UConn Head Coach Bob Diaco
On Memphis pulling away in the second half
"It was really, through seven minutes to play in the third quarter, 13-3. It was a football game. The plan was good, and for the most part, the execution of the plan was good in terms of targeting and blocks destruction and the fits. What plagues a young team is penalties and ball security issues. We had penalties that were moving the ball closer to our goal line and penalties that moved the ball farther away from our goal line. We had some long runs that came back on penalties, and we had some defensive plays where we had them stopped and the drive was kept alive. The one drive in the second half to get the 13 points to 20 points, we had a few penalties on that drive that ended up setting them in close. And then we went turnover, turnover, and that's how the thing to 34."
How do the guys react to a night like this?
"Listen, everybody is disappointed. We play these games to win the games. The preparation was good. We love these guys. I understand Husky nation, and it's got a rich, rich tradition of excellence. Right now, we have a lot of work to do. It's just a moment in time, and it's going to take some time, so everybody is going to need to have some patience - the players, the coaches, everyone. We have a lot of work to do. We're going to get the work done. I'm excited about the problem. The identification process is done, and a plan of action, an action plan, a real one to address the issues, is in place and is full steam ahead. We've made so many strides in so many areas. Even fundamentally tonight, you can see, if you're looking, if you want to look at the glass a little half full - I'm trying to and hopefully it doesn't irritate everyone at home-- we ran the ball with authority. We haven't been able to do that. We threw our strike passes down the field. That looked good. The defenders can block, destruct and tackle. They really weren't getting, until the very end, their runs going. We just have some young guys on the perimeter that were exposed a little bit. But they fought and they battled, they were just a little bit handsy, and they were game-changing penalties. There were a lot things, a lot of areas to look to and say, `Hey, we're developing.' You can look at Memphis. Look at that model and say, `Hey, three years ago this was where this team was at. Now they're in year three, and through the adversity and through their stick-to-itiveness, and the execution of their model, they created a champion.' It's awesome, just awesome. And that's what we're going to do. There's no doubt.
There's so many new things that the players are experiencing that are winning that I wish I could involve everyone in Husky nation and all these spectacular stories. Because that's what you need, because you're not seeing it on the scoreboard, and I feel terrible about that, I really do. And so does the team. Husky nation deserves to see it on the scoreboard. But the alumni that wore that uniform, and the alumni Huskies, that not too long ago were champions, they had 100 percent success and no attrition - nobody washed out of that program. There was all this great, bleed blue mentality. We're going to get back there. We're on our way."
What did you think of Tim Boyle?
"I'm pleased with Tim Boyle. Tim Boyle could have easily changed his demeanor and gone in the tank, and he didn't. He came back out there and he executed. And I told him, `Listen, this is going to be like Tin Cup. I'm just going to keep teeing the ball up and keep trying to hit it over the river. So get your mind right and let's go do it, because you're not coming out.' And he was like, `Yeah, let's go.' He went back in there and he executed the plays and ran the offense and threw a few nice balls."
Do you take positives out of your touchdown drive where you were able to make some plays and grab some third down conversions?
"Oh absolutely. You have some young guys out there that you can latch onto. As a UCONN student body, you have all these young guys out there that are fighting and scrapping and fighting hard to the bitter end. You can rally around that and have great pride and bleed blue. Then you have this great following, that right now is really upset in terms of results, and I can totally understand that. But you got these local guys; you have Arkeel Newsome, you have Timmy Boyle, you got an older guy like Max DeLorenzo, you got Noel Thomas, you got Bryce McAllister. You've got all these young guys that are from local, Connecticut great high school football that are playing in these games. Soon they're going to start playing like veterans, and that's what we're going for."
Seeing the celebration from Memphis, how do you use that as motivation?
"I wouldn't say it's a motivation. These guys are motivated. They're ready. They're sick of losing. They're ready to learn and listen. They want to be better. It's an affirmation that this is not only possible, but this will happen. We're going to do it the right way. We're going to build students, we're going to build tough gentlemen, and we're going to improve their skill. We're going to improve them physically. And we get that done, we build these tough gentlemen that are smart guys, that are physically fit and have high level skill development, and then we're going to be hoisting that trophy over our heads."
Head Coach Justin Fuente
Opening Statement... "First of all, I would like to thank everybody that came out tonight and supported this special group of kids. I don't think I can say enough good things about them and just the way they've worked. I don't know if we're the most talented team around, but they certainly play together and they certainly have some toughness about them. They kept plowing away; tonight was indicative of the way they've been all year. We knew this was going to be a tough team; they are absolutely huge. We had a hard time on offense, moving them around, running the football and made some plays in the passing game and couldn't get the ball in the end-zone, but the defense just kept playing lights out and kept getting the ball back to the offense. We finally broke through there and took control of the game, but fantastic all around effort. Obviously the wind played a big factor in the kicking game, I don't know if it played as big of a factor offensively as it did defensively, but the kicking game was pretty big. You definitely didn't want to punt into the wind tonight. Overall, I'm awfully proud of our kids."
On getting off to a slow start... "I knew it was going to be a tough, hard-fought game. I really didn't expect it to go like that. We were going to have to wear them down because of the way the matchups fell. They do a great job scheme-wise defensively. What they do creates problems and it's hard to move them. We felt like if we can make some plays in play action game and get them running a little bit, we could eventually be able to run the ball a little bit. That's what happened, but we knew it was going to be tough to begin with. Credit to defense, they did a great job keeping us in there."
On the goal being to go 1-0... "I actually didn't even bring that up to the kids. I told them what I usually told them about behaving themselves. I hope they're happy. They accomplished something special. We're not going to worry about that yet, but when the time comes, we will worry about it. We'll go get prepared for whoever we're playing and wherever we're playing."
On Keiwone Malone's performance... "I'm awfully proud of him. It was hard inside leverage, press-man where the safeties don't go backwards. It's kind of feast or famine a little bit, almost a little bit like the Tulsa game, where defensively, they've got those guys down there. Keiwone made some really big plays for us in the man coverage. You just have to keep chipping away at it. There's no real secret recipe for beating it. You have to continue trying to win those one-on-one battles."
On not having one superstar on this team... "They've really done a great job embracing it. That's a hard thing to do. When you're twenty-two years old, you think that you're bulletproof and that you're the best thing since sliced bread. To slide that aside and try to do what's best for the team is a difficult achievement. It's hard to do and I think our kids have embraced that part of it and it shows. We need all of them. They're all important. To me, when they feel important and when they have a role, that helps. I think the kids realize that."
On early talk of a conference championship... "Well, here's how I feel about that. I thought we had a special group of kids who had a chance to do something really special. I didn't know exactly where this would all fall. I felt like, personally, if we would've come out here and lost today, they would've accomplished that. They've just continued to win and persevere through hurdles and into the conference championship. I didn't peg a time table on it. I felt like the group of kids we had, if we could truly adhere to some fundamental values of selflessness and teamwork and playing together and playing smart, that we had a chance to be special. They did that. They did it for several weeks in a row which is even more special."
Senior Cornerback Bobby McCain
On being named conference champs... "It feels amazing. It feels good to be bringing this championship back to the city. We made sure we put a stamp on it in the end and finished the game. All compliments to this senior group because we as a senior group led the team the right way from the beginning to the season and that's what Coach Fuente said we were going to need -- leadership from the year through the ups and downs. That is exactly what it took."
On playing last game at the Liberty Bowl... "I was a little emotional. It hurt a little bit knowing that was my last time in the Liberty Bowl. We had to take away the emotions and just play ball and do what we had to do. We got off to a slow start and that was a little bit of the emotions running high. We came out with the win though and that's all that matters."
On this team... "Coach [Fuente] told us during the spring that we were going to do something special this year. People thought he was just talking but I believed him. I saw the potential we had and I knew what we were capable of doing. We put forth the effort and the leadership of this senior class and made sure the guys were ready to come in and work everyday on and off the field."
On possibly earning 10 wins this season... "It's a big deal. It's big for the city. It's big for the team and the family of brothers that we have here. To have a 10-win season is something that's never been done before. Now we just have to go 1-0 one more time and end it with a bang."
Redshirt Senior Running Back Brandon Hayes
On imagining being named conference champs... "Coming into the season, the way we opened up the season against Austin Peay, I know it was Austin Peay, but we put so many points up on the board and our defense was dominating. Then we went to UCLA and almost upset them. I knew this was a different team and we had something special going on. We started off conference with a bang against Cincinnati and from there we really didn't get touched after that except for Houston."
On what makes this team special... "The guys bought into what our coaches told us and what he said about going 1-0. We practice team first and no individuals. We play selfless football. We did that from offense to defense to special teams. We trusted in the process. It was a trickle effect from our seniors to the younger guys and then they soaked it all in. It shows."
On meaning of this win for him personally...
"To be able to be called champions feels so good. I would never have guessed that coming back for my sixth year we would end up like this. It's definitely a great feeling and I can't wait to see where we get placed for this bowl game. The sky's the limit now."