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January 6, 2017

Bo Pelini

Derek Rivers

Jody Webb

Frisco, Texas

THE MODERATOR: We'll start off with an overview from Coach Pelini and questions for the student-athletes.

BO PELINI: Well, we're looking forward to this challenge. It's been a long run. I'm proud of our football team. Proud of what they've done to get here, but it's on to the next thing. It's going to be a good challenge. We've got to play in a good football team. We're a good football team, so looking forward to it tomorrow.

Q. Derek, your reception here in Texas, it really feels like they've rolled out the red carpet with you and all the players. Can you talk about the reception you've gotten here in Texas?
DEREK RIVERS: I mean, shoot, I've just been soaking it up, man. It's fun, but, like I said, this whole thing has just been a team effort so there is no red carpet. The team got here, and like I said, we give God all the glory and all the honor for everything that we've done. It's because of him that we're here. I love being around my team, and these last couple days that I get to have fellowship with my boys, I've just been soaking it up and enjoying it.

Q. Jody, you have over 600 yards these playoffs. What is the key to your success?
JODY WEBB: Just doing my job. Coach Bo stresses just playing your part and trusting the guy next to you. I feel like my team has a lot of faith in me, and I have a lot of faith in my brothers. So I think just playing my role.

Q. Jody and Derek, can you just describe this moment for you what the next 24 hours what you're going to go through and your emotions?
JODY WEBB: I think the hardest part has been knowing that you're going to play in the National Championship, but it's taken days to get there. Today, we're one night away, so I think it's going to be a lot of anxiety, a lot of excitement, but we're almost there. So just trying to hold it in and waiting to peak is the most exciting part.

DEREK RIVERS: The hardest thing is just not peaking too early. Even on the bus ride over here you start thinking about plays that you want to make or just visualizing the game and how it's going to be, the crowd, and just the atmosphere of the whole game. So the hardest thing is just not peaking too early.

Q. Derek, so from looking at film, what stood out the most about JMU's offensive line? Do you think they're going to be any tougher than the other lines you've faced so far this year?
DEREK RIVERS: They most definitely have a respectable O-line. They're here. They scored 48 rushing touchdowns this season. So credit to them. But like I said, the strength of our conference, they'll be one of the better O-lines we've played this year. Like I said, we don't worry about them. We worry about what we do and how we play. So we play our style of defense, our style of just our D-line play, we'll be all right.

Q. For all the players, Derek first, how hard is it to kind of balance having fun and kind of soaking this all in, and also when you've got to focus for practice and film and whatnot? Is it hard to balance that?
DEREK RIVERS: No, because that's kind of how it is during the game. You have fun with your boys throughout the week, even during the regular season. Then once Thursday, Friday rolls around, it's time to lock in and go over your assignments in your head, go over your playbook, and that's just a reminder. That's how it was today. When everybody woke up this morning, they knew it's Friday. It's time to lock in. We got our minds right, and we knew it was time to handle. That's kind of how we get it done.

THE MODERATOR: Did you want Jody to comment?

JODY WEBB: Well, I think the most exciting part is that at least we've been on a mission since the first week of September. And this is one of the first times where we actually get to enjoy it and kind of accept what's being rewarded to us. Like last night, we had a good time, but at the same time we understand that that's now in the past. Now we have to get back to business. So I think that's probably the best part. Understanding that there is a time to play and there is a time to focus up.

Q. Jody and Derek, tomorrow will be the last time you put on a red and white uniform. What's this meant to you for four years, and Derek as well? Jody?
JODY WEBB: Well, I mean, it's been a journey, but we've made major progress since we've been here. We've come up short plenty of times, and this time it's great. It's a great one. It's a great team to be a part of. A great organization. Our staff is amazing, and what better way to go out.

DEREK RIVERS: It's a blessing, man. I'm most definitely going to -- I know all of us are most definitely going to miss it. But it's something that our coaching staff always talks about, being remembered and leaving a legacy. Everybody, we're all going to remember this till we pass away. It's just something that's always going to be there, the year we played in the National Championship. It's a blessing, and it will be good to bring that trophy back to Youngstown.

Q. Derek, you and Moss have been called the best defensive ends not only in the FCS but in all of college football. Does that put more pressure on you or motivate you guys to go out more and prove them right?
DEREK RIVERS: No, sir, not at all. Like I said, we give all our credit to our Lord and our savior, Jesus. We go out there and just play ball. Me and Av, that's my best friend, man, we go out there and play ball. That's all we do. We make each other better, and we feed off of each other. So there is no pressure there. Because we know we've got each other's backs. When one of us is down, we bring each other up and we go out there and help each other out and feed off each other's energy. So that's how we get it done. That's how we play.

Q. Coach, you've coached in a Super Bowl, you've coached in a National Championship Game, you've coached in bowl games. You've been received at all of those. How would you characterize the reception your team has gotten here in Texas?
BO PELINI: It's been a great reception. The city of Frisco, Team Frisco, everybody associated with the National Championship have done a really good job. I know our kids have had a good time, and it's been first class. So that's all you can ask.

Q. As you alluded to, you've been in a lot of big games in certain situations. Where does this rank in that?
BO PELINI: Oh, I don't know. I don't really think about that and how they rank. Every game you play in, the way I've been brought up in this sport, is important. Obviously when you're coaching, it's about the kids. It's about what's important. This is an important game for them, the university, the city.

But they have to enjoy it. That's the important part of it. You want them to have a great experience, and our job, my job is to make sure we give them the best opportunity to be successful, and that's where my focus is.

Q. After looking at film, what stands out the most to you about Bryan Schor and the offense just in general?
BO PELINI: Well-coached, very balanced. They have a number of weapons. Any offense that has balance has a chance to have success. I think they've proved that. They do some good things. They're a good unit that's had a lot of success, so it will be a nice challenge for us.

Q. All year you've talked about peaking at the right time. It seems that's really paid off for you in the playoffs. Kids up here talking about peaking at the right time this week. Have you noticed that, that your team is on the uptick heading into the biggest game?
BO PELINI: Well, you hope so. We stay very consistent, as you guys know, in our approach. Don't try to get too high, too low. Take a little more of a business-like approach to it, black-and-white approach as far as trying to get better each week. I think our kids have bought into that. You get into a game like this, you can't change who you are. You have to do the things that got you there. I think our kids understand that. We know we're going to play a very good opponent. We have a tremendous amount of respect for, and the way you show respect is by playing your butt off. I think our kids understand that. That's what they'll do.

Q. Was it tough to get things done the last few days weather-wise or not at all?
BO PELINI: No, we did the bulk of our work back in Youngstown. We had a little short workout yesterday and a little bit longer workout today. You control what you can. You can't control the weather. It's part of the deal. We won't be able to control the weather tomorrow. You've got to be able to go out and play no matter whether it's 70 or whether it's 7. We've been through that before. I believe JMU has also. So I don't think that will be an issue.

Q. You had two new safeties start in your last game. Have you had to make any changes schematically with those guys coming in? And how did you think they played in that game?
BO PELINI: They did some good things in that game. They've made some mistakes. I think now they've improved over the last couple weeks. I think the extra practice time has helped them. I expect them to play a little bit better. We do what we have to do to win the football game. We're not going to tweak it for anybody. Our safeties, our ones and our twos, they rep pretty much the same all year long. So they've been getting equal reps to the ones. So they understand the system. It's not like we had to go on the wire and sign two new guys. They've been a part of our football team. So I think they'll be ready to go.

Q. Now, you guys have had a tremendous defense all year. Then the offense turned it on at the end of the year and is tearing it up during the playoffs. What was the biggest change that brought the offense together?
BO PELINI: Well, we tweaked some things offensively from the North Dakota State game on. Made some subtle changes I think that have helped us. I think that's enabled us to become more balanced, really allow our guys to play faster, more physical. I think that you look every week and at that point in the season we looked at what we were doing and said how can we do some things better?

And I think the changes that we've made, although subtle, adding to what we were doing before, has really helped us. That's the key. I've kind of talked about it all year long. You have to keep looking at it from a coaching standpoint and find out what you do good, what you don't do quite as good, and make changes and improvements as the year goes on. That enables you to finish strong.

Q. Can you give us a glimpse of what your emotions are right now, and what you'll be thinking about tonight and as you're leading up to kickoff?
BO PELINI: I'm looking -- my emotions right now? Really, no different than I am any other day, any other game. It's about what we have to do tonight. We have meetings coming up with our team and finishing certain things off and getting a good night's rest, and that's kind of where my focus is. I'm not going to -- I've been in this situation a number of times and, you know, we're looking forward to the next challenge that's in front of us.

That's how I'm going to approach it. And I think as long as I stay consistent, our football team will approach it that way also.

Q. Avery Moss has kind of had a nagging injury. Did the three weeks off help him? Is he close to 100 percent or at 100 percent?
BO PELINI: Absolutely. He's feeling a lot better than he was. I don't know if 100 percent, but he's close to it. He's fast out there and confident. So having a healthy No. 9 will help us, I know that.

Q. Coach, how has playing in the Missouri Valley made you ready for the game tomorrow?
BO PELINI: Well, we played a tough schedule. Lot of good football teams, a physical schedule, so you kind of go through the schedule we do, and then through the playoffs I think we've played the second seeded team, the third seeded team. We've had our challenges along the way. Played in a lot of tough football games. So I think that will help us.

Hopefully, you know, we'll find out, but anytime you play a good schedule, it enables you to get better. It enables you to assess your football team and move forward as the year has gone on. I know we've gotten better as a football team, especially over the last month and a half or so.

Q. From a numbers' standpoint, their defense has gotten significantly better as the year went on. Anything you noticed that they're doing differently or better at this point of the year compared to earlier?
BO PELINI: Their defense? Well, they execute well. I think they make good adjustments. They kind of settle in. They're going to do what they do. They're not going to try to recreate the wheel or anything. They're going to pressure a little bit. Not a huge pressure team, but they do enough to pose problems. I think they make good adjustments according to what type of offense they're playing and what their strengths are. They have a veteran defensive coordinator. He's been around, and he does a good job. I think that it shows in the type of defense they play. They're a well-coached team, and they have good talent over there.

Like any good team, I mean, they wouldn't be here if they haven't gotten better as the season has gone on. I think that's why we're the last two teams standing, because both our football teams have improved.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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