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January 6, 2018
North Dakota State University - 17, James Madison University - 13
THE MODERATOR: We have the James Madison folks at the podium now, if you all can stream in.
Mike, why don't you give us an overview of what you saw out there today.
MIKE HOUSTON: Obviously, it's a disappointing end to an absolutely phenomenal season. This group is -- went out and played their hearts out every single weekend, represented James Madison University in a first-class manner on and off the field.
The senior class will leave here as the winningest class in the history of James Madison football.
Hats off to North Dakota State today. They made the plays, and we made too many mistakes. That's what it boils down to. But they deserve to hoist the trophy out there, and we have a great deal of respect for them.
But this group of seniors will not be forgotten. They're just a special, special, special group of young men. I've been fortunate to be their coach.
Q. Bryan, what did you guys talk about at halftime so that you could get back in the game in the third quarter? Because, obviously, you guys had some mistakes that are kind of uncharacteristic in that first half.
BRYAN SCHOR: We talked about how we just scored in 40 seconds, how we got the ball down the field. Obviously, we'd rather get a touchdown and a field goal in that situation, but we talked about how we just punched it in.
Then we felt confident. We felt that, if we went out there in the second half and continued to do those things, that we'd be successful.
Q. Simeyon, can you talk about the tone-setting effort that the defense tried to produce coming out of halftime there? It looked like you tried to take over the game a little bit.
SIMEYON ROBINSON: Yeah, Bryan brought us together. He had something to say before we came out after the half. Defense took it upon ourselves to try to make something happen, get the ball back to the offense's hands, and we wanted to set the tone coming out in the second half.
Q. For any of you guys, some of those mistakes in the first half, is it disappointing because you haven't made them really all season? Is it disappointing because it's kind of the last time you guys will play together? How would you kind of assess things you didn't do all year that kind of happened early in the game today.
THE MODERATOR: Aaron, why don't we start with you.
AARON STINNIE: Things like that happen in the game. It's just we have to try to overcome them, and that's what we tried to do during the game.
THE MODERATOR: Kyre, would you respond.
KYRE HAWKINS: We just -- like you said, mistakes we made were uncharacteristic, but we stuck together, we stuck to our guns, and we kept pushing because we're a family, and that's what we do. We kept giving it our all. We gave it our all until the last second. We gave our best effort.
We'd like to commend North Dakota State for a great game.
Q. Can you speak to trying to detain the Bison. Obviously, the rush was a big factor, keeping Bryan on the run. What did they do that allowed them to disrupt them?
AARON STINNIE: Hats off to North Dakota State. They come out with a really good scheme. Had a lot of wide rushers, blitzers, running different games, things like that.
It was a lot to just try to pick up on. I think that we were trying to handle that pretty well, but hats off to them. They had a really good scheme coming out there.
Q. Aaron, you guys really lived with the run the last two seasons. What does it do to you guys as an offense when you guys struggle to run the ball as you did today?
AARON STINNIE: We just try to stay together, get back to it. We try to pass the ball around, open it up a little bit. When teams come with different schemes like that, you know, it's just upon us to communicate and get those things going. That's just how we try to get it back on.
Q. Bryan, obviously, heartbreaking loss. What do you love most about this team and your teammates this year?
BRYAN SCHOR: I think I love about my teammates this year is something that I've loved since I got to JMU. It's a special community there. Being on campus and being around the students is special, but inside that locker room, we have something that no one else has in the country. That's the camaraderie, the brotherhood, the family that we have in there.
I think, ending my career, the hardest thing is to not have that piece anymore and to not have those guys in there.
This is a bond that goes a lot further than just a football field. I know I'll have these guys the rest of my life. I cherish these last four years. I think that's what speaks out most to me about what I love about JMU and what I love about our team.
Q. Bryan, can you talk about Riley's performance today and how he kept you guys in the game and how that's something the team can build upon moving forward?
BRYAN SCHOR: I think the last couple weeks you guys saw who Riley Stapleton was. That's who we saw. That's who we know he was. His performance in the last couple games -- get used to hearing about Riley Stapleton. Get used to hearing about No. 10 from JMU, because he's a serious player, and I look forward to watching him in the future.
Q. For Kyre and Simeyon, another great defensive performance today, especially in the second half. Is this the best defense you guys have ever been a part of?
KYRE HAWKINS: Yeah, I would definitely say this is the best defense I've been a part of, not just statistically, but what we bring to the field, how we come out and play together, how we go out there and we don't have to second guess what the guy next to us is doing because we know that he has our back.
So we put the statistics aside, we put all the awards aside, all the accolades, and we just go out there and play as one, and that's what makes us a great defense.
SIMEYON ROBINSON: Definitely the best defense I've ever played with. We're a family out there. We've been together for a very long time, and we're just a family out there. We all know each other's job description. It's just a family. That's all I can say.
Q. Simeyon, what was your approach today -- you obviously had the two sacks and then also the blocked field goal. Can you also tell me about what you saw on the blocked field goal.
SIMEYON ROBINSON: I needed to block the field goal. I needed to block the field goal for the offense to get back on the field and have the opportunity to score. That was my mindset. That was everybody else's mindset, block the field goal. I didn't really see anything. I just played for my team.
Q. And the sacks?
SIMEYON ROBINSON: Yeah, those are big sacks. It doesn't really matter at this point. They're big stops, but they create opportunities for offense. But to still come up short, it doesn't pay off at all.
Q. Bryan, first of all, how much life did that fake punt give the sideline? Secondly, what was said during the time-out before that last throw?
BRYAN SCHOR: You know what, it obviously gave us a lot of life. We've got a special guy back there kicking the ball, and I look forward to watching him in the future as well.
During that time-out, we just called the play we wanted to run. It's a play we felt comfortable with all year. Credit to North Dakota State. They had an idea of what we were thinking. Obviously, trying to get the ball in toward the end zone. They did a good job in coverage. On a fourth down like that, I just tried to give our guys an opportunity. They did a good job batting the ball down.
Q. Bryan, what's the one thing that Coach Houston has instilled in you that you're going to take long beyond your playing days?
BRYAN SCHOR: It's been a lot of things. I think one thing -- and I say it a lot when we talk about Coach Houston, and it's something that probably changed my life when he came and talked to us about it. He came in front of us and said he was going to trust us and he wanted us to trust him as well.
It's a special thing in college football to get from your coach to know that you can look him in the eye. When he says something to you, it's the real thing. He speaks with integrity.
If I can take one thing away, that's probably going to be it. When I raise my kids and I live the rest of my life, you know, what I say is going to be what I mean. That's something he's taught me, and I'm going to take on for the rest of my life.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thank you. Congratulations on a great season. I know it didn't end the way you'd like, but great job. Thanks.
We'll open it up for questions for Coach Houston.
Q. Two parts, Coach. What made NDSU's defense so tough to get points on? Was this about as physical a game as you guys have played this season?
MIKE HOUSTON: I think they're a sound group. They obviously have great players. They have a very, very good scheme. The kids play very, very hard. They're well coached. I think they play together very, very well. They have a lot of characteristics that we believe in, and I think that probably both teams say this is the most physical game they've played in all year.
Q. Coach, you've not been afraid to talk about your praise for Bryan Schor. Today he showed a lot on the field. What can you say about him, just his JMU legacy that he's made?
MIKE HOUSTON: He's the record holder in every major stat category in JMU history, and he's probably the winningest quarterback in the history of the program. He is as fine of a young man as I've ever coached.
Q. In your estimation, is that the difference, them heating up Bryan a little bit, making him move?
MIKE HOUSTON: Yeah, and we just made too many mistakes. The 15-yarders were critical mistakes the first half. We don't make those mistakes. The dropped passes, we don't typically drop those passes, and the turnovers. I think it's a culmination of all that.
We felt like we could win the one-on-one matchups, and it turned into a little more of a throwing game than we wanted. They're a great football team, and it was a fantastic game. We just came up on the short end of the stick.
Q. D'Angelo Amos was pretty dynamic in the punt return game. What did you see out of him, and how did him flipping the field affect the offense?
MIKE HOUSTON: I think our punt return team did a good job today of getting on the coverage guys, holding them up, giving D'Angelo some room. I think he did a good job with his vision, just seeing the cuts and seeing where the return was, and getting us solid field position. So excited to have him coming back for the future.
Q. Like I asked Kyre and Simeyon, is this the best defense you've coached?
MIKE HOUSTON: It's one of the best. We've been fortunate to have some pretty good defenses over the years, but certainly this is one of the best. Probably the best defensive unit in the history of James Madison University.
Q. What did you tell them at halftime after those kind of mistakes that happened in the first half? After the half, you guys had seemed to settle in.
MIKE HOUSTON: I told them we were going to win the football game, and we firmly believed that.
Q. Coach Houston, who's the most improved player this season?
MIKE HOUSTON: I don't know. We've got a couple. Simeyon Robinson, Jahee Jackson, Riley Stapleton. All those guys have made drastic improvement from last year to this year.
Q. Mike, what was the decision on the late punt there, and what did you say to the guys during the time-out before Bryan's final throw?
MIKE HOUSTON: We worked that all week. We felt like we get that look from them. As we worked that fake for the last couple of weeks, we saw it on the first punt that it was there. I just wanted to wait until the right time because you only get one shot at it. Fortunately, we had the opportunity right there, and Landan made a great block. Brandon blocked down, Landan kicked it out, and Harry made the play. Gave our offense a chance to win the ball game right there.
The only thing to say to them on that last play is just go out there and be us and make a play. It's fourth down in the National Championship Game, down four, from the 20-yard line or 25-yard line. I mean, that's for everything.
Q. Mike, what reason did you have to be confident at halftime? This is not a team that's had to come back hardly at all the last two years?
MIKE HOUSTON: Just the feeling we had going into the half. They had 53 yards rushing in the first half. We had a busted coverage to give up a touchdown, and we made a couple mistakes we don't typically make. We felt like we shouldn't have been in the position we were at the half. We drove down and made the play to get the points right before the half.
I just felt like this team had what it took to beat that North Dakota State team. We were confident coming out of the half. If somebody would have put a mic in front of me at the half, I would have told them we're going to win the ball game. I promise you everybody in that locker room thought we were going to.
We had our opportunities, but hats off to North Dakota State. They made the plays when they had to, and we didn't. That's what it came down to. The plays were there.
Q. You guys all season have forced opposing quarterbacks into mistakes. Easton took sacks, but he didn't turn the ball over. How key was his ability, even to take some sacks, but he didn't give the ball away?
MIKE HOUSTON: I think that was critical. That was another thing we talked about at the half was trying to put the ball and put the game in his hands. We tried to put as much pressure on him as we could and then try to force the turnovers. That was our mindset taking the field in the second half. To his credit, he's an experienced veteran quarterback, and you've got to have guys go out and perform like that to win a National Championship.
Q. As you look ahead, is it possible to maintain this without a starting quarterback who's been there for three years without some of these other fellas who have been regulars for three years?
MIKE HOUSTON: We're sure going to try. That's our goal. I want to be back here again next year.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports