COACH RICHT: Well, we came close. Guys played hard. Proud of our team. Going to miss our seniors. Great guys, guys that really poured their lives into it as well as everyone else.
Really excited to see what great things those guys will do in the future. Everybody else that's left is going to get better. Looking forward to a really outstanding 2014.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Mark, talk about the job that your quarterback did under the game conditions today.
COACH RICHT: Well, I don't think anybody wants to go out there and slosh around, have a bunch of rain coming down, all slick, all that kind of thing. It makes it tougher to execute in the passing game obviously.
But I thought Hutson, as time went on and got used to the elements, did a really good job. Hutson's a great football player, a great person, a great leader for our team. Got a lot of faith how he'll do in the future as well.
Games like this are hard fought. I don't know how many plays were made down the stretch to put us in position to win the game. I know at crunch time, from what I saw, Hutson played very well.
Q. What are your expectations for him next year?
COACH RICHT: Well, it really starts now. He's a senior. I just told all the seniors that their watch begins now. Told the future seniors of 2014 that their job begins right this minute, starts with thinking of ways to get better, starts with doing everything on an individual basis to get better, and find ways to get your teammates to get better, as well.
Hutson has always been an extremely hard worker, a guy that we all know is on preparation. I think it's one of the fastest ways you can earn respect from your teammates is how you work, knowledge of the game, know where to go with the ball, the ability to get your protections right, your run game correct. It's not an easy job to do that.
Hutson knows that extremely well. Our guys know that, they've seen him in big games already, they know he can get it done. I think his future is very bright.
Q. Can you talk about the decision not to kick a field goal with five minutes left? The play calling toward the end, a lot of runs.
COACH RICHT: Well, two things. The first question, I didn't really think about kicking the field goal. I knew if we made it on fourth down, we kept the drive going, we could make the touchdown, take the lead. I knew if we didn't make it, they were backed up pretty far, another shot at scoring a touchdown.
Obviously we could have kicked a field goal. But then you have to kick it off, cover the kick. We've covered very well, but you take a risk of something happening there.
As far as the next drive you're talking about with the run game, when you know you're in four down territory, I think it's wise to give them the ball. We knew on some of those third down and longs and mediums, there was going to be a fourth down that we were going to go for it obviously. We knew we were in four down territory which freed us up to run the ball a little bit.
Fourth and three is a lot easier to manage than a fourth and eight or fourth and nine. We thought we might could break one, too, as they were rushing the passer hard, playing some pretty good pass defense as well.
Q. Hutson, it seemed at the beginning it took you a little while to get comfortable in the game. You got more accurate towards the end. Is that accurate?
Hutson Mason: No. I felt great the whole game. First couple drives, I know we converted some big third downs. I don't feel I came out slow or anything.
Wasn't perfect. Wasn't perfect at all throughout the game. But I felt like we were doing great things, moving the ball down the field. Just weren't really finishing like we could have, so...
Q. Coach, you're sitting there third and 14 on the half yard line, get hit deep again. 13th game, young secondary, I'm assuming you're pretty peeved about the way that happened?
COACH RICHT: It's not an exciting thing to see. It's not something I'm happy about, obviously.
But when it does happen, again, my biggest thought is, Okay, what's the score? What do we have to do to win? The guy who struggled on that play, he knew it. There were other guys that could pass it hard, other guys that do their job better, too. What happens on the back end looks monstrous, or it looks that way when you go 99 yards. It's very tough.
At that point what do you do? You could fall apart and start ripping everybody up, breaking them down, watching your team fall apart on the sideline, or you can keep your composure, keep digging, fighting, scratching, and keep putting yourself and your team in position to win.
That's what we were trying to do. That's what we did do. We had a really excellent chance of finishing the game on a high note. It just didn't happen.
I thought Marshall Morgan did good.
Marshall MORGAN: Thanks, coach.
COACH RICHT: Just thought we'd acknowledge that he's here.
Q. This is the fourth or fifth game where a fumble on a punt return has cost y'all.
COACH RICHT: I don't think it's that many, but it might be.
Q. Where do you go from there?
COACH RICHT: Got to do better. Got to field it.
Q. Hutson, you had that one slide out that looked like you were sliding into home base. What were your thoughts on the field conditions today?
HUTSON MASON: I thought they were as expected. Being there in warmups, you could kind of see the field was a little rough and you knew rain was coming. The mud, divots, things like that, weren't a surprise. They weren't great field positions by no means.
But I didn't think anybody was really slipping out there a ton. I don't know if we had anybody come out of a break where they slipped or anything like that.
So they weren't great by no means, but I still think it wasn't an excuse for play or anything like that.
Q. What do you think the benefit for you will be having started these two games?
HUTSON MASON: It's been a big blessing. By no means am I happy that Aaron got hurt. It's been a great opportunity to get two games under my belt. It's huge for next season when you talk about, Do guys believe in you.
For my career here, I've been known as a practice player. For guys to see me perform in two games, I believe that they believe in me.
It's big going into the off season. Guys believing in you, buying in, knowing you're the leader of this team, knowing you're in charge. So it's huge.
Q. Hutson, could you just react to the statement that you shouldn't be able to not put up the same numbers at Aaron?
HUTSON MASON: It's huge for guys, the guys that you're playing with, believe in you. Not only as a quarterback, not only do you have to know what's going on in coverages and fronts, what everybody else is doing, but the most important thing, when you step in that huddle, your demeanor and poise, they're looking at you. Do we believe in this guy, his talk, his command?
That's what quarterbacks want from their guys in their huddle. They want them to believe. That comes with off the field, winter workouts, off season preparation, but also comes with your performance.
I've tried my best over my career here. I haven't always been the guy, but just know that opportunity is going to come one day, and I always wanted to be ready for it. I didn't want it to slip through my hands, say should have, could have, would have.
I strived every day to continue to get better. I love my teammates, I know they love me, and we'll always be there for each other, so...
Q. Marshall, can you address the field conditions for planting, kicking, everything you had to do.
MARSHALL MORGAN: Just coming into the game, I knew it was going to rain. I saw the weather forecast. I was just relying on Nathan and Adam. We've been pretty good all year together as a unit. I knew if they did their jobs, I'd be confident that I'd be able to do mine.
Everything went smooth. I mean, it was wet out there. The field wasn't as we would have wanted, but we got it done.
Q. Coach, what was your thought on that hit in the second quarter?
COACH RICHT: Is that the one where there was a penalty, not a targeting? It's hard to say. I think the targeting rule is one that has to be revisited in a lot of ways. I think it's very difficult to teach how to hit properly. I think it's very difficult to officiate.
It was hard to tell if it was helmet to helmet. I think it's just a very difficult penalty to officiate. I think there's flaws in it, the way it's set up. I think there will be a change, would be my guess. But I'm not going to sit there and say it was or it wasn't targeting. It's hard to say.