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December 1, 2017

Clay Helton

Uchenna Nwosu

Sam Darnold

Santa Clara, California

USC - 31, Stanford - 28

THE MODERATOR: Joining us is quarterback Sam Darnold, the game's MVP, Clay Helton, and joining us shortly will be senior linebacker Uchenna Nwosu.

CLAY HELTON: Glory to God and a bunch of great kids. Been an absolute honor to be around this group of men as staff and players for this football family and what it's accomplished this year. Their 11th win to be back as Pac-12 champs, champs since 2008, I couldn't be more proud of the group and proud to be associated with them.

I thought it was a very, very hard-fought game, a great game by both schools. Credit to Coach Shaw and Stanford. They played their hearts out, absolute hearts out. So proud. This was a team effort, and these guys found a way. We said that failure was not an option when we began today, and to see that defensive stand on the goal line, to see a 99-yard drive to take the lead, these kids win games, players win games. So I'll let you all talk to them and ask them questions. If you've got any for me, feel free to ask, but these guys got it done.

Q. Coach, on 4th and 2, were you going for it all the way?

Q. Can you describe what you were thinking for that play?
CLAY HELTON: Wanted to control our own destiny. We were playing for a Pac-12 title, and there was no question in my mind that we were going to go for it and end the game right there.

Q. Can you walk us through your motions on that fourth down stop on the other end?
CLAY HELTON: Just, I think, just being prideful. I don't know how many snaps we were down there. We ended up getting a penalty that puts them on the six. Then they get down to, it looked like, the one-inch line, and a hold right there. You're talking about one of the best short yardage run teams there is in the world. For our defense to hold the line, not once, but twice there on the 1. Man, just they found a way. I'm proud of these guys. They're unbelievable.

Q. You made the play on that play. Can you walk us through how you saw the play transpire?
UCHENNA NWOSU: We saw the offensive line and the tight ends squeeze down, so we knew it was going to be a tight run. So we told our guys hunker down. This is what Trojan football is. And we were able to make the play for our family and our friends.

Q. Coach, did you feel like this game was sort of like a microcosm of the season where things didn't exactly go right the whole time, but you were able to pull it out in the end?
CLAY HELTON: We were just talking, and we just find ways to win as a football team. It's hard to win in the Pac-12. You've got nine teams that are bowl eligible, and, you know, Stanford is a class act bunch that wanted a championship just as bad as us. We knew it would be a fourth-quarter game. It would be four quarters. Credit to these guys, you go all the way through the season, how they just finish games is amazing to me. They're the best finishing bunch I've been associated with in my 23 years of college coaching. They just find ways to win, and that's the name of the game.

Nobody will remember the scores ten years from now. But they will remember that these kids were Pac-12 champions.

Q. Clay, do you think that the fourth down defensive goal line stand and the ensuing 99-yard drive were the two basic plays of the year?
CLAY HELTON: I would say no question. I mean, just, it was time to dig deep. It was time to dig deep and win a championship. When you're trying to win one, those are the plays that are going to define you and define your football team, and that's these kids.

We live in a high-pressure world of great expectations on the brightest stage, brightest lights, only game on in the world tonight. These kids stood up on the goal line stand and decided to go 99 yards to finish the game. That defines who they are. They are the definition of fight on.

Q. Also at the end there when you needed that first down, you called a pass play to get to a follow. Kind of take us through the mindset of that?
CLAY HELTON: Yeah, I thought Tee makes a great call. We had talked about prior to that get our best three-run plays and our best naked, because we wanted to give Sam a run-pass option, and to be able to flood the field, if needed. That's what you saw. We had a three tight end package in, a heavy set, and terrific job by Sam. Breaking contain, going through his progression, and getting into Josh Falo, how about a true freshman to end the game for a Pac-12 title? That's really cool, really cool.

Q. Congratulations all you men. Sam, good news is right after they stop on 4th and 1, you've got the ball back. Take us through your mindset. It almost looked like you got sacked on that 50-yard play, and just kind of what you saw.
SAM DARNOLD: Yeah, it was a sluggo scheme concept. I saw Steve kind of beat the corner on the sluggo. And he kind of got held up a little bit. Just decided to move up in the pocket and kind of send some guys around me. So I moved up and found Pitt on the field. I was going to move down and run, but kind of flashed in my vision there, and I found him.

Q. Michael had a great game, Sam. Breakout performance for him. Is that something representative of who he is as a player? Are we going to see more of that?
SAM DARNOLD: Yeah, 100%. That's kind of true with everyone, all the receivers, honestly. All of them are capable of having breakout performances and having great games. It was just Pitt's night, I think. Other guys stepped up in different areas, whether it was blocking or pass catching. So, I just think it was a great team win and something I'll never forget.

Q. Back in the summer you mentioned developing chemistry with the wide receivers as kind of being a priority. At what point did you feel it click with some of those young guys like Tyler and Pittman?
SAM DARNOLD: I mentioned it earlier in the week. I think Tyler really clicked after the Washington State game. Then Pitt had his moments in games and started to get him the ball a little bit. Just following the lead of guys like Jalen Green, Deontay and Steven, the older guys of the group. They showed great leadership throughout the year. It was just an awesome, awesome end of the season, seeing Pitt do what he did. Then Tyler coming up big, and Deontay coming up huge all year. Credit to those guys.

Q. Coach, at halftime you guys had dominated the first half. Maybe the scoreboard didn't reflect it. What did you tell your guys about what's going on?
CLAY HELTON: Really, you're sitting there, and it was a three-point game. When you look at the stats, it was really a ball possession game. When you look at both sides, both of us were in backed up territory the entire game, because there wasn't a lot of turnovers. We finally gave one up and that provided great field position for them.

You're sitting there, and really, we had driven the ball, we had scored. There wasn't a lot of possessions in that first half. The one thing that I thought our defense got better at was just some big plays had hurt us.

Had to have the perfect coverage called for the long pass down the boundary, the safety was over top, we just didn't come up with the play. They had made two drives and it's 17-14 in the Pac-12 Championship. You're up three. You've got 30 minutes to play. Just make the correction that's need to be corrected and let's finish the game was a simple statement. I thought the adjustments on both sides by both coordinators were fabulous as it went to the second half.

Q. Sam, you had an incredible game last year in the Rose Bowl, dramatic ending. But this was for a championship. Compare the two, and how much does this championship mean to you and your team?
SAM DARNOLD: Right now this means the most in the world right now. It's special to see how far we've come as a team. This is definitely winning a Pac-12 championship is our goal at the beginning of the year, and we achieved that goal. So I'm really excited for what's to come. However we get ranked is not up to us, but we're just going to continue to compete, and that's all we can do.

Q. Sam, in practice this week you were talking about how good and strong and fast this Stanford defense was. How different were they compared to the first meeting of the year? How do you see them?
SAM DARNOLD: Same personnel. A little mix-up there in the back end, but I think that they continue to play hard both match-ups. They're just a bunch -- gives it a hundred percent. They always come out ready to play. I think we were ready to play the first time, obviously, and the second time around we came out ready to play again. That's just such a credit to our offensive line being able to handle those big guys up front, and the front seven of Stanford. It's always a tough job to do that, and our O-line really stepped up. And (indiscernible) the ball was obviously amazing as always.

Q. What is the challenge of going against an offense, especially when you played them earlier in the season trying to match up with differences and similarities?
UCHENNA NWOSU: Just trying to figure out what they know. I know they studied a lot of tape on me. You saw on the film tonight. Just trying to find a new way to beat them. Trying to find a new way to get around them, get under their skin any way possible. So, that was the biggest challenge for me.

Q. I just wanted to know if you want to make a case for you guys in the Final Four?
CLAY HELTON: Yeah, you're sitting here as a champion, I think that's important. There are going to be a lot of games that happen tomorrow that are going to decide the future for a lot of football teams. But we sit here with 11 wins. We sit here as a conference champion. We sit here with an unbelievable strength of schedule, and had the opportunity to show on national TV, I think we were the only game on, who we are. Obviously, the reality is we'll need some help. But if you look up and there's four teams that are two-loss champions, conference champions, I think we deserve to be in the discussion, especially the way these guys finished the season. They're hot right now and they're playing good football.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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