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CAPITAL ONE ORANGE BOWL: MISSISSIPPI STATE v GEORGIA TECH


December 31, 2014


Synjyn Days

Jamal Golden

Paul Johnson

Justin Thomas

Darren Waller


MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA

Mississippi State - 34
Georgia Tech - 49


PAUL JOHNSON:テつ I'll tell you, I was really, really proud of our football team.テつ I told them after the game in the locker room, I think this concluded my 36th year of coaching, and these guys were probably as much fun or more fun team to coach than any team I've been associated with, just because they play so hard and they care so much about each other.
You know, we had chances tonight, especially at the end of the first half when we lost momentum and they hit a big play, but it was kind of the story of all year with these guys.テつ We came back out in the second half and Synjyn made a great individual run to score a touchdown and kind of get the momentum back, and offensively we just kind of put the pedal down and we weren't going to not score.
The defense was doing a good job once we got in the red zone and we got a couple of turnovers and a couple of stops on downs and kind of got ourselves a little distance between Mississippi State.
But again, couldn't be prouder of our players, the program, the assistant coaches and everybody involved.

Q.テつ Coach Johnson, this is your second 11‑win season.テつ In comparison to 2009, how do you kind of compare this team and how special is the way you've capped the last few games off, beating all these ranked teams and overcoming expectations from others?
PAUL JOHNSON:テつ Well, I don't know that you can ever compare teams, but I was thinking today, counting tonight, we played 10 or 11 bowl‑eligible teams this year.テつ We beat, I think, three or four teams that won 10 games, so we played some really good football teams, and like I said, the thing I'm so proud of is these guys just keep playing.テつ There's no selfishness on this team.テつ Nobody tries to put themselves above the team.テつ They don't care who's getting the ball or what's happening, they just want to win the games.テつ It's refreshing to coach guys like that in today's game.

Q.テつ Do you feel like this performance by your offense will silence the critics about how your team is supposedly easier to play against when you have a month to prepare for in a bowl game?
PAUL JOHNSON:テつ Until the next time we play.テつ (Laughter.)
I think any time you do something different, people have a lot of ideas about it.テつ But these guys have proved a lot of people wrong all year.

Q.テつ Synjyn, you only had like 21 yards or something in the first half.テつ What got you going there in the second half?
SYNJYN DAYS:テつ The offensive line really I have to give thanks to them and Coach Johnson, trusting me with the ball of my hands.テつ Just blessed.テつ Just really blessed about this opportunity.
PAUL JOHNSON:テつ He didn't get very many carries in the first half or he would have had more yards, but in the second half we found a little gravy train there with a formation with a little belly play to those guys, and he was running hard and breaking a lot of tackles.

Q.テつ Darren, can you talk a little bit about your play today.テつ You kind of built upon sort of the last couple drives in the ACC Championship, and you kind of stepped up today and had another big day.テつ Is that a culmination of all that time working with Justin in bowl prep or just getting used to being in sync and being the main guy?
DARREN WALLER:テつ Me and Justin work all summer, so it's not really a question of being in sync.テつ Coach saw a lot of opportunities for play action with the way the defense was playing, and I was just trying to take advantage of those opportunities when I get them.テつ They're not many, but I'm going to do my part, and my blocking on the perimeter helped set that up out there.テつ So without the running game being where they're at, there's not much I can do.

Q.テつ Jamal, going into the game, what was the plan against Prescott and the offense?テつ And looking back, what do you think were the keys to the defense tonight?
JAMAL GOLDEN:テつ Our main focus was to stop Dak Prescott from running the football and contain him, because we didn't want to let him beat us running the ball.テつ We wanted to make him throw the ball and get the ball in other players' hands.テつ I felt like we did a good job of that for the most part.テつ And when we got in the red zone, we really buckled down and took him out of the game.テつ He scored once or twice, I believe, but I felt like we did a great job for the most part.

Q.テつ Justin, I'm curious, as an Alabama guy, do you take any particular pleasure in beating an SEC West team or the second SEC top 10 team that you've beaten in the last three games?
JUSTIN THOMAS:テつ I take pleasure in beating anybody.テつ (Laughter.)
Just beating ranked teams, you know, the teams that we've been beating, makes it that much better.

Q.テつ Justin, was the game as easy as you made it seem out there?テつ And also, your thoughts on being the MVP?
JUSTIN THOMAS:テつ I don't want to say it is, but it felt like it was going pretty easy going out there.テつ It was just we've been doing it for so long, it just comes natural to you.テつ When the guys do their part, and without the guys doing their part, I wouldn't have gotten the MVP.

Q.テつ Jamal, can you talk about the defensive performance in the second half.テつ And what was going through your head after they had that Hail Mary at the end of the first half?テつ And do you feel like the mental state of the team was kind of down at halftime but you were able to regroup and come out and play hard the second half?
JAMAL GOLDEN:テつ Oh, after the Hail Mary happened, nobody was down.テつ We went into the locker room, we were still winning.テつ We are still up one point.テつ It's not like we are losing.テつ So let's just go out and keep them from scoring.テつ If they don't score again, they can't beat us.テつ So we just took that mentality into the second half, and tried to keep them out of the end zone and let our offense do their thing.

Q.テつ Coach Johnson, can you talk a little bit about Justin's season.テつ He set the single‑season rushing record for a quarterback at Georgia Tech.テつ He's really seemed to progress as the year has gone on.
PAUL JOHNSON:テつ You know, Justin has been great all year.テつ I think he's gotten better and better.テつ I think every time we play, he gains experience.テつ Sometimes he's played so well and we've put him in spots to do things, but you don't realize it's his first year starting.テつ He's only a sophomore.テつ I'm really excited about what he can do in the future.
He's modest, but he made some great plays tonight.テつ We missed a couple of blocks on the midline, and he made the guys okay by making guys miss and accelerating.テつ You know, when the offense is running as smoothly as it ran, the guy under the center is executing pretty good, and I thought he did a good job of that, getting us in the right plays, and making plays with his arm and feet when he needed to.テつ You know, he's been great all year.

Q.テつ Paul, I know this won't be the first time that us in the media have been wrong about something, but obviously you guys were not picked to win the Coastal to begin the year.テつ I know there's people that talked about the state of the program and all that.テつ I'm curious after winning 11 games and an Orange Bowl, does it feel different to you than it did six months ago or did you kind of envision all this coming?
PAUL JOHNSON:テつ Well, you never know how the thing is going to play out, but you know, to be truthful with you, I was at a little bit of a loss on what everybody was talking about.テつ I mean, we've been there seven years, and four of the seven years we've finished either first or tied for first in the Coastal Division.
You know, we don't ever get picked to win the thing, so that doesn't bother me.テつ Sometimes people want to be negative.テつ Most of the guys who are negative aren't even in here.テつ It's just‑‑ you just go about your business.テつ Coach Gene Stallings told me one time, you don't listen to the people in the stands or the papers or you'll be sitting with them.テつ And what these guys did was just keep playing, and as coaches we just went about our business and coached.
You know, it turned out, I don't know if anybody would have envisioned winning 11 games and beating‑‑ we actually played, I guess, four teams that at one time were ranked in the top 10.テつ It was quite a year.テつ But the credit goes to these guys sitting up here.テつ They're the guys who did it.

Q.テつ Darren, as a receiver, how nice is it, I believe in the first half the team had nearly as many passing yards as you've averaged all year.テつ As a receiver how nice is it when a game goes that way, especially early on throwing the ball a little bit?
DARREN WALLER:テつ I mean, that's definitely nice, Coach Johnson seeing those opportunities to throw those plays.テつ But yeah, definitely feels good over 100 yards, definitely my career high, and it was in the first half, so it was definitely exciting.テつ But just seeing how the team was flowing and just knowing that those opportunities came for me off what they were doing in the run game and things like that, it's definitely a testament to them, and it definitely feels great.

Q.テつ Darren and Synjyn, can you talk about playing your final game at Georgia Tech and getting a win like this on a national stage in the Orange Bowl.
DARREN WALLER:テつ Thinking about it, like all the seniors we spoke before the game, we had some things to say to all the other guys.テつ What was going through my mind, when I was on my official visit with Synjyn, me and all those guys way back then and just knowing it's my last time taking the field with them, I mean, it really hurts.テつ But just to go out the way we did, it felt real great.
SYNJYN DAYS:テつ It's kind of bittersweet, playing in a game like this and winning your final game, it's fantastic.テつ You really can't write it much better.テつ But I'm going to miss Coach Johnson, the staff, all the players that I've seen grow up from their official visits to now.テつ I'm looking forward to seeing what Georgia Tech has in 2015.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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