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2012 Championship Game Post-Game Press Conferences
Post-game press conference transcripts with North Dakota State’s Craig Bohl, Marcus Williams, Brock Jensen, Ryan Smith and Billy Turner; Sam Houston State’s Willie Fritz, Richard Sincere and Darius Taylor.
THE MODERATOR: Give us an overview of the game, your side of it.
CRAIG BOHL: Well, it was an extremely competitive game. We knew it was going to be. Quite frankly I was a little bit surprised at the margin of victory in the second half. Maybe our players had a tremendous amount of confidence.
But I thought the turnovers were really critical, us being able to control the line of scrimmage. That was really important. I thought defensively we gave up some yards but did a good job keeping them out of the end zone, and it’s very rewarding to win back-to-back National Championships.
Q. Billy, what was going on with the offensive line in the second half? Seemed you guys took over the game at that point?
BILLY TURNER: We went into the locker room at halftime and talked with our coaches and realized that we didn’t really have a lot of adjustments because most of the stuff we were doing was working and it was going the way that we planned it to. At halftime they told us once we get back out there and get the ball, we’re just going to take it and start pounding it, and you know, like it worked all year long, once we get the ball in the second half and keep pounding the ball down the middle, eventually they start bending and breaking. And as you can see, things started moving and we broke a couple plays off, and then the next thing you know, the score ends up like it was.
Q. For the offensive guys, Brett Vigen did some of the play calling today, very unique, some of the stuff he pulled out. Just talk about how he got on a roll in the second half a little bit. Were you surprised as players when some of those calls came into the huddle?
BROCK JENSEN: Coach Vigen is a mastermind, good offensive coordinator. He always puts us in the right position. There’s no panic whenever it’s a close game. We just trust the play call and we try to go out there and execute the plays as best as possible, and Coach Vigen does an awesome job. We love him, and we think he’s the best that we can have. Appreciate what he does for us.
Q. Coach, can you kind of go through that two-point conversion snap, and what went through your mind as you saw the play unfold there?
CRAIG BOHL: Well, it looked like a disaster waiting to happen when it first started. We had a low snap. We do work on a two-point play when there’s an errant snap, but quite frankly it was not drawn up how we practiced it. I thought it was pretty resourceful by Adam Keller to take the ball. I saw the ball in the air, and then I thought my goodness, is this a lineman who’s caught it. It was. Fortunately he had an eligible number and nobody had gotten down the field. Right when that happens, sometimes there’s plays that happen in the game when you think, you know what, this is probably going to be our day. A play that we had never planned or designed turned out to work extremely well.
Q. Ryan, there’s some un-Bison like plays. When were those in the game plan, and what were your thoughts on – and some of the runs that you had, too, for the first time this year.
RYAN SMITH: You know what, three weeks to game plan these guys, we thought they were going to come out with everything in the books, and got to practice quite a bit over these last three weeks, too. We put in the reverses and the Jets, we call them, ran a lot of them. That was a lot of running. But yeah, I mean, we had a good game plan against these guys, and it worked out pretty well.
Q. Coach, do you feel like you guys beat a better team than you did last season?
CRAIG BOHL: Yeah, we felt coming into the game Sam Houston was a better football team. They certainly had more weapons. I think during the course of the game, the quarterback getting nicked up had an impact, and certainly Flanders, I think, was not completely 100 percent. But the game was really closer than what the score indicated, and the yards kind of indicate that. I do think we were very opportunistic today. The turnovers were really critical, and I don’t know how many turned into points, but a lot of them.
I have a great deal of respect. I want to say and congratulate Sam Houston. I should have done that at the very beginning, because the thing about this playoff format is somebody ends up losing, and they’ve had a great year. Coach Fritz has done a great job, and that’s a better football team than what they were last year, so we’re really pleased to beat them.
MARCUS WILLIAMS: Like Coach said, these guys are a better team than last year. They came in with a good game plan, I mean, especially on the offensive side. Their game plan was – they didn’t care who was their quarterback, they were going to throw the ball. They were just going to keep throwing it. Our coach told me, Coach Klieman, it’s good that they’re throwing the ball because you’re going to make the plays to end the game or just turn the game around, and I just wanted it, and I decided to do my job as well as I can.
Q. Marcus, there in the third quarter it looked like they scored a touchdown to go ahead, they get it called back and then the next play you get the turnover. Can you talk about your emotions or your team’s emotions as that was happening, and did you feel that was a turning point there?
MARCUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, that’s a big turning point. Whenever a team scores a touchdown but it gets took off the board it’s big, because it gives us more momentum and football is a game of momentum. If it’s up, you’re up, and if you’re high, you’re high, and in this game we needed as much momentum as we could, and them not getting a touchdown and us getting a turnover was big for us.
Q. For Coach Bohl and Brock, a couple days ago you had talked about how difficult it is to even get back to the National Championship Game two years in a row, but now to win it back to back, just your thoughts on the amount of hard work that it takes to even get to this point, much less win.
CRAIG BOHL: A tremendous amount of sacrifice and dedication by everybody in our organization. It was certainly a long process. I also want to acknowledge my mentor, Tom Osborne, during the time that I had a chance to coach for him at Nebraska, we had an opportunity to do this, and it’s very hard to do. And the legacy that he’s left, left a blueprint for me personally on, okay, what were the key points to put things in place for a program standpoint to get it done. And once that was in place, then I think our assistant coaches and our players have done a phenomenal job, everything from our strength and conditioning staff to assistant coaches and the whole process.
And so it’s very rewarding. It’s extremely hard to do, and it’s – once you do that, I think you now transition the program into a pretty premier program when you’ve been able to go back to back.
Q. Marcus, talk about the fact that the last six, seven years people really have stopped throwing at you, and today they did try to go after you a little bit and you responded with the two interceptions. Talk about how exciting that was to be in the game and have a chance to make some plays.
MARCUS WILLIAMS: I mean, it was very exciting to get an interception, because it changed the game around, and I was telling our guys, our offense is going to score, we’ve just got to get the guys good field position. What happened at the beginning of the game, they were starting inside the 10-yard line, and that’s not good for any offense. Me getting those takes, it just changed the field. It changed momentum like I said before. It was just big. It wasn’t me, it was a whole team deal, and I give credit to those guys at Sam Houston. They played well, but it wasn’t their day, it was our day.
Q. Coach, talk about the identity of this team. It seems like every National Championship team has a certain identity. How would you put that?
CRAIG BOHL: Well, we’re a really physical football team. We’re going to be disciplined, play all three elements of the game. But when you really cut the veneer off the table, we’re going to be really hard-nosed, stopping the run, we’re going to be able to run the football, as Billy said, throw it when we need to and control the football. So that’s our nature. The legacy of North Dakota State through and through in years and years has always been a hard-nosed, blue collar, tough mentality, and that’s who we are.
Q. For Brock, repeating as a national champion is incredibly difficult of road. Can you just put into words what it was like for the players in the locker room to deal with that constantly week after week knowing that target was on your back and how you were able to repeat and come out on top again?
BROCK JENSEN: Well, it’s got to be the hardest thing to do in sports is to repeat a championship, go back to back, especially National Championship. It’s hard enough to repeat a Conference Championship, especially when you’re playing in the MVFC. But it takes a great deal of resiliency from a group of young men like us and also our coaching staff. Can’t say enough about them putting us in the right position, keeping us focused all year long, putting goals out there for us to be able to reach, and just driving us as hard as they can to just motivate us to reach those goals, because they know that – they knew that coming into the year that there’s a lot of potential for this team. Just goes without saying how great these coaches are to really just motivate this team and make sure that we captured the goals that we had coming into the year.
Q. Billy, what did you think of the crowd today? At times it felt a lot like a home game.
BILLY TURNER: Like you said, it did feel like a home game. Running out onto the field before the game started seeing more than half the stadium in green and gold was definitely a sight to see for us. Having all of our fans down here was a big help for us, just to get the momentum from the crowd and transition that into our playing was obviously a big deal for us. And with all the guys coming down here from up north, it really just benefitted us more than anything.
I mean, the crowd as a whole is – it’s success for them. Success for us, success for them. With them coming down here and helping us out, it just really carries our team on a lot further than we can go just by ourselves. So congratulations to them, too, I guess.
RYAN SMITH: Yeah, I mean, the crowd is – yeah, I think we have the best crowd in America, personally, because they’re crazy, and they get us pumped up and ready for games. I mean, it makes football fun, a lot of fun, coming out there every day to play for those guys and seeing those guys cheer us on through thick and thin. Yeah, I mean, they had a lot of fun and so did we today.
Q. Coach, can you talk about the opening kickoff in the second half? I know it didn’t turn out to be a big deal breaker or anything like that, but what was sort of the strategy? Did you consider an onside kick or anything like that?
CRAIG BOHL: Yeah, we certainly did. That was the plan, and I’m sure Coach Fritz knew that was going to be the plan, also. So then we started to look and say is there a hole, and we tried to bloop kick it, something that quite frankly you go through a lot of preparation, but we’ve never worked on kicking off the 35, the other 35. So we were trying to be resourceful and make a play, hoping that we were going to bloop the front line and come up with a fumble, not a fumble, but a recovery of the onside kick and everything. We went through a surprise onside to a real onside, let’s go ahead and bloop it and none of it worked.
SAM HOUSTON STATE
THE MODERATOR: Coach, give us an overview.
WILLIE FRITZ: First off, I want to congratulate North Dakota State. They really, really played well, outstanding football team, very well coached, very good athletes, and that’s a good combination, obviously, but they also play extremely hard. Excellent job by North Dakota State. We give them plenty of credit.
I thought we had some opportunities. The ball didn’t bounce our way a couple times on some big plays. But they did a very good job and really ran the ball well against us. I want to give them a lot of credit for doing a sensational job.
Proud of our guys, had a great season, hard to get here, and I talked to them in the locker room about we’ve got to find a way to get over the hump. So that’s something we’re going to be working on in the off-season.
Q. Darius, can you just talk about your emotions that you have right now?
DARIUS TAYLOR: It hurts. You know, you get back a second time, and to not be able to finish again, this being my last year, I’m never going to play with this group of guys again, and I just – you know, for the young guys and the guys coming back, just keep working hard and good things will come. I told them all in the locker room keep their heads up, I love them, and I told my seniors that it’s been a great four years with them. I love them like my brothers, and they know that, and I expressed it to them after the game. I just want to say to Coach Fritz I love him, Bearkat Nation, I’ll miss it, but it’s been a fun ride.
Q. Coach Fritz, you talk about the running game. It really seemed to get going in the second half. Was there anything different going on?
WILLIE FRITZ: Well, they had some new wrinkles, I thought they did a good job in the passing game and the running game, some things they showed a little bit, but they ran a lot more today. Really did a good job with the G stretch or whatever you want to call that play. They ran both strong and weak, just kind of out populated you over there with some blockers. We didn’t have real good fits.
Most everything we’d seen. They did a good job of formationing us at times, getting some extra bodies out there. When you pull a bunch of people, you just create a whole bunch of new gaps. You’ve got to have guys that can get over and fill those gaps, and we didn’t do a real good job of that, especially the second half. They’ve got good backs, also. Their two backs are very good backs.
Q. Coach, you had a touchdown taken away by penalty and a couple other big plays. Do you kind of feel you let some scoring chances get away from you?
WILLIE FRITZ: Yeah. I’m more disappointed in some of our penalties that we had, pre-snap penalties. I tell the guys all the time once the ball is snapped, all the decisions made out there are subjective decisions. There’s not a lot you can do about it. We’ll have to look and see if it’s a good call or not; I’m not sure. But there were some opportunities there that could have gotten us back in the game, an answer or two to a score they had, but it didn’t bounce that way. We didn’t get that call. You’ve got to fight through that, and we didn’t.
Q. Question for Richard, actually a two-part question. The way you guys were moving the ball in the first half, can you talk about that success, and also, what the sense was at halftime, how you thought the game was going when you got that touchdown drive at the end of the first half?
RICHARD SINCERE: I mean, we felt good as an offense the first half. We knew that we needed to just play clean and play smart and that we would be successful.
I mean, we just have to stay focused and stay in the ballgame, and like I said earlier, just play smart and play clean.
Q. Coach, tough way for Darnell to end his career, get hurt in that game. What was the injury, and how much did you feel like that affected the defense in the second half?
WILLIE FRITZ: I don’t know what the injury is right now. Obviously it’s going to be something because he’s a tough kid and he would have tried to play if he was able to. You know, he’s a big part of our defense and our team, and obviously when you lose a two-time All-American it hurts you. But we’ve got to fight through that, continue to keep playing, and we just didn’t do a good job of that.
Q. Just talk about not getting Tim Flanders on track like you’re accustomed.
WILLIE FRITZ: Well, they did a nice job. They crowded the box and they also did a good job out on the perimeter. The runs on him, obviously we had the crease on the one play that they got called back. I thought Tim did a pretty good job. I don’t know, they controlled the line of scrimmage. It opened up some play pass, they threw some, they had some success with it, had some balls we’d like to get back, make some great decisions at times. But they did a very nice job. Got an excellent defense, no question.
Q. Coach Fritz and Darius, you mentioned the defense, North Dakota State’s defense. I wanted to just ask how does this defense compare to the defenses that you’ve seen this season so far and to the ones that you saw last season in the championship game?
WILLIE FRITZ: Well, we’d compare them with A & M and Baylor. They stay over the top, tackle real well, don’t make very many mistakes, got to earn every yard you get. They do an excellent job.
RICHARD SINCERE: Like Coach Fritz said, they are smart on that side of the ball. Everybody pretty much gets where they’re supposed to be and when they’re supposed to be there. It’s just tough yardage that you have to get, but on our side we’ve just got to be smarter and play harder.
Q. I wanted to ask coach, you talked about some of the opportunities you guys had. Obviously you had a 4th-and-short you didn’t work out. Talk about the play call and what went wrong there.
WILLIE FRITZ: It was a play-action pass, it kind of got picked and (inaudible) they blitzed it (inaudible) two guys kind of ran into each other.
Q. Darius and Richard, twice you guys get to this final game to get to the championship. What did you guys say to each other and the rest of your team when the game ended today?
DARIUS TAYLOR: I just told them to keep their heads up, it’s been a fun ride, and I told them they know what it takes for us to get back here. I told the young guys, the red shirt freshmen, that they have the opportunity to do it again next year, I don’t, and I told them just keep fighting all season, just keep grinding and it’ll pay off.
RICHARD SINCERE: We all pretty much – the seniors told everybody else on the team keep their heads up because the coaching staff will come back in the off-season and do a great job of getting us prepared.
Q. Coach, looking at the last two years, physically this game, though, had a lead last year at halftime, tied this year, and I think if I do the quick math, it’s 49-3 they’ve outscored you in the second half. Is that a credit to them and the adjustments they’ve made? Is it something you guys haven’t done when you look at the second halves of those games?
WILLIE FRITZ: Well, they’ve done a great job. I want to give them as much credit as you can. They’ve done a super job and I’ve got a lot of respect for their program. One of the things we talk about at Sam Houston, we have a plan to win, and the first thing in that plan to win is turnover takeaway margin. In my 20-year career as a head coach, we’re plus one and we’ve won 92 percent of our games, and minus 4 today. You’re just not going to win with minus 4. We didn’t do a good job with – they had some timely interceptions and we didn’t get any takeaways. It’s just hard to win. If it would have been zero, I think it would have been pretty close. So that was a big statistic in the game, along with the rushing, as well.
By NCAA Communications