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December 28, 2015

Todd Orlando

Adrian McDonald

Steven Taylor

B.J. Singleton

Elandon Roberts

Trevon Stewart

Atlanta, Georgia

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the Houston Cougars. Today we've got defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, linebacker Elandon Roberts and safety Trevon Stewart. Coach, a brief opening statement. Talk about how your bowl experience has been so far, highlights for you and preparations thus far.

COACH ORLANDO: It's a first-class operation. We want to thank personally our staff and the university, the volunteers. It's been a first-class deal.

The organization, the hospitality, I mean, it's tremendous. We came in, we were a little bit late getting in and we shuffled around a little bit.

But it's a first-class bowl. And obviously from our standpoint, it's a great opportunity, great challenge for us. Our practice, it feels like we played Temple about a year ago. We've been at this for quite a bit in three weeks, and our practice sessions have been really good. We're excited. We're excited to go out there and control the controllables, and that's run, hit and execute.

And we have a couple more days to polish some things up, and kind of the theme around our place is the preparation doesn't stop until the toe hits the ball. So we'll continue to work hard. I'm looking forward to today's practice.

The following day, you know, in terms of the competition part, had a great time especially watching some of these guys make milkshakes and especially watching some of our coaches and players lip sync. I think that was a heck of a deal.

And there has to be some of that. There has to be a little bit of a balance in terms of the game itself. But as the next couple of days approach, the focus has got to become greater, and then obviously as we get into the night before the game and in the morning of the game, be ready to play.

THE MODERATOR: I was telling these guys earlier don't take the Battle for Bowl Week lightly, because the team that has won that event or the series of events has won the bowl games six straight years.

COACH ORLANDO: Is that right?

THE MODERATOR: We don't joke about the Battle for Bowl Week around here.

COACH ORLANDO: We have to get more shooters, I saw it last night.

THE MODERATOR: You still had a commanding 2 to 1 lead.

COACH ORLANDO: I'm looking forward to watching not only our players but our coaches ride around in go-carts tonight. You want to talk about some competitive fire. I think we've got to make sure we don't crash and lose anybody before the game.

THE MODERATOR: Elandon, what's been the highlight of the week.

ELANDON ROBERTS: It's been a great week out here, coming in, seeing the atmosphere, especially getting off the plane and seeing how the bus was, the Chick-fil-A wrapping stuff around it. That was really good to see, shows you all your hard work and what you've been working for all season, what it has become up to this point.

And bowl practices has been going real good. And just being able to be in the great city of Atlanta and being able to just venture off and see all the resources they have, especially being able to walk into the College Hall of Fame. That was a great honor and stuff like that. We're just glad to be here and the preparations are going well and we'll kick the ball off on the 31st.

THE MODERATOR: Trevon, I'll ask you about your visit to the Martin Luther King Center yesterday. That's kind of a unique event for us. No one in a bowl game has an experience like that. What was that like for you.

TREVON STEWART: It was a great experience, hearing about a lot of history. Stuff like that you want to learn about. And just having everybody there, positive vibe. Like after I went I called my parents and told them about everything. They were excited about it.

But it was great, man, just to see how things used to be and how much Martin Luther King helped the world. So it was a great experience.


Q. Coach Orlando, I'm curious, could you share with me the genesis of this scheme you all run on defense? Who did you admire as a player, as a coach and the pieces that you borrowed to kind of create this impressive defense?
COACH ORLANDO: It came when I was at Utah State. It's got a whole bunch of derivatives to it. It's very multiple. From a concepts standpoint, it's not extremely complicated. But it's 3-4 by nature -- that's why we recruit, but it can go into four down, and then we do some unique stuff on third down.

I know it's up-and-down film. There's nothing to hide it. But actually I think it came into play of who your best playmakers are and to be able to recruit a little bit differently. I think nowadays a lot of people recruit four down. From our standpoint, we can get a little bit of a hybrid guy to play outside backer for us but also be big enough to play some different spots, so it's pretty unique from that standpoint. But it's not anything that's completely out of the norm.

They've seen this defense beforehand, maybe not the things they've seen before on third down, but they've seen a combination of 3-4 and 4-3.

Q. For the players, what have you seen from Dalvin Cook, and what is the initial plan of attack to try to stop a guy that's going for 2,000 yards?
TREVON STEWART: That was a great back -- size, speed, but also on our side we have a lot of players, all 11 who could fly around, don't have a problem hitting.

That's one thing Coach Orlando and the defensive staff stresses, flying to the ball, everybody to the ball, all 11 players. So that's going to come into play too, we play as a team.

So I think that will be the way for us to key on Dalvin Cook.

THE MODERATOR: I'm sure you're not going to let Dalvin get that far. How are you going to stop him.

ELANDON ROBERTS: Well, Dalvin, he is a great running back. He has went against some good linebackers this year, especially in the conference they're in.

And I think they have played Florida. So just going to come into the game, just rally to the ball and try to get him down. He's a great back.

Q. What do you guys, from being seniors, remember that was different about losing to UConn and being able to bounce back as opposed to losses in the past?
ELANDON ROBERTS: Well, for me, I was in the locker room like after five plays. But you don't want a loss but sometimes a loss can be a good thing because we didn't want to feel that feeling no more. And it kind of had -- brought a flame upon us that we didn't want to be back in that position again.

So, you know, we learned a lot. We don't want to feel like that no more. So we just turned up the preparation even more.

TREVON STEWART: You know, everything happens for a reason. I felt the loss came at the perfect time. Like Elandon said, it came at the perfect time, got everybody up on track, opened our eyes a little more. The feeling in that locker room after the game, we didn't want to feel that feeling again.

So we had to go back in and regroup. So I feel back on.

Q. For anybody up there, Florida State's going for their 50th win for a senior class, and obviously they've been to a college football playoff, trying to come back next year. You guys also trying to get to that next level. I guess what is the challenge for you going up against a program like Florida State that's had so much success in the last few years?
COACH ORLANDO: Obviously it's not taking anything away, but what you are on film is what you are on film. It's this game. When we line up and we play, it's obviously everybody's aware of the history of their program and what they've accomplished. But this is a one-game season.

That's the approach that we're going to take going into it. Like I just said beforehand, what you put on film is your resumé, for what you've done this year.

So our kids are preparing for that part of it. There's some unbelievable talent. There's going to be guys that in their program are going to be the first, talk about Cook and -- fifth pick overall, I don't know what that is. I know it's in the top 10. He's a great player. And you have a lot of great players that go into that program. But the focus and concentration has to be on ourselves.

And our preparation has always been that way, is to worry about what we can control and don't worry about that, because it's a game of football, and when they kick the ball off it's going to be what you have put on film and how you trained. And that's how we're going to take this approach with it. In my opinion I think our kids are the same way with it. We understand the history. We understand seeing that Seminole. We understand all that part of it. But it's a football game played by football players, and we'll find out.

ELANDON ROBERTS: Well, you know, to hit on what Coach say, every day we take it 1-0. We're going take all opponents the same. If it's Tennessee Tech or if it's Florida State, you know, we just are going to turn the volume up each week. But like Coach said, we take it one game at a time.

And right now it's the only game left, so all of the marbles are on the line and they're not holding back. So it's going to be a great competition to see, and we're just going to come out there and give it our all.

TREVON STEWART: Well, you know, our program, we live by the 1-0 mentality, do our job, and we never change. So in practice we're still going hard in practice, flying around. You know, working out. Everybody's still got the same mindset. Like you said it's the last one. We also got a lot of seniors like E-Rod and myself who want to go out with a bang, so we going to keep working and doing whatever we got to do to come out with the win.

Q. Coach Orlando, can you share if you all use analytics, and if so, how do you use them as part of the scheming or preparation? I know Coach Herman has used them looking at the media guide and things?
COACH ORLANDO: I mean, honestly from our standpoint, the biggest thing that I want to see our guys do -- honestly, there's been a lot of talk in terms of our scheme, in terms of some of the preparation part of it. But you can ask these guys and really what it comes down to is our practice habits. It really does.

You are who you are. Athletically, these guys, who they are, we're not going to change in a week. But if we prepare the right way and go out there with the right mindset and to me the biggest part of it, like I just said, it's running, hitting and executing. If we can go out there and do that, whatever the result is, I think everybody in our locker room will be happy with it. And that's the biggest part of what we're trying to get accomplished.

And there's nothing against any opponent. There's nothing that way with it. But to take the approach -- E-Rod just brought it up, the 1-0 mentality -- going into this, but that's just not for this game. This is that practice, that meeting. And I think that's the part of it that when you talk to Tom and you talk to the rest of our staff, the culture part of what we're trying to get accomplished is -- I think that's probably the biggest results that we've gotten off of this, is just going into that.

Q. For the players?
TREVON STEWART: Coach Orlando came in, and from last year to the previous staff, it was kind of conservative, more conservative than we are now. So we've got players flying around everywhere never know where we're going to come from. It's exciting, a lot of players play different positions.

And we have a lot of different athletes who can play a lot of different positions. I mean, we compete every day. We compete against each other to see who can make the plays. So it's exciting to play with your brothers like a guy like E-Rod. I know he could be around the ball almost every play, so I'm going to make sure I'm around the ball too. Talk trash to each other on the field, too, like brothers. And it's exciting especially with the staff we have. They push it. I love it.

ELANDON ROBERTS: It's a very exciting defense because at the same time we can be a physical defense. Being sometimes a finesse defense is not always that fun, because you're not getting big booms and them big hits. And when your brothers next to you getting them big hits, you can see in the other offense eyes that they don't know where you're coming from and all they have to do is back up real fast to try to figure out where everyone is coming from. Sometimes it gets funny.

But at the same time our defense alone, you see it on film, we're attacking defense and we're not going to pull off. And we show that on film.

So we're flying around, the defense is very fun. But at the same time we're doing our job and we're not stepping out of character. Everyone on the defense is going to do their job and we're going to get it done.

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by safety Adrian McDonald, defensive tackle B.J. Singleton and linebacker Steven Taylor. Steven, we'll start with you. Talk about how your bowl experience has been so far and what the highlight of the week has been for you.

STEVEN TAYLOR: It's been a blessing. I'm very grateful and thankful to be a part of this opportunity. The highlight moment has been the lip-syncing competition. That was very fun.

B.J. SINGLETON: My highlight moment would be the College Hall of Fame, just seeing the history that goes into that whole thing and just seeing our name, just being brought up into that, it's a great honor, just happy to be here.

THE MODERATOR: Adrian, what's your bowl-week experience been like so far?

ADRIAN MCDONALD: You know, just enjoying it, enjoying every moment. Last go-around. So just taking advantage of all the opportunities.

Highlight would have to be Martin Luther King Church last night. Just a blessing to get to see that hands-on. That was cool.

THE MODERATOR: Here's what I want to know, are you guys going to close out the Battle for Bowl Week, is that a done deal?

STEVEN TAYLOR: That's the plan.

THE MODERATOR: I told the other guys, the team that wins the Battle for Bowl Week wins the bowl game every year, six years in a row. So I know you guys gotta practice football, but I may want to get up practice some go-carts for tonight too.

STEVEN TAYLOR: We want to go 1-0.

Q. Adrian, is this a complicated defense to learn? Just talk about how long it took you all to get comfortable in this scheme and when you kind of recognized we got this, we got this down cold.
ADRIAN MCDONALD: It's always a challenge, just when a different coach comes in.

I had three defensive coordinators, and I feel like this is probably the second hardest defense to learn and just the different techniques, different verbiage, just all different.

And you gotta put the time in getting your playbook, go upstairs, talk to Coach, just put the time in and it will come, come with it.

Q. During what game did you realize we know this, we're comfortable here.
ADRIAN MCDONALD: Lights-out defense, probably I'll have to say Vandy, 34-0, shut them out. Felt good about that. Made some big plays. And I just felt like the momentum just kept picking up after that.

STEVEN TAYLOR: It wasn't really that complicated. We came in, we put a lot of work in in the spring, and it's all about hard work. Like Adrian said, the time and the commitment. We put a lot of time in, and we'll eventually learn it and execute it. Like Adrian said, Vandy game, that was a big moment. And once we shut them out, man, we knew this defense was real.

B.J. SINGLETON: I wouldn't say difficult. I would just say different. It was just like different techniques you have to learn and just getting used to a different coaching staff and knowing what they brought and just trying to go out and execute the plan, basically, and just follow through and see where it leads us and it's been successful.

Q. What's this game like for you guys knowing you're playing a team that played in the Rose Bowl last year, national title two years ago, the history of Florida State? Just knowing your opponent and the tradition they have, what's an opportunity like this for you guys in the Peach Bowl mean to you?
B.J. SINGLETON: I think it's a great opportunity for us. And nobody really expected us to be here. And we were just trying to make the best of this opportunity to go out and prove ourselves to the nation, just to show that we can compete with bigger teams around the nation.

And we just are excited to be here and just trying to see where this takes us, what's in store for us.

ADRIAN MCDONALD: Well, you know, just coming from the non-Power 5 conference, just a good opportunity. Anything could happen. That's why you play the game, of course, and just the legacy of just the older guys in this program to go to three bowl games in four years and just top it off with a big moment like this.

So it's big for the program and this could be big for the city itself.

STEVEN TAYLOR: This game is huge. First of all, because it's the next game. And we want to finish hard, because Coach Herman always preaches on finishing and finishing the week 1-0. And Florida State has a great tradition. And we just plan on executing the game plan and finishing 1-0.

Q. What have you seen from Dalvin Cook; he's a couple hundred yards away from 2,000? He's had a couple 200-yard games, what impresses you about him and how do you try to contain him?
STEVEN TAYLOR: He's very explosive, and he's dangerous in the perimeter.

He could shake five guys in one play, then come back the next series and do it again. We know he's a dangerous player and a dynamic rusher. So we just plan on limiting those explosive plays and doing the best that we can to limit him around the perimeter.

THE MODERATOR: Elandon said he was not going to let Dalvin get to the second level, are you ready to commit to that, too.

STEVEN TAYLOR: Yes, sir, I already committed.

THE MODERATOR: Adrian, I guess that means you're not going to get any tackles, buddy.

ADRIAN MCDONALD: E-Rod, Steven Taylor, I'm there for the cleanup.

Q. Could you talk about the advantages of being able to go today and practice inside the Georgia Dome, get a little bit of those jitters out of the way before game day and how that's going to benefit you guys?
STEVEN TAYLOR: It's great because we get to get a feel for the stadium. And we have another day to get better. And we just want to go out and be as prepared as possible for Florida State so we can go out there and finish 1-0.

Q. Do you guys feel that with a win over Florida State that you have made a statement in proving that the University of Houston program is back to where it used to be?
ADRIAN MCDONALD: Yes, of course, that's why we play the game. There's always going to be an underdog. There's always going to be the favorite. And we're definitely not the favorite here, and we like that role.

We don't talk much on it. But just the way we prepare and the way that we work, and I just feel like if we execute the game plan, play fast, play hard, good things could happen. So see how it happens.

THE MODERATOR: B.J., what about you, is this a statement game?

B.J. SINGLETON: I would say so. I would say it is. Because if we do execute the plan, then we open the nation's eyes to what we've been seeing. And we just want to show the nation what we have, and this is the perfect game to do it.

Q. One of your teammates just a couple minutes ago said that you guys play with a huge chip on your shoulder because you guys don't think you got the respect. How much of a motivation do you guys use for that entering the Peach Bowl, whether it's against Florida State, whether it's against voters in college football, what is that chip and why do you have such a big chip on your shoulder?
B.J. SINGLETON: We have that chip all year. Even in previous games, nobody expected us to beat Navy or Memphis, so playing with a chip is not anything different or anything we're not used to; it's just another game that we go out and play hard.

STEVEN TAYLOR: Yeah, we definitely have a chip on our shoulder. We feel we have something to prove every game, and we want to go out there and prove the nation wrong if we're the underdog. It's also a challenge, and it's fun to be a part of this with my teammates.

It's exciting, and we've been down a long road, and we're down to the end of the road and we just want to finish out strong and have some momentum going in for next year.


FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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