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December 22, 2016

Paul Petrino

Deon Watson

Isaiah Saunders

Tueni Lupeamanu

Matt Linehan

Boise, Idaho

Idaho - 61, Colorado State - 50

THE MODERATOR: We'll start out with an opening statement from coach and then take questions.

COACH PETRINO: I just couldn't say how proud I am of our players. I'm proud the way they conducted themselves all week. I thought they knew what this was all about. They had fun when we went bowling, they had fun up on the mountain. Other than that, they were focused on winning the football game. I think that helped them come out and play really well early.

They just showed character all year. They're just a bunch of winners. They've been told a whole bunch of things that they're not supposed to be able to do but they do it anyway.

It's just a great lesson for everybody. Our assistant coaches, our players, everyone, if you just work as hard as you can, keep grinding, maybe you don't always get it, maybe it doesn't happen right away, right at first, but if you keep working and grinding, working, grinding, eventually good things will happen for you.

I've been in a lot of different bowl games. Won a BCS game. I've never been more proud of a group of players than I am about these guys. Just can't say enough about them.


Q. Paul, you've said all along you have known this team was a good team. With this being on national TV today...
COACH PETRINO: I think it's great. Some of those great plays that you saw them making, hopefully everybody got to see that. Hopefully everybody will see it here in a couple hours when it's on the ESPN highlights, then on the one two hours later, then the one two hours later after that.

It's just a bunch of guys that really came together as a family, worked hard. They just go out and play their tails off for four quarters, as hard as they can, as long as they can. They make mistakes, do things wrong at times. They never stop playing with unbelievable effort and toughness. I think that's why we won seven of our last eight games. That's a heck of a year. That's pretty awesome.

Couldn't be more proud of them.

Q. Coming into this game, Colorado State averaged 223 yards on the ground. You really kind of limited that for them. What was the approach to being able to find success in that area?
COACH PETRINO: Yeah, I thought early on our guys up front, with Tueni, Aikeem, Kaden Elliss, Tony Lashley, Ed Hall, I thought those guys did a great job early on of controlling their front. Our defense came out and played really well. It kind of shows you how we win.

First four drives, our offense couldn't drop a hat, we couldn't do anything. The defense played great.

Later in the game, the defense couldn't tackle (indiscernible), the offense played great. You know what I mean? We kind of take care of each other. Special teams did a great job.

It was just a great team victory. Everybody stepped up when they had to for each other.

Q. I think the appeal of a lot of the bowl games for a lot of programs is you get to travel somewhere, go somewhere new, a warm climate. For you guys, how nice was it to play here in front of so many fans and alumni and to be 3-0 in this bowl game?
COACH PETRINO: It was awesome. You heard the crowd just going crazy when we took the field. The crowd was a huge support a lot of time on third downs for our defense. Just really encouraged our guys. It was great for the whole Vandal family. It was great for all the fans to get to be here and experience it. It was great for our players. It was great for the families.

It wasn't hot, but it was a great day, that's for sure.

Q. Coach Petrino, what kind of impact did that 18-play drive in the second quarter, converting twice on fourth down?
COACH PETRINO: I think that was a huge drive, a huge part of the game. We gave the ball to 28 any on one of the fourth downs, got the fourth-and-short. Matt hit Deon in another huge fourth-and-medium. It was a ball-controlling drive where we finished it with a touchdown. Our defense was on the sideline the whole time. I think any time you can do that, that really helped limit their offense to a number of snaps in the first half.

We usually get the ball to start games because I always take the ball, most people defer. They actually took it, so it might have been the first time all that we didn't get the ball first to start the game.

We still had the ball for more plays and more time in the first half. I thought that was a good sign, knowing we were going to get it in the second half.

Two drives were huge to finish the first half, 18 plays, hold it forever and score, then take the opening drive and go down and score in the second half.

Q. Yesterday you said you don't focus on a lot that's out of your control in terms of the move to FCS. Do you hope you made a statement to college football with this win today?
COACH PETRINO: You'd hope so. We were 2-0 against the Mountain West this year. We'd look pretty good in that conference.

Again, I only control what I control. That's to be as good a coach as I can, make sure they all graduate, make sure they're ready to play, try to help build them from good young 18- and 19-year-olds to 22-year-old men that will go out and be successful in life.

Let's just control what we can control. You always hope for the best, but just do your best and work as hard as you can.

Q. Talk about Linehan's performance, what he was able to in throwing the ball.
COACH PETRINO: I think the first couple drives we had a protection, communication problem one time. That hurt him having a chance to set his feet and throw the ball. Another time he kind of slipped. Really it was by that fifth drive he started getting a feel of how he was going to transfer his weight with the footing. Once that happened, man, he was on fire.

I thought our receivers played awesome, too. Obviously led by Deon first. I think the whole crew of them all made plays when they had to, Jacob had two touchdowns, Frysinger had an unbelievable catch, Hightower had some nice plays, Isaiah was running the ball really hard. None of it happens without the guys up front playing well, run blocking, pass protecting.

Matt just got in a zone. Matt was a great high school basketball player. I watched him play. He probably got in the zone sometimes and couldn't miss a shot. He got in a zone today and wasn't missing any throws. That makes it fun and pretty easy when you're calling plays when your skilled guys are in the zone and they're making plays, your guys up front are blocking their butts off. That makes it fun to be the guy calling the plays.

Q. A quote from Matt is circulating around the Internet, post-game comments, about a tone-deaf president for President Staben, how he might not think that you belong in the FBS. Matt absolutely believes that. How much of a motivating factor was the upcoming transition in this game?
COACH PETRINO: Again, some of the players might have talked about it a lot. I never talked about it. Again, I stayed away from it. I went out and worked everything I had to come up with the best game plan we could. I tried to motivate the players many other ways, but that was not one of them.

I'm just really proud of 'em, want to talk about how well they played.

Q. Deon Watson now is 2-0 on this field. His last high school game they won the state title down here. Talk about his performance tonight and the impact he's had on your program.
COACH PETRINO: Yeah, he's unbelievable. I said it to my wife two days ago. From when we got in town, you could just see how he was practicing. That little notch turned up. He was ready to go, get after it down here. I really felt like he was going to have a great game.

He's another guy, when he's on, he's playing well, especially against a team that wants to come out and play a bunch of press man, that's like the best thing he can see. When people want to play him in press man, that's his favorite deal. He got after 'em pretty good.

Q. You were an underdog coming into this game. Down 7-0 early. The floodgates opened. Were you ever surprised at all to look up and see how quickly it got out of hand?
COACH PETRINO: No. I kind of said this yesterday. We were an underdog for everybody else in the country, but we weren't an underdog in our locker room.

In our locker room, we expected to win. We expect to go out there and play hard. We respected them, don't get me wrong. We think they're a really good football team. We respected them, worked harder.

Usually, growing up in Montana, if two guys were going to go out in the alley, getting ready to fight, if one guy respected a guy, was a little leery, he was going to fight harder. If the other guy thought, This guy is not very tough, he usually gets knocked out. That sometimes happens in football games, too.

Q. Seemed like players were slipping every other play, the conditions seemed to be a lot worse than you thought. What did you make of the field today?
COACH PETRINO: Yeah, there were spots in the field where guys were sliding. Probably thought as much as anywhere on kickoff cover, covering punts. Guys were sliding all over the place. It was hard for both teams.

We came out of there before the game and talked to the receivers about the iciest part of the field you slid the most, it really was on the white part of the numbers. We were going to try to stay away from that part of the field. I said, Don't line up on the numbers, line up inside or outside of the numbers, not on the numbers. There were still times.

In the second half I think the got more frozen and got a little bad at times.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

COACH PETRINO: Thank you, guys.

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Idaho players. Questions, please.

Q. Deon, you played down here your senior year. You are 2-0. Do you like playing down here in Boise?
DEON WATSON: Actually, I was talking to my teammates about that before we came down. Actually 3-0 on this field (laughter). The Dome and this place are special to me. I'm not a big fan of the blue, but I am a big fan of playing on it.

Q. Matt, what are you going to miss about having Deon Watson around?
MATT LINEHAN: He's just a great personality, a great guy. Definitely a trustworthy guy out there. Just one of the sure-handed guys that is going to go make a play for you.

He's come a long way in these last couple years, developed as a real good pass catcher. I think he's became a more and more reliable option, especially in the zone, a guy that can make plays red zone. He's a guy that can turn on the jets. I'm pretty sure I'm faster than him (laughter). We can race right now if you want to (laughter).

He's turned into a play-maker for this offense. To see his outcome today, it was pretty special to see.

Q. Matt, after the first three drives, three-and-outs, would you have believed you could get 606 total yards, 60 points on the scoreboard today?
MATT LINEHAN: No matter what, the focus wasn't on how many yards we'd end up with. We needed to start moving the ball.

The first couple drives, a couple things out of character for our offense that happened. We had a sack and then we had a penalty that kind of pushed us back on those first couple drives. We had to kind of adjust to that.

I think we responded really well to it. We knew we could move the ball on these guys as long as we stayed patient and didn't overreact to getting stalled out on the first couple drives. I think it turned out well for the offense.

Q. Matt, you had some pretty strong words after the game regarding the FCS. What made you decide to use such strong words and how emotional was this game?
MATT LINEHAN: First of all, I'd like to apologize for my comments I made after the game. They're out of line. I had no position to do that. I want to apologize to President Staben.

Emotions run high at the end of a game like that. It was an emotional game for all of us. We worked so hard to get to the point where we are. I'd like first and foremost to apologize to President Staben about that.

I just got caught up in the moment. One of those things, you know, it was a great game for us, a great game for this university, and I don't want to take away from that work that we had, the work of all my teammates and coaches.

I'll apologize for that right now. In the future, hopefully I'll be better with that.

Q. (No microphone.)
MATT LINEHAN: I feel like no matter where we are, we've worked hard enough to belong. I thought we made a statement today that we belong wherever we are, period. I think this team has worked so hard, no matter who steps the field with us, we're going to give them a four-quarter fight.

A lot of people, we can be the underdog, the favorite, doesn't matter. We know we're going to go four quarters. No matter what the outcome is, we're going to hit you hard and make you remember us.

Q. Matt, during the trophy presentation, you said at the beginning of the year no one believed in you. How good does it feel to prove them wrong the way you did on the field today?
MATT LINEHAN: It was great. Especially for all these guys. No matter what was said to begin the year, I think all these guys believed we could get to this point. We spent so much time the last couple years dealing with adversity, dealing with really tough losses those first couple seasons, last year a couple really bad losses we had.

It was just a time when we were tired of losing. It was a mentality in that locker room, all these guys, we're tired of walking off the field, we didn't want to experience that anymore. We had to take it in our hands. That showed in off-season work, leading up to the season. The preparation we put in is unparalleled. I think it showed today. All these guys, their work paid off.

Q. Isaiah, you seemed to kind of find your groove there in the second quarter. What kind of impact did you have moving the chains for your team today?
ISAIAH SAUNDERS: I feel like I had a real big impact. Obviously I couldn't be successful without my O-line. I congratulate them every time, every chance I get. First of all, I want to give a shout out to my O-line.

Of course, the receivers were blocking the DBs and everything. I feel like my running today had a really big impact on the game, really drew the defense in.

Q. Tueni, once the offense got rolling, the defense laid big hits, flying around, having fun. What was the feeling out there when you were really rolling?
TUENI LUPEAMANU: Like Coach P said, the first half we came out, we came out really fast. Everybody was flying to the ball. People were making big plays. We were penetrating their offense pretty good.

Coming out in the second half, we didn't really let go of the game or anything. We didn't come out as fast as we needed to. There was a lot of miscommunication. I feel like that's really what hurt us in the backfield.

If it wasn't for our offense to come out as fast as they did... I feel like that's why football is the best team sport, everybody has to do their job. Thanks to Matt, Deon, Isaiah, thanks them for saving our butts at the end.

Q. Tueni, coming into this game, Colorado State had a formidable ground game (indiscernible)?
TUENI LUPEAMANU: Good calls by or defensive coordinator, Mike Breske. Also I feel like we were really disciplined. We weren't really running too many blitzes or anything. We were trying to play fundamental football and staying in our gaps.

It helps a lot when you have a big dude in the middle, Glen, holding doubles, just letting the lanes free for our linebackers like Tony and Ed, Kaden coming off the edge. I feel like we just worked together well, especially in the beginning. We just came out fast. I feel like when the defense comes back next year, they just got to keep that up.

Q. Deon, how tough were those field conditions out there today?
DEON WATSON: I mean, for a wide receiver, it's crucial to have your footing and everything. We practiced outside all week. We ran routes in the snow. It almost became like second nature to us when we were out there. Coach P did a good job of preparing us for that. He said it was going to be a cold game, your footing might not be there.

We worked on it all week. I think you can really tell the difference between the teams when it came to that.

Q. Matt, I think you started 1-6 for 11 yards in that first quarter, then took off from there. How do you handle that, not get down on yourself? Looked like it was going to be a punt fest for a while.
MATT LINEHAN: We started off slow. We had a couple setbacks early on. It's one of those things where you can't worry about it, it's next-play mentality. Football is a long game. There's a lot of plays you got to focus on. You can't dwell on the past.

Yeah, we struggled early. But we knew regardless, we put so much work into this game plan that it was going to work no matter what. We stayed patient, we stayed with it. I think everyone remained confident no matter what was going on.

We knew we could wear them out towards the end. I think that started to show. These guys all stayed confident in me throughout the first couple. They were all coming up to me, We're good to go. Especially the O-line stayed confident. The receivers. All of them. Runningbacks, tight ends, all of them. The belief that we're a good offense, we're going to have a good game kind of rang true today, and it showed on the scoreboard.

Q. Isaiah, you'll be one of the guys that will still be here when Idaho makes that move to FCS. Having a game like this, how do you feel about the transition? Do you feel like you used this as a motivation to show what you can do on a national stage?
ISAIAH SAUNDERS: I mean, it really don't matter where we play. I'll just be happy to be playing with this team.

It don't matter, FBS, FCS, NAIA, it don't matter. We still going to dominate.

Q. Isaiah, Matt was tearing it up today. At any point did you think you had a shot at MVP? Did you have a talk about that?
ISAIAH SAUNDERS: We didn't talk about it. But in my head I knew I wasn't getting it (laughter).

Q. How did you know?
ISAIAH SAUNDERS: I think it was right when he ran it in. I had it in my head he was going to get it. It's well-deserved. Great quarterback, great leader, and a great friend. You know what I'm saying? I'm really glad that he got it.

Q. Matt, what was it like to dial up a touchdown pass to your teammate? Do you think that's top 10 worthy?
MATT LINEHAN: It's definitely top 10 worthy. I can't tell him that, but it's top 10 worthy for him.

It's awesome. One of my closest friends, I'll have for the rest of my life. His story this year is incredible. For it to be capped off like that, it was pretty cool. Just to be a part of that, to know I can send him off like that, an SC top 10 play, it's pretty awesome. Pretty special. I'll cherish it forever.

Q. Matt, maybe about five minutes left in the fourth quarter, went off to the side by yourself, took a knee a little bit. What was going through your mind?
MATT LINEHAN: To be honest with you, there's a whole lot of emotion going through. It was a very emotional game for me. I got on a knee, I really wanted to thank my grandpa who died a couple years ago before he got a chance to see me play at Idaho. I just wanted to thank him for preparing me to become the man I am today.

Then I also had a talk to thank Jason Alec (phonetic) for changing my life as well. Without those two people in my life, I wouldn't be where I am now. They impacted me forever. Took a moment to thank them. I know they watch over me every game.

It was in the moment to think about where I've come, who's helped me along the way. Those are two people I wanted to make sure I remembered.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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