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HEART OF DALLAS BOWL: UNLV v NORTH TEXAS

January 1, 2014

Dan McCarney Zach Orr Derek Thompson

ARLINGTON, TEXAS

North Texas – 36
UNLV – 14


COACH McCARNEY:  First of all, my congratulations to Bobby Hauck and the UNLV Running Rebels, excellent football team.  There's no bad teams when it comes to bowl season.  They're all darned good football teams that had real good seasons and I've been on both ends of bowl wins, bowl losses.  Not to be lost in the shuffle of a loss today is a really good job that Bobby is doing with that program.
Really proud of my football team.  I dreamed of a day these seniors could go to a bowl game and win a bowl game.  I really dread the day when I have to say goodbye to them.  But we'll cherish this season, we'll cherish today, and every time that I think about this football team the first names that will come to mind are these 22 seniors and they've led with class and integrity and pride and loyalty, and unbelievable examples today of how you play the game and how you win a football game.
Really proud of my guys, thanks to our fans, great support.  We sent a message today.  I think this is a program that's clearly on the rise.  We have some tremendous guys coming back.  We're going to miss these seniors, but the example these seniors have left is here forever.

Q.  Can you just talk about the transformation of this program since you took over, to get to this point?
COACH McCARNEY:  Yeah, I mean, there's so many things that go into it, as you know, and you've been there along the way watching the progress of this team.  I've said it before, but you have to have a plan in place, everybody is buying into it.  You really have to get everyone on the same page.  What we did was just eliminate outside expectations.  We developed our own expectations, and then you have to have guys like these seniors who every single day would not accept losing.  Whatever it takes to win within the rules, without taking shortcuts, let's get it done.  There's so much character in the program, and character does make a difference in athletics, and it really makes a difference in football, in football teams, in football programs, and that's what we have now, and the legacy that will be left here forever by these seniors.

Q.  All season you talked about what legacy (inaudible)?
COACH McCARNEY:  Yeah, it's here forever.  We all love‑‑ everybody loves a winner.  Everybody enjoys a winner.  But along the way how did they do it?  How did they come to be respected by everybody and bring the pride back to this university?  How they did it was every day with their actions, with their behavior, with their class, with their leadership, with their pride, and just never‑say‑die attitude.  I'm not going to give into losing, I'm not going to accept losing, and it's all over this program.
As much as anything, there's loyalty, loyalty to each other, players to coaches, coaches to players, players to players, coaches to coaches, I work for a tremendous administration and I think loyalty is all over the place, and I think it's a good example for a football team that things with pay off if you do things the right way.

Q.  Derrick, did you feel something special about that drive the way you all were putting things together and things were going your way?
DEREK THOMPSON:  Absolutely.  We came out prior to the second half, we're a second half football team.  We've been that all year.  We knew if we picked up the tempo that we could do some things and move the football.  We just made plays.  It wasn't anything special that we did.  We just executed.  You know, the defense did the rest.

Q.  Zach, after that first drive (inaudible)?
ZACH ORR:  I was telling guys to settle in.  It was the first time we had played a football game in over a month, and I felt like that first drive where they drove 95 yards on us, we were kind of playing on our heels and not playing great defense.  We were just telling the guys, just settle in, let's play our style of football.  We can stop these guys if everyone does their job.  It just really did bounce back and come back after that drive and pretty much shut them out the rest of the game.

Q.  (Inaudible.)
COACH McCARNEY:  Yeah, there wasn't any one moment.  You bring up a real good point there.  But what we have to do, whatever team that goes on to win, is handle adversity.  You have to handle situations obviously, but when bad things happen, don't go in the tank, don't slump your shoulders, don't drop your had.  We don't need bad body language.  I think this team is really to learn.  That's when you see resiliency and resolve and pride and confidence that no matter what happens you can overcome adversity and mistakes, because we all make them, not on purpose, but just to see this team, they're at their best, what I've watched throughout the season and up until today.  Adversity comes along, they really are at their best and they come back.
We've really worked so hard since last January to be able to finish games, and that's one of the many reasons we're a really good second half football team.  It's hard to win seven of your last eight games anywhere in America.  We just got through doing it.  It's hard to get to nine wins.  We just got through doing it.  And it's tough to have one of these 35 bowl championship trophies.  We just did that.  It's a real special thing to accomplish by these kids.

Q.  How far do you think something like this can go with your team?
COACH McCARNEY:  It's immeasurable, I think, how far.  It's just a jolt of confidence and something to really show for everyone's hard work, especially the sophomores and juniors have seen how these seniors have led and forged this path for them, and as the juniors become seniors as of tomorrow, they'll enjoy this forever, and remember it forever, cherish it forever, but in less than two weeks we've got to get ready for the season of 2014.
So that lasting memory from how we got here, to this day, the things you have to do to get here led by these seniors, what a great example for not only the underclassmen but for future teams.

Q.  (Inaudible)?
ZACH ORR:  It felt good.  I just played football.  I don't mind running the ball or getting the ball, it's just automatically me doing whatever I can to win the game.

Q.  Mac and Derek, can you talk about the feeling of the whole experience to win a bowl game?  Talk about the feeling that you have right now.
DEREK THOMPSON:  You know, it's such a special experience to be able to come down here, play close to home in front of our fans.  You saw the kind of support the team brought.  It was so exciting running on the field and seeing a sea of green.  UNT has supported us all year.  It's been great.  We love our fans.  All the amenities that come with a bowl game, that's great and all, but we were here for one mission and that was to win the bowl game.  We never lost sight of that.  We did what we had to do.  We came out and finished in the second half.  It was a great team win.
COACH McCARNEY:  That's what we've talked about since we got the phone call.  We thought about just going to be a bowl participant, going to be a bowl champion, and for the rest of your life to have something to show for it.  (Inaudible) already committed to a new trophy case for this new trophy that we'll be bringing home, which is great, but the experience, knowing that we've come this far, and for all the tough times and negative times that these seniors have gone, to get to the top of the mountain and be a bowl champion like these guys are, will be remembered forever.  I just can't put into words how happy I am for them, how proud I am of them, and there's nothing in the world we won't do for the senior class for years to come, the things we'll cherish, the memories we have, we'll cherish this season forever.

Q.  Zach, you guys have been dominant here in the second half all season defensively, and you held them out for most of the second half today.  Why have you been so great in the final two quarters?
ZACH ORR:  It starts with our defensive coordinator, Coach John Skladany, he's the smartest coach I have ever played for.  He comes in, makes some minor adjustments and everyone buys in.  He has all our undivided attention.  It's execution.  Every time in practice he's talking about, whatever coach has out there for you to do, make sure you go out and there and do that, and we had to do that in the second half, not only in this game but the rest of the season.

Q.  (Inaudible)?
COACH McCARNEY:  What he said about the sea of green, (inaudible) been a slow process to expand our fan base, but they've been really, really loyal, and the nucleus that we have now has been unbelievable.  Walking into one of the great stadiums in the history of college football, you have a whole sea of green, it's unbelievable.  You can't lose your focus and start looking around at all the people, but it was a great sight.  I'll have that in my mind forever, first time playing in the Cotton Bowl (inaudible) North Texas football, these guys get to be one of them, and our fans helped us get here and they helped us win that bowl trophy.

Q.  (Inaudible)?
COACH McCARNEY:  You're talking about UNLV's defense?  They're well conditioned, a proud program, they're tough, they're hard‑nosed, they're well coached, but it looked like from the sidelines, just to answer your question, that's what it looked like.  We started wearing them out.  This is a physical program.  It's based on physicality.  It's based on finishing.  (Inaudible.)  It doesn't matter what position.  You don't ever tell a hard nosed physical quarterback he's going to have trouble winning games.  (Inaudible.)

Q.  Can you explain what happened on that play where you got hurt?
DEREK THOMPSON:  Well, we ran the reverse play, the D‑end kind of came up pretty quick and he kind of hit me at the same time, and I tried to hit my balance and I stepped down wrong and my knee kind of twisted.  I'm not sure what's going on, but I wasn't going to be denied.  I wasn't going to stay off the field with my teammates for my last time out there.
To be able to come back and play the game that we did as an offense is pretty special, especially the way we came out the second half and were able to move the ball.  A lot of guys made plays.

Q.  Coach, obviously the second‑half momentum took over.  Right before the half, there was a field goal attempt that could have resulted in a 58‑yard run back with a touchdown, timeout was called.  Any concern on your part about (inaudible)?
COACH McCARNEY:  No, I really don't.  Those kind of things don't really affect our football team, don't affect me.  We were just obviously trying to make sure that we were going to‑‑ I didn't want them to get any points.  We were doing everything we could to win, we hit it real quick the last second, and when somebody relaxed out there because the whistle blew, we've been blocking kicks all year, I think we've had eight or nine of them, we would have loved to have had that block obviously (inaudible) but did not want to give up any points, especially going into halftime.

Q.  Zach, how important is it that the defense is kind of fueled by everybody on this team, not just one or two fans?
ZACH ORR:  When Coach Mac first took this job, he laid out a plan to win, and the number one thing on that plan to win was to play great defense.  If you want to go out here and to be a bowl championship like we are today, you've got to start playing great defense.  Playing great defense is not just forcing turnovers and stopping people but also getting good field position, playing special teams and offense.  We took pride in that, Coach Mac laid out that plan to win, playing great defense, and it's just real nice to be able to do that.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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