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December 20, 2017

John Bonamego

Joe Ostman

Amari Coleman

Tyler Conklin

Boise, Idaho

THE MODERATOR: This is Central Michigan. We have head coach John Bonamego, Tyler Conklin, Amari Coleman, and Joe Ostman. We'll start with a statement from the head coach.

JOHN BONAMEGO: Well, I'd first like to thank the bowl committee for selecting us to play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Everything in our experience the last two years, different bowls that we've been to, this really has been a first-class operation. The people, the events, our players have had a fantastic time. I really want to extend a thank you on behalf of myself, our program and really our entire university for the invitation and just the hospitality, treatment and everything that we've received.

I want to thank our administration. I really want to thank my staff, my coaching staff, and our players for the hard work they put in throughout the season to get us to that point.

We're excited for the matchup. Wyoming is a quality opponent. I have the utmost respect for Coach Bohl, their program, just how he does things. I've followed him for a number of years. It's been great to have the opportunity to kind of interact with him and share some stories, really get to know him a little bit better.

We're excited for the matchup. We're excited to be here. We can't wait to play on Friday.

With that I'll open it up to questions.

Q. As you were preparing for this, you probably knew about Josh Allen. Were you always preparing you would face him? Does it make it harder now, change anything?
JOHN BONAMEGO: Changes nothing at all. I mean, you're always going to prepare for their best. Really our attitude all season long has been to put the main focus on the things that we're in control of.

We don't live in the past. Good or bad, we kind of reset our priorities. We set our sights on the next objective. We put everything we can into the preparation for going out to be able to install a game plan, then our players learn the game plan, go out and execute, try to earn a win on game day.

The onus has been all season long more about us, what we can control, what we do versus who we're playing.

Q. Amari and Joe, you guys are in the top of the country at getting turnovers this year. From the secondary's point of view, the defensive line's point of view, why have you been successful at that?
AMARI COLEMAN: I believe from the D-line, other players' ability, the D-line gives pressure. When the defensive line gets pressure, then the QB rushes the throw, we can go get the ball, make turnovers. I feel like it's a combined effort.

JOE OSTMAN: Complementary football. Our secondary, our defense as a whole, has a lot of experience. We've played together for a long time. The guys in the secondary aren't giving quarterbacks anywhere to go. Combination of that and our defensive line having a variety of guys that can get to the quarterback. That's what happens here, we create turnovers, get sacks. We're lucky to be able to play together these last few years. Looking forward to one more game.

Q. Tyler, Wyoming is second in takeaways. Do you like playing against defenses like this?
TYLER CONKLIN: Going against our defense every day, throughout camp, through practice, kind of put us in the best situation possible preparing for this defense. We got great corners. We're great at every position, defensive line, linebackers, corners. Really nothing we haven't seen.

When it comes to our defense, day in, day out, just having prepared extremely well for this Wyoming defense who is good at creating turnovers. They have a good defense all together.

Q. Talk about both teams forcing turnovers. When you look at Wyoming, do you see a lot of similarities? Do you see marked differences?
JOHN BONAMEGO: I think they're an excellent defense overall. They don't give up a lot of big plays, so consequently don't give a lot of points up. They're well-coached, play with a high-level effort. They're just solid all the way around.

I think they've got some really good players on that defense. It's not like they're relying on one or two superstars. I think they're very well-built. I think they're exceptionally sound in scheme. They're just a very well-coached defensive team.

When you have that combination of a sound defense that plays hard, they become opportunistic. I see that similarity in us.

When you can make the quarterback uncomfortable, he's got to throw the ball before he's ready, he's going to make bad throws, and that creates opportunities for the secondary. If he hangs on to it too long, we're going to get him and get sacks.

Again, Joey mentioned complementary football, front end, back end, tied together. Really offensively, defensively, you know, when we get turnovers defensively, it helps our offense. Both teams have benefited from a very opportunistic, aggressive, ball hawking defense.

Q. All three of you guys are seniors. You've been through many bowl games in your careers. Has there been a little bit of a change in the attitude this year going into this bowl game knowing it's your last one, one you really want to win?
UNIDENTIFIEDSPEAKER: It's really important to us. We've talked about it a little bit. We haven't won a bowl game since we've been here. We've been to a few. We think this is a huge opportunity. Also this season, we've taken it game by game. We feel like we've been able to build a lot of momentum as the season has went on.

UNIDENTIFIEDSPEAKER: We've gotten. The chemistry, the bond we have on team is very strong. We're looking forward to the opportunity.

UNIDENTIFIEDSPEAKER: Going off what Joey said, want to finish up with a win. We've been trying to get this the last three years and we haven't. That's our main focus and our main goal, to come out on top.

UNIDENTIFIEDSPEAKER: I also want to thank the bowl committee. It's been a great bowl. Everything has been fantastic. A lot of fun, great food. We really enjoyed ourselves a lot.

Like they said, we haven't won a bowl game yet. After a disappointing loss last year, kind of went in with a different mindset. We're excited to go out there and to win another trophy, cap off our season on a great winning streak.

Q. Amari and Joe, finding out today Josh Allen will be playing in the game, as defensive guys, do you embrace that challenge?
UNIDENTIFIEDSPEAKER: I look forward to it. Obviously it comes out on us, how we play. At the same time it's a great opportunity for us to make plays, show that our play is validated. I feel like it's something we always want to do, make good plays on a good player.

UNIDENTIFIEDSPEAKER: Yeah, it's good to hear. You never want to see anyone get injured.

With that being said, we also want to see their best. We're looking forward to the opportunity to play him, make life tough for him Friday night.

Q. Tyler, what has it been like playing with Shane Morris as your quarterback?
TYLER CONKLIN: It's great to see him succeed after having a tough start to his career at Michigan. Had a lot of talks with him about how he was so down at one point. To come here, have one last chance, have the season he's had, help us reach the point we've reached as a team this year has been great. He's an exceptional quarterback with exceptional arm strength. Makes our offense better. I'm excited about it, happy for him. I'm excited to go out there as a team and get a win on Friday.

Q. What are his strengths? We've seen Allen play on a number of occasions.
JOHN BONAMEGO: Shane is a guy that can run and throw. He's got a strong arm. He's got a very good understanding of the game. He's very quick decision maker, particularly in the RPO game, which is something we feature.

As he's grown and become more comfortable in this offense and really the cast that has surrounded him, because that was a challenge in the beginning, Tyler missed a number of games, Corey Willis missed a number of games, we lost another excellent receiver. It was a changing cast the first five, six weeks of the season.

As things settled down for him, he's really taken his game to another level. A big part of that was confidence. But his ability to get us out of a bad play, get us into a good play, is something that he's done quite a bit. He's a competitive guy. You never feel like you're out of it with him. In a lot of ways he's similar to Cooper Rush, who started the last four years for us prior to Shane.

When you look at what he's done, what he's accomplished this year, especially at that position, I think it's really remarkable. He did not have the benefit of spring practice. There was a lot of change in the beginning of the year, so he came in, had to learn a new offense, learn his teammates, blend into a culture, make himself accessible and adopt our culture, really become accepted by the team.

You're talking about a guy that really hasn't started consistently since high school. He was highly recruited, highly touted out of high school. Goes to Michigan. For whatever reason, things just didn't work out the way they planned. You're not talking about a guy that came here who has been a two-year starter, three-year starter. Essentially this is his first year as a starting quarterback.

I think what he's been able to accomplish in a very short amount of time says a lot about his passion for the game, his intelligence and his talent.

Q. Coach, three of them are sitting next to you, seniors, comment on what that senior class meant.
JOHN BONAMEGO: I think the operative word is 'culture'. I think these guys have learned and demonstrated on a daily basis what leadership requires, the commitment that it requires, the sacrifices that it requires. They have led in all three ways that we talked about leading.

So much of what we think about leadership is just leading by example or doing the right thing. I believe personally that leadership has to transcend much, much higher than that. If you're going to be effective, just doing the right thing isn't enough. That just makes you a good example. You can't lead quietly. You can't be a leader and sit in the corner passively and not engage people or communicate.

That's based on relationships that you develop over time. It's based on respect. It has to start with the foundation of being somebody who does things the right way. These guys have personified that in their own ways through their own personalities. Conversations that we've had, you know, them willing to put themselves out there to come to me, taking my message back to the team.

You're going to face adversity throughout a 12-game season. Every team's going to go through it. It's going to come up in some way, shape or form. How you handle that, how you navigate those times is going to really be dependent on the strength of the leaders of your team.

As coaches, always the head coach, as position coaches, coordinators, that's part of our job description. We're expected to be leaders. But we have said from the beginning, and I've always believed that the greatest teams I've always been a part of, have been player-led. You've had great leadership in the locker room.

These three, then pretty much to a man everyone that's been in their class, it really started a year ago. After we lost against Tulsa in the bowl game, the manner in which the season ended, these guys kind of made a determination that they weren't going to finish out their college careers that way. They were going to fully invest themselves and demand from everybody else that they follow suit. That's what they did.

In doing that, I believe we've taken a big step forward in our program because they've set new standards, they've set the bar higher. They've been a great example for our underclassmen, not just the rising seniors next year, but all the way down to the freshmen class, of what it's supposed to look like.

That's an important step when you come in and you're trying to establish a culture. It takes time. I feel like we've taken a huge step forward this year. A huge amount of credit has to go to these guys up here.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys.

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