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Teleconference Transcript with the 2011 NCAA Division I Football Championship Head Coaches
COACH K.C. KEELER and COACH BEAU BALDWIN on call.
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, happy holidays, everyone. Thank you for joining us for this teleconference.
Coach Keeler, congrats to you and your team on the season so far. Can you make a comment and we’ll open it up for yes, sir.
COACH KEELER: Very excited to be here. We like the new format. This is actually my eighth national championship game as a coach. I played in two. This is a little bit different because you have that time after your last playoff game till the national championship game. We just feel that it gives you more of a Bowl experience. Also gets our kids healthy.
I think we probably would have missed five or six players if we would have played Friday after our game with Georgia Southern. We’re back at school preparing. We got back on Tuesday, had a little bit of weather difficulties in the northeast, but got everyone back but three players. Everyone made it back later in the afternoon or now today. We’re on the field right now warming up and will conduct practice in about half an hour.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We’re ready for questions.
Q. Coach, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about Pat Devlin, what your expectations were with him coming in and how those expectations played out with his performance over the course of the year?
COACH KEELER: Pat is a local kid, was a legendary high school player in the area. Originally committed to Miami. They made a coaching change, ended up at Penn State. Was in an offense in high school similar to what we do here. When he contacted us to transfer, it was obviously a very easy decision to take him.
Knowing the strong family background he had, the great high school program he was coming from. The interesting thing, when he came to visit us, we spent all our time talking about the business program. We talked very little about the football.
I think he just knew the football was going to be good enough. He was really interested in finishing his business degree, getting a great internship, which we got him with Barclay Bank up in Delaware. He worked for the CFO this summer, then started his master’s degree. He’s a very bright young man, 3.7 GPA.
Again, the recruiting process was easy because he knew so much about us because he was a local kid and also the business program is so strong here.
In terms of him as a player, you know, doesn’t make mistakes, very heady, mechanically tremendously sound, great leader. He represents our institution very well. He’s been a lot of fun to coach.
Q. Were there any concerns in a leadership position like at quarterback coming in kind of jumping on the train late with chemistry or anything like that?
COACH KEELER: No, not really. I thought he handled himself really well when he got here. He just fit in. Was not going to be over the top. Was just going to go, Let’s go practice, let’s go throw. Just wanted to compete. That’s our whole thing here is we never make any promises. We’re going to play the best player. If you’re the best player, great. If not, we don’t care who you were, where you’ve been, it’s who you are right now and where you’re going. He understood that philosophy. He came in and competed. It wasn’t long until it was obvious he was going to be our starting quarterback.
His numbers speak for themselves. He threw two interceptions this year. One was off a tipped pass, one was off what we thought should have been a pass interference where the wide receiver got knocked down. Those were his two interceptions. He’s a very talented young man, and probably his greatest attributes were the mental part of his game.
Q. When he came in, did you think he could put you in a championship level?
COACH KEELER: I thought we had a good team around him. Great group of receivers. We were rebuilding the offensive line. In ‘07, we had a great offensive line, graduated four. In the spring of ‘08, we lost three offensive linemen we thought were going to be starters to career-ending injuries. We lose seven of our top 12 offensive linemen. We were sort of in a rebuilding mode.
We thought we were going to be pretty strong in a lot of places, thought it might take us time to rebuild the offensive line. It took us a year or so. He also makes them better because of how quick his release is. We thought a lot of the pieces of the puzzle he would be a big part of if he would come.
Q. On the Devlin thing, could you talk about possibly his NFL prospects and if there is anyone else on your team that scouts are indicating have a shot to play at the next level?
COACH KEELER: Brat ton, our safety, Walters, our corner, Mark, our linebacker. Those are the guys who get most of the attention. Then obviously Pat, people think he’ll definitely be a draft choice, I’ve heard as high as third round. Of course, at this time three years ago they were talking about Joe being a sixth-round draft choice. It boggled my mind they could find someone out there better than Joe.
Everyone is impressed with his mechanics, his poise, his intelligence. He and I have not even talked about it at all. He knows when the season is all over we’ll get into that all that stuff. I have no problem when the scouts come in. If they want to say hi to him, they say hi to him. The great thing about being located where we’re located, every NFL team comes through here, with Baltimore 45 minutes south, every team is flying in here for one reason or another, they’re all coming past Delaware. He’s gotten a lot of people to take a good look at him. I know there’s a lot of teams that have been back three or four times for personal and film evaluations.
Q. People mention him and Joe. They are two totally different players, right?
COACH KEELER: Absolutely. It’s just never fair to compare anyone to Joe. Joe is 6′7″. Joe might have the strongest arm in the NFL. He’s just a different animal.
Pat is 6′4″, very strong arm, but his accuracy and his intelligence, all those kind of things kind of separate him.
I think the things that you would combine together with Joe and Pat are the leadership, the poise, they’re not rock stars. They just want to be part of the team. They prefer not to do the media, but they’ll do it because they know they have to do it.
Pat likes to listen to country music, hunt, fish, play with his hunting dog. That’s who Pat Devlin is. It’s not about him. He loves the game. He prepares like no one I’ve ever seen. He loves to watch video. I love watching him and my offensive coordinator go back and forth with the recent video Pat looked at and what Jim looked at and what they both saw separately.
He’s a lot of fun to coach, he really is.
Q. Sticking with the Devlin thing, here at Eastern Washington, they got a drop-down quarterback and had virtually nobody in line to take over with any experience. What was your quarterback situation when Pat decided to transfer? Did you have anybody?
COACH KEELER: No, not really. Pretty much the same situation. We had a young man who had transferred in from Ohio State and got injured. So he was not going to be part of the mix. So Pat really walked into a situation, if he played well, it was obvious he was going to be our starting quarterback.
At the same time we didn’t present it that way. It was always to go compete and we’ll see how things work out. I’m a firm believer that’s the best way to handle things. Trust me, Pat took nothing for granted.
Q. Can you talk about looking at Eastern Washington on film probably not going to have Taiwan Jones, but have you been able to see how they’re different without him at tailback?
COACH KEELER: The only game we got a chance to see that was the Villanova game. I’m not a names guy, I use numbers. I apologize. 22 is a great player. He’s not a good player, he’s a great player. I think everyone thought there was going to be this huge drop-off when 25 got in there. There wasn’t in that game. I thought 25 played well. Put him in a great position to be successful. I think that was one of Villanova’s undoings, we beat the No. 1 team in the country at their place, we’re playing Eastern Washington, who are they again, because they haven’t been in the playoffs. Put it this way, they haven’t been the name out there. Everyone was talking about Montana out there. They don’t have their best player.
Their best player is a draft choice. You see the young runningback have a great game.
So we kind of figured 22 would not be playing because we had a fifth metatarsal screw put into one of our kids. But we’re preparing not a whole lot differently, again, because the way that the young freshman came in and played, you had to be pretty impressed with his ability and the fact that he had a lot of poise and did a really nice job.
Impressive football team. The quarterback gets the ball out of his hand. Tough to get to him. Outstanding receivers. Do a great job with protections up front. Defense has as good a team speed as anyone we’ll see this year. That is a reason there’s two teams left in the country and Eastern Washington is one of them.
Q. Could you talk Bo and the season he’s had with them, coming home to where he started his college career?
COACH KEELER: Great high school football. I read a quote where he’s excited to get back to some warm weather. We feel the same way. We’ve been dealing with some serious elements up here through the playoffs and then just a couple days ago with a blizzard that came through here.
But really a talented young man. A lot of poise in the pocket. Very quick release. It really makes them go. You want to put pressure on him, but he knows exactly where to go with the ball. He reminds me a lot of Pat in those kind of qualities. He’s obviously a very bright kid, has very good mechanics. I think they have a group of pretty good receivers. I think there’s some similarities between the young man we have and who they have.
Q. Your defensive backs, all four of your seniors are starters. How much does that mean to you? What kind of impact do they have on the rest of the defense?
COACH KEELER: Well, everyone makes their adjustments a little bit differently. We make our adjustments with our secondary. Pretty obvious when you watch us play. As I said, many times Walters is as smart of a football player as I’ve ever coached. With having guys like Bratton, Walters, Jones. When Northeastern lost their football program, some would say we’re the best secondary in the country. There was a MAC coach here a couple days ago. He thought our secondary was as good as any in the MAC if not the best in the MAC. I think that’s a strong suit of ours.
I think that experience is even more important than their talent. Going into a game like this, it’s going to be a big factor if we can have success because they take a lot of shots downfield, a lot of jump balls. You want to get pressure on the quarterback, and the quarterback knows exactly where to get the ball out to.
Having an experienced secondary is the only way you have a chance to beat Eastern Washington because they do such a great job with their passing game.
Q. Obviously they moved the championship game back. Now it’s in the middle of the BCS Bowls. Do you think that helps or hurts the FCS?
COACH KEELER: That’s a great question. I’m not sure. I just know from us personally, we probably would have played without five or six players if we would have played the following Friday. The team that plays the Saturday game is at such a disadvantage when you have to travel and go play the Friday game for the national championship.
We’re very happy the way the thing worked out. We’re nursing a couple guys now. Looks like we’re going to have everyone back for our ballgame. It was good to be able to get away from it for a little while.
Both Eastern Washington and Delaware played their games at home. We were fortunate that way. It is grueling, the battles you encounter. We played Georgia Southern, an option football team. You never survive those football games unscathed. They’re taking your knees out, cut blocking you. I like the way the format has worked out. We’ll see when we get down there on Friday if we play as well as I’m hoping we play. But I like right now the way the format worked out.
You never could enjoy it before. The game was over, you were scrambling to get down to Chattanooga or to Virginia. You never got a chance to enjoy it. Now you get a chance to enjoy it a little bit, take your time, make sure you’re prepared. Again, I like the format a lot better this way.
Q. Tell me how Zack Reed has become such an important player and played in so many games while at the same time being a guy who has been under the radar for you guys?
COACH KEELER: Usually you don’t hear about the long snapper unless they make a mistake. With Zack, he developed himself into being a very good second tight end. We play a lot of two tight ends. I have to give credit to Zack. We knew he would be an emergency tight end. He didn’t relish that role. He wanted to be a tight end. He’s worked and worked and worked and put himself in a position where Friday’s game he’ll break a record for most consecutive games played in the history of this institution, this is 119 years of Delaware football.
It’s pretty neat to see a young man that was a partial scholarship that was going to be a long snapper that has earned himself a full scholarship and now he’s an integral part of what you do on every snap.
He loves the game. Here is a kid who just loves the game and also has a good work ethic.
Q. You often talked about Nick Rapone’s contributions to this football team. What has it been like coaching with him? Why has this defense been able to perform so well under his guidance?
COACH KEELER: I’m fortunate on both sides of the ball. I have two very experienced coordinators. They do a great job setting the theme for the individual offensive goals and individual defensive goals. They do a great job individually.
Nick is just so old school. He’s a crusty old guy. He’s not that old, a couple years older than I. He just comes off crusty. The kids gravitate towards him, they just love him. There’s been many a Friday I sat outside that defensive meeting area when he’s talking to defense, listening to him talk about the upcoming opponent, the responsibilities, the obligation, we’re Delaware men. It’s good stuff. It’s a great staff I have. Nick is as good a football coach as has ever been around. I think that’s what has made me successful, is not being afraid to hire people that are smarter than me. And Nick is pretty good.
Q. Can you give your opinion on instant replay once it started being used in the playoffs? How you think it’s gone for your team and across the nation?
COACH KEELER: It hasn’t worked well for me. I haven’t gotten a replay call my way. I think it was the first game we used it. I think we got a bad spot. I’m about to call a timeout to get them a replay. They decide they’re going to look on it on their own. All of a sudden it was a dropped ball. Hasn’t worked out well for me.
I think it’s good, I really do. I like the way college does it. Every play is replayed. If there’s any questions, you call a timeout, give them more time. It makes a lot of sense. I really like the format, it just hasn’t worked out well for us.
Q. Any adjustment you would make to the system?
COACH KEELER: No, I like the way they do it, I really do. I think it’s fair that every play is being replayed. If there’s a problem, they’re going to call down. All the officials have buzzers on them. They’ll buzz them and stop the play.
I haven’t been associated with it enough to say this is how I’d tweak it. I like the way the system is set up right now.
Q. Teams from your league have been in this game seven of the last eight years now. That’s four or five different schools from your league. What is that like and why is the league so tough and had such success in the playoffs?
COACH KEELER: Tremendous football in the northeast. We all go and do a good job in Georgia, Florida, pick our areas. Villanova does a great job in California. We do a great job in recruiting. Good academic schools. Villanova, William and Mary, Richmond. A lot of tradition. I mean, it’s a gauntlet now. You could be a top-15 team and have a tough time going .500 in this league. You look at James Madison, who beat the ACC champion, Virginia Tech, they went 3-5 in our league. That’s our league. Our league is brutal. We’ve beaten Navy twice when they’ve gone to Bowls. We were 2-1 against the ACC with Richmond beating Duke, William and Mary beating Virginia and James Madison in an overtime loss to Maryland. It’s a phenomenal conference.
We always believe if you can survive the conference, get in the playoffs, anyone from our conference can win a national championship.
Typically when we go into this thing, we feel there’s five and six teams that can possibly get deep into the playoffs and win a national championship. That was this year.
You look at William and Mary, they beat us, they beat Nova, had North Carolina on the ropes, they had the toughest schedule of any of us because they didn’t have Townsend who was the weakest team in our league this year.
Also every team in our league this year had a win. It’s an unbelievable conference. You can never look ahead and say, After this one we have that one, because if you do, you’re going to get beat.
It prepares you for the playoffs. Again, I think this league is very well-coached, a lot of talent, and you get a lot of offenses and defenses, so I think it prepares you.
Q. It doesn’t beat you up too much?
COACH KEELER: It can. That’s happened to us in ‘09. We missed 45 starts. We took two players, draft choices, who didn’t get past the first three games of the season. It can beat you up. That’s one of my talks to my administration. A IA game makes no sense with how tough our conference is. I agreed to play a IA game, but I’m trying to encourage our administration, I think after next year we’re going to be doing this, to get away from the IA games when we have 11 because you have no room for error. The conference is so brutal, why put yourself in a situation where you can get another loss or injuries?
In ‘07, we had a great run going on. We beat Navy. They just beat the daylights out of us in terms of physically. Next week, James Madison. Next week, five overtime loss to Richmond, then lost to Villanova. We ended the ‘07 with two losses and went on to play for a national championship. You had Navy, Villanova, Richmond to end your run there.
It’s all about surviving the conference. If you can survive the conference, get to the playoffs, as long as you are not playing someone in your league, you always feel you have a chance.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much. We appreciate you joining us.
Coach Baldwin, only in his third year is leading his Eagles to the first NCAA national championship game. Congrats to you and your team on the season so far. Give us an opening statement and we’ll open it for questions.
COACH BALDWIN: Obviously it’s exciting for us. We’re in a situation in which you always have goals and aspirations at the beginning of the year to win your conference and to make it to the playoffs, go as deep as you can, but you also understand every year there’s only two teams that can reach this point. There’s a lot of great teams that play great football that don’t get to each this point.
We’re absolutely enjoying the fact that we’ve been able to put this season together and put us in this position and now just excited for the challenge. It’s going to be a huge challenge with Delaware, but excited for that challenge and opportunity.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach. We’ll open it up for questions.
Q. Coach, I wanted to ask you your impressions on Delaware’s quarterback and if you can make any comparisons between him and your quarterback as well.
COACH BALDWIN: I think he’s a great player. He’s one of those guys, he’s extremely accurate, but I don’t even need to see the stats to see how accurate he is. I’ve watched film of him. He’s extremely accurate. He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen at this level of football of getting through his reading and getting through them quickly.
You always say that. But he finds way to get to that third, that fourth, that fifth read extremely well. When he does, like I said, his decision making is off the charts for a college quarterback.
A lot of times you see that out of NFL quarterbacks, their ability to continuously make good decisions because they’ve played so much football. First off with him, he’s a tremendous player.
Obviously as far as comparisons, I love what Bo is doing for our team. Obviously I feel like it’s his first year in the system and he gets better with every game. If you were to make comparisons, to me they’re both very, very accurate throwers, even though our guy doesn’t have nearly as high a percentage, the one thing that’s different is maybe Bo goes down field a little bit more than Devlin does. Again, that’s the one thing. That’s just a combination of style and belief and philosophy.
That’s the one area where Bo probably throws downfield more where Devlin, like I said, does an amazing job getting through his reads and finding guys underneath.
Q. Could you talk about what Bo has meant to your team this year a little bit.
COACH BALDWIN: He’s been huge. I think anytime you get to this point, especially with the offense we run where we do put a lot of pressure on the QB, we stay balanced, but we still throw a ball a good deal. We’ve been fortunate enough to have success at the quarterback position in the last few years with the last couple starting quarterbacks that we’ve had.
Bo came into a situation that’s not always easy for a quarterback to come into a situation where we lost a four-year starter from the year before who ended up as our league’s all time leading passer in Matt. What Bo has meant to the team, to come and take over a position where expectations are really high, put us to this point where we’re 12-2, playing for a national championship, that speaks more than anything about what he’s meant to our team and what he means at the quarterback position.
The thing about Bo is he’s hungry to keep getting better. We talk about getting better every game at every point in the season as a quarterback. After this ballgame, his goal is going to keep getting better in the nine months before our season starts again next August.
Q. Can you talk about what it means to Bo to get to come back to where he’s from?
COACH BALDWIN: He’s excited. I mean, obviously going back to Texas, it seems a long way back. I don’t think we talked about it a whole bunch back in March or April when he was first getting to spring ball. We don’t get ahead of ourselves that way. But I’m sure every college football player looks at league championships, national titles, he saw where it was from. At that point it’s still so far off. To then finally be at this point where he gets a chance to play back in his home state, he’s excited.
The thing you want to gear against is making sure he’s not too excited and peaking too early, trying in a sense to do too much. I’m confident that as the season has gone along, he’s shown an ability to play each snap as it comes. Once he gets out there and starts playing, I think you start forgetting about what state you’re playing in, honestly what you’re playing for. It just becomes a football game.
Q. You mentioned you like to throw the ball down the field quite a bit. Delaware has four defensive backs who are seniors, pretty well experienced. I don’t know if you got to see them on tape. What are your impressions of them, how they would compare to some of the other defensive backs you have faced this year?
COACH BALDWIN: My impressions are, I think they’re great as an entire defense first off. They play in a tough conference, obviously three tough playoff games, still giving up something like 12 points a game. That’s extremely impressive as a whole defense.
Then if you want to focus on their back end, they’re extremely good. It’s always hard to judge it just off film because sometimes you learn more about opponents once you’re in person playing against them. I would argue to say this is as good a secondary as we faced all year in terms of their two safeties and their two corners.
So it’s going to be a challenge. But, like I said, our offense, our receivers, our quarterback, they’re excited for that challenge. But that’s what it is. It is a challenge. By the end of it we’ll have a better idea. Based off film, based off what I’ve seen, they’re going to be possibly the best secondary we faced all season.
Q. Do you see that as one of the keys of the game, how well you are able to pass against their secondary?
COACH BALDWIN: More so I look at it as how well we operate as an offense. Obviously we’re going to have to be balanced, but that’s no secret. Our goal week in and week out is to be a balanced offense as far as that goes. If we’re having trouble throwing the football because their secondary is doing a good job, it could be a long day for us. It’s going to take, like I said, being very precise in our route running, it’s going to take that protection up front, then being accurate and making good decisions with the football at the quarterback position.
So, yeah, it will. It will play into a factor. No question, we have to be able to throw the ball to have some success.
Q. Obviously with the championship game taking place during the height of the BCS games, do you think that helps or hinders the image of the FCS?
COACH BALDWIN: We’ll see. This is the first time going through it. It’s such a trial run for everyone involved that you really don’t know.
I’m hoping obviously it intensifies it. What I would say has helped, and I can’t compare because I never went to a national title when it was the next week after your semifinal, but what I think it has increased within our small world is a better chance for fans and people to make the trip, schedule the trip, get excited for the game having a three-week break.
In terms of nationally is it going to deter December 17th compared to January 7th, we’ll have to wait and find out. I think probably in Delaware, probably say the same thing. I know for us, our community of Eastern fans, it’s a lot easier to get excited for it in a sense and really plan for the travel out there and all that, have some time to really load up for the game, so to speak.
Q. Can you talk about your team’s experiences so far with the instant replay during the playoffs and your impressions of it across the country, putting it in place?
COACH BALDWIN: You know, I like it. I like the fact that they’re putting it in place. Obviously it’s not feasible during our regular season, I get that. When it is available, I like it it.
The best thing we’re doing, and we’ve been on both ends of it in terms of replays, we’ve had one overturned in our favor and one overturned that didn’t go our way that was different.
Those were both in the last football game. We’ve had a number that have been inconclusive.
That’s what I like the best about it. They’re only going to overturn it if they see something definite, otherwise it’s going to play out as it was called on the field.
I like it because it gives us a chance if they do see something definite, they’re for sure it was wrong on the field, they’re able to get it in a game with such magnitude.
Q. No. 11, he didn’t play a lot the last couple games because of injuries, but a guy who has been successful as a linebacker and defensive end. What are your impressions from seeing him a little bit?
COACH BALDWIN: He’s impressive. I know obviously they feel very strongly about him. We’ve seen enough film on him just looking back at the season as a whole. For his size, he runs extremely well, tackles well, doesn’t get himself out of position. He’s going to be a chore. He’s going to be a handful for us.
I believe he was voted, and I can’t follow every one of them, I believe he was voted as an All-American as least in one of the publications, and deservingly so. Like I say, he’s that combination of good size to be able to come off the edge, play linebacker, with very good speed. I think they list him as something as a 4.4 in one of the things I read. That’s impressive for a guy that size playing that position.
Q. Past performance, past history has nothing to do with this game. It’s you against Delaware. Delaware has quite a history and reputation historically in terms of small college football. Is that something that is a concern for an opposing team? Is it something that is even discussed by an opposing team when you’re playing a team like Delaware that has a history of success at the national level?
COACH BALDWIN: Honestly we don’t discuss it at all. I mean, it really doesn’t. Within our team, we’re looking at the 2010 Delaware team on film, and that’s all we’re concerned with.
I’m sure Delaware, having had some experience, coaches having some experience, they feel like they can draw on some things. I get that. I absolutely understand that, being able to draw on past things, maybe learn from situations in the past, both players and coaches.
For us looking at a time, we could care less whether the 2009, 2008, 2003 Delaware teams had success. All we’re looking at is what do we have to do to get a win against the 2010 Delaware team, which is a daunting task. Their history is never even discussed at all in terms of preparing for this game.
Q. What is the difference between football out west and in the east or is there a difference at all?
COACH BALDWIN: I don’t know. There might be a little bit of difference in style, in certain ways they play. Obviously, the CAA has had some amazing teams, they have in the last few years. They’ve proven it.
To me it’s not always a certain conference, it’s just certain teams putting together good classes and going on good runs. A few years back, you watched Appalachian State win national championship, national championship. It was that team. To me it didn’t have as much to do with the conference.
But no question in the last few years, and they’ve proven it on the field, the best team in the country has come from that conference in the last few years. It’s a tribute to what they’ve done in recruiting, what they’ve done in coaching. They’re extremely well-coached top to bottom in that conference and they recruit good talent. They’ve done a good job with that.
But in terms, like I said, maybe you find a few differences in style of play. But still it’s football. Football’s football. I definitely don’t get caught up in the whole East Coast, West Coast team deal.
Q. Is it safe to say that Taiwan Jones is unlikely to play in this game, but you’re pretty happy with what you have in your running game even if you don’t have him?
COACH BALDWIN: Yeah. I mean, ‘unlikely’ is probably the right word to use. It’s not a definite no, but it’s unlikely. At the same time, sure, we’d love to have Taiwan, and we would not be in this position as a 12-2 position without Taiwan. At the same time we’re excited about the young kid that played for us last week in Mario Brown, of course, his backup, the next couple guys, feel very good about how they’re practicing, too. It was mostly Mario last week. We could still get a combination of two or three runningbacks without Taiwan still playing in the Delaware game.
Like I said, anytime someone has an injury, you look for other guys to step up. You get excited about those other guys. You’re disappointed for the young man that doesn’t get to play, but you’re excited for the other guys who do have an opportunity to step up.
Q. I’m doing a story on Anthony Walters. Anything on film you’ve seen out of him that stood out?
COACH BALDWIN: Again, you talk about their secondary as a whole, very good. You talk about No. 9 as being one of the best back there. I mean, just the combination again. Whenever you have that combination of size, speed, strength, toughness at the corner position, I mean, at our level, he has tremendous size, speed and strength. So he’s got all the tools to be a great player. On top of that, he’s smart, he understands the game, is experienced. Anytime you have that many interceptions at the corner position, that takes ball hawking, that takes ability.
Again, in their nickel packages, they do things where he’s playing more of the middle of the field. That also shows that he’s a diverse football player. He’s coming on blitzes, basically playing a middle linebacker type of position at times when they go into their nickel package. He’s got all the tools. He’s another great player that you always feel like those guys, they’re going to make some plays and do some things. You just want to make sure that, again, you’re very sharp against them.
Q. Any other injuries or guys that have been in and out?
COACH BALDWIN: No, don’t really have. We feel like everything coming out of the North Dakota State and Villanova game, we’re going to be healthy again. I don’t feel like we’ve lost anyone in the last two weeks that was playing in those two games besides Taiwan. We’re in the same boat we’ve been the last couple weeks. Again, we still have over a week to get guys. No one is really out that played in those two games is the best way I could put it.
Q. Back to Bo. Watched him struggle mightily against North Dakota State for the better part of 58 minutes of that game. All of a sudden it clicked in in the last two minutes. What happened there?
COACH BALDWIN: Well, I think it gets blown a little bit out. If you were to go back and watch film. First half, the first 30 minutes, he actually played really well. We didn’t throw much. Taiwan was running the ball. We also had a dropped touchdown in that first half. So really when he struggled, he just has to handle it better to be quite honest with you, with 27 minutes in the second half, when the snow started coming down, I hate to say the elements, but they got to him a little bit.
So really he graded out on film pretty good in the first half of that game even though he threw – he might have only thrown seven or eight passes in that first half. We were running the ball and Taiwan hit some big runs.
The second half, honestly, just one of those guys, he’s kind of done that all year in terms not exactly like that. But even in situations, I can go back to Northern Colorado, Sacramento State, even in situations where he’s struggling in the third or fourth quarter, he never lets it get to him so bad that he’s not able. He’s been able to put a great effort at the end of ballgames and we’ve been able to win some close games late. He’s been a huge factor in that. Some guys can flush things that aren’t going right and he has that ability.
Q. Can you comment on Andrew (indiscernible). Is he the kind of guy you can’t afford to overlook?
COACH BALDWIN: You better not overlook him. Anyone that runs for 1500 yards obviously shows he can produce. Honestly, when you look at a lot of their numbers in the way they call a game, they stick with the run.
So, yes, you’re focused in on Pat, the fact he can throw the football. Ultimately they’re going to run the ball. Even sometimes when they’re not running it great in terms of yards per carry, they stick with it, they stick with their running game. I give their offensive coordinator credit. He does, he stays with it. It allows them to stay balanced and keep you off balance.
By no means will we be overlooking the running game and their runningback. One, he’s a good player, and two, we expect them to run the ball a decent amount against us. Our goal is to try to limit the big runs and make things difficult on them.
He’s on our focus for sure.
Q. KC was talking about they did not play a IA team but had in the past and had success with Navy. You did with Nevada this year. Talk as a IAA coach having to play those types of games.
COACH BALDWIN: I don’t mind. I get excited. When you start playing multiple IA games, I’ve done that, it can start to be tough on a team. But if you’re able to get a win, it could be a huge win for the program.
It’s exciting. I mean, I actually love it. Ideally our model has always been to try to play one a year. Next year we’re going to play University of Washington. Some years we have two. We take that challenge and go after it. We enjoy it. The players love it. They absolutely do. A lot of them, they have a little chip on their shoulder. We take very few transfers.
We recruit almost all high school players. So our guys always feel like maybe they were slighted. Whether they’re right or wrong on that, they still have that chip on their shoulder because they come out of high school and they end up at a IAA program, which is still exciting for them, but at the same time they feel like they could play at the IA level.
The players love it, we love it. Like I said, that Nevada game at the beginning of the year was an exciting game for us. It was fun to go down there and play.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone, for joining us on the call. Happy New Year.
By NCAA Media Relations