NICK HOLT: Hi, guys. It’s good to be here. I’m going to introduce our players from my left to right. Starting off with our starting strong safety, a sophomore out of Los Angeles, California, Sean Parker; the next young man from Tacoma, Washington, starting corner, junior, Desmond Trufant; myself, Nick Holt; and then to my right, senior, also from Seattle, Washington, starting defensive end, Everrette Thompson, has been a four‑year starter for us; next young man, also from Seattle, Washington, four‑year starter, our starting nose guard Alameda Ta’Amu; and then last but not least, our cagey veteran team captain ‑‑ Alameda is also one of our team captains, but our starting middle linebacker leading tackler in the Pac‑12 conference, Second Team All‑Pac‑12, Cort Dennison. Our leaders on defense.
Just to start off, we’re very excited about this opportunity. Being down here in San Antonio, so far it’s been fantastic. Everybody has been nice to us. The facilities have been awesome. The high school that we’re practicing at in Alamo Heights, just a beautiful facility, great weight room, great field, and everybody seems really nice and opening their arms, a great Texas welcome, I guess, so to speak.
So this has been our Wednesday. Just got done with our Wednesday practice a couple hours ago, just got back. Practices have been going very, very well. We have a tremendous, tremendous job ahead of us of playing this fantastic Baylor offense with their Heisman Trophy winner. The quarterback is a fantastic player. They have great, great receivers. They have a great running back, and the offensive linemen are a very experienced group of offensive linemen, big, physical, and they do a lot of really good things.
It’s a tremendous, tremendous opportunity for us, and hopefully we’re up to the challenge. We’re excited to be here. Our kids are going to play hard for four quarters, and I think it’s going to be a very exciting football game.
Q. Coach, can you just talk about the challenge of facing Robert Griffin and what he does so well out there?
NICK HOLT: Well, first of all, he’s the best player in the country, and there’s no doubt about that. Obviously he’s theHeisman Trophy winner. He’s a tremendous athlete, and has the unique ability of being able to run the ball very effectively, but he has got a heck of an arm, throws a great deep ball and is very accurate. He’s the best of all the worlds for a quarterback. He’s mobile, good athlete, he can run, he can scramble, he makes good decisions, and he has a heck of an arm, and he’s accurate. It looks like he’s an excellent leader. The kids respond well to him it looks like on film, and it’s just a tremendous ‑‑ it’s going to be a very difficult task stopping these guys.
We’re working very hard to get that done, and hopefully that will happen on Thursday night.
QUESTION: This is a question for Everrette Thompson: I know you guys went through a little bit of a drought late in the season as far as getting sacks, but you had five or six against WSU in the Apple Cup. Talk about what they’ve done for you guys as far as confidence to get ready to play someone like Griffin.
EVERRETTE THOMPSON: I think just building up throughout the season, we built a chemistry together as a D‑line, and we’re just comfortable out there. You’ve seen towards the end of the season that we got pressure on the quarterback and we got some sacks.
QUESTION: Alameda, you’ve never been to Texas before. You’ve been to a ranch, you’ve been to Sea World, the River Walk. Your thoughts on coming a little east and south from Washington?
ALAMEDA TA’AMU: Yeah, this is my first time in Texas. Sea World I actually fit on the roller coaster rides for the first time in a long time. I think everything in Texas is big.
But as far as the ranch, it was a good experience just having our team together and feeling the bond of having a family. It made me ‑‑ I really didn’t miss home. It was good to be with the team.
QUESTION: Coach, talk about the ‑‑ the defense obviously feeds off the crowd. You’re not at Husky Stadium, but so much has been made the last couple days about how well Husky fans are traveling. How will that help you, and maybe Des can answer the question, too, about the fan support you guys will get down here at the Alamo Bowl.
EVERRETTE THOMPSON: It’s always great to have the Husky fans. They’re great fans always there supporting us. They’re going to have a lot of fans here, as well. It’s like a home game for them because it’s two hours, three hours away from where they play. It’s definitely going to help having them on our side.
DESMOND TRUFANT: The more fans we get, the better it is, and just them being there helps us a lot because all we have is us out there, and we’re not in Husky stadium, like he said. We just have each other and our fans, so we’re working against Baylor.
QUESTION: Sean, can you talk about Robert Griffin? You guys faced some great quarterbacks in Barkley and Luck and some comparisons, what you’ve seen on tape?
SEAN PARKER: On tape he’s a real good player, throws a good ball, and the team responds to him, and he makes great plays. He extends plays, and he just makes everybody around him better. That’s going to make it harder for us, but then we have to focus on our game plan and what we have to do to stop him from doing that.
QUESTION: Coach Holt and Cort, do you feel like people are just kind of assuming that ‑‑ they’re overlooking you defensively because you’re playing Baylor and what they do, and because of some of the struggles this year they automatically assume you guys are going to get rolled over a little bit?
NICK HOLT: I’m not sure we get caught up in those terms. Obviously we’re playing against a very explosive offense with some explosive football players, and I think maybe that’s kind of the headline going into this game with them on offense having such fire power and having such a good quarterback. If we go unnoticed, that’s fine. Hopefully we don’t go on noticed on game day and we rise up to the challenge, and I think our guys will. I know our kids will always play hard and give us great Husky effort and make the fans proud and make the Pac‑12 proud of us. That’s hopefully what we aim to do. Regardless of if they overlook us, we can’t help any of that or we have no control of that, we’ve just got to make sure we do ‑‑ control what we do and play really, really hard.
CORT DENNISON: Yeah, like Coach Holt said, we can’t control how they think, what they’re thinking at all. All we can control is ourselves, and all that matters to us is everybody in our locker room. We’re worried about us and what we can control, and we’re really excited for the challenge.
QUESTION: Cort, can you talk about what this Bowl game means to you? You started with the program 0 and 12 and I know in the welcoming introduction when you got to town you thanked the Bowl director for the invitation and about leaving the program in better shape.
CORT DENNISON: Yeah, it’s huge. Our program just keeps building and keeps going up and up. Me, Everrette and Alameda have been here when some times were tough, when we were 0 and 12. Like I said before, you only appreciate success when you’ve been at the bottom, and we’ve been at the bottom, and we realize how that feels. Now we realize what success feels like and how hard you have to work to get there.
It’s a testament to our team. It’s a testament to how hard we work not only on the field but off the field in all phases of our lives. I’m really proud of the guys, and we’re only going up.
QUESTION: Coach Holt, from a coaching perspective, for your defense, how important has it been that your coaching staff has been together three seasons in a row, and what does it mean in the development of your players?
NICK HOLT: Well, it provides continuity, that’s for sure. And we’ve been together for three years, and most of us have coached together before that, before we all got to Washington, so we all know each other real well. We don’t have to worry about some things that arises maybe during the course of a week in practice or during game day because we’ve been with each other so long.
And I think it helps with our kids, the continuity, and week in and week out doing the same things and hearing the same clichés and the same coaching remarks and coaching points and things like that, doing the same thing in spring ball, carrying it over to fall camp and throughout the season
I think late in the year we improved. Maybe didn’t show up sometimes by the wins and the losses, but our kids have gotten better, and it’s because of continuity with the staff and the system we run, I think has to do with it. We have good kids. They try to do the right things. They’re all hard workers, extremely intelligent young men, and they’re fun to be around. They’re fun to coach.
QUESTION: Nick, obviously Robert Griffin gets the lion’s share of publicity for Baylor as would befit a Heisman Trophy winner, but sometimes there might be a tendency for people to overlook the kind of contributions they’ve gotten from Terrance Ganaway and also the wide receiver. Could you describe how difficult those guys are to try and stop along with Griffin?
NICK HOLT: Yeah, the running back, he’s a heck of a football player. If you don’t respect him and not get ready for him, he’ll beat you. I think he had 1,000 yards, did he not? 1,300 yards? And against some good defenses, too, he’s getting 100‑yard games, and you see that on film.
And then all their receivers are good football players. And then they spread you out and they create a lot of mismatches, and they’re very, very explosive on offense, and they have good schemes, but they have really good players. The running back and the wide outs are plenty good, and they make the quarterback a good player, too. He’s a fantastic player, but he’s got a good supporting cast. He really does.
QUESTION: Nick, looking on paper it looks like their offensive line everybody goes 300‑plus. Is this as big an offensive life as you’ve played?
NICK HOLT: They are anything, and I think ‑‑ and they’re pretty athletic. We’ve faced some good offensive lines. This might be one of the bigger ones, and we’ll just have to wait and see. Hopefully we’re ready for the challenge and play really well. We need to. Our front needs to play well for us to have a chance, there’s no question. These two guys right here need to have really, really good games. Not try too hard but they’ve got to play within the system, but they’ve got to do a nice job as well as the other guys up front.
Their offensive line, they’re an experienced group, a lot of two‑year, three‑year starters, a couple All‑Big 12 guys, I think, all‑conference offensive linemen that have played a lot of snaps, and you can tell them continuity. And they’re older; a lot of fifth year or ‑‑ fourth year juniors, fifth year seniors, things like that, and it doesn’t look like they’ve had a lot of injuries up front, and they’ve maintained their continuity, so that’s why their numbers are so good.
QUESTION: For the seniors and for coach, your record with extra time off, more than a week off, and then the game following is really strong. Some of your biggest upsets have come in those situations. What is it about the extra preparation that makes these players respond to time off and extra prep?
CORT DENNISON: Yeah, I just think the comfort level we get, the familiarity we get with the team, it can only help strengthen us as a defense the more film we watch, the more reps we get in practice. I think that only leads to positive things.
Our coaches do a great job. They put together the toughest plays you can put together against our defenses in practice, and I think we’ve done a really good job of responding so far these weeks we’ve prepared.
EVERRETTE THOMPSON: Yeah, just actually days just helps us heal as a team and gets us rested, and I feel like those extra days are perfect for us.
ALAMEDA TA’AMU: Just like Cort and Everrette said, it allows the team to build some comfort and let us heal.
QUESTION: Coach Holt, can you talk about last year’s Bowl game and the confidence going in and beating a team that was favored going into the game?
NICK HOLT: Well, we had the opportunity to play them earlier in the year, did not play very well our first go‑around, and I think that motivated us a little bit in our preparation. I know our guys prepared really well for last year’s game, and I think it was because out of respect for Nebraska. Our kids respected those guys because Nebraska got after us that first game.
And I think our kids respect Baylor. And when you respect somebody, I think ‑‑ our kids and our coaching staff, we’re going to try hard because we respect these guys. We know they’re good and they’re going to give us their best shot. We’ve got to be ready to go, and so in our preparation, in our 15 practices that we will have, we try to give the kids all the looks that they will see, and we’ll see something that we have not practiced against, but it’s concepts that we try to get and talk to our kids, and our kids do a nice job. These guys watch a lot of film, and they’re into it. They have good coaches, and our kids are very, very intelligent young men, like I said before, and we’re multiple, and we can be multiple at times because we’ve got smart guys that can do all this stuff. Now we’ve just got to do it really, really well on Thursday night, and hopefully our effort is really good on Thursday night, we fly to the ball, and if we have that type of effort that we know we can play with, that will make up for maybe lack of talent or some mistakes that might happen on Thursday night.
QUESTION: Des and Sean, they have a ton of explosive plays, 30‑yard‑plus, 40‑yard‑plus gains in the passing game. What have you seen how they’ve gotten those? Is it go patterns or making plays after catches, and how do you defend against that?
DESMOND TRUFANT: I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. You know, when you have a great quarterback, a lot of the attention goes to him. When you’re in the secondary you have to have disciplined eyes, so when you’re looking at the wrong thing you give up those explosive plays. Plus like everybody has been saying, they’re great players, so they’re going to make some great plays, busted coverages, there’s a lot of things that go into it. But we’ve just got to come ready to play and be disciplined.
SEAN PARKER: These receivers, they have tremendous athletic ability, they have the ability to go stretch the field on you and to make moves and make you miss. With us, we just have to tackle well and be disciplined with our guys and just stay on top and let everything underneath ‑‑ keep everything in front of us, and then I think we should be in good shape.