The first thing that I want to do is to give credit to LSU. They played a fantastic football game. We had tremendous respect for them when the selection was made and then once we started to watch video tapes of their football game; they are just extremely impressive. They have outstanding talent, they are well coached and I think that both teams showed an awful lot of heart today.
So it was no big surprise at what a great football game this was. I just can't say enough about our players and our staff; this has been a pretty unusual year in a lot of regards. The resilience that these guys have shown week in and week out, our coaching staff, our support staff, but most importantly, the players. It is hard to put into words. For this thing to end the way that it did, it's pretty fitting.
For the game to go the way that it went, for a lot of people making big plays in different areas of the game…we didn't start out well offensively. We came back and did some good things there. All of those things tied together, it's just a tremendous team effort. It has been a lot of fun to be with these guys.
First off, Walner gave us a chance with the kick return. There were a couple of plays there, and we were in pretty good shape, but I blew it by not taking a timeout there. I guess I didn't realize that they start the clock after a penalty after you spike the ball. It's irrelevant right now. Drew did a great job of keeping the play alive and keeping his eyes downfield, just like in the Wisconsin ballgame.
Then Warren was right there. Again, it was representative of our football team. Another guy stepping up and doing outstanding things for us. We have had so many contributions, some pretty dramatic like that and some that were hidden.
I think the way we ran the ball in the second half, I don't know what the statistics are, and I really don't care. It gave us a chance to do some things, and right down the line.
I think as pretty a play as any of them was the four yard touchdown by Marques (Simmons). It was a great call by Ken O'Keefe. I don't think that anyone expected us to come out in a jumbo formation and run the ball. I am not sure that I did, either.
Your offense has not been as heralded as your defense this year, but in the end, they pulled it out
Again, I think that this season, statistically we have been good on defense and we have done some good things in our kicking game. We have been trying to find ways to get it done well enough to win football games.
In the second half, we hit out stride a little bit. We grew an awful lot in that last 30 minutes. We had two time outs and a decent kick return at the end. We felt that we had a shot at it. Again, we were playing for a field goal, needless to say. But no one is complaining about the way that it turned out.
Have you ever been a part of a game like this?
I have to think about that. I remember a couple of wild Holiday Bowls. In fact, I had visions of Kevin Harmon coming out on that kick return against San Diego State; that gave us a chance to kick the field goal, and Houghtlin won a couple of games for us there.
I would have to think about that one, but I am not too worried about it, either. I feel pretty good about this one.
It was a great football game. Both teams competed. They are an excellent football team. We had our work cut out for us; we knew that. Our guys competed hard. We are used to that underdog role. We have been in that role in our last three bowl games; I can't remember if we were in San Antonio or not. But we are comfortable with that. The one thing that we focused on was playing our best game. I can't say enough about the way that our guys prepared.
What changes did you make on offense at halftime?
We tried to move the pocket a little bit and do some things to get some rhythm going, and I think we convinced ourselves to run at the heart of their defense. I don't know what our stats were in the second half running the football, but I thought that we made them do some things and play us honest. Offensive football is tough; it ebbs and flows. But once you get it going, you have a chance to get some things done. The credit goes to our players, they kept plucking away.
What were you watching on the last play?
Initially, I was watching what was going on behind the line, just to make sure that he was on his feet.
The one thing about Drew, and this is not secret now, but he keeps his eyes down the field and that is a great trait for a quarterback. He kept his head in the game, looked downfield and was able to see what was going on down there. It gives you a great weapon. You saw what happened in the Wisconsin game, and he did it again today.
Can you talk about what you guys saw with the two punt blocks?
That is Darrell's responsibility, and he has done a great job since he came to our staff. He does a great job with that punt defense team. Our players do a great job of communicating. Our guys upstairs adjust well and they kind of know where the hot spots might be. We had a great chance with the first one, but we didn't convert it into points. I thought that might come back to bite us, and I was thinking about that in the last few minutes of the game.
To get that second one, I think that is just a remarkable effort by our guys, because they were in a punt safe, or jumbo formation, or whatever you want to call it. The key is for our players to go out and execute.
We have an awful lot of guys that play on special teams that are not starters or who are not scholarship players. We have gotten a lot of mileage out of those guys.
Is this perfect ending for the team that found a way all year?
I don't know if you could write a better script, and no one would believe it if you did. The ending was great obviously, but so many things went into this game.
Starting with what we did back in Iowa in December, the preparation, the focus, the way that our guys conducted themselves on the trip; I can't say enough about the way that our players handled themselves away from the game field.
For us to have success, to be playing in January against teams like LSU or Florida, we have to do just about everything right. Our margin for error is not real big.
Summarize Holloway's career story
It's a little reminiscent of Ramon Ochoa's story in some ways. Ramon had never started going into last season and he came out of the pile as a fifth year senior, and he was not the biggest guy. And Warren is a guy that had some injury problems that hampered him throughout his career. But he has progressed each year.
I think the one common denominator with Warren Holloway is from the time he walked on campus, he worked hard in practice. He has a great mental and physical toughness as a football player. I think that has allowed him to emerge this year as a guy who really played a key role in helping us win. He had done some things in years past, too, in a more subtle manner.
He is not the biggest guy or the fastest guy…but you know….unbelievable.