Pregame Press Conference Quotes from Southern Miss and Florida State

Pregame Press Conference Quotes from Southern Miss and Florida State

PREGAME QUOTES FROM SOUTHERN MISS GOLDEN EAGLES

HEAD COACH JAY HOPSON

Opening Statement:
“We’re honored to be here. The Independence Bowl is a bowl game that we’ve certainly been looking forward to and hopeful to be in. When we had the opportunity to talk about bowl possibilities, and when this bowl became a possibility we were very excited, and when it became a reality we were thrilled. Happy to be here and feel grateful to be here.”

On the opportunity, this bowl/playing Florida State gives Southern Miss:
“I think when you look at it, just to play in an ACC, SEC competition in a bowl game is certainly a big thing and something we’re excited about. We know we have an outstanding opponent, Florida State, a football team that has our utmost respect. But again, it’s an honor. At Southern Miss it’s kind of what our tradition has been built on, those opportunities. So, certainly, again, blessed to be here and appreciate the opportunity.”

On the matchup:
“Both teams are prepared to win, there’s no doubt about that. Again, we know we’re playing an outstanding football team. Florida State’s a football team who lost – a few of those losses on their schedule are teams that are competing in the College Football Playoffs. So, they’re a football team that’s is extremely talented. They have talent at all the skill positions and up front. Offensively and defensively in the line. And, again, they’re a team that at the start of the season off ranked number three in the country. So, we know we’re playing a very talented football team. But again, it’s certainly a challenge that we’re certainly looking forward to.”

On what Florida State makes tough in the matchup:
“Well mainly, they finish strong. They won their last three bowl games. Very convincing win over Florida. And again, a lot of those losses in the regular season were close, tough, heartfelt losses against some really good football teams. We expect their A-game. We know they’re fired up and excited to be here. We know, again, every team has different little battles and adversities. You know they’ve had the coaching change but, in some regard, they get to stay in and prepare. A lot of times our coaches in December are out recruiting and getting ready for December 20th signing day. So, both teams have to overcome different obstacles. We understand they’re ready to go. Their coaches that are coaching and calling the game are intact and there with them, getting them prepared. I know coach (Odell) Haggins is a Florida State Seminole through and through, and I know he’ll have them fired up, ready to play. We know we’re going to get their a-game, and we know we gotta be ready.”

On Cam Akers:
“Well, Florida State is a balanced football team. Cam is an excellent football player. He was the national player of the year. He’s the player of the year in Mississippi. And, that’s the type of talented players Florida State has. We know they’re a talented football team. But the thing about Florida State is they’ve got talent out wide, their quarterback is a dual threat guy that’s athletic, he can throw it, and they have a couple good running backs and Cam is one of them that are very talented. So, I don’t think at Florida State you can focus on one area. They’re talented enough. Their offensive line, big, athletic, they move extremely well. We have to play a complete game and that’s the reality. Again, when you talk about Cam, he had an outstanding high school career in Mississippi, just talented, led his team to a State Championship. A guy that again, has our respect.”

On Southern Miss offense against Florida State defense, and the members of FSU’s defense who are not playing:
“Again, the guys that they have playing are going to be ready to play. That’s the thing. Florida State is a team that has depth. Sometimes that guy that gets his opportunity, he’s ready to prove to the world, ‘Hey, I’m a first or second round draft pick. Look at me.’ Our offensive line is going to come ready to play, they do every week. That’s a unit to me that, you’ll be able to talk to Devin (Farrior) some here in a minute but that’s a unit that comes to play each and every game. We’ve had some outstanding opponents but Florida State is no exception. The guy to my right, Ito Smith, I’m partial because I coach at Southern Miss but to me, he’s the best back in the country in my opinion. He’s a guy that just comes to work every day and plays hard. He’s got that special quality. And he’s a play maker. And so, again, our guys will come to play but we know we’re playing a really good football team. As the head coach at Southern Miss, certainly I’m partial to these guys – to my right and my left – but, the bottom line is we know we have a big challenge.”

On defending freshman running back Cam Akers, a Mississippi native:
“People could easily tell back when he was at Clinton High – he’s fast, he’s explosive, he’s a strong back. There’s really no chink in his game. He’s physical, and he protects. I know FSU is excited about him because he’s only a true freshman, so he’ll be there a few more years. You watch him in high school and see how athletic he was, how he would take over games. He scored seven touchdowns in a state championship game against top competition, that says it all. He’s not the national player of the year or best player for no reason – he’s a talented young man. Defensively, we’ll have to play well. He’s one of the key men we’ll have to stop.”

On Southern Miss coaches having Florida State ties:
“It’s funny how it worked out, and it probably is a big deal for them. We’ve got quite a few guys who either went to Florida State or did graduate assistantships there. Certainly, both staffs in that regard kind of know each other. FSU has had great continuity, and a lot of assistant coaches that were there when our guys were are still there. It’s probably a better question for our coaches than me, but I’m sure it makes it special for them. It was cool for those guys to reunite at the Petroleum Club earlier this week. Our coaches with Florida State ties are outstanding young coaches. I could sit here and talk about them for two hours, but they are doing a great job.”

On playing a top program like Florida State given Southern Miss’ tradition of beating top programs:
“There is a tradition and a heritage at Southern Miss. It’s something we talk about, and it’s something you know when you sign on at Southern Miss. We understand that, and our guys have a great understanding of our history. Southern Miss is about playing tough, physical football, and we’re going to do exactly that.”

On the I-Bowl being a business trip, and potentially coming down to the kicking game:
“This game has always been a tough, hard-fought game. Certainly, we have to take care of business. You’re not going to beat Florida State if you don’t. I think our players and coaches understand that we had to prepare, and to take that care and preparation on the field. If you don’t, good things won’t happen. We’ve had a good two weeks of preparation, and it’s time to take it to the field. We know what it will take to win.”

On the Dec. 20 early signing period, and how it affected the coaches:
“Originally, I voted against it. But once it passed, we adjusted to the new rule. I actually think it was helpful to a degree. We liked what happened December 20 – we had an excellent signing class. Talking about bowl prep, you have to take a couple of weeks off because you have to put your coaches on the road and recruit. That is one thing, with all the things that happened at Florida State – our coaches have to go recruit, and sometimes it’s an advantage to be in the office and be preparing for the game. It does stretch you thin at times because you have to multitask. However, looking back, the good thing is we signed the lion’s share of our class on December 20. We know what our few needs are left, and we can concentrate on that on Feb. 3. I’m glad we had the early signing date. Talk to me a year or two from now, and it could change. We knew that there would be a lot of hustle and bustle. It’s funny because a lot of people were all for it, now they don’t like it. People like myself that didn’t like it, you know what, it’s not that bad. The reality is, we adjusted well and we had a good plan for the early signing period. I think this is the debate that you’re going to hear around college football for the next year. There are pros and cons. I was a guy who said that the system isn’t broke, so don’t fix it.”

On if Brett Favre will be in attendance:
You’ll have to ask Brett about his plans, but he’s certainly been a big help to have around. Nobody better represents the spirit of Southern Miss football than Brett Favre. Hopefully he can be here, and he’s always welcome.”

On Shreveport’s hospitality and that of the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl:
“I can’t thank Walk-On’s and the Independence Bowl enough for the hospitality. The City of Shreveport has rolled out the red carpet, and we feel blessed to be here. We appreciate the hospitality.”

ITO SMITH, SENIOR RUNNING BACK

On the opportunity to play a program like Florida State in a bowl game:
“It’s great to have an opportunity to show who we are. We are excited to play against a program like Florida State.”

XAVIER THIGPEN, SENIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMAN

On winning two games in the state of Louisiana and the opportunity to play a third game in the state this season:
“(Florida State) has a size advantage over the teams we beat (in ULM and Louisiana Tech). We know the ACC is a big conference, and maybe our preparation is a little different as far as technique and game plan. We’re working on our steps to overcome that size advantage.”

DEVIN FARRIOR, SENIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMAN

On being at Southern Miss for five years and being a Wayne County (Miss.) native, what’s the opportunity like to play Florida State being a guy that knows Southern Miss’ history:
“We’re definitely looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to playing kind of close to home. Florida State has some of the best athletes, and we’re looking forward to playing a team from a bigger conference.”

PREGAME QUOTES FROM FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES

INTERIM HEAD COACH ODELL HAGGINS

Opening Statement:
“On behalf of the Independence Bowl, Florida State University is happy to be here. Our guys have had a great week of practice, well the last couple of days of practice. The hospitality here, the people have been great. I’ve been to a lot of bowls, and the people here have been great.”

On his being part of the 1989 Florida State team that lost to Southern Miss:
“Yes, I played on it, but we’re talking about now. We’re talking about the game tomorrow. I’m not concerned about that game.”

On if he is excited about being in Shreveport:
“We’re very excited to be here at the Independence Bowl. Like I’ve said before, everybody tries to talk about me, but it’s about the players. It’s not about Odell Haggins. It’s about the players and Florida State University. That’s my concern – make sure our players have a good time, practice well and go out and perform well in the game. That’s what it’s about.”

On who he expects to step in for players who opted not to play in the game:
“We’re not expecting one person to try to (slow down Ito Smith). We’re expecting everybody. Like I said before, we’re a team. We play team defense. We’re going to play together. We always say – and Derwin James would say this if you called him right now – next man up.”

On the value of the bowl game for young players moving forward:
“We’ve had 12 extra practices, so the guys got experience. It’s going to be big for some of the young guys to go out there and play. A lot of our guys, we’ve played in a lot of big games, and they’ve played a lot of football, so therefore every little bit helps going into the next season when you’re preparing. It’s like another preseason practice. It’s going to help them.”

On the most challenging part of dealing with the changes in the program:
“We’ve moved forward. We’ve put the challenges behind us. I’m not trying to dodge the question. We’re having fun as a family, as a group, as players and as a university. We’re moving forward.”

On coaches who have stepped up to help during the transition:
“It has been tremendous. Mike Warren, running backs/special teams, he has done an outstanding job. (David) Spurlock, the tight ends coach, has done an outstanding job. Jerry Johnson, coaching the defensive tackles while I’ve taken another role, the guys have done an outstanding job. The (players), they’re really loving it because they’re pushing them. It seems like they haven’t missed anything. The guys are loving it. I go around and ask questions, and they’re pushing them hard, doing a good job.”

On what is riding on this game (winning record, winning streaks, etc.):
“This game means a lot for the players, means a lot for the university and also myself. You just said something about winning streaks. I haven’t even thought about it. My main concern has been about these guys right here, the whole team. They’ll tell you that. We’ve practiced well for 11 practices, we’ve got one more. We’re going to go out and give it all we’ve got, I’ll tell you that.”

On the importance of this game for the senior class, especially the fifth-year seniors:
“Nate (Andrews) and Ryan Green. In that last game, Ryan got in there and showed us a lot of character. We had the team blown out, and he went in there carrying the ball, trying to get it in the end zone. He did a great job. Nate has been a leader. The last year and a half, he’s been injury prone, but now he’s healthy. I tell you, that guy coming here as a freshman, he made a lot of big plays for us in 2013. Without him, we probably wouldn’t have won the national championship. That young man, man, he’s stayed there for us, helped the young guys out, coaching them up and getting them ready. I take my hat off to those guys, the seniors. I’m telling the rest of our team, it’s all about the seniors. We want to have a good time, but we want to go out and play well for the seniors.”

LEVONTA TAYLOR, SOPHOMORE DEFENSIVE BACK

On weather conditions:
“The weather is not a problem. I am used to it and the guys are used to it on when they played in football camps and stuff like that. At the end of the day, it is about going out there and playing football and that is my main concern.”

On playing for Coach Haggins:
“Coach Haggins is like a father figure to us. It’s been a rough season, but he’s been a father figure to everyone on this team. He’s come in and stepped up and we are ready to go out there and fight for him.”

BRIAN BURNS, SOPHOMORE DEFENSIVE END

On Southern Miss offense:
“Their offensive is similar to Louisville. They do a lot of read options and stuff like that, but as long as we stay disciplined, we shouldn’t have any problems.”

On the difficult season:
“A win is a win. Basically, going through this season, it shows our character and determination to finish the season strong. We’ve had a lot of problems and injuries that we’ve had to deal with, but winning those last three games and becoming bowl eligible and now we are here, there’s no obstacle and we are here to win. We’ve got to dig down deep and get that win.”

JACQUES PATRICK, JUNIOR RUNNING BACK

On playing beside freshman running back Cam Akers:
“I’ve been beside Cam all year and he has tremendous growth. He has shown continued progress and when he has the football, we know he can do big things.”

On new Florida State head coach Willie Taggart being in attendance:
“Coach (Willie) Taggart has been around the bowl practices and has gotten the opportunity to see everybody and evaluate everybody. It is great to go out there and show him what we can do and we want to go out there and get that ‘W’ and springboard us into next year.”

On being in the bowl game:
“This bowl game right here is to show our determination. The circumstances we had this year and everything we’ve overcome, but it made us a better team. We’re going to go out there and hopefully get that victory.”

ALEC EBERLE, JUNIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMAN

On the bowl experience:
“Anytime you get to have a chance to go to a bowl game, it’s a huge opportunity. Like coach (Odell) Haggins said, we have gotten some practices in to prepare us for this game. The chance to come to this bowl game, after the season we’ve had with the ups and downs, along with the adversity we’ve faced, has been awesome. This team has a one life expectancy and after this game, this team will never be the same. This bowl game gives us one more chance to play again here, is huge. We here to have a good time and like coach said, the hospitality has been great and we’ve been taken care of. We’ve had fun, but we are also here to get the job done.”