ESPN is not a new name in the game when it comes to reporting all things sports and neither is Heather Cox. In their forever busy schedules, reporters are constantly on the move while trying to file a multitude of stories, many of which we have all seen and read. However, Heather Cox, who will be a sideline reporter for this Saturday's game in Norman was kind enough to take a few moments out of her hectic schedule to answer a few questions I had for her ranging from the world of reporting to specific on the game. Without any further ado, here is what transpired.
CCM - What has been your favorite experience as a reporter so far in your career?
Heather Cox - Oklahoma fans aren't going to like hearing this, but one of the most exciting games I covered was the 2007 Fiesta Bowl that Boise State beat Oklahoma in overtime. Two years earlier, I did the Michigan-Texas Rose Bowl game and remember thinking "I will never see a game as exciting as this".... but that "best game I've ever worked" was then replaced by the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.I have also had the privilege of reporting at 3 Olympic Games (Athens, Beijing, London) which is definitely on the top of my career bucket list.
CCM - Oklahoma and Notre Dame are two of the most storied programs in the nation. It is possibly the biggest game in Norman on par with 2000 Nebraska and 2008 Texas Tech. How much different is the atmosphere on the sideline than in the stands?
Heather - No laughing, but I can't really answer that, considering I haven't actually watched a football game as a fan in the stands in years. I have been reporting on college football every Saturday during the Fall since 1995 and haven't had a Saturday off in that span to sit in the stands and watch a game (but I'm not complaining.... I feel like I have the best "seat" in the house on the sideline!)
CCM - There is so much going on with each team on the sideline. As a reporter are you focused solely on the game or the demeanor and attitude of the sideline to tell the story?
Heather - I try to focus on the game, the announcers call, and the activity on the sideline. I think that every report I file has to take all of those elements into consideration.
CCM - Live interviewing is probably one of the tougher jobs in reporting sports as you are never quite sure how the games are going to play out. Much of the speculation is the Landry Jones will decide this game. Do you anticipate the half time reports to center around his play or the defenses?
Heather - I actually don't ever anticipate what direction my halftime interview will go. My questions are based on what has happened during the first half so it is rare that I go in with a preconceived ideas for questions. During the game, I keep notes with story lines, team strengths, weaknesses, big plays, momentum changers, penalties, injuries, etc. and determine my questions based on those notes.
CCM - Of course reporters are required to remain objective in their reporting but are you going to be pulling for a specific team in this matchup?
Heather - I know this sounds cliche, but I don't have a "favorite" that I want to win. Selfishly, I always am rooting for a close, competitive, well-played game. I know, yawn.
CCM - Can you give us your score prediction and why you lean one way or the other?
Heather - If I had to guess, I would say that the team that has the most success in the air is the team that wins. I do think it could be a tough day throwing the ball for both teams. Both rank in the top 10 in FBS in pass efficiency defense. And neither offense ranks in the top 35 in pass efficiency offense. The Oklahoma coaching staff did tell us today that they will try to attack Notre Dame's secondary early. And Coach Kelly told me this afternoon "we can't play a 17-14 type of game and expect to win." But he also admitted that "there is no way we will win this game if we go in and throw the ball 60 times. We have to have an effective running game to win." Offensive balance and an efficient passing game are key for both teams.
CCM - Lastly, how much weight will the game carry with voters in the polls regardless of who wins?
Heather - I think this is definitely a "measuring stick" type of game for the voters. Notre Dame's secondary hasn't been tested by an offense like Oklahoma's all year and I think voters are very interested to see how it fares. I also think voters are looking at Landry Jones and the Oklahoma offense to see if it can put up the same type of numbers it has over the last 3 weeks. This is just the second true road game for Notre Dame- voters will be curious to see how the Irish hold up in a hostile environment. And I feel that voters are starting to realize that OU's one loss came to a very talented Kansas State team and was the result of 2 big mistakes after playing 3 quarters of very sound football. I think voters are starting to believe that Oklahoma is a very good football team and a win against the Irish could go a long way in moving OU up in the polls and keeping its title hopes alive.
There you have it folks! A special thanks to Heather and the others involved in making this happen at ESPN.