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    Northwestern vs. Texas A&M - Quotes

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Dec. 31, 2011

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    (transcribed by Zac Emmons, Rachel Jacob, Evan Koch and Brett Maikowski)

    Interim Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Tim DeRuyter
    DB Terence Frederick
    WR Ryan Swope
    QB Ryan Tannehill

    Interim Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Tim DeRuyter
    (opening statement)
    "I first would like to thank again the people from the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. They've been awesome to our guys all week long. We really, really appreciate the hospitality. It's been a tough month for Texas A&M, for Texas A&M football. With us losing (head) coach (Mike) Sherman and having our staff rally like they did, it was extremely impressive to me. We've got a bunch of really, really professional guys on our coaching staff. They're excellent people as well as coaches.

    "Then the tragedy that we had last week with losing (OL) Joey (Villavisencio), I didn't know if our guys would be able to handle it. But Coach Sherman talked to these guys all the time about life lessons of character and integrity, how to persevere through tough times, and obviously they bought - a little too much so, in fact. We wanted to create a little bit more adversity for ourselves in the second half after that third quarter was pretty good. In the fourth quarter we slipped up a little bit and let them go down the field, but I can't say enough about the effort of our guys, the integrity that they have to come out and fight against an outstanding Northwestern team, a team that we knew had no quit in them. We got up and knew that they were not going to lay down, and (Northwestern head) coach (Pat) Fitzgerald and his staff do an excellent job with those guys. When you're playing against a senior quarterback, like Dan Persa, they're always in a game.

    "I thought they made some tremendous plays, but that final drive that our offense did really made the difference in the game. We had some third-and-longs and (senior assistant/quarterbacks coach) coach (Tom) Rossley called a double circus and E-Z (WR Uzoma Nwachukwu) makes a great catch on the sideline. (QB) Ryan (Tannehill) makes a heck of throw. We get it all protected. Then we get another third-and-long and (WR) Jeff (Fuller) makes a big play. That was just huge in order to go down the field and take a little bit of the pressure off the defense because the momentum was going the other way.

    "To get that done, I just can't describe the emotion and how happy and how proud I am of these guys. They will always be in my heart and hopefully we were able to give some comfort to Joey V's (OL Joe Villavisencio) family."

    DB Terence Frederick
    (on what it means to close out his career by snapping Texas A&M's bowl drought)
    "It definitely was big for us. We've come a long way, my class and (former Texas A&M head) coach (Mike) Sherman bringing most of us in. To end with a win meant a lot to us and to A&M."

    QB Ryan Tannehill
    (on what it means to close out his career by snapping Texas A&M's bowl drought)
    "It's been a long year, a lot of ups and downs, but it's great to out with a win for a lot of different reasons. Go out with my brothers one last time and get a win, get a bowl win for the first time in 10 years, play for Joey V (OL Joe Villavisencio) most important and his family and that tragic loss, (former Texas A&M head) coach (Mike) Sherman. There's many different levels to it, but a win satisfies them all. It's just so special to be on the field with my teammates and compete one last time."

    (on how good it felt to finish the way they did)
    "It's huge. Like I said, there's so many different levels to it. It's that feeling when we kicked the field goal, knew it was pretty much in hand, just that feeling of joy that was on the sideline, guys hugging each other. That's what you play for, those good times on the sideline, in the locker room, with your best friends after a big, big win against a good Northwestern team. Take nothing away from those guys. They fought hard the entire game. We pulled out to a little bit of a lead and they fought right back. We knew we were going to get that from them, a well-coached team that had no quit in them. It means a lot to this team. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be over there sawing them off. I had to do some other things, but just to be with my teammates one last time is huge."

    Interim Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Tim DeRuyter
    (on how good it felt to finish the way they did)
    "Coming here two years ago and knowing how special A&M is and the traditions we have here with winning and being able to be a part of that will always be a part of me. So, to have my final game to be able to go through and saw Varsity's horns off was extremely special on a selfish scale. Since you asked, I guess I'll say that. I've got a ton of huge memories that are great memories of this place and sawing Varsity's horns off against these guys and last year against Texas and Nebraska and some other games will be all-time highlights in my life, in my football career. I just want to thank the 12th Man for being as special as they are."

    WR Ryan Swope
    (on when everything will start to sink in)
    "I really think these guys, we've been working hard all week, but I really think it sank in in the locker room. We kind of realized this is the last time we'll be around each other, the last time around these seniors. It's big to take this in and enjoy it. It was memories. We worked hard this week in practice and had fun and I feel like we just came out and played together today. Obviously (QB) Ryan (Tannehill) and T-Fred (CB Terrence Frederick) were great leaders on this team, just kind of took everyone under their arm and just played well and played with leadership."

    QB Ryan Tannehill
    (on if today represented what could have been for this season)
    "Yeah, I think a little bit so. We never wanted to lose sight of who we thought we were, who we are. We talked about it throughout the year and coach (interim head coach/defensive coordinator Tim) DeRuyter talked about it earlier in the week. I think he talked about it yesterday, just play like who we thought we were at the beginning of the year, a high-confidence team that thought we were going to play in the national championship game. That's who we were. Did things work out that way? No, but it's the same guys out on the field that we thought we were going to do that with. I think we started this game with a lot of confidence and played with confidence throughout the game, just in the guys beside us, leaning on each other knowing if I mess up a play, someone else is going to make one. That's the great thing about the guys in that locker room is guys that are going to trust each other and make plays for each other."

    DB Terence Frederick
    (on being able to make plays to close the game after struggling with that throughout the season)
    "Well, like you said, you've been watching us this whole season. We really haven't been finishing many games in the second half. When it came down to it, our offense came up and they made big plays in the big time of our game and that was good for this team.

    QB Ryan Tannehill
    (on Texas A&M's final offensive drive, including the two third-down situations and the team's past situations this season)
    "I'm glad we were put in that situation. Is it easier to go out with a huge win? Yes. But that was something that haunted us all year, and for the offense to get the ball, I think it was around five minutes left on the clock, we needed a score to put the game away. The defense played great all game. Unfortunately, they gave us a quick score there and the offense needed to answer. That's what we came down to. I told the guys on the side, `We need to answer to win this game. It's on us. It doesn't matter what the defense did. It doesn't matter what special teams did. The game is right here in our hands right now and we got to take it.' It came down to a couple big third-down plays. They did a great job of stuffing the run and putting us in some third-and-medium, third-and-long yardage. Guys made plays. That's the great thing, like I said about our guys is they wanted to make plays today for a lot of reasons. Caught the right coverage. The first one to E-Z (WR Uzoma Nwachukwu), E-Z ran a great route and made a good catch and stayed inbounds. (WR) Jeff (Fuller), I underthrew him a little bit and he made a play. That's huge for Jeff Fuller. He played great today. He had a great bowl practice, really the entire month and we were excited coming into this game to see him play and he showed up tonight and played big for us."

    DB Terence Frederick
    (on capping off the steady improvement of the defense throughout the season against Northwestern's explosive offense)
    "I mean this whole season, as a defense, I feel like we've been up and down and we knew. We didn't want to keep doing that consistently week after week. We came out here against Northwestern and we knew we had to make a lot of plays. We went out there and made about eight sacks, which we've been doing pretty good on the sacks all year long and that really helped us in this game in getting the defense off the field and setting the offense up for opportunities to score."

    (on what allowed the defense to get so much pressure on Northwestern QB Dan Persa)
    "Just the attitude of getting to the quarterback and to make plays. We slipped up so many times this season and we didn't want to continue that. It was great calls by the coaches and we went out there and executed well."

    WR Ryan Swope
    (on if today was the definition of Aggie Pride given the way the team stepped up and played so well for three-plus quarters with so much adversity around the team)
    "I think so. We had a lot going on this season, a lot of adversity and like (QB) Ryan (Tannehill) said, a lot of bumps in the road. To go to this bowl game and obviously, we lose a brother in (OL) Joey (Villavisencio). But we just came together and we stayed focused and we knew that we had an opportunity to do good things for this university and that was to win the bowl game. I feel like all of our guys just came out and played for Joey and his family. Like I said, we played together. Coach (Tim) DeRuyter and all the coaching staff just did a great job preparing us and just focusing on the little things in practice, which helped us get the `W'."

    QB Ryan Tannehill
    (on what it was like to see WR Jeff Fuller close out his career the way he did against Texas and in the bowl game)
    "It's huge. Battling nagging injuries all year is tough, especially for a receiver, a hamstring is really tough. But for him to come out, the last two games really, and throughout this month, just get better every day and make plays, get 100 percent healthy. I think that was the big thing is once he got healthy he was able to trust his speed, trust his athletic ability and go make plays. He did that (today), throughout the bowl preparation. I'm going to miss throwing it to him."

    (on if the third quarter felt different this year than the third quarters during the season)
    "It felt great. We were excited to get back on the field. (We) had a lot of things to play for, a lot of motivation and the guys really banded together and went out there with a mission and the mission was to win the game. We played with some intensity on defense, made some huge plays in the third quarter. That gets the sideline going whenever defense is making sacks, big hits and the offense is able to put some points up as well. I think the defense really set the tone in the third quarter, getting a quick stop and then offense is able to go down and score. The defense continued to play well the entire quarter and I think that's what keyed us on the third quarter."

    (on the change he had to make in moving from wide receiver to becoming a leader as a quarterback)
    "It was definitely a change but it was something I looked forward to the entire time. I never thought of myself as a wide receiver. I always thought of myself as a quarterback playing wide receiver. It was always a goal of mine to be quarterback here. I think the transition was made a lot easier through my teammates. When I came in, my teammates really stepped up around me, started playing well. The offensive line started playing well. Running backs, Cyrus (Gray) last year, Christine (Michael); receivers really stepped up and made big plays. I think that's what made the transition easier is the teammates around me, the coaching staff that prepared me and I'm lucky to have those guys around me."

    (on how the play-calling went and if there were any "Oh, boy" moments)
    "No. I don't think there were any `Oh, boy' moments. I think (offensive line) Coach (Jim) Turner did a great job of calling a majority of the game. I think (senior assistant/quarterbacks) Coach (Tom) Rossley handled the third downs. That's been his specialty all year, is to focus on third down and converting third downs. It wasn't a whole lot of change in the play-calling or anything there. Coach Turner did a great job of mixing in the run and pass. Really called a great game, I think. Kept us moving, called the right big play at the right time and we were able to make them play."

    Interim Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Tim DeRuyter
    (on when he knew the team was going to be okay despite all the previous )
    "Probably half way through the first quarter. When you go through the adversity our guys have been though and the emotions, even around the hotel this week as much fun as our guys had I think someone described it like an Irish wake. There was kind of a sense of, `things weren't quite right.' When you have that before a game as a coach you are a bit unsettled. When we came out and started fast about that first quarter I thought these guys are really ready to play. I knew our coaches had done a great job preparing them, but when you get into bowl games its is that motivation factor of are they distracted, are they into it and our guys today were really into it."

    (on how much the returning players learned from this experience and whether it will make them better going into next season)
    "We talked all the time about how football teaches life lessons and how they are going to leave and go on to lead productive lives and how you may have a job that you think you do a great job and your boss disagrees and fires you. You have to be able to pick yourself up. People have expectations of you and you fall short and you have to come back and pick yourself up and dust yourself off and press on. It would have been easy for our guys today to say this was a lost season and let's mail it in, and they didn't. I think going through that adversity and overcoming even within the game, we get a 30-7 lead, we turn the ball over, we don't do a good job getting the sudden change stop, we let them convert on a fourth down and go down the field, a lot of time this year that was our M.O. of not finishing when adversity hit and not responding to it. The fact that our guys did, gives you confidence that the next time we hit those things. I was proud of how our guys did today and I think they can take that momentum into next year."

    (on what he preached defensively to his players that they executed in the game)
    "I just think our guys played with pretty good intensity today. We had a similar game plan that we had run in other games. Having played in this league against similar-type offenses I think helped us so that we could play fast, but we played an excellent group of athletes who are very, very well-coached. They gave us some wrinkles early on that we had to adjust to that we hadn't seen. I just think it was the guys coming out and deciding, `Hey, we're going to play well for a multitude of reasons.' I was just really, really happy that they came out with that motivation and showed people who they really were."

    (on how tough it was to lead a team through a coaching transition and a tragedy while searching for a new job)
    "It was different. I laughed with Mr. Byrne (Texas A&M Athletic Director Bill Byrne) about `You told me being the interim head coach would be on-the-job training.' I think I got a lot of it this last month. But I really relish the opportunity to be interim head coach here. To finish what (former Texas A&M Head) Coach (Mike) Sherman had started, to be here for these guys, who I've got tremendous respect for, all these guys on our team, you saw an example of it today, are high-character guys. Getting a chance to go through this was big for me personally, but more so to be here and do the right thing for these guys."

    (on how important it was for QB Ryan Tannehill to have a strong first half like he did)
    "It's huge. You worry about a bowl game when you haven't played for about six weeks. How are guys, the timing? How are things going to be set, especially offensively? To have him throw the ball as well as he did and for the most part, our guys really caught the ball well, got us going, kept that confidence up. It thought we started the game off with a lot of confidence but we had that stretch where you drop those balls. You can just feel it go down a little bit but we didn't do that to start the game and we knocked ourselves back on track after that one series. It was great to see (QB) Ryan (Tannehill) do that. I'm absolutely not surprised. He had great preparation and so it just all showed up today on game day."

    (on what it meant for WR Jeff Fuller to come up with a big catch to ice the game with all that he's been through this season)
    "Well, I tell you, Jeff's had a tough year. A lot of it people don't realize, the injury factor that was involved. He really prepared hard the last few weeks for this bowl. I think he finally go to the point where he was feeling good about himself. When you're challenged like that in a third-and-long situation and it's not an easy throw and catch, you got to go battle for it. When you come out on top of those situations, it just feels that much better. As a coach, to see a young man do that, I was really, really pleased for him. Hopefully that'll keep him inspired as he goes on to that next step, that he'll continue to make those kind of plays."

    (on when he knew that RB Cyrus Gray would not play and the performance of RB Ben Malena)
    "Well, Cyrus was going to go through warm-ups and see how he felt, and going through there, he didn't feel right, so we knew coming back in the locker room that it wasn't going to be, but we have a tremendous amount of confidence in Ben. I was really impressed the way he stepped up against Texas in our last game, and I think Ben was looking forward to being the bell cow and really stepped up today and got it done, so talking to (Running Backs) Coach (Randy) Jordan and (Offensive Line) Coach (Jim) Turner, they said, `Hey, if Cyrus can't go, we're not changing the game plan and this guy will carry the rock and get it done,' and he did tonight."

    (on the importance of pressuring Northwestern QB Dan Persa)
    "Well, I think that he's a guy that if you give him time, he's already going to extend plays, so if you're only rushing three or four all the time, he's going to extend plays and guys are going to get open. They've been running this system - I think they led the Big Ten in passing this year - and we knew we had to change some looks up on him. The fact that our guys beat some blocks and got there with speed, T-Fred (CB Terence Frederick) made a couple great plays on sacks, tends to resonate with a quarterback, and you can set guys back on the sticks and take them out of their normal rhythm and I thought our guys did a good job of that for the first three quarters or so of the game."

    (on the emotions on the sideline with the family of deceased OL Joe Villavisencio on the field for the moment of silence prior to kickoff)
    "It was tough emotionally, but it was something we wanted to do if the Villavisencios felt good about it, and I don't know how they did it and held it together the way they did...The guys, Joey was such a fantastic kid, and to have a loss like that in your family, I think it was uplifting for them to be here. The fact that we won, hopefully comforted them a little bit, but right there at the beginning of the game to have them there and feel the love of the 12th Man for them, and the feelings that they had through their tough times I think speaks volumes of our fans and what is really important to them and to our team as well."

    (on how CB Coryel Judie is physically and mentally after getting hurt after coming off an injury)
    "I ache for him. We thought Coryel would have a tremendous senior year. He prepared extremely well. He had two shoulder surgeries in the offseason that he got that he gutted through last year, had a great camp. We thought he was going to be a guy who was going to be an all-conference, potential, All-American kind of guy, but it wasn't in the cards for him health-wise. To see him battle back from that and to see him play against Texas and then really was 100 percent going into this game, I believe he broke something in his wrist, you pain for a kid that works so hard and does things the right way and health-wise, it didn't work out for him. But I know him. This thing gets healthy, he'll find a way to fight to the next level. He's a great young man. He takes care of his business and he's got a lot of talent."

    (on if he feels like he's leaving the program on solid ground)
    "I'd like to think so. I think coach (Mike) Sherman really set a base for this program where we've got high-character young men. We've been recruiting really, really well. We've got some holes to fill with seniors that are leaving. We've got to get some better depth on defense. Yeah, I'm going to miss that opportunity to play in the SEC. It's a tremendous league, tremendous coaches, but that wasn't in the cards for me either. I'm embracing the new challenge I have and really looking forward to it."

    (on what memory he's going to cherish most from his time with Texas A&M)
    "Probably this last one. To go through the adversity we went through and see our guys respond, the whole emotional roller coaster of what happened a month ago to losing Joey (Villavisencio) to start playing in the second half where the game started swaying to see our guys come back and finish. That sensation of getting it done was huge. I can't thank our staff and our players enough for the grit that they had to persevere through this."

    (on how much he thinks Fresno State is watching him today)
    "Well, I hope they were Aggie fans today. Obviously, we're going to be running some very similar things defensively, that type of style of pressure defense. But really, I'm worried about them tomorrow. Today's an A&M day and like I said, I can't thank our staff and our players enough and just so proud that we were able to do this for coach (Mike) Sherman and for Joey V (Villavisencio) and his family."