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NCAA DIVISION I FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: NORTH DAKOTA STATE v ILLINOIS STATE

January 9, 2015

Kyle Emanuel Joe Haeg Colten Heagle Chris Klieman Carson Wentz

FRISCO, TEXAS

THE MODERATOR:  Welcome to the news conference with the NorthDakota State Bison.  Of Course, Coach Klieman in his first season, I don't know who had bigger shoes to fill, Coach Klieman or Carson Wentz, guys that we're familiar with here.  Carson is a quarterback junior from Bismarck, honorable mention, all Missouri Valley Football Conference.  Then we have Kyle Emanuel.  He was the Missouri Valley Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year, First Team All‑Conference.  Colten Heagle, First Team All‑Conference at strong safety, senior from Appleton, Wisconsin.  Joe Haeg is with us, offensive tackle, First Team All‑Conference, and junior from Lake Shore, Minnesota.
First, Coach Klieman, give us an overview of your season?
COACH KLIEMAN:  Well, it started back in January when we returned from Frisco and got everybody together and said, hey, embrace the change.  We're going to have a new voice in front of the room and new challenges, new coaches, new coordinators.  But the Bison tradition and Bison culture wasn't going to change.  You guy as leaders, seniors or juniors had to take control of the football team.  Had a great spring.  Had a great fall.  Had one hiccup in a regular season, which probably in reality was maybe a good thing, because it let our guys relax a little bit and not hear so much.  We never talk about the winning streak in our locker room.
But I know they heard it a lot from media and stuff, and it probably got us to relax a little bit and finish the season on a tremendous note.  We were able to have home‑field advantage, and had some really tough games in the playoffs, but our guys know how to win football games, especially tight games.  We were able to do that the first two rounds and took care of Sam Houston in the semifinals, and we're ecstatic to be back in Frisco for another shot at it.

Q.  Coach, Illinois State presents an offensive challenge with their quarterback Tre Roberson, and their running back, Marshaun Coprich.  Can you talk about what they present for you and how you plan to counter that?
COACH KLIEMAN:  Well, obviously they're two tremendous football players and they've had a great amount of success this year with the accolades that they've received.  We know we can't shut them both down.  A lot of people have tried to shut one down and the other one beats them.
For us, we've got to be able to try to control both of them.  You're not going to just stop them.  I think the most important thing that we've talked about on the defensive side of things is limit their explosive plays.  They're going to get gains of 10, 12, and 15 here and there because they're really talented players.  But we've got to eliminate the 50 and 80‑yard gains which they've had at other times against other competition.

Q.  Kyle, how have you prepared to stop Coprich and both the passing attack as well?
KYLE EMANUEL:  I think anytime you try to defend such a talented team, you can't just look at one player.  Kind of like what Coach Klieman said, we're going to try to limit them both and you know you're not going to shut them down.  But it always comes back to the basics, I think.  Defensively just doing your job, trusting your teammates and playing hard and running to the ball.  If you do that, I think you'll be pretty successful.

Q.  Colten, last year, and Kyle, I guess you guys both had a big game changer.  The blocked punt picked up and returned for over 50 yards.  You guys have continuously had championship games that came down to a big game changer.  Have you guys talked about that and keeping an eye out for that sort of situation?
COLTEN HEAGLE:  Coach Klieman mentioned it.  It's just knowing how to win football games.  I think anytime you can prevent a big play, it's huge for your team, along with having an explosive play, it will give you the opportunity to win football games and kind of piggy backing off what these guys have said, if we can eliminate big plays for Illinois State, we'll be pretty successful tomorrow.

Q.  Coach, you mentioned how the one loss got your players to feel a little more relaxed.  Have you sensed this year, and the players can answer too, that aura of invincibility?  Is that still there for your program?  Especially having a loss, even if it's a positive.  Did you feel any different about this in the way teams have approached you?
COACH KLIEMAN:  We know we're going to get everybody's best shot, Craig.  Every week everybody's going to get up for the Bison.  You can look at their second game of the season.  We beat Iowa State in a really good football team.  Went out to Weber State and really struggled and found ways to make some plays to win on the road.  That's what our guys, you'll notice, our guys never panicked.  We've been down in a number of football games and I credit the resolve of these guys.  They know that they're always going to find a way to have an opportunity to win in the fourth quarter.  Doesn't mean we're always going to get it done, but we're going to have that opportunity if they continue to believe and continue to let the game come to them.  You don't see our guys pressing.  Great example of Carson.  You don't ever see Carson pressing.  Carson lets the game come to him, and he'll make his plays.  And we've been able to do that this season.
JOE HAEG:  I think that going back to when you think about UNI, it was kind of, like Coach said, it was kind of a relaxation because there is obviously a little pressure.  You try not to feel any of that pressure.  But if you look back to maybe three years ago in Youngstown State when we lost in 2011, that was a game that had we not lost, I think I was talking to Carson outside the dorms when we were freshmen about it, and he said that maybe if we did not lose that game, we might have had this arrogance about us, and not really be prepared the way we were.  Maybe not even won our first championship.  I think that kind of relaxed and get back to the fundamentals and what Bison football is.
CARSON WENTZ:  Yeah, piggy backing off what they all said.  He threw out the word invincibility.  And anytime that comes to mind, that's a terrible word to think for your team.  It just leads to destruction, if you ask me.  So I think our mindset every week is to go 1‑0.  So we had the hiccup at UNI, and that is football.  Some people think it was a good thing, some people thought the world was crashing down on us, so be it.  We just turned around and started focusing on next week, and that's kind of our mindset every week.

Q.  Colten, what's it like to see 150 former players at practice today?
COLTEN HEAGLE:  Honestly, that's probably one of my favorite parts about coming down here to Frisco.  Even just seeing a couple of your friends that you haven't seen in a while that you played with last year and you don't see every week.  Playing and being with guys pretty much 360 days out of the year every day and then not seeing them at all is tough.  I was able to speak to some of them and just thank them for the foundation they've laid and the tradition that we've been able to follow here at NDSU.  I said to them there is no way we could have had the success today that we've had without them in the 60s, and 70s, 80s, and 90s.  So it's honestly one of my favorite parts about this whole trip.

Q.  (No microphone)?
COACH KLIEMAN:  Absolutely.  I was overwhelmed in 2011 my first year when I saw I don't know how many came down, but I don't think as many as 150.  But we had a lot of guys down.  I thought that was really neat.  Each year it's gotten bigger and bigger.  Talking to Chad Stark, a former Bison great at the end, he said this is so neat for all their guys because they have a chance as former players to get together and reminisce with their teammates or people that played right before them or right after them that they don't get a chance to see throughout the year.  I don't know of any other school that does that, Jeff.  I really don't.  That is some of the comments that we've received out there.  Tell me any school that would have that many guys come back ranging from the early '60s, when Mudra started this whole thing, up to last year's group in 2013.  It's pretty unique and a pretty remarkable thing.

Q.  Can you just comment on how strong your fan base is?
COACH KLIEMAN:  We're biased, but we think we have the best fans in all of college football.  I think our going to see again tomorrow, from what I understand, 75 to 80% Bison fans.  They're our 12th man.
Now, granted, it isn't warm here, but you should see it up in Fargo right now.  You get a chance to travel south, 34°, this is beautiful down here for our fans.  But they love their Bison.  It doesn't matter if we're traveling to a conference away game or having 19,000 in the Fargo Dome screaming for us.  They are fanatics, and we wouldn't be where we're at without them.  I can assure you of that.
STUDENT‑ATHLETE:  I think they are one of the best fan bases in the country.  To be honest, that's one of the reasons I chose to come to NorthDakota State.  I came to Fargo and saw how passionate everyone in the community was for the football team, how supportive they were, and that was something that I wanted.  If it wasn't for them being in the Dome, creating that home‑field advantage for us throughout the playoffs.  We always talk about Frisco running through the Fargo Dome when we've got that home‑field advantage, and it just wouldn't be the same without those fans.  You get on social media and see all the things they're doing coming down here to Frisco, it's just awesome.  It really helps us out.

Q.  Coach Klieman, anytime you followed a team that's won it three years it's got to create some expectations.  Can you talk about how you've managed that pressure this year?
COACH KLIEMAN:  Well, one, I thought we had a lot of guys coming back.  I thought we had an opportunity if our younger guys developed to have a chance to come back here because I believed in our seniors.  I believed in our upperclassmen like Joe and Carson that they were‑‑ it was their time.  I don't know.  Maybe it's the defensive coach in me.  I don't mind the high expectations.  I look forward to the challenge.  Make no mistake, I think this is the best head job in all of FCS football.  When Gene Taylor presented me with an opportunity, I knew it was a gold mine and something I wanted to do.
I don't know.  I'm not going to be Craig Bohl.  That is the bottom line.  Craig did some unbelievable things here and I have a great deal of respect for him.  But I think we've all kind of moved on, and this is about this team and about this year.

Q.  Joe, can you talk about Illinois State's front 7 and maybe the problems that they pose?
JOE HAEG:  I think they're a very diverse group.  They have a D‑end that is about 220 pounds and they're able to put him up as a linebacker a lot.  So they can do pretty much every front.  But I think going through Missouri Valley, you got to get prepared for anything because there are so many three or four defenses running their own way.  After watching all this film, it's nothing we haven't faced before.  But they also bring their own athleticism and challenges that we're going to have to deal with?

Q.  For the players, has the comfort level grown with each year that you've come to Frisco?
COLTEN HEAGLE:  Going back to the first year, I think everybody was kind of in awe of the atmosphere and just it being in a different arena or field.  And each year I think it's different for every player.  I think most of us have been here before, but it's still going to be a little bit different for the younger guys that haven't been here.  But think as seniors and older players we've done a good job of showing guys how to prepare for games like this.  Coaches have put together a great plan together for that reason on how to prepare for this game and how to be comfortable.
KYLE EMANUEL:  Yeah, I think every single year you're excited to get back.  We know it's a long road to get here and it's never been easy.  So you're always excited to get back to Frisco.  I think the comfort level would come with kind of the before stuff like Colten mentioned.  But just you're not being in awe of all these different activities and stuff like that.  Once you get to the game I think it will just be easier for us to relax and treat it as another game.
CARSON WENTZ:  Yeah, I mean, the comfort level without a doubt I would think has gone up every year with a lot of the older guys, for sure.  Every year there is going to be a young crew that's going to come in.  Like these guys already mentioned, it will all factor.  But they see us as older guys and how we prepare.  I could just see in a lot of the older guys' eyes a focus about them.  Even when we go through and to the fun events and those things.  You can tell everyone's focused and ready to go.  I think that comes with the fact that we've been here three years in the past already.

Q.  Coach, you guys have done a great job taking the one thing a team does well, say Montana, you took away Wagenmann, Sam Houston State, you took away their passing game.  In this game with an offense like Illinois State where they're balanced, is it mostly about executing and technique and less about scheme?
COACH KLIEMAN:  Well, I don't think there are any secrets on what we're going to do as well as what they're going to do.  Bottom line for us, we have to be able to stop the run or control the run.  We need to be able to run the football.  Those are two Staples for us that you can look at our success over the years.  When we've been able to control people's running games and ourselves be able to run the football, time of possession changes and all those things come into our favor.  If we can do those things, we'll have a great opportunity to have success.  If we don't and we can't run the football and we have a tough time slowing those guys down, it's going to be a long day further.

Q.  Having won the last three FCS championships, would you guys consider yourselves a dynasty?
STUDENT‑ATHLETE:  There is a tradition at NorthDakota State that you'd like to look at these last three win as something that is like a dynasty.  But I think that overall it just speaks to our tradition and our ability to consistently over time win in National Championships and kind of the atmosphere that we bring as Bison Nation.
STUDENT‑ATHLETE:  I don't know.  We're just here to win this one.  I think Coach mentioned earlier, after Western, we're going to take one game at a time, one play at a time, and that's stuff for you guys to talk about in the media.  We'll just go play a football game.
KYLE EMANUEL:  Yeah, I echo Colten's comments.  I think our coaches did a good job of talking about winning just this National Championship for this team.  Then after the fact, especially us seniors when we're done with everything, then we can maybe look back and talk about what we accomplished.  But right now we're just going to focus on one at a time.
CARSON WENTZ:  Like Colten pretty much said, the word dynasty, that is where you speculate and call it what you want.  Like Joe said, we have a ton of tradition here, and that is really the root of it all.  So I think we have a great program and everyone else does.  We see coaching changes, athletic director changes, and all of that.  But the root of the Bison has been here the whole time, and that starts with our tradition, and I think that's what we are.

Q.  I'd like to ask this question to Kyle and Joe:  Being that you just want to win this one championship, how would you describe what differentiates this team this year?
KYLE EMANUEL:  Well, there are always the obvious things and a different head coach, different athletic director.  We lost 26 seniors, different faces all over the place.  But I mean, I guess you have different faces, but the culture and how we play, it hasn't changed to be honest.  The last three years you just have different people leading the team and different people running the plays and stuff like that.  But I think that's why we've sustained the success is we don't try to change a lot.
JOE HAEG:  Yeah, definitely.  Every year you're going to have change, and you're going to lose 10 to 20 seniors and you just keep on rolling.  The fact is we lost a lot of coaches, but it's really benefited me so much, almost more similar than it has been different.  I think that you can even tell in daily practice, our routine, keeping our weightlifting coach, we would go to Coach Kramer and we were with him for four straight months, and that gave us so much more consistency throughout each year that it really wasn't much of a difference.  I mean.
CARSON WENTZ:  Yeah, I sound like a broken record with these guys with what they said.  But players are going to change, coaches are going to change.  We've pretty much stayed the same and our leadership has been tremendous this year.  One thing that's been different is all the naysayers at the beginning of the year.  New coach, new quarterback, four new offensive linemen.  Just all the stuff we went through, losing all the seniors.  There are a lot of doubters and naysayers, I would say that started it a little differently, but as the season progressed, there wasn't much difference in my opinion.
COLTEN HEAGLE:  I don't have much to add on that.  These guys hit it on the head.

Q.  Joe and Kyle, I'm curious how your bodies feel.  You've been pretty much on an NFL schedule the last four years with how many games you've played.  There are no college kids that have played as many games as you guys have.
JOE HAEG:  Yeah, obviously going through the playoffs and the long season I think the big deal was getting the bye week and Thanksgiving.  That is a really big help.  Going through Missouri Valley is such a physical confidence, and I think we've been lucky with Thanksgiving break.  Our weightlifting staff and coaches do a great job of rushing us and knowing when to push us physically and when to kind of get back on the gas pedal and give us time to reboot.  I think I feel fine now.  I feel just as I would maybe August 31st.
KYLE EMANUEL:  I think our staff has done a great job getting us ready, and that's been a big reason why they have been successful.  Even in the off‑season after the last championships just how Coach Kramer goes about getting us ready to go.  I'm not going to sit here and say that after five years of playing football at NDSU and the way we play that my body feels great, quote unquote.
But I will say that it's definitely ready for one more game in The National Championship Game, and I think I can say that for all the seniors and all the guys on this team.

Q.  Colten and Kyle, are you guys as excited to determine the actual Missouri Valley champion tomorrow on top of the FCS champion knowing how much you respect the league?
COLTEN HEAGLE:  Yeah, I think the Valley was rewarded in the playoffs this year for having five teams in.  And we've known that for the last 3 years that Missouri Valley is one of the best conferences in the FCS, and to play a conference opponent is a great thing for the conference first of all, and I think it will be a great challenge for both teams because of the play in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.  It's tough football, grind it out with some great players, great coaches, so I think it will be a fun one tomorrow.
KYLE EMANUEL:  Obviously a lot of respect for the Valley.  And we finally got the respect this year with the playoffs and the five teams.  It was no surprise to me at all that Illinois State ended up making it through.  I kind of figured a Valley team would.  So I think we're excited to get out there and play whether Valley championship or National Championship.  We're just excited to go out there and play one last time together.

Q.  Carson, Kyle kind of answered it there, but when you do all of this and have all the events and the media, how badly do you just want to get out there and play?
CARSON WENTZ:  I was just talking to one of the coaches today.  Doing all this stuff is so awesome and rewarding.  I think we've earned the right to have a little fun like this.  But I was telling Coach I wish we just flew down here and woke up the next day and played.  Quite frankly, preparing for a team for three weeks gets old and redundant.  We're more than ready to go, so that is my answer to that.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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