COACH BO PELINI, QUINCY ENUNWA, JASON ANKRAH
THE MODERATOR: We welcome to the interview room our 2014 champions, Nebraska. We have head coach Bo Pelini and Quincy Enunwa and Jason Ankrah.
Coach, an opening statement.
COACH PELINI: I’m proud of these guys next to me. I’m happy for them, the seniors. I’m happy for them. We went through a lot this year. It was a difficult year.
Obviously with the amount of injuries, the adversity, the obstacles that this team faced, they deserved to go out the way they did, to go out with a win against a good football team, a good football program.
I don’t want to say that the University of Georgia, they should be proud, but we were happy to come out on top. Hopefully this will be a nice springboard into the offseason.
But at the end of the day, to me this is about our seniors. They deserve it. I got the MVP next to me in Quincy. That was a huge play, the 99-yarder. It was almost like 99.9. I know there will never be a longer play in the history of college football than that was.
The way Jason and the defense stood up in the red zone, made a lot of big plays. We’re happy to come out on top.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Bo and Quincy, the 99yard play, what is that play? You did the exact same thing against Penn State. Talk about the play call, Bo. Quincy, talk about what you saw and what happened on that play.
COACH PELINI: We were talking about what to do there. We saw that they put everybody up there. Even more so before the timeout happened. We kicked around a couple different ideas of what to do, whether we were going to sneak it, try to get some room to punt it. We had a couple different play calls in mind.
We decided to throw it. Coach Beck decided to take a shot. He liked the call, the opportunity. It was there. Tommy made a great play. Quincy made not only a great catch, but the great play after the catch.
Like I said, there’s not a person that I’ve ever coached that was more deserving of that to happen to.
QUINCY ENUNWA: I mean, it was kind of just one of those calls where you don’t have too many options out there, stuck on your own one yard line.
Luckily our coaches trust in us as playmakers. I knew either myself or Kenny was going to come up with a big play. They play cover two, so I was able to get into the hole. Tommy launched it out to me. From then on, I tried to make a play as best as I could.
COACH PELINI: I didn’t even see the play finish. I was trying to hide because the referee bumped into me and threw the flag. I was trying to duck into the back so no one could see me (laughter).
But that was a great play.
Q. Bo, you’re up 1 at halftime. Similar to the last two bowl games, even game at half. What was the message to your guys?
COACH PELINI: What we talked about, we said, Let’s go win this thing. Let’s not go out there to worry about losing. Let’s take control of this football game and go make plays. And they did.
Our guys had a tremendous amount of confidence. They prepared well. Our guys, they had their fun, but the preparation both before Christmas and since we’ve been down here was good. When you have great preparation, you’re going to execute well. That’s what it came down to.
Q. Coach, does this enhance your confidence in your young quarterback or did you already have a lot of confidence in him?
COACH PELINI: I have a lot of confidence in Tommy. From all the way back when we recruited him, one thing they said about Tommy is he has great leadership ability and he’s a winner.
I mean, he’s young. Believe me, he made some mistakes out there today. There’s some plays he’s going to want back.
It’s not easy. Other than the interception he threw behind Kenny, he had Kenny on the gash play that they intercepted, but other than that, he played pretty well.
A big part of a game like this is not turning the football over. We did a good job in that area. That ended up winning the football game. That was the difference.
A lot of that goes back to the quarterback. With the rain being the way it was, it being slick, that’s not easy to do. Tremendous.
I think when he first started back before Christmas his ankle was still bothering him. But he fought through it. He practiced well. When you practice well, you’re going to play well. These guys will tell you.
I know Jason, he played a heck of a football game today. Our guys up front. But that’s the way they practiced during the week. We had a lot of things, a lot of checks, a lot of checkwithme defenses. Without the preparation that these guys put in, the communication that was required to execute our game plan, it wouldn’t have happened.
Q. Jason and Quincy, can you both discuss the positive feeling you got from being on the plus side of a couple of turnovers, being able to capitalize on a special teams’ mistake, what that did for your sideline, the momentum of the game?
JASON ANKRAH: It felt real good just ’cause we had a lot of situations this season with turning the ball over, sometimes playing the defense in a bad situation.
When we have situations like that, we take advantage of it. It’s not just to get off just to survive, we want to get the threeandout, go and make some points.
Fortunately we did that and it felt real good.
QUINCY ENUNWA: Yeah, we’ve had a pretty rough season in the turnover category. It was just nice to be on the other end. I was really proud of the defense, how well they played. Special teams, that was a huge play by I think it was Josh to go pick up that fumble.
We were happy to go out there and try to make a play from their missed play.
Q. As seniors, talk about getting bowl win.
JASON ANKRAH: It’s awesome. There’s no words to describe it just because of the fact the last bowl game we had was my redshirt freshman year and I didn’t even get to play in it. So this game, the win, is the championship to us.
This sends us out right, but also sends the young guys into next season full of pride. One things the seniors wanted to do, we’re not selfish, we want them to succeed just like we did.
It feels real good. Thanks to coach, all the coaches and the players. We finished successful. It’s all about sending these young guys into 2014.
QUINCY ENUNWA: Yeah, you know, it’s always great to kind of finish with a win, especially with all the hard work you put in, spring ball, fall camp, to end up the season with a win is a great feeling. There’s not too many words that can describe this feeling.
We put in so much work through a tough season. I’m just glad I can kind of relax and know we finished it out strong.
Q. On the fourthdown stops, did they run what you thought they were going to run? Did it remind you of your last Gator Bowl?
COACH PELINI: Yeah, you know, they were throwing a lot at us formationally. We wanted to be aggressive with the back. I thought they did a good job of mixing up their play calls, especially in the second half, even some thirddown situations. It made it hard.
But we wanted to get pressure and get pressure in his face, make the ball come out the way that we did.
Fortunately, I think was Coop on the first fourth down made the hit, got the ball out. Then the second one, I think it was a tight end, I know it wasn’t an easy ball to handle.
At the end of the day, we made more plays than they did. It was a heck of a game.
Q. Quincy and coach, can you talk about the record that Quincy broke.
QUINCY ENUNWA: Yeah, it’s huge, man. It’s a testament to the work I put in in the offseason, also the trust that coach has had in me to give me the ball and know that I’d make a play. That’s why I love these coaches.
I’m glad they put the trust in me to go out there and get 12 touchdowns. Not too many people can say they did that. It’s a great way to finish my senior season.
COACH PELINI: I said it. It’s interesting because Quincy, it went back to the spring last year. He’s one of the hardest workers on our football team. But he had such a great spring, a great fall camp. When you put that kind of work and effort and focus into something, it pays off. That’s what’s rewarding for me as a coach and I know for him as a player.
Quincy is going to have a great career on Sunday. There’s no question. The momentum’s going for it. He’s going to have a heck of an opportunity. I know one thing, because of who he is as a man, not just because of his talent, he’s going to have great success. Whoever gets him at that next level is going to be lucky to have him.
Q. Quincy, how do you think Tommy responded today to conditions?
QUINCY ENUNWA: I saw a lot of growth. He was playing really well. Actually I won’t say it was surprising because he practiced well.
He practiced well. It followed through to game time. I’m proud of what he did out there. He chose to be a leader. He had a speech for us when we were kind of slowing down on offense. I’m just happy to see him grow so much over the year and I’m ready to see what he does next year.
Q. (No microphone.)
QUINCY ENUNWA: Just when the score was getting closer, kind of picking us up, telling us the game is not over, put another score on the board and close it out.
Q. Bo, the way that you guys won, what kind of residual effects going into next year do you feel it can have? Do you feel it can have a carryover effect?
COACH PELINI: I don’t know if it will ever have a carryover effect. I think what it does is serve as an example for your football team. Some of the areas that hurt us during the year, we talked about it before the game, we need to take care of the football. We executed well in the red zone. Offensively and defensively we stood up time after time.
We’ve been really good on third down defensively throughout the whole year. I don’t know what the numbers ended up for the game, but it felt like that was probably the biggest disappointment that I had defensively, is we gave up some plays on third down.
I got to give them credit. They made some nice plays, had some good calls. But in the end I thought overall our execution was really good.
I was really concerned about their running game coming in. Like I said, Jason and the guys up front, our front seven, played really good. Their back is a grown man. He’s a heck of a football player. He not only makes plays in the running game but in the passing game.
Q. Jason, can you elaborate on how important it was to control No. 3 today and how you went about it.
JASON ANKRAH: Very important because he’s a dominating back. Like I mentioned before, they use him in the running game and pass game as well. We knew not having him going north and south is going to be the success for our game. We forced him east and west and had people able to rally to the football. It showed up with success in the game.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
COACH MARK RICHT, HUTSON MASON, MARSHALL MORGAN
THE MODERATOR: We have Hutson Mason and Marshall Morgan with Coach Richt.
Coach, an opening statement.
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 hardfought. 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 fourdown territory, I think it’s wise to give them the ball. We knew on some of those thirddownandlongs and mediums, there was going to be a fourth down that we were going to go for it obviously. We knew we were in fourdown territory which freed us up to run the ball a little bit.
Fourthandthree is a lot easier to manage than a fourthandeight or fourthandnine. 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 thirdand14 on the halfyard 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 slideout 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 offseason. 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, offseason 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.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.