Dec. 21, 2013
Courtesy of ASAP Sports
COACH Jim McElwain
Q. Coach, how do you feel?
COACH McELWAIN: We feel good. First of all, I just want to take this opportunity, the state of New Mexico and town of Albuquerque, what a great bowl these guys put on. I can't tell you. I talked to guys over the years that have been here, the hospitality, the professionalism. I've had an opportunity to be in a couple of these bowls over the years, and this one is right up there. They just did an outstanding job for our teams, our players and our fans. That win right there, it's pretty amazing how it worked. At the end of the day, it's about being resilient. It's about understanding every play has a history and life of its own. I think that was the epitome of it. For our guys to figure out a way to get it done and finish, I thought that really speaks volumes for how far our program has come. The foundation is starting to be settled and built. We've got a long ways to go. Can't turn the ball over like that and expect to win. Yet they kept after them. I just can't tell you how proud I am of their effort.
Q. Jim, what can you say about Shaq Barrett's performance in the last two minutes?
COACH McELWAIN: You guys have had a chance to be around him. First, he's a great person. He's a great father. He's a guy that doesn't do a lot of talking. Plays the game the way it's supposed to be played. To me he represents, you know, what the Rams are all about. I feel he found a way to make a play. He did that over and over this season in some big moments for us. We need to get a sack, he gets a sack, that kind of stuff. You know what, he did his job.
Q. Especially your start, as sloppy as it was at the beginning, how important was it for your team to finish the way it did, not let that be the lingering memory for the off-season?
COACH McELWAIN: It's interesting because when we talked at halftime, at the end of the day when you look at it, was it something they did or was it us? Guys, you know, we gave them some gifts. Here I think is the good thing: we learned how to overcome. That's part of building a program.
Q. Do you think it's about time to start calling Kicker by his name?
COACH McELWAIN: 'Kicker'. He tried to miss that son of a gun. Didn't quite put it right down the middle, so we'll have to talk about that in the post-season wrap-up (laughter). Kicker, he's been big for us. There was no doubt in that situation, you got total confidence in the guy. The wind was behind him. We are at elevation. He did his job.
Q. Coach, I know there's a lot of games where the emotional rollercoaster goes crazy. When you guys get that fumble, the apparent fumble, throw all that electricity into the place, it gets overturned, how do you possibly keep your guys motivated to go back out there and turn it around again?
COACH McELWAIN: The big part of that is when you drum the mentality of never look at the scoreboard, go out and win this play, no matter what happened before. There were times this season we let emotional things kind of cloud how we played. Just unbelievable. You don't write scripts like this. You know what I'm getting at? I can't tell you how proud I am of our guys, really our seniors. I want to know how many guys already filed their stories because you had a 5:00 deadline? Rams fumbled away another one (laughter).
Q. Who would you say showed up to play the most in today's game?
COACH McELWAIN: It's hard to put your finger on a guy. I know the score was in the 40s or whatever, but I truly believe it was a team win. What I mean by that, our special teams, we were horrible in the punt game, gave them 14 points in essence, and yet, you know what, they kept at it. I mean, there at the end, there's a perfect example, special teams came up with a play when we needed to have something happen, right? There's so many of those you can point at. I don't know how well you know me, but the guys who didn't show up in the box score, I guarantee you they're the ones who won the game.
Q. You're always a guy that regardless of the score or team, you expect to win every single game. What was going through your head when you were down towards the end?
COACH McELWAIN: I think we were down two scores or whatever. I was trying to figure out when we scored the first one do we go for 2 or wait for the second one. That's what was going through my mind, knowing we were going to get some scores. It was just a matter of how we had to even it up. We made the choice before going in, Hey, guys, we're going to go for it after our second touchdown. That's what we did. So I don't know.
Q. Some of your big names stepped up. You talked about the guys that don't show up in the box score. Steven Michel, Jake Schlager. What does it tell you about your young guys, the production they give you?
COACH McELWAIN: When you think about guys going out and giving their all, and as we always say, you never know when that play is going to happen. It could happen in the first part of the game, could happen in the middle, could happen in the end. Yet to see those guys just grinding it out makes you real happy. Of course, Schlager and Steve-O have been good on special teams all year.
Q. You had two plays under review in the last two minutes. Did you have a feeling that he was in on the Statue of Liberty play?
COACH McELWAIN: We're on a tight schedule. We were able to work a deal on a charter. I thought they were trying to make us miss because we got to get to the airport and get out of here. Whether he was in or not, that's why we have review. Some get overturned, some that's the call. So the way I felt, we had both kickoff teams on the mat, whether we had to go the obvious onside or whether we had our kickoff team. You're always trying to think ahead because at the end of the day it's really out of your control. I'm glad that he reached it over and touched that pylon.
Q. You talked about the resiliency of your team. Earlier in the season your guys might have folded a little bit down in the second half. This game they did not do that. Can you frame how they've grown over the season.
COACH McELWAIN: When you see our guys, based on when I got here and now, how they just carried themselves, how they take time to say, How you doing? They take time to say 'please' and 'thank you', how they take time for the betterment of others. That's where you start to see the culture is starting to change. I'm proud of them. There's a lot of those simple life lessons that if you take care of every day, take care of the now, the games take care of themselves. That's how you establish a program.
Q. Jim, that first quarter, you probably couldn't have done more things wrong. What were you able to do? What did you tell the team to recover from that?
COACH McELWAIN: Well, I know Gildan is probably mad at me because everyone turned to the other games (laughter). I go back and it comes down to really, are they that good, are they that much better, or is it something we're doing. Really, we didn't panic. I thought it was big. We caught some beans there right before half, got us a little momentum. Then we come out and go basically three-and-out on offense. Great job there, huh? We kept plugging away. That's really what it's about.
Q. Were you aware of the interaction with Greg Lupfer and Washington State's quarterback?
COACH McELWAIN: I heard something about it, but honestly I don't know anything until I look at it. We'll definitely handle it in a quick manner, whatever it is. Right now I'm really concerned about these guys in the locker room, how excited they are, what they have overcome to learn what it is to be a champion. Right now they're the champions of the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. Last time I checked there's only one of those and I'm proud of them.
Q. This might not be the record that you hoped for at the beginning of the season, 8-6.
COACH McELWAIN: No, not even close.
Q. But looking for how quickly you turned around this program, do you feel a sense of pride sitting up there today after this win?
COACH McELWAIN: You know, I don't know. Sometime this summer when I take those couple days and go to Flathead Lake, sit on the dock, I'll probably think about something to get mad about. But we're building something special. We're a long ways from being there now. But, guys, when you hear the Rams are on the rise, it's a good time to get on the bandwagon because good things are happening in this program.
Colorado State Players - 12.21.13
Garrett Grayson, Weston Richburg, Shaq Bell, Shaquil Barrett
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Garrett Grayson, Weston Richburg, Shaq Bell and Shaq Barrett.
Q. Shaquil, talk a little bit about you get the fumble, they overturn it, what is going through your mind to get it again?
Shaquil Barrett: I really wasn't thinking about anything. I was kind of thinking in my mind, that was our shot to get back in the game right there. Then they run the ball. Tried to bounce it back, just get my arm in there. When the ball came out, it was a lot of luck from the man above, help from the man above to put us in the right position. I really wasn't thinking about trying to get it again because I didn't think I was going to get the opportunity.
Q. Garrett, how often do you practicethe Statue of Liberty?
Garrett Grayson: Walk-throughs every Friday, we practice it a couple times. Worked for the most part. It worked today.
Q. Weston, did you feel like this was a team, it was almost like you were somehow destined to win this game the way it came down at the end? Did it feel that way as it was happening?
Weston Richburg: Yeah, I'm still kind of at a loss for words for exactly how that whole
thing ended up. Two minutes left, we're down by 15 points. Now we won the game. Yeah, it must have been destiny. That's the most unbelievable game I've ever been a part of.
Q. You did win, by the way.
Weston Richburg: Yes (laughter).
Q. You're getting ready on the sidelines after the dramatic replay to go to overtime. How is your mindset and how did you change it to, I got to get back out there now?
Garrett Grayson: I was pretty mad because I felt he was in. I had no doubt in my mind that he was in. At that point I went over to Coach Ezell and Coach Mack, we were trying to figure out a play, what we were going to call going into the next drive. We knew he was in. I was standing pretty close to right behind him when he was going. I saw the angle. I was pretty mad they didn't call him in at first. We got it. That's all that matters.
Q. The fumble occurs, you're right backon the field instead of overtime.
Garrett Grayson: Coach Mac came up to me and said, We're going to run the ball here. If they don't call a timeout here, we'll let the clock run out, we'll spike the ball. We have a great kicker, one of the best in the country. He does that every day in practice. You have seen it all year in games. He's big-time for us. He's one of the more clutch players I think out there. If we can give him the ball like that, we know it's going in.
Q. Does any of this seem real yet or isthis going to take a while?
Shaq Bell: Seems real. It's real, but still unbelievable how it ended.
Q. Garrett, you're going to come back next year. Mac will sit at his house and think about something you did wrong. Do you get the feeling, it's not enough for you guys?
Garrett Grayson: I won't say 'not enough'. He just wants us to be perfect and expects that of us. He won't ever say it's not enough. Like he said earlier, is it them or is it us. We look at mistakes we made all year. We could have had a few more wins if we executed a few more things. Even though we started out slow today, I had a few bonehead plays I guess you could say, put us in a tough position. If I didn't throw that pass, get that intentional grounding, that leads to a punt block. Just things like that that Coach Mac is constantly harping on be perfect about, don't make those mistakes to put
us in that position, so...
Q. Shaq Barrett, can you describe what you just experienced postgame? Just an avalanche of fans. You were the celebrity posing for pictures, kissing babies, everything.
SHAQ BARRETT: It was just a great feeling to be appreciated for your play. I just want to thank all the fans who came out to support us all. Did a tremendous job of cheering us on. To witness the unbelievable fourth quarter, the last two minutes... The celebrity moments are fun out there, but I'm still a low-key kind of guy. I don't want to be in the spotlight all the time. Just get in the locker room, get changed, head home. That's what I'm looking forward to.
Q. You played from behind most of the game. You had one of the most incredible comebacks ever. Talk about the growth you made as a team.
Weston Richburg: I think that's the first time in my career, maybe with an exception of a couple situations where we have played the entire game, even when the odds were not in our favor at all. Two minutes, 15 points down, you know, we just kept going. We did. That just speaks about the resiliency of this team. We've got some unbelievable players. Shaq made a huge play. Steve-O made a huge play. These guys played really well on defense. Throughout the entire game, we never stopped, never gave up. That was very fun and something I'll remember forever.
Q. What happened in the first quarter? Seemed like you were a team that was trying to self-destruct. What happened in the first quarter?
Garrett Grayson: I just think Coach Mac, he was kind of different all week this week. He never really got mad at us. He was trying to keep us calm. I think that's something he's learned from his experience in bowl games. Especially us, we haven't been to a bowl game. He wanted to keep us as calm as possible. That first quarter showed maybe we were a little too hyped. We just needed to calm down and play our own game. After that first quarter, I think we did that, so...
Q. Shaq Bell, you guys in the secondary have been given problems for giving
Shaq Bell: Once we get to the sidelines, we talk to each other. We talk about what did he run, was the technique good. After the play happens, you just have to stay confident. You can't let that one play determine the rest of your game. We didn't give up. We kept fighting. They got a couple of plays on us. I mean, we just kept fighting the whole way through for four quarters and came out with a win.
Q. Garrett, how was your experience as a whole here in the New Mexico Bowl?
Garrett Grayson: It was amazing. They treated us like we were kings. It was an awesome experience. Send these guys out the right way, let them get that experience. That was something coming into the season I talked to my dad about. I wanted to send the seniors out the right way, get them to a bowl game. I'm happy to be part of it. But, yeah, as far as the experience goes, it was something special and something I'll cherish forever, so...
Q. Weston, how would you describe the atmosphere of the team traveling here to New Mexico beforehand knowing you were going up against a team who is offensively very strong like you?
Weston Richburg: We were really confident in our preparation. I think we practiced probably seven, eight days straight, watched a lot of film. Watched film while we were in Albuquerque, practiced twice out here with another walk-through. We were really confident in our preparation. We all knew it was a bowl game. For us three it was our last one. Really confident that our guys wanted to give their all, understood there's no reason to hold anything back as seniors. We were able to do that. That kind of went into our preparation, went into our focus this week. Focus was turned up a lot higher today because we understood that today's the day. We understood the task. We understood what we were supposed to do, went out there and did it. Sometimes it wasn't pretty. First quarter was terrible for us offensively. That focus really helped us. We just continued throughout the entire game and ended up with a win.
Q. Garrett, with Halliday putting up the yards and touchdowns on the other side, what is going through your mind on the sideline? Was there a sense you need to match what he's putting up?
Garrett Grayson: I just kept telling myself to be dominant today. I kept telling myself, You're the better quarterback. Kept telling myself that. That helped me at the end of the game being confident in whatever we're going to do. Four minutes left, being confident. I never really talked to myself I guess before. That's something I say I'm going to do from now on because it worked. I'm happy. Congrats to him. He put up some crazy numbers, but I'm happy we got the win.
Q. Is this almost the perfect ending toyour careers considering you spent your year trying to crawl out of a hole that you've been in for three seasons?
Weston Richburg: I couldn't have thought this up this way. It was unbelievable. I wouldn't change it at all. We faced a lot of adversity today. When some of us thought it was over, it wasn't. Just a heck of a way to end my career here at CSU.
SHAQ BARRETT: In the locker room I was saying that I wished I had one more year to play with these guys. I loved the way it ended. It's important that we got to win as seniors, but it's more important that we handed the baton to Garrett and the underclassmen to start the next season off right. The ending of the game, I think it would have been better if we would have won by one point.
COACH MIKE LEACH, CONNOR HALLIDAY, DEONE BUCANNON
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. How would you describe the finish?
COACH LEACH: Well, Colorado State finished the game; we didn't. You know, I think down the stretch, they were more consistent than we were on offense. They were more disciplined than we were on defense. They finished the game better than we did. Lesson to be learned from that is it doesn't
matter where you're at, you need to go out and finish the game. I give Colorado State a lot of credit. They played extremely hard. They were behind the whole game and they never gave up. They got rewarded for it. We've got to be a tougher team. We've got to play better. I think they deserve some credit. They have a lot of seniors over there. I imagine their seniors never let them quit. They came out on top.
Q. Mike, was there anything you would have rather done at the end in terms of milking
a little more clock, snapping the ball later?
COACH LEACH: We shouldn't have messed with any of that. Fine, use the clock. We
should have attacked them and got first downs, hen we should have protected the football.
Q. Is there ever a concern when sending in a player that hasn't been playing for most of the game that they might be cold or might not be able to jump in and be warm right in the game?
COACH LEACH: Next question. I mean, what the hell kind of question is that? You go out there, you practice all the time, you play. I'm not even answering that. Next one.
Q. The run to Connor when they replayed it, go through the thinking on that.
COACH LEACH: Well, I just think we could have selected things better. You know, the thing is we should have thrown it, attacked it and got first downs.
Q. Coach, what was the feeling even after they scored to tie? Did you still think there was enough time? Was there still enough confidence on the sideline to get down and get into field goal range yourself?
COACH LEACH: I thought we had a pretty good shot at it. We've done a pretty good job of that throughout the year. As a matter of fact, we've scored a lot before the end of either half. We've done a pretty good job of getting the ball down the field in that situation. We just need to take care of the football to give ourselves the opportunity to do that. I felt we were going to have a chance at a couple shots. Then, of course, Furney can kick it from quite a ways out.
Q. A couple times this season when things go wrong, they go wrong quickly and drastically. Why is that? How can that be fixed?
COACH LEACH: Next question.
Q. At the end of the first half you did try to attack and go downfield. Things didn't go well. Was attacking the way to go at that point?
COACH LEACH: Well, I think the biggest thing, we need to continue to run all the dimensions of what we do. It's not as much this play, that play, the other play. I think just the team, starting with the coaches, 'cause coaches, players are in this together, starting with me at the top. I think there was a sense of relaxation there in the fourth quarter that we paid a heavy price for.
Q. Connor, you're a junior, so you get another shot. Is this a motivation factor going
into next year?
CONNOR HALLIDAY: It's too bad. The seniors are the guys that I came in with. I redshirted. Awfully tough to not send them out the right way. But, yeah, we'll get going in the off-season
as soon as we get back from Christmas break.
Q. You're a senior. How is it affecting you guys?
DEONE BUCANNON: Whenever you lose, it does hurt. At the same time I've always said it's a blessing to be out here and have an opportunity to play with my teammates. That's exactly how I feel now. I feel blessed.
Q. Connor, I know you guys have gone through a lot as a team. Where does this rank? How much does this one hurt?
CONNOR HALLIDAY: It's tough. But, I mean, we only got ourselves to look at for why we lost that game. Colorado State played real hard. But at the end of the day, we got to be able to run that clock out as an offense.
Q. Mike, Connor had five passing touchdowns in the first half. Talk about the job
he had throwing the ball.
COACH LEACH: I thought he did a good job throwing the ball the first half. Did so as well the second half. We were just inconsistent. Several drives we stopped ourselves. Some cases they were penalties, some dropped balls. I don't think we caught the ball real well the second half. You know, we just need to finish drives. We had a really good drive, it was 80 yards or so. We had a really good drive. We could have done that consistently and should have.
Q. Connor, a good game out of River. Can you talk about him.
CONNOR HALLIDAY: Yeah, I kind of had a feeling River was going to be special when the freshmen got here in June. He came out right away in seven-on-seven and made a difference. That kid just really loves football. He works his butt off. He grew up quite a bit today.
Q. Your offense is predicated around getting the ball to as many people in space as possible. At the same time as a freshman, he got honorable mention honors. Do you feel he's a reliable receiver you can count on?
CONNOR HALLIDAY: I don't really think too much about that. The bottom line, in this offense you just got to go through your reads. Whoever is the first read, you got to look at him first. Whoever is the fifth read, you look at him last.
Q. Coach, can you talk a little bit about the individual effort of Shaquil Barrett on the last couple plays.
COACH LEACH: Yeah, I didn't see the play well enough really to comment on it besides the fact that I thought the Colorado State defense played really hard. Their back was against the wall. They didn't surrender at all. I don't know specifically who did it. I didn't see it well enough to say how it happened. I did think their defensive and offensive units had an awful lot of intensity even when things weren't going their way. What they did is finished the game. They never gave up, continued to play hard throughout. They had a lot of reasons to quit in this game. They could have quit at any point because they spent most of the time about 10 points, two touchdowns behind. They never did quit. They didn't quit then. I just saw them as a unit rising and playing at a really high level. Something that we did a lot of in the course of the game ourselves. Down the stretch, if you're the guy on top, that's got to happen with you, too, otherwise the other guy puts himself in position to get there at the end.
Q. Mike, you switched Dahl and Eklund up front for this game. What was the thought process?
COACH LEACH: We were going to do it for a while. The biggest thing is we had some time between the end of the season and this game in order to do it.
Q. With the bowl season, with what you have accomplished, does this diminish what this Cougar team accomplished this season, reaching a bowl for the first time in 10 years?
COACH LEACH: I think it's huge making a bowl for the first time in 10 years. I think that's gigantic. A lot of that happened by continuing to improve. We went through an incredibly tough stretch as a team. We got better and better all year long. I think both Connor and Deone have a lot to do with that and a lot to say about that. They're both examples of keeping on pushing and believing when others didn't. They converted a lot of guys with them. Their leadership was incredibly key. I don't know how many it is, but as it is we won four games more than everybody thought we were going to win. So I think that's good. The only diminishing that exists is, you know, throughout the season, there's missed opportunities, there's ways we could have played better. We have to develop the skills and focus to do that. We're a young team so we're a moving target. But we're improving all the time. I think it starts with a certain level of belief. Where I think we're a little better team than we across the board believe we are. You say confidence breeds success, success breeds confidence. Some of it's off-seasons, time on the practice field in order to develop those skills, to get a visual of what you're really capable of individually. Then as you do it together more often, become more familiar with one another, you really start to see it take shape. That's where we are. We need to continue to push and develop that.
CONNOR HALLIDAY: I think Coach Leach said everything that needs to be said. Great season. Went through a tough stretch there again, like he said. We battled through it. But, yeah, I mean, I think everybody in that locker room really wanted this one. I think everybody was really excited to play. I think we prepared really well in film studies. It hurts that we got to look at ourselves in the mirror knowing that we weren't able to win the game as an offense just running the clock out, getting first downs, keeping our defense off the field.
DEONE BUCANNON: I don't think this is diminishing to the team at all. I honestly think the way that I know our team is, we're going to bounce back, come back harder. We're going to have a great off-season. I know Coach Leach is going to get them right. That's what I think.
Q. Connor, the mixed emotions that go into winning the award, but losing the game.
CONNOR HALLIDAY: Yeah, like I kind of said up here before, it's just really, you know, frustrating that you have all that stuff happen early in the game. That's great and everything. But games are won at the end. We didn't play well enough at the end. I mean, it's great that I was able to play well early enough in the game. It's great that our receivers ran good routes, made catches for me, we blocked up front. That's a whole offense award. But too bad it's not something everybody can feel accomplished about as a whole team.
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