Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley enjoyed a 31-14 lead against Georgia at one point on Monday evening. But instead of hoisting a Rose Bowl trophy and game-planning for the National Championship Game, the rookie head coach instead will be a spectator after dropping a heart-wrenching double-overtime contest against Georgia.
Following the Bulldogs’ 54-48 win, Riley met with the media in Pasadena, Calif. to discuss where it all went wrong for the Sooners.
Here’s a look at a portion of his comments, courtesy of ASAP Sports transcription:
Lincoln Riley’s opening statement
“Yeah, it’s tough to describe right now. It’s a hell of a college football game. You know, an epic Rose Bowl game. You know, being on this side of it is difficult to describe, the disappointment, the hurt that we feel, that those guys in that locker room feel right now. Some of them came in telling me sorry and telling us sorry, and I said, ‘Don’t tell us you’re sorry.’ Our team put it on the line. They laid it on the line every snap.
We weren’t perfect. We did a lot of really good things on both sides of the ball, but we certainly weren’t perfect. Had some opportunities, let the game get back a little bit closer there in the third quarter, and at that point it became — it was going to come down to one play here or there, and it did.
But it’s been a great run. The senior class has been tremendous. I mean, to win three straight Big 12 championships, being in this College Football Playoff twice, and then just, especially this year, there are a lot of reasons this team could have turned the wrong direction. From the coaching change, the Iowa State loss, just all the things that this team had to battle through, and I’m proud to be their coach. It’s been a great, great season, and I think we’ll set the stage for even bigger things here in the next few years.”
Lincoln Riley addresses key moments in Rose Bowl
Q. If you could pick out one thing among a number of things that you’ll never forget or that really haunt you, the squib kick at halftime or them getting pressure on Baker or something, the field goal? What really eats at you maybe more than anything?
Riley: “I don’t know that there’s one thing. Just that we had an opportunity to win the game. We had some — we’d separate ourself a little bit there in the first half and weren’t able to maintain it. Probably just overall as a team how we played there coming out of halftime. We just didn’t put our best foot forward.
But, look, give Georgia credit. There’s a reason they’re in this game too. They’re a very, very talented team. But, no, I will never say one play in particular. There is no one play that lost this game for us or won it for Georgia. There was a ton of good plays on both sides of the ball, and they made one more than we did.”
Q. Lincoln, the squib kick at halftime, you brought that up. Did the team just lose some momentum there? What happened in the third quarter, because you dominated the first half?
Riley: “Yeah, I mean, I don’t know that we necessarily lost momentum. That probably gave them a little bit of juice. They were able to steal three points on us. It was a good call. And Austin’s been great with those. He just didn’t hit it well and ended up going right to their guy, which that’s the one thing you can’t do and we did.
Then they did a good job of executing. It was kind of right there on the edge of do they throw a Hail Mary or not, and we certainly didn’t want to give up the Hail Mary, so we went into a defense against that. He made a nice throw on the out ball and the guy made a bomb. So, yeah, give them credit. Gave them a little bit of juice, and then, yeah, we just didn’t play well though early in the second half. That was the stretch of the game that I was probably most disappointed in.”
Q. In overtime, you only threw into the end zone once with arguably the best player in the country. It got intercepted and you got a break on the offsides. Could you have been more aggressive as a play caller in overtime?
Riley: “We didn’t get a break. We knew it was offsides. But, yeah, sure I’ll look back at it, and there will be calls that I wish I would have done different. You know, I’ve never had a game, even the ones that have went incredibly well, where there wasn’t some of that.
So you do the very best you can in that moment. I called the plays at that time that I thought were the very best, and, yeah. Will there be ones that I want to have back? Yeah. But, again, you learn from those, but I’m not going to dwell on them. You call enough plays, you’re going to call some bad ones, so — but we laid it all on the line, coaches and players.”
Q. Coach, how close were you to going for it on that fourth-and-1 in the first overtime, and why didn’t you?
Riley: “I was close. I was close. I went back and forth on it a little bit, and I had a lot of confidence in Austin like I have here the second half of the season. Then we had just held them to a field goal, I think, defensively, so I felt good about the second run at it. I don’t know. My gut said to kick it, and we did, and we made it.”
Q. Was part of the thinking that that still just gets you a first down? That doesn’t guarantee a touchdown?
Riley: “Sure, yeah, if it had been on the same thing, it had been on the 1-yard line, I probably would have went for it. But, yeah, I just didn’t think — I didn’t think the risk was worth the reward, and plus, that’s kind of their most-talented point right there is kind of stopping short-yardage runs. They’re pretty good at it. And our kicker’s good, so that’s why I did it.”