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December 21, 2016

Paul Petrino

Tony Lashley

Tueni Lupeamanu

Buck Cowan

Matt Linehan

Boise, Idaho

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by the University of Idaho. We'll start with coach with an opening statement.

COACH PETRINO: We just want to thank everybody in Boise. It's been a great time here. We've had all kinds of great activities. The players have really enjoyed it. Everyone in town has treated us unbelievably great, just treated us great.

We're excited to be here. Really excited for these players and all our players. Three of these guys were in our first class here. We've have a lot of guys that have been here for four years, fought through a lot of adversity, tough times. They kept grinding and kept fighting and believed if you work hard, do things right, and choose character, then good things will happen. That's really what's happened.

We're happy to be here. I expect our guys to go out and play tough tomorrow night, play the hardest they can play. As long as they give great effort and play tough, we'll get to the fourth quarter and see what happens.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Matt, your numbers didn't necessarily go up a whole lot from last year, but you were a lot more efficient. You won a lot more games. How do you feel you improved this year? What do you consider your impact on this team?
COACH PETRINO: Let me go first on that one.

One of the reasons the numbers didn't go up is because we had the lead all the time in the fourth quarter as opposed to being way behind in the fourth quarter. A lot of times in the fourth quarter we were running the ball to milk the clock, playing way better on defense this year.

So his numbers were way more efficient and helped us win as opposed to just slinging it around, coming from behind. That's probably the biggest reason that his numbers didn't go up.

Now I'll let him go.

MATT LINEHAN: At the end of the day, all I was concerned about was adding another W to the win column. I wasn't focused on numbers the beginning of this year. That wasn't my main concern. My main concern was to get to where we are now.

I think our body of work shows it. Yeah, I can go back and say maybe I didn't have the same numbers or the numbers I wanted. But at the end of the day the only number I wanted was the amount of wins we have. That's all that matters.

Q. Matt, your offense has been able to come out good in the first quarter, at least 10 points a game in the last month. Is there any concern of keeping that momentum going considering the layoff between the regular season and this bowl game?
MATT LINEHAN: I don't think so. The focus stays the same whether or not we haven't played for a couple weeks. I think momentum is still where it is. I think the confidence is sky high in that locker room, in each other, our ability to go out there and make plays.

Yeah, we want to start fast obviously, keep the momentum going. But no matter what happens, we're going to be ready. We fought through adversity all year. No matter whether we start fast or don't, our expectation is we're going to go out there and compete. No matter what happens, we're going to do what we can to win the ballgame.

Q. You've talked a lot, Paul, about how much you appreciate overachievers. I expect you don't mind being the underdog tomorrow?
COACH PETRINO: No, I think it's great. I've told the players from day one the greatest compliment you can ever have is somebody to call you an overachiever. The worst compliment you can have is for somebody say, Boy, you got a lot of talent, because basically you didn't live up to that talent.

We want to be overachievers. We're just kind of that guy in the classroom that sits there and is really quiet that you better not mess with, because he going to fight you till the end.

That's our team. That's what we're all about. We're going to fight for four quarters. We've said it from day one, we talked about it all summer, we're going to try to keep that game close and find a way to win it in the fourth quarter.

We've probably been underdogs in every game we played all year with maybe the exception of two. Being underdogs is not a big deal at all. We probably should be. We think that's great. We just got to get to the fourth quarter.

Q. A couple of the players, could you comment about that. Buck?
BUCK COWAN: Yeah, like Coach Petrino said, we've been underdogs in pretty much most of our games. I think we kind of embrace it, honestly. Going out, I think we're two touchdown underdogs. Like Coach P said, you go to the fourth quarter, keep it close, then see what happens.

I think definitely a lot of the guys, we just kind of embrace that mentality.

TONY LASHLEY: Yeah, I think it just sets the bar high for us both defensively and offensively. We go out there, we have high expectations. Being the underdog helps us strive to go and make that happen, so...

COACH PETRINO: I think one of the biggest differences, we don't think we're underdogs, where in the past we probably did. We had on the back of our shirts all winter, Expect to win. We get to the fourth quarter, we expect to win.

That's probably the biggest difference.

Q. Buck, you've had Matt as your quarterback for three years now. What ways has he grown and improved the most?
BUCK COWAN: I'd say first and foremost just leadership-wise. These last couple years, he's really grown as a leader. Guys really listen when he talks. He has great command of the huddle.

I think his play speaks for itself. Just a great quarterback. Guys really listen. What he does on the field, you can't really match. He's a great guy on and off the field.

Yeah, you can't really put into words what he means to this team, so...

MATT LINEHAN: Thanks, man.

Q. Matt, you obviously have a pretty extensive football background, your dad accomplished a lot. What is it like for you to start your own legacy?
MATT LINEHAN: It's special. Being around my dad growing up was really important to me. I got a chance to know how the game is played, how things are done correctly.

Yeah, he had his own legacy, doing his own thing right now which is great. I've always followed him through it.

Ever since I began here at Idaho, I knew this was going to be my own journey. I've come a long way. From high school, when I wasn't recruited, when I was told I was too skinny, I wasn't good enough to play Division I football. I was going to quit, play D-II basketball. I could tell the story for hours.

Just to be where I was, when people told me I wasn't good enough, to where I am now, it's special. The game tomorrow, it means a lot to me, to be able to get to this point. Much like myself, a lot of people told our team they weren't going to be able to get to this point. All we've done is heard it and let it motivate us and continue to grind each and every day, in the off-season, every game, throughout the last couple seasons. All this hard work up to this point, to see where we are now, it's special.

I think not only am I creating my own legacy, we're all creating legacies here. Something we're working towards and looking forward to tomorrow.

Q. Paul, you talked a lot about how important it is how teams approach the bowl week, the mindset, whether you really want to be here or not. Do you feel like your players are locked in?
COACH PETRINO: I'm really proud. These guys are the leaders of the team. Tueni is kind of the top guy that leads. Matt is on offense. But they all lead. That's probably why the four of them are sitting up there. They're probably four of the biggest leaders on the team.

As coaches you really try to lead, but ultimately it's really the players. What I think they've done a great job of is when we went sledding, then we had a blast, had a good time. When we went bowling, they had a blast. Played Laser Tech, had a good time. When we were in meetings, we were in meetings, focused, paying attention. When we went to practice, we probably had three as good practices as we had the last year. We had great focus, great passion. Guys were locked in. They've been doing a good job of taking care of business. Now we just got to go make it pay off. When it's showtime, you got to step up and get it done.

I think these guys as leaders have done a great job to act the way they're supposed to act. Now it's just to go through it tonight, have great preparation tonight, all day tomorrow, get ready to go, then go out there and execute.

Q. Tueni, would a win or can a win tomorrow validate that you belong here, a bowl victory, a nine-win season?
TUENI LUPEAMANU: I feel like that's a question above my pay grade.

BUCK COWAN: Which is nonexistent.

TUENI LUPEAMANU: Even though I'm leaving this next year, after this game, I hope it does. I hope what we've done this year is enough for Idaho to stay Division I. I think we deserve it and have earned it for ourself, for our Vandal supporters who want to keep us up here in Division I.

Time only tells. I feel like it's another steppingstone for next year, for guys like Tony and Matt to come out and do the same thing: prove everybody wrong again. I feel like that's our story. Like Matt said, I feel like we've been doing it all year.

That's all I've got to say on that one.

Q. Paul, as a coach, are there things that concern you that remain sharp, special teams, tackling, with the layoff from the regular season?
COACH PETRINO: Yeah, I mean, as a coach you're always concerned. Starting today, going into tomorrow, you're always very nervous.

I think two of the biggest things in a lot of the bowl games I've been in that probably usually tell who is going to win the game is who tackles the best, who takes care of the ball. That's definitely been a concern.

We've probably done more live tackle than most people do. We even did it down here. We did it the two days leading up before we came here. We did it the first day we were here. We've done quite a bit of live tackle. We got to make sure we tackle well. We got to make sure we take care of the football.

You're always nervous as a coach no matter if you have four days or three weeks to prepare. You're always concerned about certain things. Those would be the biggest things, tackle well and take care of the football.

Q. A lot of players are skipping bowl games now, looking to the future. What are your thoughts about guys who do that? Could you see yourself doing that if you were an NFL prospect?
BUCK COWAN: I mean, I can't really speak for the guys that do that. I mean, I understand why they do it. But personally I definitely would not do that. You work so hard all season. I feel like the bowl games, what you get in return for all that hard work. To skip it, personally I don't really see why you would do that.

So, no, I wouldn't do it. I guess I understand guys are worried about injuries, I guess. I don't know. But, no, I definitely wouldn't do that.

TUENI LUPEAMANU: Same here. I couldn't speak for the guys who are skipping out on the bowl games. We're definitely not in the same shoes coming from (indiscernible) to my last year having a bowl game. I'm just grateful to be here. I'm excited. I'd never give anything up for this chance. It's like the biggest stage we'll play on for the rest of our life, in our college career.

Q. Tueni, much has been made about you guys being underdogs. How do you think the home-field advantage, a lot of alum being here in Boise, will help factor into the game tomorrow?
TUENI LUPEAMANU: I hope the home-field advantage thing comes into play. As our team has progressed throughout this whole year, we've actually played even better when we're away. I don't know why. I don't know. Maybe it's just a tradition thing.

But being able to play close to home, somewhat close to home, five hours away, I hope we do have all the support and all the Vandal family comes out here. I feel like it would definitely give us an advantage.

At the same time, even if it doesn't go our way, say Colorado State comes, a lot of Boise State fans are there, I don't think it fazes us, either/or.

Q. Tony, Tueni and coach, talk about the challenges that Colorado State's offense presents. Seems like they're pretty dynamic being able to run the ball and pass the ball.
COACH PETRINO: Yeah, they do a great job. They're a traditional, true offense, I would call it, the type of offense I like to study in the off-season. They do a great job in their two back running game, two back zone, two back lead. Do a really good job in their two back play-action. They'll spread you out. Kind of have a theme each game what they're trying to get done, start out that way.

A lot of it comes down to like an NFL offense. If you stay too high, they're going to run the ball. If you go to one high and try to double up No. 4, then they're going to play-action. A lot of it they're going to two play call you by what fronts and coverages you're in. The number one thing they're going to try to do is run the ball and throw the ball to No. 4. They do a good job of both of them.

TONY LASHLEY: Coach said it best, but overall it's not as much what they're going to do, what but what we're going to do to answer what they pull out. They're pretty theme-y by the week. We're going to wait to see what they throw at us early, tackle well, be physical.

Personally, my job, I feel like I have to have the defensive line's back. They're facing a big front tomorrow, taking on big doubles. They've done it all season. It's nothing they're going to have a challenge, but have their back, fill gaps, pay them back for what they're going to do for me tomorrow, so...

Q. Coach, listening to some of your players talk about it, the FBS, FCS thing, how have you handled it as the season continues to go on? Are you still fighting for something more?
COACH PETRINO: What I really try to do is my job, and that's to be a coach. All that stuff is handled by other people. So what my job is, number one, is to make sure they all graduate, make sure they do good in school, make sure the APR is high. We're getting that done.

My second thing is to coach my tail off and make sure they get better every single day, that they're prepared to play the games. We've done that this year.

To be honest, I haven't addressed it much at all. I've just worried about today, get ready tomorrow, continue to get ready the next day, play a great game this week, then turn around and get ready for the next game.

All that stuff is for other people to handle. We're going to control what we can control, and that's to play our very best tomorrow night.

Q. Paul, special teams-wise, you are near the top in a lot of categories nationally. Your kicker is 26 for 29. How much can special teams impact the game like tomorrow's?
COACH PETRINO: A lot. I think we're very fortunate, Austin Rehkow is probably the best punter in the country. Somehow people didn't vote for that, I don't know how. They vote for guys that rugby punt over him. Don't get that. He's the best punter there is, and will punt for a long time on Sundays. He's worked really hard at improving and made himself a very good field goal kicker. He kicks off for us.

We've done a good job of getting some blocked punts this year, which has been big for us. We've covered punts in kickoffs very well. We'll have to do that tomorrow. They got good returners.

Kind of earlier I said tackling and turnovers. I probably should have said special teams. Those are probably the three things that will make the difference in the game.

Q. Coach, about Matt, three years ago he had to win a quarterback battle and take over this team. You have a hundred-some-odd guys that are all important. How important was his mentality at that position to helping this turnaround?
COACH PETRINO: It was great. I think your leader has to have a passion and has to show up every day to be the best they can be. These four guys that are sitting up here with me today, they show up to work every day. They show up to work with a great bounce in their step, with a passion to become the best football players they can be.

Probably the best thing is they love football. They love to go to practice. They love to work out in the off-season. All four of these guys I can honestly say there's never a day I have to try to get them fired up to practice. They're ready to go. They help me get everybody else ready.

I think just his passion to be great rubs off on everybody else. When your quarterback goes about his business that way, it becomes contagious throughout everyone else. I would really pat all four of them on the back for that.

I think Tueni and Tony do a great job of that on defense. That rubs off on everybody. They kind of control the front seven, and that spreads throughout the whole defense. Matt does it on offense. Trent is a little different leader than the other three. He does it by his work ethic. He doesn't talk as much as the other three do.

Everybody calls him Buck, I call him Trent.

When Trent shows up ready to work, ready to practice, there's no one more competitive than he is.

Q. Coach, the Vandal Twitter page posted a picture of you yesterday. What was your vantage point on that?
COACH PETRINO: This was the deal. They had a jump that they were trying to get people to go off of. I said no players are allowed to go off of it. They wanted to see how much it would wipe somebody out. I said, Okay, I'll do it. I did not know they were going to video it (laughter).

It's fun. It was a lot of fun to be up there with the guys and do something like that. Heck, there was some that had never gone sledding down a hill like that in their life. That's what I'm saying, we've done a good job, when it's time to have fun, we've had fun. When it's time to be focused and do a good job at football, we've done a good job of that.

Q. During this turnaround, your first two seasons, you win two games. Curious about maybe the darkest days and how cool it is to finally arrive here, what it took to arrive to this point?
COACH PETRINO: It just took a belief. I think one of the hardest things, when you go through a couple seasons like that, I was fortunate enough to be an assistant coach on a whole bunch of staffs where we won every single year. We won nine games, ten games every year. It was just kind of that's what you did. It was easy. I knew what my belief was. I knew how things were supposed to be done, how you're supposed to do them.

When you go through two seasons and you only win a couple games, it takes a lot of courage to keep believing in what you believe in, keep doing things the way you know are the right way to do them.

There were some tough days. There were some days you kind of doubt yourself a little bit. You got to suck it up, keep fighting, keep believing in it.

There's a Hall of Fame legendary coach in the room today that I'm going to point out, that helped me one day, one of my lowest days after a game of getting our butt kick. I'm in the locker room. Coach Pat Hill walked in and said, Hey, just keep doing things the way you're doing them, keep fighting and grinding.

I can't tell him what that meant to me. I always admired what an unbelievable great coach he was. To hear him say that really meant a lot and helped me.

COACH HILL: I remember that day. I'm really proud of what you guys have done.

COACH PETRINO: Appreciate it.

Q. When was that game?
COACH PETRINO: That was at home against Arkansas State. We had a chance to beat 'em. We were playing well at times, but then we ended up losing. It would have been our second year at home against Arkansas State.


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