I was joking with our president, she's been here not even a year, said, You've had a heck of a year one with your football program. I said, My year one's don't go like your year one's.

It's a pinnacle for the year. It shows what this program is capable of doing. But when you've had championships, championship runs, they're all special for its own reason.

This is my seventh year being a head coach, going on number eight. I think it would be a disservice for all the players that played for me in the last seven years to say this is the ultimate. I would say this is the ultimate since we've been at the University of Minnesota, at Minnesota. It's something to traject [sic] you and move you forward as we continue to reestablish our tradition of being a blue blood.

Q. The fourth-and-one late in the game, is that a symbol of the team being aggressive?
P.J. FLECK: Yeah, I mean, I don't think it's any secret. Fourth and an inch. Quarterback snuck and didn't get an inch. I think you got to learn from your mistakes. You got to change your best, just like players. I think Matt Simon called a tremendous game. I thought he was poised all day, especially that call.

I didn't question him on it, but I did ask him one more time, This is what you want to run?

Absolutely, coach.

Man, the first day coordinator, you're all over it (laughter).

But it was a great call. It was a necessary call. Again, that's what he's about. I thought he took the whole week, captured it, ran with it.

Q. Did he (Matt Simon) make every call?
P.J. FLECK: No, he called the game. I mean, I followed along with him. I called what I wanted to call when I interjected, got to call some plays, made sure that it was based on what he wanted. I checked with him, as well.

I'm not going to micromanage my people at all. I'm going to hire really good people and we're going to let them coach. My job is to be able to be the cultural coach, be able to make them better coaches, be able to support them any way I possibly can, make their dreams come true one day because they've all made my dream come true. I'm living my dream. I am living my dream every day.

There are a lot of people that are responsible for that. My way to pay it forward is make sure all their dreams come true. Matt Simon called his first game tonight, which I thought was really big, in the Big Ten against one of the best teams in the country. Did a great job.

Q. Did you see a big game for Tyler?
P.J. FLECK: Had to. First of all, you got to give Gus Malzahn a lot of credit. When you're playing against him, it's almost like preparing for ghosts defensively. He changes almost everything, new tendencies, breaks tendencies, has three weeks to prepare for you.

Last year they scored 58 points in the first half at their bowl game. We knew we were going to have to mix it up, knew we were going to have to expand the field from sideline to sideline. Matt did a great job of expanding things, inside zone, outside zone, play-action pass, the nakeds, the boots, moving the pocket, keeping Tanner comfortable.

Our only chance was to wear them out up front some way, just to give us a chance. When we took our shots, we had to hit them. I thought we were able to do that.

Q. Coach Malzahn kept harping about the fact that they only ran 50 plays. What was successful for your defensively?
P.J. FLECK: Chip will love this, I circled two stats. Chip, the first one I circled down here is time of possession. We knew that we could not let Bo Nix have the football for a long time. We couldn't. We had to be able to control the ball. We had to take the play clock down all the way from 40 seconds down to 5 almost every play. I thought Tanner did a great job of managing that.

Up front, it's very rare that our offensive line will be out-manned. We were really out-manned in terms of size and strength. Those are all first-round picks up there. They just continued to keep their oar in the water, keep rowing the boat, keep doing our job.

I think that comes from our preparation. Our preparation is very unique and very different. I'm sure Tyler is probably glad that preparation is over, as he moves into the National Football League.

It is very difficult in the National Football League, I will say that, Tyler. But our preparation gives us a chance. I thought our team prepared for three weeks, they did exactly what we asked them to do. They did it as if it were their own.

This team has matured. Proud of the effort they had. We had to control the clock, run the ball, take some chances on fourth down, flip field position. I thought our defense was so stingy. We give them a field goal to start the game, then they have a kickoff return. So we put our defense in a really tough position points-wise.

I thought they were really stingy. Joe Rossi called a really good game. Really proud of him, too.

Q. How did all the big games this season prepare the team for today?
P.J. FLECK: We have a baseball bat. I don't know if you've seen it. It's a baseball bat. Every game we put a doughnut on the bat, whether we win or lose. It's a blue doughnut if we win, an orange doughnut if we lose. We used that in our last team meeting last night before we put them to bet. No coincidence it was blue and orange, who we were playing.

You keep putting donuts on the bat knowing you're going to learn from your mistakes and success. No matter what the result is, we write on the doughnut what we learned from that game, put it on the bat, get back in the batter's circle, the on-deck circle. You keep swinging it, swinging it. The next thing you know, you get in the batter's box, it's game day.

That bat should be lighter. You should be able to be a better football team, be better at your fundamentals, techniques. That's what happened all year. We got better and better. One bad quarter against Iowa, a bad quarter and a half against Wisconsin. Other than that, there's a lot of quarters throughout the season, that's what I would consider bad. After that, that's what I would sit there and say, we had a really good season.

Q. (On Outback Bowl MVP Tyler Johnson and how he ends his career at Minnesota.)
P.J. FLECK: First of all, he's going to leave here the greatest receiver in the history of the University of Minnesota. That's no respect to Ron Johnson. I think Eric Decker would back me up. He joins that list.

He's proven, whether it's touchdowns, yards, catches, he's the ultimate wide receiver here. I think this shows when young people make really smart decisions, well thought out, educated decisions of when to come back, this is an example.

That's one of the best teams in the country defensively. He just had 204 yards with two touchdowns, all right? He just showed what he can do with 12 catches against one of the best defenses in the country. We're talking about getting him drafted, he showed that. Now we have a chance to show that.

He came back, had a phenomenal year, trained hard, matured a lot. All he did was help his draft status, help his team. North Minneapolis should be very proud of him. We're all proud of him of what he's brought to our university, the type of person he is, the type of man he is, the type of pro he was. He's got his degree. I'm very, very proud of him of what he's going to do in the future. Like I said, I think he's the greatest receiver to ever play here.

Q. What would you tell an NFL team about Tyler?
P.J. FLECK: He sure is consistent. People say big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games. 12 catches, 204 yards, two touchdowns, everybody is going to look at that game. Every NFL scout, every NFL wide receiver coach, GM, president is going to watch that game. They're going to watch that one, they're going to watch some others, show the big ones, the ranked teams. Look at what he just did.

He's going to be a really good asset to any program, works hard. He's a team guy, a culture guy. He's unique. Has trained in a very unique program and culture. The best advice I gave him is be you and be the culture. You will stand out like a sore thumb in a positive way in the National Football League.

When you stand out in a positive way in the National Football League, people love that. It's like the more you do, the better person you are, the more team and culture guy you are, the longer those people stay in the NFL. He's going to have a very long career in the NFL.

I wish him all the best. He's standing right there. I thank him because he didn't have to do what he did. When you have players that do that, that's your second year coaching, they've had three coaches, three different cultures, he decides to stay and do that, he sets the example for so many.

It was his decision. Nobody forced him to stay. He made an educated decision, got all the paperwork, didn't let anybody get into his head, give him bad advice. He got the right advice from the people he loves, from the people he trusts, made a decisive decision, said this is my decision.

This just shows when you get the right decision, he makes the right decision, because it's an educated decision, positive things happen.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports