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

January 10, 2015

John Crockett Chris Klieman Carlton Littlejohn Esley Thorton R.J. Urzendowski Carson Wentz

FRISCO, TEXAS

North Dakota State – 29
Illinois State - 27


CHRIS KLIEMAN:  What great resolve by our guys.  That's a great football team that we were able to beat.  A lot of respect for Coach Spack and Illinois State.  They've got an unbelievable program and great players.  We just made one more play, really, because it was a game of making plays, and we were fortunate enough to make one more play, and our hats off to those guys.  They had a phenomenal season, and I've got a lot of respect for Coach Spack.
With our guys, you never saw any doubt in their mind.  You never saw panic in their eyes.  We've obviously been in this situation before, even in the playoffs, and our guys just know that, hey, it's our time.  When you have the success that we've had over the past four years now, guys just know how to win, and when you know how to win, you just always feel you have that chance if you can get that last possession.  You have that chance.  Unbelievable job by our offense of getting down there and getting that score to go ahead, and shoot, there was 40‑some seconds left, and these guys on defense today, they could have come down and scored just as quickly.  Great job by Esley making a big interception to get the win.

Q.  Have you ever played such a crazy game before?
CHRIS KLIEMAN:  It was, and we have a lot of these games in the Missouri Valley.  There was no question that the best two teams in FCS were playing today in Illinois State and North Dakota State and the best conference was playing today in Missouri Valley.  We had a crazy one with South Dakota State in the playoffs.  The way it went back and forth on this kind of a stage was pretty special.

Q.  Carson, can you replay those two long passes to RJ, the 30 plus yards?  Were they audibles?  Did you call them at the line of scrimmage?  Were they called plays?
CARSON WENTZ:  They were both called plays.  First one, you don't really draw it up like that, he just went across the middle, and it was a big play.  The second one, quite frankly it was a terrible throw.  RJ made a great play.  RJ is a heck of a player, and for a true freshman to come into this environment, we say it every time he has a big game, I say it, and the kid is just something special, and my hats off to him.

Q.  For the seniors, 58 and 3, four National Championships.  Can you guys put that into words?
CARLTON LITTLEJOHN:  I'll try to put it into words the best I can.  It's an amazing accomplishment.  You never dream of coming to college and winning four straight National Championships, only losing three games.  That's something you only dream about, something that happens in video games or something like that.  But to experience it right now, it's unbelievable.
JOHN CROCKETT:  At the end of the day, it's just a blessing.  To be able to go out there with those group of guys and just the never‑say‑die mentality that each and every one of my teammates possess, and I think that's what's so special about our university is that we're a hard‑working group of crazy men, and we're just going to go out and get the job done no matter how we've got to do it.  We're going to fight, claw, no matter how we've got to do it, we just find a way to do it.  With these seniors, with all the naysayers and everybody saying we lost so many, we kind of put a chip on our shoulders and that is something that we needed, because winning three championships in a row you can kind of get complacent.  So when we heard that, it was great.  It was actually motivating.  I feel like that was one of the reasons, the driving force of why we got four in a row, I guess.
ESLEY THORTON:  Like Carl said, it's just a dream come true.  I think if we would have came in here as true freshmen and said that our goal was to win national championships, our goal is to have College Gameday come to Fargo two times, people would have laughed at us.  Before the season, if we would've said we would've won our fourth national championship after losing 24 seniors, I think people would have laughed at us, too, but that says something about our group of guys, not just seniors all the way down to the bottom.  We had freshmen making huge plays out there today and also the pass players that were here at the game, too.

Q.  Esley, do you think it's almost kind of full circle, you came in as a quarterback, then you end your career intercepting one?
ESLEY THORTON:  Yeah, definitely.  I wouldn't have dreamed of that, either.  Coming in, my goals were to be a four‑year starting quarterback and to probably be doing what Carson was doing today.  But to end it like this is just‑‑ I couldn't have ever imagined playing linebacker first of all, but to seal the deal with an interception like that, especially after missing the one earlier, very rewarding.

Q.  For all of you, I know Esley talked a little bit about going into the season a lot of people doubted without all those seniors whether or not you'd be able to do this again.  What does this say for NDSU's tradition and story to be able to do it again?
CARSON WENTZ:  It definitely says a lot, but I think it says more about the current seniors.  All they heard was about losing all those guys, and they didn't let it stop them one bit in the off‑season, working hard or throughout the whole season.  We had a chip on our shoulder, and they led us.
RJ URZENDOWSKI:  Again, just says a lot about the program.  Again, I think coming into the season everyone looked at us like our backs were against the wall, and I think we really proved to people that this is a special program, not just for these few years but for years to come, and to lose what we did and to reload how we did and to show people that we're still competing at the highest level is huge for the program.
CARLTON LITTLEJOHN:  What we've done this year shows that it wasn't those 24 seniors that got us three National Championships.  It's everyone around‑‑ everyone in the program from coaches to players to even training staff, like we're a whole Bison family.  It's not 24 seniors that's going to win us a National Championship.
JOHN CROCKETT:  Exactly, and it's a band of brothers going out there and basically fighting for each other and not wanting to let the other one down because they know that the other one is going to do everything he cannot to let him down.  Esley just said, he came in as a quarterback.  He was a really good one, too, still my quarterback.  And to see him make a whole transformation and become a linebacker, that just goes to show you what type of character our players have.  He could have just sat back and packed it all in and said I'm just going to go to school and go through the motions.  Look at him now.
ESLEY THORTON:  John really hit it on the head there.  Everyone is so selfless.  That's really the Bison mentality, even if you're a rookie coming in, you might think it's all about me.  The coaching staff, Coach Kramer, our strength and conditioning coach, the seniors, the leaders, everyone just always talks about being selfless and playing for the guy next to you, and the tradition ever since I got here, I've seen it, and it's something I don't think I'll ever be able to grasp until I'm out of here.

Q.  Chris, knowing that there's another title game in a couple of days, is this as good an advertisement as there is for a playoff, or do you think your format could work at their level, and for any one of the players, how much more special does it make it knowing that you guys have proven it on the field with the playoff system you guys have?
CHRIS KLIEMAN:  Well, yeah, I think a playoff could work, and we like what we have in FCS.  We have 24 teams and you get a true champion because you've got to win a number of games in consecutive weeks.  But I don't know if they'll ever do that at that level of having how many teams, is it four, is it eight, so on.  But no, it's fun to have a true champion, and we crowned two champions today.  We crowned a true Missouri Valley champion today and a national champion today.
JOHN CROCKETT:  I think that with the playoff system, I think that's something that they really should look deeply into because at the end of the day when you go to school, you don't want to be just another player.  You don't want to be just another school.  I feel like at the end of a football season, it's either you're the best or you're just amongst the rest.  I feel like at the end of the day, if you want to hold your finger up and say, we're the best team in the nation, hands down, playoffs, it's perfect, because a bowl game can't‑‑ like TCU, they played great, and other teams didn't play so well.  I think that they really need to think about that because look at this, this is amazing, great atmosphere, and you know at the end of the day who's No.1.

Q.  Carson, the game‑winning touchdown, was there any debate on what play to run?  Was that an audible?  Can you give us the details on that?
CARSON WENTZ:  Yeah, we actually called two plays right away, and something that I love about Coach Polasek is right when that time‑out had been called, I came over and I got on the headset and we started talking about what play to call, and he definitely took my input there, and it was just‑‑ a relationship like that is so nice and so special for the coach to have confidence in me to kind of almost choose what player‑‑ at least voice my input.  We called both plays there and we were going to get on the ball if I didn't get in and run the other play, so fortunately we got in the first one.

Q.  What was the other one?
CARSON WENTZ:  It was actually the same play we scored the touchdown on earlier to Lucas.
CHRIS KLIEMAN:  And Jeff, when we lined up in the formation, upstairs, Tim says, guys, it's a touchdown.  We got the look we want, it's a touchdown, and so there was no pressure on you, Carson.

Q.  How gratifying is this for you, North Dakota kid, named MVP of the game, you inherited probably the most difficult job in the world.  For a guy who won three championships, how gratifying is this today?
CARSON WENTZ:  You know, it was really special.  Right when that clock hit zero, I had so many emotions I couldn't say anything.  I didn't know whether to cry or to be happy.  It was just unbelievable.  But to be part of this program, growing up in the state, seeing what it became coming from the Division II to the Division I level, the success.  It was really a no‑brainer for me to come here, and as you can see, I think it was really the right choice.

Q.  John and Carson, before the drive, who was the person that really rallied the troops and what was your message?
JOHN CROCKETT:  I think it was both of us.  I always make sure that Carson is able to be able to sit back and lead the team, and I just support him.  That's just my job.  I tell him all the time, look, I've got your back, Bud.  At the end of the day, you've got to lead us, and that's just that.  You know, sometimes I get a little crazy and a little emotional, and I get a little amped up, so I said a couple words, coach, just a couple, but he took care of all of it.
CARSON WENTZ:  We all got together and I told the guys, we've been here before.  Just a couple weeks ago in South Dakota State.  We talked about it's our time to show that we're a dang good offense, once again, and we got it done a couple weeks ago and we got it done today.  It really comes down to just a lot of preparation and then our tradition of looking at the guy next to you and saying he's going to get his job done, I'm going to get my job done.  It's just a lot of trust in your brothers, and we were able to come out on top today.

Q.  RJ, do you even realize what you're doing out there as a true freshman because all the seniors I talked to said that this is unbelievable, and for Coach Klieman, when was the first time you realized that RJ was cold blooded?  That's what his teammates keep saying.
RJ URZENDOWSKI:  Well, this has definitely been an unbelievable experience.  My goal was to come in here and play right away.  I definitely didn't really realize the magnitude of the situation and all the things that came from playing right away, and it's been quite the ride, and I'm very happy the way it turned out.
CHRIS KLIEMAN:  Early in fall camp when he was able to make plays over CJ and Champ, and we think they're pretty special corners, it was fun, I was on the stage and Brock Jensen was on there and I gave Brock a hug and I said, do you remember who wore 16 last year?  He said, that guy is ice.  He's unbelievable.  I know Brock has got high praise for him.

Q.  Coach, when you think about the connection that RJ and Carson seem to have developed, how exciting is that for the future?
CHRIS KLIEMAN:  Well, he's got a lot of confidence in him and a lot of trust throughout the season.  You know, a lot of guys stepped up, as well, and we've got a lot of weapons, but obviously when they were blitzing us, we had RJ in slot and we thought we had a really good match‑up, and Carson threw it up there, and RJ made some plays.

Q.  RJ, what were you doing during this game last year?  Did you watch it, and did you ever think you'd get back to this stage in your first year?
RJ URZENDOWSKI:  Man, last year I was on the couch with some friends and just hanging out and watching this one.  To think that just one year later I'm here on this stage is really quite incredible, but it's been an incredible ride.

Q.  RJ, what was going through your mind in the last drive?  Obviously you had three or four huge catches that turned the momentum.
RJ URZENDOWSKI:  Not a whole lot, to be honest.  The beauty of a two‑minute situation is everything is going so fast, everything is so fast‑paced, you don't have a lot of time to think about the situation, you're so zoned in, and we were going so fast, you're tired, you're running.  It's pretty easy to stay calm because everything is going so fast, you don't really think about it.

Q.  Chris, you said after the 33‑game streak ended that you didn't think you'd ever see that again in FCS football.  How about four straight National Championships?
CHRIS KLIEMAN:  Well, we still had a goal of winning the Missouri Valley and having an opportunity to get in the playoffs, and once you get in the playoffs in FCS, anything can happen.  But we didn't ever talk about that.  We talked about winning the Missouri Valley conference and trying to secure home field advantage, and if we did that, we thought we'd have an opportunity if we played well at home to get back here.  But the seniors were‑‑ they were driven.  They were possessed.  They were going to find a way to get back here, and they believed and they brought all of us along with them in that belief.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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