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December 27, 2016
THE MODERATOR: For our second session, again, we've got tailback Myles Gaskin, wide receiver John Ross, wide receiver Dante Pettis and offensive guard Jake Eldrenkamp.
So to start it up, guys, we'll just go down the line, starting with you, John, and just give us kind of your experiences so far, how Bowl Week is going for you and what you guys think of Atlanta and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl so far.
JOHN ROSS: It's nice to be out here. The weather is similar to Seattle. But it's been awesome just, you know, being here and just knowing where we were last year. I'm thankful to be here.
MYLES GASKIN: Like he said, it's fun to be out here. It's a blessing. It was good to see all these guys on Christmas when we flew in. Just kind of seeing like our second family and all that type of stuff. And kind of getting out here, experiencing something different in Atlanta, a different type of food, a different type of people and stuff like that. Just getting ready for this game.
THE MODERATOR: Dante, tell us what you thought about the Battle for Bowl Week competitions last night.
DANTE PETTIS: That was fun. Got to go go-cart racing, do a little bit of bowling, playing in the arcade, definitely having a lot of fun there.
Last night, I was trying to find a good place to eat, though, everything was closed. So if you guys have any suggestions, definitely would like that.
THE MODERATOR: We can probably help you out with that.
DANTE PETTIS: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Jake, what about you? What did you think of the events last night?
JAKE ELDRENKAMP: They were a lot of fun. A 300-pounder go-carting, it was fun to race around a little bit.
THE MODERATOR: So you say you were getting passed by all your teammates?
JAKE ELDRENKAMP: I wouldn't say that. I was passing them.
Q. For John and Dante, Coach Peterson said yesterday that going to the -- sorry, Coach Saban said yesterday that your secondary is a lot like the Seattle Seahawks. What's it like going up against those guys today in practice?
JOHN ROSS: I think it prepares us very well for whoever we play in the upcoming week, whether they're good as our secondary or not, just because we feel like we're seeing the best, we prepare very well for the game plan.
Q. For anyone who wants to comment, obviously, Alabama has this reputation for defense and what they've done under Coach Saban. What do you see when you look at them on film and, you know, sort of believe you can't move the ball against them no matter how good of an offense you have. What do you all see? Do you see vulnerabilities there you can take advantage of?
MYLES GASKIN: One more time? Can you say that again? I stopped focusing.
Q. Thanks a lot.
MYLES GASKIN: My bad. I thought it was for everybody.
Q. Talk about the Alabama defense.
MYLES GASKIN: Oh. They're a fast defense. Sorry about that. Fast, they're smart. Everybody runs to the ball. I mean, they give 100 percent each play. I mean, it's much different from any team I think we've ever played against. Sometimes you can see a D-lineman kind of trotting down the field. But everybody's running to the ball. I mean, they play smart D and they all just give 100 percent each play. That's different than we've ever seen.
THE MODERATOR: Dante, your thoughts on the Alabama defense.
DANTE PETTIS: Like Myles said, they play hard, they're fast. Their DBs are pretty big. They're physical. Their defense is kind of like ours. It's going to be fun to go against them.
THE MODERATOR: Jake?
JAKE ELDRENKAMP: I think, like these guys are saying, I don't think there's a front seven as challenging that we've faced this year, so it's going to be a challenge for us. But we're studying them and seeing what we're going to be able to do to be able to move them and create holes for these guys.
I think these guys summed it up pretty good. Very good defense. We definitely haven't seen a defense like this, and it will be awesome to play these guys come Saturday.
Q. This is for Myles and Dante. You guys have set all kind of passing records this season. But you just showed in the Colorado game what you can do when the passing game isn't working. Can you talk about that balance and what it means for you guys to keep the defense honest with your running game?
MYLES GASKIN: It's just one of those things you kind of, you feel good about sometimes. I mean, we had a great year passing the ball. I mean, Jake, John and Dante, everybody was just doing great, and O-line was holding up, passing and everything like that. Sometimes things fall through and sometimes things don't go the way we plan. Knowing we can run the ball felt good and it's one of those things where it's a good -- it's a good thing to happen to run the ball.
DANTE PETTIS: It's definitely good to have a balance, run and pass. There's a lot of teams that can only pass the ball. There's a lot of teams that can only run the ball. So it is good, when one thing isn't working, you can always resort to the other.
Q. For Jake, earlier this season, a Pitt offensive lineman ran for a touchdown. Yesterday, Coach Pete joked that after that happened, a bunch of the offensive linemen texted him and said are we going to do that this year? Were you one of those offensive linemen?
JAKE ELDRENKAMP: I wasn't one of the ones that texted him, but I'm one of the ones that should have. Every offensive lineman wants to run for a touchdown. These guys get to do it all the time.
Q. With the trick plays on the offensive line, is there one you think it's our moment to shine?
JAKE ELDRENKAMP: When you play offensive line, you know you're not going to have many of those moments.
Q. What stands out most to you about Alabama's defensive backs and how do you plan to go up against them?
JOHN ROSS: I think the physicality piece. Like Dante said earlier, bigger guys than we've seen this year. But I think we got a good scheme. I think our coaches are doing a very good job of preparing us for this game and it will be cool to see.
DANTE PETTIS: They're pretty big. They're strong, fast. They're a good group of DBs. But like Ross was saying earlier, we go against Sidney Jones and Kevin King every single day. I think they prepare it very well for what we're going to see.
Q. This is for John and also for Dante. John, how satisfying has it been to have a year like you've had this year, coming off the injury? And I guess more for Dante, how advantageous is it to have two guys on the outside as good as you guys are?
JOHN ROSS: Well, I'm just thankful and I feel blessed to be in a position that I am in with this team and, you know, just coming off of something like that is kind of hard to do.
We've got a good training staff, and they prepared me for this. Like I said, I'm thankful and happy in the situation that we all are in.
DANTE PETTIS: Definitely good to see Ross where he is right now, especially, like you said, coming off of an injury. And I think it does a lot when you have someone like him that can kind of open up the defense. Whether it's for, you know, me or for Chico or Myles, you know, it doesn't really matter. You have to pay attention, pay a little bit more attention to one person, opens everything up for other people.
Q. Dante, I was kind of talking to you a little bit beforehand about your father and you were talking about some of the things he taught you off the field to help you in your game.
I'm assuming he played high school football, at least. Does he pass along any tips, football-wise? As a baseball coach, I don't know, does that translate if he's trying to tell you anything about football?
DANTE PETTIS: He thinks he can, but, I mean, he's a baseball guy. So he definitely knows football really well, but some of the stuff doesn't really translate. He's a good athlete, though, so he knows what he's talking about for the most part. He doesn't really try to tell me what to do too much.
Q. Alabama won the SEC Championship, mostly in dominating fashion. You guys won the Pac-12, mostly in dominating fashion, yet you guys are two-touchdown underdogs. I was wondering if all of you could address how the team felt when they saw that point spread and maybe how that motivates you in this game.
THE MODERATOR: John, start with you.
JOHN ROSS: I didn't even know. We didn't hear about that, actually. I just feel like in this game, it don't matter what people say. You can be 100-point underdog or whatever. At the end of the day, you've still got to go out and play and that's our focus, not focused on what the spread is or what, you know, people who are not playing say. Our own focus is in practice and buying into what our coach is saying and our scheme.
MYLES GASKIN: Yeah, like John was saying. I didn't see it either. I mean, but people are going to write what they want to write and say what they want to say. I mean, like that's cool. That's somebody else's job. And we don't buy into that. Our job is to play football. Other people's job is to write stuff down. So whatever.
DANTE PETTIS: I was talking about that earlier. It doesn't really matter what they say the spread is. Still, both teams have to come out and play. And so really the only spread that matters is what the score line says after the game. So we don't really care too much about what the spread is.
THE MODERATOR: Jake?
JAKE ELDRENKAMP: I'm just glad we can still play the game at the end of the day, because if it was up to the media, I don't think we'd have a chance. The nice thing about football is once you start the game, everything is equal on the playing field.
Q. For all of you, that loss to USC, how much of a positive impact do you guys feel like you had on your season as a chance to really kind of see the things you guys needed to improve on and kind of give you that feeling that you're not completely unstoppable now that you have to go up against Alabama?
JOHN ROSS: I think mostly we stopped ourselves that game. I don't think we played as good as we have all season on offense, offensively that game.
So I think that helped us, like you said, prepare for our games where we need to improve and where our weaknesses were and what not to do against a very good, talented defense like that.
So I think those kind of games are the games you learn from, that you take in and you get better from there.
MYLES GASKIN: Just kind of gave us that -- I mean, we need to come back next week and the following week. We need to prove ourselves now because people were trying to push us out of the playoff.
After that loss, it gave us the fire that we need to win each game from here on out and dominate and no chance for anything like that. So I felt like it kind of gave us the fire to go out and finish the season the way we did.
DANTE PETTIS: Definitely gave us a little more edge. It had been a while since we felt that feeling after the game where you come into the locker room and everyone is like man, what just happened.
So I definitely think, looking back on it, it was probably a good thing. We obviously would have liked to have won that game. But I think it gave us a little bit more edge, like we're not going to feel that way again.
JAKE ELDRENKAMP: On top of all that, it just gave us a chance to regroup as a team, to go back and study what we were doing wrong and try to fix that.
Q. I just want to go back to the trick play question of a while ago and just talk about how exciting it is, I guess, when you hear one of those plays called and how good it feels to execute it like you did earlier this year, Dante.
DANTE PETTIS: You put all these trick plays in, you honestly only end up running maybe one a game. I know Coach P always has this huge thing, like everyone thinks he runs ten trick plays a game. But in reality, we run one or two if we're lucky.
So, you know, we'll have all these ones in and you always get really excited when they're your trick play and then you never end up running it. So it's kind of funny, because I was joking with Coach Hamden about the double pass earlier in the year. I was like, we're never going to run this play, so I don't know why we're going over it. And then sure enough that game, he called it. So it's definitely, it's a fun thing to be a part of.
THE MODERATOR: Before we wrap up, we do have a special presentation we're going to sneak in quickly. We've talked about the Battle for Bowl Week competitions. With victories in the go-carting and bowling events for last night, Washington has taken home the Battle for Bowl Week belt, so this is the official presentation.
I will note for the media, the team that wins the Battle for Bowl Week belt has gone on to win the game in each of the last six years. So after the first day of competition, Washington is up 2-0.
Thanks very much.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports