Nov. 26, 2011
Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes
Opening Statement: It’s good to get that last win and have a chance to look back at the whole thing now. It’s been a fun ride for this whole football team and it’s been great for everybody associated with this program. Surely, it feels great to win a championship and when we started camp, we knew we had the personnel to do so. We started off the season kind of rough, and everybody hung in there. It speaks about the character of our team as a whole because losing is a difficult thing to do. We were telling our team to continue working hard and hang in there. Our coaches were telling players to follow our game plan and it was hard because we weren’t seeing the results we wanted at first. We continued practicing hard and I’m extremely proud of our program. Our seniors have been exceptional all season. What they’ve done the last two seasons is a real credit to them and certainly we wouldn’t be in this position if those guys didn’t buy into our system. They did so and worked endlessly and that’s the big difference between this season and last season. It’s hard to win seven games in a row in college football, especially playing most of those games on the road. Our coaching staff did an excellent job and I’m extremely fortunate to have this coaching staff. They’ve done a remarkable job and work well together. They set great examples for this team and we’re all excited about going to San Diego. I’ve been to two different holiday bowls and San Diego puts on a great event every year. It will be a fun experience for all of us.
Q: You were struggling early in the year and now you’ve won seven games in a row and are going to the Poinsettia Bowl this season. What changed?
A: They kept finding ways to improve. We felt we were doing good things early on this season, but just couldn’t find way to win ballgames. When we went to Idaho and Utah State, we had hard fought games against both teams and found ways to win and all of a sudden, they just thought we could win. They expected to win and perform at a high level. Any time the players in a program have that mentality; your football team will be successful. They’ve always told themselves to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Confidence, if anything, has been the difference.
Q: The players celebrating on the field after the game has to be a special moment for you. How did it feel when they were holding the WAC trophy at the end of the game?
A: It’s a culmination of a lot of hard work. The thing people don’t realize about all of our guys is the amount of hard work they put into preparing for games. The players, supporting staff, team doctors, etc… do so many things that aren’t even seen. We wouldn’t be in this position without so many people involved with the program. Everybody has been pulling the rope in the same direction and when everybody involved does that, your team will be successful.
Q: The first quarter kind of started very slow and then you had a few scores in the second quarter and had that interception towards the end of the first half.
A: It was critical because it all changed over a one minute span. It was 9-0 and a minute later it was 23-0. That was the key for us. We put together a nice drive to score and then returned an interception to score again. That’s something we’ve done all season. Our defense has done an excellent job at creating turnovers and then making big plays out of those turnovers.
Q: The pace of the game changed during the second quarter and you guys were able to score.
A: When we play at a faster pace and get into a rhythm, we’re pretty good. Once we find a rhythm and get rolling, we’re pretty tough to stop offensively. Quinton Patton suffered an injury that hurt us a little bit but other guys stepped u and that’s something we’ve done all season. With the injuries we’ve had, it’s amazing to see how our guys persevered and have been able to do what they’ve done. We didn’t dress Lennon Creer tonight and he’s a big part of our offense. When guys can’t perform, someone else has been great at coming in and not losing a beat. Hunter Lee has done a remarkable job all year and so has Craig Johnson. They’ve done a great job coming in as walk-ons. That’s the story of our team; having guys who are blue-collar players and have kind of over achieved expectations.
Q: What do you think about your team’s display tonight on offense, defense and special teams?
A: They played great. We haven’t really had 44-0 leads all season so we played the most complete game we’ve played all season. Our defense did tremendous tonight because New Mexico St. has great speed and Kenny Turner is a great player. Our defense really played well.
Q: Winning the championship outright has to feel great.
A: It’s special but we felt we did so anyway. We played well and it’s always great to win a championship. It means we got hot at the right time.
Q: Have you spoken about bowl game possibilities before tonight?
A: We haven’t really mentioned any bowl games or even the WAC championship. We talk about playing one game at a time and worrying about handling our business. We worry about doing the right things and improving as a team and program.
A: I feel a little bad for him, but Lee has been great and stepped up when we really needed him. It really speaks about college football. Colby has done a great job hanging in there and he and Nick work together and pull thru each other. They help one another and really bond and work together well. Our entire team does and it speaks to our character. Putting together a run like this is very difficult and your team has to play together to do so.
Q: Talk a little about the bowl game. A lot of big games have been played there.
A: Two years ago, TCU and Boise St. played there. It’s a great bowl game and is a great experience for our players. I’m a big proponent of bowl games because of the once in a lifetime experience for the players involved. It’s a reward for our players and fans. It will give us a lot of opportunities to improve our program and we will continue to work with our young guys. We’ll end up with an extra spring training out of this deal. We’re extremely young and will need some guys to develop and step up. Every time you practice you improve as a team. We did the little things right and worked together all season.
Poinsettia Bowl Executive Director Bruce Binkowski
I would like to congratulate coach Dykes and the Bulldogs program. We were in Nevada last week and if Nevada won, we were prepared to invite Nevada, but when the Bulldogs came back with that thrilling rally, we decided that if Louisiana Tech won tonight, we would invite Tech to the Poinsettia Bowl. We couldn’t be more excited to have a team with an 8-4 record, seven consecutive wins and five road wins play in our bowl game. They deserve this trip to San Diego and we’ll put on the best show we can for them.
Q: Opponent possibilities?
A: There are a lot of possibilities from San Diego St, Wyoming, TCU and Boise St. to name a few. If TCU or Boise St. does not go to the BCS, the Vegas bowl picks right before us and if Boise St. or TCU does not get picked, we will choose one.
Q: Can you talk a little about what it was about Tech that stood out?
A: Our philosophy is to reward the team that deserves to be there. We don’t choose teams because they are high profile and sell tickets. As stated earlier, we were at the Nevada game and saw Tech’s comeback. If they won tonight, they would be the WAC champions and they deserve to play in this bowl. Their competition will be fierce because if TCU or Boise St. plays against a team on a roll right now, it will be a great matchup. A lot of bowl games will love to have our matchup, especially with the way the Bulldogs are playing right now. These kids will have a memorable week.
Western Athletic Conference Commissioner Karl Benson
On behalf of the WAC, big congratulations to Louisiana Tech. Great performance and it has to feel great to be able to do what they’ve done the last few weeks. They earned the WAC championship this season and earlier we spoke about the importance of having one of the remaining WAC schools step forward and Tech has certainly done that. They will represent our conference well and play against quality opponents. Playing somebody like Boise St. will be ideal for us. Ten years ago today, Tech beat Tulsa in their first year in the WAC. If you look back, that was also Boise State’s first year in the WAC. Tech starts its second generation in the WAC and sets the stage. I’m excited to see the standings and see Louisiana Tech number one and Utah State number two in the final standings. They will both represent our conference extremely well and I couldn’t be more proud.
Q: Have you seen anything like the rebound Tech has had this season?
A: Sonny spoke about regular season games being playoffs and how regular season games are extremely important and to start off with the streak they had, one loss would have eliminated them from this bowl game. Playing the way they did was probably one of the greatest second half performances by a WAC team I’ve ever seen.
Q: You want us to call you walk-on Hunter Lee? Talk a little about your experience as a whole. Now you have a WAC championship in your first season here.
A: First of all, I’d like to thank God because it’s been a blessing to play here and for these coaches and my teammates. I would do anything for my teammates. To work my way up and step up has been amazing. To be here and win a WAC championship, I’m overwhelmed with joy and am extremely excited.
Q: The similarities between you and Colby and driving this offense after coming in are always there.
A: Colby has stepped in and played great for us all year. I’m happy for all of us as a whole and so happy for him.
Q: What happened tonight, with you yards wise?
A: I felt I was running weak and the offensive line created big holes for me so I just ran. All the credit should go to him for giving me space to run. I feel extremely lucky to be able to accumulate all of those stats.
Q: Talk about the success of this team’s offense when you get into a faster pace.
A: You could feel when we’re going to make plays. When we get into a rhythm, it’s tough to stop us and we had the defensive on their toes when we got into our hurry-up offense.
Q: Talk about your play tonight because you received more than 20 carries.
A: Lennon is a great player and it’s too bad he got hurt. I’ve been so blessed to be able to step in and play at this time. I’m so thankful for that.
Q: Were there nerves to start off the game?
A: No, we just started off slow.
Q: Talk about the bowl game.
A: I’ve heard great things about bowl games and am so excited and ready to go. I’m ready for the Poinsettia Bowl.
Punter Ryan Allen
Q: Talk about your travel to Louisiana Tech after starting at Oregon State.
A: I’m blessed to get an opportunity. I didn’t really want to go down a division and I was told that I could have an opportunity to transfer to a division I school without having to sit out a year. I have to thank coach Tommerdahl because he helped me out tremendously. I’m thankful because of the opportunity I’ve received here.
Q: Do you think you can win?
A: I think so. I’ve worked against the other two punters that are finalists but I feel good about what I’ve done this year. It’s a great honor to just be one of the finalists.
Q: Do you feel your representing the little guy being nominated?
A: Not really. I have a lot of people to thank on the punt team because they’ve helped me as well when I’ve had bad punts. It’s just great to get Tech’s name out there.
Linebacker Adrien Cole
Q: Last week, we spoke about Dudley’s interception. How does it feel to have your own?
A: It was just perfect timing and I just happened to be at the right place at the right time. I couldn’t have done it without the great blocking I received after the interception.
Q: We spoke about their speed on offense this week. Did you think the game would end 44-0?
A: We expect tough battles all the time and this game was no different. We had it clicking on all cylinders today. New Mexico St. didn’t just give us the game. They had great rushing tonight and I’m disappointed in myself because of that but we fought against a tough team and came up with the victory.
Q: Did you think the game was over after your interception?
A: No, because we thought we had games closed earlier in the season and teams came back to beat us. We knew it was a 60 minute game, especially after last week’s game at Nevada so we kept playing hard until the clock hit 0:00.
Q: Talk about Colby’s performance. How much easier does it make it for the defense knowing he’s playing at such a high level?
A: It gives us so much confidence because it’s great to see the offense and defense clicking. We feed off of each other and everybody is happy when everything is clicking. When everybody plays hard and makes plays, all of us are happy and that’s Tech football.
Q: Before the game started, we were just gazing out at the field.
A: I was thinking about my last game here. I thought about the opportunity to leave here with a statement and be a part of a team that wins a championship. I’m just happy to be a part of a team heading in the right direction.
Q: Talk about the bowl game. How great is it for you and all of the other seniors?
A: It’s a reward for everybody on this team. We had a slow start and continued to play hard and have been blessed to be able to play in a bowl game. It’s great for all of us and it’s icing on the cake because we knew that we were better than the way we played earlier this season.
Linebacker Jay Dudley
Q: How excited were you about Cole’s interception?
A: I was so happy for him because he made a great play.
Q: What does competing in a bowl game mean to you?
A: It means a whole lot to me because we’ve been through many ups and downs. I played in a bowl game my redshirt sophomore season and then we didn’t have a great season my junior year so it’s great to be able to compete in another bowl game. It’s exciting for all of us, especially us seniors.
Q: Who would you like to play?
A: Boise St. because they’ve defeated us many times the last few seasons, so I would love to get an opportunity to see them again. It would mean a lot for us as a whole to be able to play against a top team and hopefully we end up with a victory.
Quarterback Colby Cameron
Q: Talk about what your season has been like.
A: Going into college football, you know your going to have competition. Nick came in as a freshman and became the starter, but he just added a different dimension to this team. He played really well in camp and the coaches were just putting the team with the best opportunity to win on the field. Coach Dykes constantly told me you’re going to have a chance to win us some football games this year and have really been blessed to do so. I came into the Utah State game and am fortunate to be playing the way I am right now but I’m more happy if we’re winning. It’s not about my stats. It’s about giving this program an opportunity to win games.
Q: What has your career at Tech been like?
A: I try to be mentality tough because it’s hard to be away from your family and then not play football when you came to Tech to play. I signed here to play football and I wasn’t going to leave home to sit on the bench but I learned to be mentally tough and am appreciative of the opportunity. Nick is a great young quarterback and I just learned to be mentally tough when I was sitting.
Q: You and Hunter had a climb in the depth chart. Talk a little about that.
A: Both of us have made the best of our opportunities. In college, it’s tough to be the back-up but you have to continue practicing hard and improving every day. I’m very proud of Hunter and the way he’s handled himself on and off the field.
Q: What has it been for you since you became the starter? Is it a mind set where you think it might be your last opportunity, so you want to be successful?
A: I don’t think it’s me. I think I was put into a situation where I could only succeed because this team has been doing great as a unit. The receivers, special teams and defense have been great and we all play as a team. It’s not just me.
Q: You put together a nice drive after starting off sluggish.
A: It’s a good momentum builder when you make plays. When you start off sluggish, you want to make a few plays to move the ball downfield and it turns into a snowball effect. It felt great once we started making plays.
Q: Playing in San Diego has to feel great for you.
A: I’m excited to have the opportunity to go back to California. My family will be able to see me play so it’s a great feeling.
Q: You led the offense to your fifth 90+ yard drive today.
A: Coach Franklin always says we have the most grass so we have more grass to score. Once you get momentum, we can go however many yards we need to get a touchdown.
Q: What’s your relationship with Nick because he’s in the position you were in earlier this season?
A: Nick’s a great kid and we just try to help each other become better quarterbacks. I tell him to keep his head up and he has a long career ahead of him. He’s a great player and competitior and know he will do a great job. We’ll continue to make each other better.
Q: Any preferences on bowl opponents?
A: No preference, just excited to be home.
Q: Talk about being able to play in a bowl game.
A: It’s a great opportunity to be in a bowl game. As a freshman, I was just excited to be there. It’s a great experience for all of our players and is exciting to get an opportunity to compete in one. Not too many get that opportunity.
New Mexico State’s head coach DeWayne Walker
Q: Give me your overall summary of the game.
A: We started a freshman quarterback against a tough defense who put him in a tough spot. Matt (Christian) had a hip injury that was hurting him in the pre-game warm-ups and he just couldn’t play. He practiced and coach Martin came to us and said “he just can’t play tonight.”
Q: Talk about that play towards the end of the first half.
A: Defensively, they kept us in it early in the game when they were up 9-0. I take full responsibility for the interception right before halftime because I told them to take a shot at the end zone and just see what we can get out of it. I wanted to at least get into field goal range and he (Adrien Cole) went and returned the interception for a touchdown. That’s when it all went downhill for us.
Q: They also drove 95 yards in the last four minutes to close out the first half. Being down 9-0 is manageable but closing the half that way had to be hard for you.
A: Playing against a team like this, you must perform in all three areas; offensively, defensively and on special teams. It was a disappointing game for us. We knew it was going to be tough, especially because we started a freshman quarterback. We’re not at the extent where our defense can win games for us, even when our offense is struggling.
Q: Is there friction between your football team?
A: I think it is what it is. You have to play the game through and defensively we’re not to that point yet. Our offense is kind of the strength on our team and not playing our regular quarterback and starting a true freshman isn’t really our formula. We’ll make strides for next week and try to end the season on a good note.