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NATIONAL UNIVERSITY HOLIDAY BOWL: NEBRASKA v SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA


December 27, 2014


Adoree Jackson

Cody Kessler

Steve Sarkisian

Leonard Williams


SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

USC: 45
Nebraska: 42


THE MODERATOR:  We have Cody Kessler, Adoreé Jackson, Coach Sarkisian, and Leonard Williams.  We will take a statement from Coach.
COACH SARKISIAN:  I think first of all, I'm happy for our team.  You know, we've been through a lot this year.  These guys could probably tell you even more so, but we've been through a lot and we've had a couple just excruciating losses, and to come out tonight and win at the very end, the way we always try to make it exciting!  We make it entertaining for everybody!  I'm happy for these guys.  I'm really happy for them because they work every day, every time we go on the field they go to work.
At the end of the day, that, to me, is a really cool sign of the character on this team of where we're headed, and what we're doing.  We have people in our organization that work.  As hard as it can get and as tough as it gets, we're at our best, and that, to me, is just awesome.
I'm thankful for that, I'm thankful for these guys, from older guys to younger players, that they come to work every day, and they come to meetings and they want to get better and we go to practice and they want to get better and ultimately they go out and play a really good game against a very good football team.  I'm thankful.  I'm thankful for that.  We've got work to do.
We've laid a good foundation in year one of where we're headed as a program.  Our future, and I'll say it again, is ridiculously bright.  We're employing to continue to get better and continue to recruit.  We're going to recruit great players.  We're going to develop the players that we have in our program.  We're going to compete for championships.  That's why you come to USC.  Get ready for 2015.

Q.  Coach, can you elaborate on the last play?  What was going through your mind with that last Hail Mary play?
COACH SARKISIAN:  We've been through it!  (Laughter.)  We've been through it!  We got JuJu and Nelson on the field.  Nelson made a heck of a play to go attack the football.  At the end of the day, I mean, you can only get burned so many times, I guess, you know?  So let's just get the ball on the ground.  That's kinda what I was hoping for.

Q.  Coach, you talk about just going through the up's and downs of the season, after tonight's win?  Do you consider this season a successful season for you and does it add any pressure for next year?
COACH SARKISIAN:  First of all, it was a total success.  We won nine games, we were Holiday Bowl Champions.  I don't change.  Every day I wake up and I drive down the 110 freeway to come to work I embrace the opportunity you have to be the head football coach at USC.
Whether it's John McKay, Pete Carroll, John Robinson, I'm extremely fortunate to be the head football coach at USC.  I embrace it every day, and I come with an attitude that we're going to get better as a program the moment I step into that building every single day.
I hope these players feel that from me.  So there is no pressure to me.  The pressure is the same every single day.  I chose to come to USC to win championships, and that's the ultimate goal.  Every time that I come into the building, what am I doing to win a championship?  That won't change.

Q.  Cody, talk about the accomplishment of tying Matt's record and the season as a whole for you?
CODY KESSLER:  What record?

Q.  39 touchdowns.
COACH SARKISIAN:  First of all, what's awesome is he had no idea what you were talking about.  That hopefully gives you a little bit of perspective of the types of kids that we work with.  Go ahead, Cody, I interrupted you.
CODY KESSLER:  I'm happy we won the game, and I said it all year and I hope people believe it, and my teammates know that all those stats and everyone is always talking about records, or this or that, and he's close to breaking this one, that is completely irrelevant to me.  I'm not just saying that; I really do mean it.  Win or loss, that's the most important thing to me, winning games for these guys, and if that happens to be breaking a record because that's what it takes to win a game, then so be it, but I've always put the team before me, and I really do mean it.  I hope these guys know it.

Q.  Coach, yesterday I asked you about what it means to play in the Holiday Bowl for recruiting.  Today what does it mean to win the Holiday Bowl?
COACH SARKISIAN:¬† Well, I think it sends a pretty good message of the type of program that we have.¬† That we're an exciting brand of football!¬† I think about this guy sitting next to me, a true freshman who ‑‑ I keep battling Justin Wilcox because I want him on offense, because he probably would have scored four touchdowns if he was on offensive player tonight, but he plays on defense, and he got a kick return and then an offensive touchdown, and then I think about this guy over here in Leonard and just the opportunity to keep coaching these guys.
For me, whatever it looked like on TV, I really don't know or what people think about us, I don't know, what I know is we have a locker room that is excited, that came into the game humble, focused, and happy to be champions, you know?¬† That's‑‑ was there more out there for us this year?¬† Maybe.¬† That's part of the process.¬† That's part of laying the foundation of getting better as a program, and, you know, all these guys had a role in helping us lay that foundation, but then moving forward in the future.

Q.  Leonard, can you elaborate on the fact that you are the defensive player of the game?  What did that feel like for you tonight?
LEONARD WILLIAMS:  Felt great to be honored as that and seen as that from my peers and coaches and teammates as the defensive player of the game.
I don't give just myself the respect of earning that award, I give it to all my guys that I was out there battling with and having fun with.

Q.  Adoreé I watched you transition from high school and just become a star on this team.  It's so seamless, I wanted to ask you, what have you had to do to transition in the college game?  It looks like you're the same player you were at another level.
ADORE√Č JACKSON:¬† Just going out there and having fun and trusting what the coaches and the other players are telling me to do, because they've been here before me and I know what I have to do to earn those guys' respect, and that's what I want to do for the coaches and the other players is get their respect and go out there and have fun and play the ball I'm capable of playing.

Q.  Cody, are you coming back to USC next year, and what do you think about the future of this program whether you are a part of it or not?
CODY KESSLER:  Yeah, I'm absolutely coming back.  I told Sark, and I told some of the guys, and my family knew.  My main thing was I didn't want to take way from the bowl game.  There's a bunch of other guys that have decisions to make, and I didn't want to take way from the senior class, I didn't want to make an announcement before the game, everyone kept asking questions, that's why I kept trying to avoid the answer, but I'm coming back, I'm excited, it's going to be fun next year, and I'm going to work on getting some of these other guys, but at the end of the day I'm going to support them, no matter what, Leonard, Nelson, Buck, all those guys.  Whatever decision they make I'm going to be happy for them, and they know I love them and if it is to leave I'm going to be their number one fan; if they come back, I'm will be just as excited, but I'm definitely coming back.

Q.¬† You're up 45‑27.¬† What was your mind‑set as Nebraska was making its come back?¬† Do you think you might have got ahead of yourself at that point?
LEONARD WILLIAMS:  I would say that we played through a lot of adversity and a lot of up's and down's.  I would say that I trust in these guys to fight through the whole game.  That's our motto, Fight On, and I trust my guys next to me to finish the game strong, even when it was coming tight there at the end I still believed in my teammates.

Q.  Adoreé, talk about the touchdown run that you made to spark your team in the first quarter.  What went through your mind when you did the front flip in the end zone?
ADORE√Č JACKSON:¬† What was going through my mind is actually my dad called me for before the game and he told me do something for him, and that's pretty much what I was doing is something for him, because he wasn't able to make the game.¬† That's what I was going through my mind, give him something.

Q.  What do you think of that, Coach?
COACH SARKISIAN:¬† It was reminiscent of another guy I've seen wearing our uniform before.¬† This guy, this guy is a very talented young man, Adore√© is very talented.¬† But probably better than his talent is what he brings every day.¬† As a true freshman, what you think about it, what he's doing in the return game, on defense, we have him on offense, it's hard!¬† That's a hard thing to do.¬† He's got a high football IQ.¬† He loves the game, but he loves playing the game, too.¬† To me that's‑‑ geez, what else do we have, man!¬† We only get to do this 13, 14 times a year so when we get our chances we better have fun doing it.¬† I think all of these guys in one way or another.¬† Leonard got his penalty tonight, Cody got his, I think against Cal, is that when you had your penalty?¬† And Adore√© got his!¬† So do I condone it?¬† No.¬† But we've got players that love playing the game of football, and appreciate making their plays, being with their teammates.¬† We'll get better at how we conduct ourselves when we make our big plays, but at the end of the day, we're fortunate that we've got really good football players that love to play the game and make their plays and have fun doing it.

Q.  Coach, you mentioned the brand, the USC brand.  I wanted to ask, how do you envision this brand going forward under your supervision?
COACH SARKISIAN:  I think our brand is very unique.  We are SC.  We will never waiver from that.  We understand that.  We're proud that we get to wear what we get to wear every time we take the field, whether it's in practice or on game day, or just going to class.  We're a unique place, and we're fortunate to be part of an amazing tradition, and every time we take the field, there is a legacy that we're part of.  It's very humbling, quite honestly.  Our brand is one that is tough, that's hard, that's extraordinary, quite honestly.  In my opinion, it's unrivalled by any other university in the country when it comes to college football.  So we will try to continue to try to build this brand into something that makes these guys proud to be part of and makes those that came before us proud of what we do to represent this brand.

Q.  Coach, special teams were a little bit of an issue tonight, they've been an issue all season, are you looking to fix that right away?  Is that a focus for you?
COACH SARKISIAN:  We returned a kickoff for a touchdown tonight, too.  We did some good things on special teams tonight, amazing tackle by Zach at the end of the game.  Nebraska is a good football team, and they've got good coaches, too, so all in all there were a lot of snaps on special teams.  We will continue to build upon that.  When we get more depth I think we will become even better on special teams.
At the end of the day, this guy returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this year, Nelson has returned a couple of punts for touchdowns this year.  We need to clean some things up coveragewise and got the first punt blocked for us all year tonight, which was disappointing, but at the end of the day we've done some really cool things on special teams.  Would I like more consistency?  Sure.  That's all part of the process.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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