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January 5, 2019
North Dakota State - 38, Eastern Washington - 24
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the national champion North Dakota State Bison head coach Chris Klieman and student-athletes Easton Stick, Darrius Shepherd and Levi Jordheim. Coach, an opening statement.
COACH KLIEMAN: Obviously really thrilled and excited about the win today. I knew it was going to be extremely hard and I knew our guys knew that as well. Eastern Washington had nothing to lose. And they were a really good football team. The game was back and forth. We were able to make a few more plays in the second half.
The time of possession was huge. And we were able to control the football and control the clock. Give them credit. They made some plays on us. And we missed some opportunities as well, both sides of the ball.
But couldn't be more proud of these 24 seniors. We talked in July when we were over at Father Meyer's (phonetic) house for a little dinner that this was one of the goals. And we didn't say it publicly, but every one of those guys that was with me that day would have said.
(Lost audio). So proud of these guys. They know how much I love them. I was a senior today as well. I got to go out with these guys. Appreciate the heck out of them.
Q. Levi, just talk about the fumble, sack, strip sack, the play Stanley Jones made at the start of the third quarter and how key you feel that was?
LEVI JORDHEIM: Obviously we talk about momentum, a game of momentum for the Bison. And Stan came up big for us off the edge and saw the ball pop out and he hopped on it and that was an incredible play by him.
Q. As seniors, Coach just mentioned about wanting to be perfect this year. Could you talk about that goal and what it means to you when you're going to be looking back on a 15-0 season?
EASTON STICK: It's pretty special. There's some crazy expectations at this program and we wouldn't want it any other way. It's unbelievable what's been created and what's been upheld. And, shoot, there's 24 of us and Coach, and sat together and knew what we were capable of. And hasn't been done very often but we wanted to raise the bar and do it better than it's ever been done. And we tried to do that and feels good to end it this way.
DARRIUS SHEPHERD: Just a daily pursuit of greatness. It's been a long season, 15 weeks to get to this point. And our guys have battled week after week. And just to get to this point is an incredible feeling. And we're happy to go out on top.
LEVI JORDHEIM: You gotta just take it one day at a time. If you look at the big picture, it's January 10th of last year when we say, we're winning a National Championship. How do you it in one day? You don't. It's one day at a time and our guys did that. And it's been a good ride.
Q. Easton and Darrius, the bomb down the sidelines is that something you guys have called, run earlier this season and how long were you setting that one up?
EASTON STICK: We ran a similar naked a bunch throughout the couple years, ran it in the first couple drives earlier in the game. And Shep did a great job setting them up and was calling for it on the sidelines after we did it. And Coach Mess did a good job getting to it. We protected it. Guys sold it well up front on the run fake, and 20 did the rest.
DARRIUS SHEPHERD: Great play by Coach Mess. O line did an unbelievable job of holding up for protection and Easton threw a beautiful pass, and just catch and run after that. But just a great job by the coaching staff getting to that play.
Q. Easton, what is it about you and Darrius this year that just connected?
EASTON STICK: I think the biggest thing is you see how hard he works and how much time he puts into it. How do you not trust a guy that you know is more prepared than anyone that he could possibly be going against. He's one of the hardest working guys I've ever been around. And he's been a great teammate, a great friend and mentor for a lot of guys in that locker room.
And we've been fortunate to have him on our team these last four and a half years. And there's nobody better.
Q. Seven championships in eight seasons. The first FCS team to have seven championships, one more than Georgia Southern. What does that mean for this group?
LEVI JORDHEIM: It just speaks to the tradition and culture that's been established here at North Dakota State. That didn't start in 2011. It started way back -- we talk about it all the time -- in the '60s and we had alumni, former players come out yesterday, and they talked about Bison pride and it's crazy how that hasn't changed at all. And as players, former players now, we just look to continue that tradition.
DARRIUS SHEPHERD: I know as a senior group and with Coach Klieman, we just wanted to leave our legacy. And it's a special feeling to add to that tradition that we'll be able to talk about that we won the championship in 2018.
EASTON STICK: Levi hit it. There's just an unbelievable foundation and we have great support from alumni and former players, guys that were doing the same things we were doing and just working hard and having that blue-collar work ethic and just go to work every single day. And yesterday was a great example of it. When you got 200, 300 former players out there, how could you not be motivated to play? It's just been an honor to be part of this program.
Q. Easton, you've talked about it being a team thing, and obviously it is. But as a quarterback, the winningest quarterback in FCS history. All these records. You've followed Carson, multiple championships, what does it mean and how do you put it in words? If it wasn't for Carson coming back your freshman year you might have had three titles?
EASTON STICK: Yeah, what the heck, Coach. (Laughter).
Trust me, he knows. No. This place is special. And quarterback's a unique position in the fact you're only as good as who you're surrounded with. And that position more than anything. And so I've just been so fortunate, one, to be healthy, but, two, just to be around great people and the administration and the community.
We have unbelievable support and, shoot, it's just been an honor being part of the locker room here and the culture here the last four or five years. And so thankful for every guy I've played with, because as a freshman you come in and you just want to be a part of it and learn where you fit in.
And along the way, man, you learn what Bison pride really means. And it's just been an absolute honor to wear green and gold. And it's been unbelievable.
Q. Easton, the 2013 team told me they openly talked about going unbeaten. Did you guys have any conversation about an unbeaten season in 2018?
EASTON STICK: Yeah, I think Coach said it. We sat down as seniors with Coach in July and said: Why can't we be the greatest ever? Why can't we be perfect? I'm not saying we're the greatest ever, but we worked and we tried to put ourselves in this position. And to go 15-0 and win another National Championship is really hard to do. And these guys hit on it: It was a one-day-at-a-time and Coach talked about stacking good days on good days.
We didn't have very many bad days at all. That's a credit to the senior class. It's a credit to the coaching staff, but it's also a credit to the underclassmen and that's why this place is going to be special for a long time.
Q. North Dakota State, seven championships. You won several under Craig Bohl. You won several under Coach Klieman. Is Matt Entz going to be the next one to bring you even more championships in the future?
LEVI JORDHEIM: Being under Coach Entz, he's had so much passion for the players and he's so special. He was named head coach because Mr. Larsen saw what he can do, what he is capable of and what he is -- he's dead set on doing it. He's going to keep this thing rolling.
DARRIUS SHEPHERD: I agree. I think Coach Entz is going to come in and do an incredible job. We talk about next man up. That's not just for players, it's for coaches as well. He's going to do a phenomenal job and (indiscernible) will be champions. I'm excited what Coach Entz does with the program.
EASTON STICK: Unbelievable man and unbelievable coach. It's been an honor getting to know him and his family. He's a Bison through and through. He understands what it takes and he's been a great role model and coach for our program.
And there's no doubt he's going to continue to do it the right way and he'll surround himself with good people and he's got a good locker room. It will be exciting to watch those guys.
Q. Easton, Chris talked about he's graduating too and he's moving on. Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with Coach Klieman over the years, a lot of football, obviously the personal connection, too? Can you touch on that a little bit for us?
EASTON STICK: He's an unbelievable coach. One of the smartest people I've been around when you talk about football. He would come down and spend time with me during the week the last couple of years, shoot, sometimes it was for 15 minutes. Sometimes it was an hour and a half. But took time out of his day to help me prepare.
Sometimes I would learn more football, you know, than I could remember just in the 15-minute period. He's been a great coach.
But I think more importantly, he's a father to all of us, a great role model. And does things the right way. And just really thankful for him giving all of us the opportunity to be a part of this place and for him allowing us to get to know his family and be a part of this family. And forever indebted to him for what he's done for all of us. And we love him.
Q. Be a little ridiculous to ask you to reflect -- the season's an hour from having been over. But what is your message kind of to the guys that will be behind you, the underclassmen? And how excited are you guys to be now a part of this Bison family and Bison alumni that show up at that practice and have fun with the whole thing?
DARRIUS SHEPHERD: I think for the younger guys, just keep attacking. They know what they have to do next year in order to be great. But I'm excited for them. And, yeah, I'm just -- they've done a great job and I'm looking forward to see what these underclassmen do next year.
LEVI JORDHEIM: That was us last year -- the same situation, new group of guys. And North Dakota State recruits excellent people, players, and I think that's part of the formula for success here.
EASTON STICK: Levi hit it. There's great people in the locker room. There's a great junior class full of leaders that led this year. And it's going to be fun and exciting watching them and seeing them grow and step up and it's just been an honor to play with those guys.
Q. I'm sure there's emotions you guys feel when you put the jersey on for the last time. You talked about wearing the green and gold. I was wondering if you could try and articulate what you think you'll feel when you take it off for the final time?
DARRIUS SHEPHERD: These five years have been really special, and Bison nation has embraced all of us. To be around the coaches and the players for five years, I'll never forget this place. And I love it and I'm a Bison through and through.
Once I take this uniform off it's going to be real emotional. But I look forward to coming back as alumni to see this place continue to have success.
EASTON STICK: It will be emotional. But I know we're all proud as heck to represent this program and to be a Bison. Once a Bison, always a Bison. And just really, really thankful to we all had the opportunity to be a part of this thing because it's a special place. And it will be tough taking it off for the last time. But excited to follow those guys and cheer them on.
LEVI JORDHEIM: I think they hit it right on the head: Once a Bison, always a Bison; Bison through and through, sounds clichÃ©, but it's true, it is what it is.
Q. Easton, comparing yourself to 2013 part of the equation this year at all as a team?
EASTON STICK: No, it was about us and what we could control and what we could do. And we had a great senior class. And, yeah, obviously there's a lot of things similar in the fact -- senior classes and size-wise and stuff like that.
But at the end of the day it was about us and what we could control. And Coach put together a really good plan for us and we knew the process. And just took it one day at a time. It was hard. It was challenging. But just thankful that we went through it together and finished the right way.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach.
Q. Did the movie end the right way with Easton running to the end zone and you holding up the trophy?
COACH KLIEMAN: It really did. It was a special journey. And to go out on top with these guys over the last few weeks, knowing it was going to be my last opportunity for a couple of games, and to have Easton put it on his shoulders in the semifinal game and then championship game, for us to play a really good football team and play really well, yeah, 15-0, end it with a National Championship, boy, doesn't end any better than that. The story is complete.
Q. Are you glad that Easton ran it into the end zone instead of sliding down inside the 5?
COACH KLIEMAN: Yeah, he and I talked about it afterwards; he was going to score a touchdown. I don't blame him. Get in the end zone. I know the right thing to do would be maybe to slide and stuff, but we were in pretty good shape, and I thought we'd stop him. But he was probably too dang tired to fall down anyway. He just wanted to finish the journey there.
Q. I asked you this last year about tying Georgia Southern. Now you've passed them in eight years. To have the most National Championships what does that mean to you?
COACH KLIEMAN: That's pretty remarkable. I know those Georgia Southern teams well. They were a dynasty for a number of years. And this has been an absolute dynasty. And there's no ifs, ands or buts. I think it's the greatest run in college football.
It's so cool I've been a part of it and been part of the system as a coordinator and head coach. And just truly blessed. Came to Fargo eight years ago. Took a chance with my family to come to Fargo, didn't know much about other than they had great tradition, great football tradition.
And knew it because of Darrell Mudra, knew it because of Ardell Wiegandt, and it was a pretty good move for me after eight years.
Q. You clearly got emotional when Easton was talking about the impact you've had on him and the other seniors. Can you talk about a little bit the impact they've had on you?
COACH KLIEMAN: Yeah, I spend so much time with these guys. And this is -- we talk about it all the time. This is really hard to do -- going undefeated, being around them as much as we are, answering the bell every week, not having a poor day, not having a poor Saturday.
Everybody thinks that it's just an easy process, and it's not. You attack the process every day. I spend a ton of time with Easton, was in all three of these guys' homes visiting with their parents and told them that I would take care of them and they've taken care of me. I've been so blessed to be a part of this program and they've done way more for me than I'll ever do for them. But I'll be forever indebted to those guys. And they know how to get a hold of me.
Q. How kind of cool is it for you to hand the program off to a friend, somebody that you've hired and brought here? And what can the fan base kind of expect from Matt Entz?
COACH KLIEMAN: The culture is not going to change. Matt is one of my closest friends. When I was able to get the head job here in 2013, going into 2014, he was the first phone call I made. And I wanted Matt to join me because I know what kind of person he is. I knew he was a really good football coach.
But coaching football is one thing. Being a great role model, being a great mentor, being able to lead young men is more important than Xs and Os and he's that. And I'm so happy for Matt. The program's in great hands, guys. The culture is established. We kind of passed the torch from the seniors to the juniors just now in the locker room.
It's going to be hard. We know that. Shoot, this was hard this year. The program's in great shape. Matt Entz and I will continue to talk on a weekly basis, I know we will. I'm so excited for Matt, Brenda and the kids, because he's earned the opportunity.
Q. Looking back over eight years as an assistant and head coach, 112-8, do you marvel at that? And then when Easton broke through on that last touchdown run, did parts of your career flash back or what was going through your mind?
COACH KLIEMAN: No, but you say 112-8, I mean, holy cow, that's something that movies are made out of, dreams are made out of and books are written about.
It's -- 112 wins and eight losses and seven national championships. I pinch myself every day. And we were able to win seven out of eight. And lo and behold, if we only won six out of eight how much ridicule we would have had because we only had six National Championships.
But seven out of eight. And the one year we didn't win it, we beat Iowa at Kinnick Stadium when they're ranked 12th. It was still a pretty good year, and we get beat in the semifinals. Not everybody thinks that. I learned that at Hornbacher's one day (laughter). But it was still a pretty good year.
Q. Shepherd had one touchdown last year. That's it. What changed this year with him and Easton?
COACH KLIEMAN: I just remember all the time going in June and July and going to work out and seeing those two guys on Dacotah Field out on our practice fields always getting together. Always throwing. Always working timing routes. Always being around each other. Both of them are graduates. So it was great because I would see Shep down with Easton when I would go down visit with Easton during the week Shep would be down there. Those two were just so much in sync, they're roommates. They're best friends. They were so in sync.
I knew he was going to have a breakout year. And I told the guys I think on ESPN I thought if they pressured us he'd have 10 receptions for 250 yards and he was half that. He was five for 125 and two scores.
Q. I know you're a head coach of two programs for a couple more hours. But why was it so important for you to finish the job here at North Dakota State before fully going on at Kansas State?
COACH KLIEMAN: I thought it was important to the seniors, first. I think it was important to our administration here led by Matt Larsen he wanted me to finish this journey. And I think it was really important to Gene Taylor at Kansas State that we were able to finish this journey, because Gene was a part of it in 2013. And you can't quit on those guys with a few weeks left.
They've given me everything for four and five years. And I once again so appreciate our administration at North Dakota State getting together with Kansas State and saying, hey, let's make this work. And the guys were going to have it no other way.
We talked. And I was -- Easton said it, I think, on Friday. I was transparent with those guys from the start and I think that probably helped the situation. But I was not going to go out without going out with these guys.
Q. Just talk about the Stanley Jones play, it was kind of a little back and forth there in the third quarter, how big was that? Is it more significant when a kid who played out of North Dakota high school makes a play like that?
COACH KLIEMAN: It absolutely is when a kid from North Dakota makes a play because it's an underrecruited state and there's some great players in North Dakota. But to have the sequence of us getting a big turnover and us turning it back over to flip the momentum again, because they had momentum going into halftime, we took the momentum right back and then gave it back to them again and then Stanley makes another -- makes a great play.
You don't see that very often three turnovers that quickly. And then we were able to capitalize on it with a great play that I think Easton hit Shep on that. Big time play by Stanley and really happy for all those guys, really cool for those kids from North Dakota.
Q. Your starting fullback wasn't in the game today. What happened there?
COACH KLIEMAN: Unfortunately, and we love Brock. Brock failed an NCAA drug test after the semifinal game for a banned stimulant. And we went with the appeal all the way until Thursday.
The appeal was denied. So he was ineligible to play the football game. And feel awful for Brock. Everybody in that locker room loves Brock. Brock was a part of this National Championship, and that's what happened.
Q. I assume the ESPN ratings were a little bit higher today in Kansas. What do you say, what's your message to the folks watching the Bison today down in Kansas?
COACH KLIEMAN: Thank you so much for the support. Thank those players that I'm about ready to go start another journey with, they put some pretty cool stuff out on social media, excited about the challenge ahead. It was cool to be able to wrap this up here with these guys and do it the right way but I know there's a lot of people in North Dakota are going to be fans of Kansas State and there's a ton of people in Kansas fans of North Dakota State. It's really neat how both institutions came together.
Q. What was Bruce's status? Was that a game-time deal? When did you make the decision he couldn't play?
COACH KLIEMAN: Well, we knew it was going to be really tight. And he didn't -- he didn't respond as well Monday, Tuesday of this week. But he still wanted to give it a go. And we were able to dress a few more guys.
So we warmed him up. And he and I talked. And we used him as a play and a decoy because I wanted him to play in the National Championship game. But Bruce is also very much a team guy. And he said: You know what, let's give it to those guys, let's give it to Lance and Ty, Seth, because I can't go.
So I appreciate that. Levi did that last year with Chris Board. We thought Levi would be able to play and he said: I can't go. Chris is better right now. Bruce did the same thing. Gave it a little go in warmups it just wasn't responding; that's a team guy.
Q. Torn UCL?
COACH KLIEMAN: Yeah, I think those are typically six to eight weeks, something. And he was back in four. And you know how happy are you for Lance Dunn, for starters, he's from my hometown in Waterloo, Iowa. And to have a championship game taken away the year before, even though he played a little bit, he was 70 percent. And then to think he was going to have it taken away again, he was not going to be denied. And when we came back after the semifinal game and he started practicing a little bit and he just started getting better and better, then we took four days off, boy, he was locked in and he was a difference maker today.
Q. What's going on in your mind when you've got the trophy in front of you and thousands of Bison fans chanting "Thank you, Klieman?"
COACH KLIEMAN: It's really special. Obviously. I love the fan base here. They travel in droves no matter where we're playing. Frisco especially, it was so cool we had to have 20,000 people out there. I know there was bunch a probably in the tailgate lots too. It was really special. Really cool. Something I'll never forget.
And then the BFPA, the Bison Football Players Association, made me an honorary member. Gave me a hat, a lanyard, and told me once a Bison always a Bison. And I'm not even a graduate of NDSU. But I'm a part of the BFPA, and I'm sure that Sean Fredricks will send me an invoice and I'll be happy to send him a check. (Laughter).
Q. You were in attendance last night for the Walter Payton Award. And obviously you saw where the award went, how happy were you for Easton today to have the game he did today especially concluding it in that fashion?
COACH KLIEMAN: He was one of the best players in college football. And I thought he should have won the award. But I'm not a voter in the award. But anybody that wins 49 times over a career is the best player in college football at the FCS level. That's my opinion. That's a hands-down no-brainer for me. Happy for the guys that were also honored for whatever position. But you've got to realized I'm pretty biased on that, too, with my own guy.
Q. Tiuli not playing, did that affect your play calling at all?
COACH KLIEMAN: I don't believe so. I think it was one of those -- we talked about it on Friday. Was it going to be a depth issue; would have helped him as far as getting some more reps and spreading the repetitions out. But I don't think we changed any -- in fact, I know we didn't change anything of our game plan.
People of Fargo, thank you so much. It's been a great run, all those who have covered me for the last five years for sure, and eight years, appreciate you guys challenging the heck out of me. Moving forward, I'll do anything for you. I don't know when I'll give you my number. It might be a little bit. But thank you. You guys are the reason why NDSU is on the map all the time and your coverage of North Dakota State football, and you guys know is really special. So I can't thank you guys enough. Now get yourselves down to Manhattan and watch us play.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports