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December 28, 2015

Lincoln Riley

Miami Gardens, Florida

Q. Has this reaffirmed everything you already knew about Bill Bedenbaugh?
LINCOLN RILEY: Yeah, it's no surprise to me. I've said several times, other than the obvious of coming to work for Bob Stoops and coming to Oklahoma and all the obvious benefits of being able to take a job like this, being able to work with him was an important part of it.

Q. Is there anything distinct about the Clemson defense?
LINCOLN RILEY: Yeah, they're good. They're pretty good. I was just saying over there, I think maybe one of the most impressive things is they're aggressive, like we are offensively, and they take a lot of chances and at times make some mistakes, but they're so athletic that they cover up many of those mistakes. It allows those guys to take chances and feel good about it, and they're one of the more aggressive defenses that we've played.

Q. When you watch them on tape (inaudible)?
LINCOLN RILEY: Yeah, I agree with that. Trust them in that it's either execute it or for some reason they don't and the other team has a good call, like I said, they've covered up, where most people would give up a 60-yarder they give up an 11-yarder, so they take chances but they also make you drive it, too, which is a tough combination, and that's one of the reasons they've been as good as they have been over the last three years and obviously this year.

Q. How important is it for Baker to be good in the open field like he has been? Can you win a big game without him running around making plays? Does he have to do that for you guys to be successful?
LINCOLN RILEY: He's going to have to do that. I mean, their front is good enough that you're going to end up outside the pocket, and most people's fronts are in this day and age. Everybody is so athletic on defense, most games are like that. We've needed him to do that quite a bit this year, and I wouldn't think this year would be much different.

Q. He said that his ability to evade tackles is something he just naturally has an instinct for. Is that what you see, just sort of has a sixth sense?
LINCOLN RILEY: He does, yeah. He's got a great feel for it, and I think he's got confidence to take some chances where another guy might just tuck it down and take the sack or try to throw it away at times. He takes more chances because he knows he can get out of it. He's got a strong lower body. You can see he pulls out of some of those tackles, and he's got a desire and a kind of fearlessness where he's completely fearless in those moments. You've got to be, standing back there with people coming in trying to take your head off.

Q. Were there any moments this year where he was starting to do something like that --
LINCOLN RILEY: Oh, several, yeah, several. There was several four-letter words coming out of my mouth with some of them. The one at Tulsa was one that comes to mind. Off the top there's been a few. But he's gotten better and better about it, about being smart. Again, one of the things I'm most proud of with him is I think he's only thrown five interceptions all year, and I don't think he's fumbled and lost one. For as many times as he touches the ball and is a factor in the play, in as many plays as we've played this year, to only have five turnovers is pretty impressive.

Q. Was there any certain time this season, before the season started where you looked at your offense and said we have the potential to run the ball as effectively as we are now?
LINCOLN RILEY: Yeah, I knew we were going to be able to. Now, did I think we've lead whatever we've led the last seven games? I don't know if I would have said that. I felt like we would be able to run the ball well. Just like the throwing game coming together it wasn't really that this group or that group wasn't getting it done, it was more, again, just kind of meshing it all together. I've said many years, earlier this year it was a mixed bag. We were at times not blocking it well enough, at times not calling it well enough, at times doing those things right and missing the cut or missing the hole.

I think the guys have played better. Those young linemen improving have helped, and then I think Samaje and Joe both have both gotten more in sync with what we are trying to do with the run game and just kind of all improved together.

Q. Back on Mayfield's interception, is that something you've been pleasantly surprised at? It looked like coming in he was a good quarterback, making a lot of plays, but he had a propensity to throw the ball. Does that surprise you how well he's done at that?
LINCOLN RILEY: Well, I think yes and no. I've been very, very happy with it, but also for him to be the guy out there playing, that was a requirement. When Coach Stoops and I sat down and visited about this from the very start, one of the things was we wanted to be better in the throw game, but we couldn't do that and have the turnovers go up. We laid that out for the quarterbacks from the first day I got here that that was going to be a huge requirement, and honestly that's probably what -- probably the singular thing that you can point to in the quarterback battle that we had that won Baker the job, because it was pretty close in the other areas. And so we've kind of laid that out and it's been important, and Baker even knew once he was named the starter that that was going to be important for him to continue playing. He's found a nice mix of being aggressive but also being strong.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LINCOLN RILEY: I didn't know. Our quarterback situation made sense because we had a guy that was getting ready to be a senior that would have been Baker's transfer year that he had to sit, and it was an offense that was similar. Now, I didn't know if the kid was going to leave the East Coast and this and that. I didn't know much about him personally, but I knew there were some things about the situation.

Q. (Inaudible.)
LINCOLN RILEY: Oh, yeah, he did. He picked a lot of them. And again, we're a lot different than we were there, and we're going to tailor it around, but I knew he had played something similar. I knew I liked what I saw of his ability.

Q. How do you find a balance between rest and rust in such a long break?
LINCOLN RILEY: That's always a challenge in these bowl deals. It always is. I like what we've done, but we've done a ton of good on good here. We haven't had them on the field just incredibly long, but the work has been a lot of quality work against obviously a very good defense. That's been incredibly competitive. Our team period yesterday, you would have thought we were in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. I told them it was a blood bath and it was awesome. I think we've had a good mix of it. We've kind of gotten them back healthy, gotten some good work, but also trying to maintain our edge and being physically and mentally prepared, as well.

Q. You've risen pretty fast in your profession. Can you believe you're at this stage at the age that you're at?
LINCOLN RILEY: I really don't think of it that way, at least not right now while we're in the middle of it. It'll probably be one of those things that later in your life you look back on, but I'm kind of taking it day by day and enjoying every second of it.

Q. What do you attribute getting to this point to?
LINCOLN RILEY: I mean, being around really, really good people, really good coaches, being raised by good parents, being lucky, being in some spots where things happened at a time or turned the right way for me. I've had a lot of good players. We had good players at Texas Tech, we had good players at East Carolina, and we have good players here. It's a lot of stuff that I had nothing to do with.

Q. Where did you get lucky?
LINCOLN RILEY: A lot of places. I got lucky that Mike Leach was crazy enough to hire me when I was 23 years old. I got lucky that honestly the whole thing went down when he got let go at Texas Tech and got a chance to call that game and kind of get an opportunity to show what we could do. Got lucky that Shane Carden decided to come to East Carolina and Justin Hardy decided to walk on. Got lucky that Sterling Shepard stayed in cool, that Samaje Perine's not selfish, that Ty Darlington is the smartest person in the room, that Bob Stoops wanted to take a chance on me and lived up to every word that everything that he promised me. I could go on and on about that for a while.

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