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January 5, 2019

Aaron Best

Ketner Kupp

Sam McPherson

Eric Barriere

Frisco, Texas

North Dakota State - 38, Eastern Washington - 24

COACH BEST: First off, I want to say the team we faced today is a very good football team. Obviously they proved that over not just the course of the year but over a period of time now. We played our absolute asses off. We appreciate it. (Inaudible) but we played our tails off today. We fought through a lot of adversity, whether it be bad playing, bad coaching, penalties. We had self-inflicted some of the wounds we have and you can't do that against anybody, especially on this stage. Those get exploited all too often.

It wasn't a fantastic 60 minutes. But I thought, like I said, we more than held our own for a lengthy period of time. We came in aggressively. We played aggressive. We coached aggressive. And we'll leave here aggressive.

Q. What made it so difficult to put together a drive against them?
COACH BEST: Too many penalties. And when we had penalties, they were big penalties. They weren't ten yard variety they were 50 because we gained 40 on those plays. Lining up incorrectly. Holding.

We had too many penalties and we executed well in areas the last touchdown we had we computed in five plays, went down the field and that's what Eric Barriere is going to bring to us in the future. He's a puppy in this game. So was I. We all make mistakes. You just see his physically, not (indiscernible). To succeed you've got to fail. And he didn't fail today. He succeeded with small hurdles along the way.

Q. You got the fake field goal right before halftime against the momentum how difficult was the way the second half started with the two turnovers and trading turnovers with them and not being able to get much out of it?
COACH BEST: It was like the five-minute frenzy. I don't know. I looked up at the clock there's 10:44 left in the fourth quarter and three turnovers and two touchdowns and four field goals and everything else in that first five minutes and 16 seconds. It is what it is. We had turnovers too. We're not that bad a team, people. Everyone wanted to know if we were going to walk out of here 48-14 with our chins held high. Absolutely on the 14 side of things.

We're competitors. We earned the right to play in this game, too. And I'm excited to protect those players. They earned this opportunity. And we fell short. Very close but short.

Q. With the crowd being as it was, did you guys notice that?
COACH BEST: No intimidation. The crowd was not a factor. We had zero false starts on the game. I know where you're going with this, but the crowd was not a factor.

I felt like actually most of the game we controlled and played at our tempo and our pace. We're a better team. We play at a faster tempo. We just couldn't get in the rhythm first and 20 every drive.

So it's hard to play our brand of ball. We did play our brand of ball. We were doing what we wanted to do, but to do that you've got to be able to move the stick. The crowd was zero a factor. Fanatical fan base. Love the fan base. Very grateful. A lot of them said congratulations coach meaningfully coming off the field but the fans were not an issue in terms of from a noise standpoint.

Q. The fourth quarter you couldn't get them off, couldn't get their offense off the field, 10-minute drive sucked the air out of the game. Anything they were doing that drive they weren't doing before or was fatigue setting in, what was the issue?
COACH BEST: 12 carried the ball a lot. We talked about that. When they needed first down, guess who they're going to have -- 12 is going to keep the ball. We just, unfortunately, he's experienced and talented. He's a big kid. He's athletic.

I don't know if there's a bad thing about Mr. Stick. And we knew it. And great teams are and great players are hard to stop even when you know what's going to go on.

So we got them to third down but we just couldn't stop them on third down. And then they missed the field goal which kind of gave us a little momentum, went down the field. I don't know how many plays it was, five or six plays, and felt like we had a chance.

And that onside kick was right in front of me. Had a chance, perfectly kicked by Roldan. And we just didn't recover it, had the onside, did the attempt again. And the game was history.

Q. Can you put into words what this season has meant for this program, for you, that emotional roller coaster, and how would you describe the season?
COACH BEST: That's a tough one 20 minutes out. In a weird way. I would say the same thing, win or lose, because it's hard to reflect back on something that's taken place not just from August to this point with these guys.

But from like we talked about Thanksgiving of '17. So I'm going to have to get back to you. And I know where you work. We'll make that happen. But I'm not going to get reflective right now in terms of from a give you a microcosm of the season after we played our absolute backsides off today and came short. I just think it would be unfair to roll something out that I haven't kind of had time to reflect on to give you more of a detailed answer.

Q. Coach, you go for the fake field goal there. What made you decide what you wanted to do there and is that play something that's new or was it something that you kind of had in your back pocket all season long?
COACH BEST: No, it was in the front pocket. We saw film. We were going to attack in their field goal block unit. They lined up exactly way different than they had shown on probably 50 field goal attempts. Don't know why. But I watched all special teams as well, as head coach. And so I got the question of: Is that the look we wanted or thought we were going to get? And the answer was emphatically no. But I didn't answer at the time. We still executed. We knew it was available. We actually were thinking about it to do it on a two-point play decided to pull it out sooner to get us jump started and get a touchdown early going into halftime trying to create some momentum.

I want to say thank you, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I appreciate this. It's hard to be up here in these situations to face questions that are hard to answer after this platform that we're on. But I appreciate you folks for doing your job and your jobs well and even though it's hard for us I know that's the job you have to do. Appreciate you and for what you do and what you stand for. Thanks.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Eric Barriere.

Q. Can you put into words what this experience has been like? I know it didn't end the way you had hoped. What was this overall experience meant to you?
ERIC BARRIERE: It's definitely a memorable moment just being out here in Frisco just doing the activities and just like the miracle lease of just seeing all that stuff just memories out taking down with me. But I mean it hurts like losing, just especially how we lost and that's about it.

Q. I saw you and Gage talk down at the very end. What was that exchange like between the two of you?
ERIC BARRIERE: Just too close -- because me and Gage, our friendship has grown a lot. So just two friends coming together, just like saying thank you, like going to miss you, pretty much like that. And just telling me to keep my head up because the future is bright and the future is bright, too.

Q. What was your mentality like coming into this game? Did you feel any sense of nerves or anything like that, seemed like you settled in pretty quick?
ERIC BARRIERE: I wasn't nervous. Just wasn't executing like how I wanted to. But no, I wasn't nervous. I just tried to be as calm as I always do every Saturday when I go out there and just sometimes stuff don't go your way.

Q. When you're playing from behind, is it any different playing from behind versus North Dakota State than other teams either way, can you talk about playing from behind?
ERIC BARRIERE: I don't think there's any difference, because like our mentality is we can score fast. So we know if we're behind we can kind of keep the chains moving, go up-tempo. Kind of tire teams out. So in this situation we were just trying to play fast, try to score, hopefully defense get a stop.

Q. Your first full year coming into it as a starter, you make it to the National Championship, what do you take from this experience and what do you think just initially, what are the first things you'll learn from this experience on the field today into next year?
ERIC BARRIERE: Just hungry, really, because the offseason starts now. Like since the other game is over, watch film, just take all that with me and just be better, really, that's all I can say, because next year we've got a lot of players coming back and hopefully we can return again.

Q. Eric, as explosive as you guys are, how tough was it to watch NDSU hold the ball for ten minutes in the fourth quarter?
ERIC BARRIERE: It was tough. Just seeing them just do what they do. But we all believe in our defense and know that they played their hearts out. Because defense got stops in key moments and we didn't do what we were supposed to do.

So it was kind of vice versa, but it definitely sucked just seeing them keep getting first down and moving the chains. But defense was giving them a handful for sure.

Q. Eric, what was it that presented such a challenge going up against that defense especially in the first half?
ERIC BARRIERE: Their ends did a good job of just rushing, rushing up the field, trying to make me step up and make me break the pocket, especially with a spy on me. But also I think we hurt ourselves in a way because we definitely drove the ball, but penalties killed us. And that's tough when you get a big game like 20-plus yards but then also gotta, you lose like 10 or 15-plus yards just after you get a big game. But their defense -- they're a great defense.

Q. Ketner, the offense, the biggest challenges you faced with the offense?
KETNER KUPP: Just trying to keep them out of the zone, keep them in second and long and third and long and keep ourselves in a position to have success. They did a good job early on of making the third and ones and third and twos available and taking advantage of those.

Q. The first five minutes of the second half was absolute chaos, saw three turnovers and two massive plays for touchdown, what was going through your guys' head at that time.
ERIC BARRIERE: Just really just trying to settle in, I think, just especially with the pick that I threw then they threw it right back and just I think both teams probably came a little rowdy amped up, probably, but once everybody started to settle in then we started to move the ball.

KETNER KUPP: Like Eric said, trying to roll with the punches and take advantage of opportunities and we knew they were going to have take some shots and make some plays and it's about being able to ride those out and continue doing what we're supposed to do.

Q. Could you follow up with the craziness of the start of the third quarter what was like through your eyes.
SAM MCPHERSON: It was so back and forth. It was so crazy. Seemed like the first play, first or second play I think we turned the ball over and they turned it over and we turned it over and it was wild for sure. It definitely got us up, got us down. And, yeah, it ended up in their favor and ended up scoring the touchdown. That kind of hurt us, but we battled back good.

Q. Seemed like you battled it pretty well. But how would you describe the atmosphere playing here today?
SAM MCPHERSON: It was unbelievable. I've never been a part of this many fans. Actually Montana. But this is the loudest venue I've ever played at. It was just a blast honestly and the NDSU fans are crazy. We didn't have too many fans there compared to NDSU but ours were super loud too. It was definitely a fun atmosphere.

ERIC BARRIERE: The atmosphere was something I'll never forget just seeing both fans just cheering loud and proud and just the intensity of the game was just crazy.

KETNER KUPP: It was pretty much what you expect going into a National Championship, pretty electric out there.

Q. Sam and Ketner, this is your guys' last time in an Eastern uniform. Any message for the fan base about your time here at Eastern?
KETNER KUPP: Just say thank you for the experience and the opportunities. It's been an honor to play with these guys and with these people and something I'll cherish forever.

SAM MCPHERSON: Piggybacking off of that, it's been an absolute honor to play for Eastern when I signed here this is what I expected to be in the National Championship game. Obviously didn't turn out how I wanted it to but it's been an absolute blast wearing the Eastern uniform.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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