First of all, I want to express the appreciate of our entire team to the Outback Bowl. This entire event has been great. For the record, I said that before the game. Win, lose or draw, the hospitality has been fantastic. It exceeded all of our expectations.
I want to thank our great fans for being so strong and so visible during this time. They are absolutely fantastic, we know that.
I also want to express my gratitude and appreciate for our players. I think the staff did a great job getting our guys ready to go, but certainly the guys came down here and played a great game today. They played extremely hard, they were determined. It has kind of been that way for the most part this year and it has been that way since last January. There is no 24-hour rule on this one. We are going to enjoy this one for more than 24 hours, I promise you.
Was this your best game of the year as far as execution goes?
I would say so. That is something we challenged our guys on. We challenged them during this entire bowl process, because when you play a team like Florida, we knew that we were going to have to be at our best and its fair to say that we played our best game in all three phases, not just one of them.
Was this Nathan's best game overall?
I would vote for that, I certainly would. It was symbolic of the way things went for the team this year and symbolic of the way his season has gone. He probably had his worst game up in Wisconsin. But he came out ready to play in the first half. I thought that he played an extremely smart game out there today. He has bounced back from bad experiences and come back strong. I thought he was exceptional today.
Talk about Fred Russell
Fred has been good all year. He was good last year, but I felt that this was his best season. Given the injuries that we had this year, and given the guys that we lost last year (on the offensive line), we have four guys on NFL teams right now (Steinbach, Nelson, Sobieski, Clark as blockers). All eyes were on Fred from the get go and he played outstanding football all season long. He finished up strong today.
What did you do to shut down Ben Troupe?
He is a great football player and we were fortunate. We played team football. We were kicking some things around a couple of weeks ago (defensive schmes) and that is not us. We decided to come in and play our best defense. We did a few subtle things, but for the most part, we just lined up and played how we always play. For the most part, we played great defense and that gave us a chance to win the football game.
Did you see something on that punt block?
Our coaches do a great job, studying films. They shoot ideas at each other and I felt that we had a great game plan in that segment of the game as well. Our players also communicate with each other on the sidelines with things they see during the game.
Summarize this season
It was very gratifying and I felt that way at the end of the regular season. This game was one more hurdle for us to climb. We ended last year with a bad taste in our mouths and that stuck with us.
Florida did a lot of talking out there. Did you school your players to stay away from that?
We tried to play our game and be good sports. That is how we do things all year long. Our guys play football. We don't have much to talk about. I thought our guys kept their composure quite well.
We came down here prepared to win the football game. That was our goal, was not necessarily to win, but to play our best game and let things take care of themselves. That was what was hard about last year. We didn't play our best. You can live with losing every now and then, but to not play at a level that is representative of your football program, that is hard to live with. SO that was our number one goal.
It's hard to play in bowls because of the activities, families, etc. This year, it was about maturity and I think that goes back to our seniors. The one thing I can say, and it was clear from the first game of the year, is that our seniors took control. They did a great job all season long in keeping our guys focused on and off the field. It was fun watching those guys grow. It's going to be a big blow when they graduate. So the challenge goes to our underclassmen.
Mo was really active today
We wanted to get the ball in his hands. Coming into the year, our two best playmakers were Mo and Fred. Mo was hurt a lot this year, but this was the healthiest he had been, the healthiest our football team has been all year. I don't think Mo missed a snap since we started practicing for this game in early December. He is not at full speed out there, but he was in condition. We were going to try to get it to him as much as we could.
Where does Chandler rate in Iowa history now?
Nathan can be very, very proud of the company that he has joined. He won 10 games. Just like our team can be very proud of that fact. There is a fair chance that we will end this season with a top 10 ranking when those come out. Back to back 10 win seasons is great and it has been fun watching these guys grow.
What does this win mean to your program?
I think its just one more step towards credibility. It helps set the example for the younger kids. Our older guys understood what it takes and I think it helps us continue to grow and improve.
In hindsight, with injuries, the offense clicked today as it was healthy. Will you look back at it all and wonder if it could have been better?
I am not a ‘look back' guy. We go out there every day and take things how they are. We try to do the best we can and for the most part, we did that this year. So I don't look back at all. Guys get hurt, and that is part of football. We played through it. Our guys can go out feeling pretty good about what they have done.
Talk about the Defense
We blew coverage on their first touchdown, so that was not great. But on the whole, I thought we did a great job. But our offense came right back and put some points on the board. Once our defensive guys got into the flow of the game, they did a great job. I give credit to the staff and players. We are not the fanciest team to look at, but our guys like to play the game hard. We know who we are.
This is your second straight 10 win, when will you get respect?
We feel pretty good about things right now. We just try to go out and play. I could not be any more proud of all of the people that are associated with this program.
If the right NFL team called you, would you interview?
The best question I got the other day was if any CFL teams had contacted me. I have coached in Maine, Iowa and Cleveland. I am not worried about that right now. What I am excited about is what we have done as a football team, the direction of the program and I could not be more excited about looking ahead to what we are going to do. It's an awful lot of fun, and that is where our thoughts are right now.
Myself and Chris Doyle are probably the only two guys that allow ourselves to look forward, and I am really excited about our football team. We are going to be really good next year. I hope.