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January 7, 2012

Travis Beck

Craig Bohl

D.J. McNorton

Matt Voigtlander

Chad Wilson


North Dakota State – 17
Sam Houston – 6

THE MODERATOR:  We're joined by Craig Bohl and D.J. McNorton, Travis Beck, Chad Willson, and Matt Voigtlander.
Coach Bohl, coach of the FCS champions, your overview.
COACH BOHL:  It was a great game, and two really good football teams out on the field.  I want to congratulate Sam Houston State.  They had a phenomenal year and certainly played really well today.
I want to say thanks to our players and also to our athletic director who took a chance on me nine years ago never being a head coach.
So, Gene Taylor, I want to say thanks and appreciate the support of the administration.
As far as today's game, I thought our guys battled and certainly made big plays when they needed to.  And typically we say we get a 24‑hour rule, but we won't have a 24‑hour rule on this one.  We're going to enjoy this for a while.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions from the field?

Q.  Can you take us through the decision there to begin the second half to go with the fake punt and obviously the result and the play after?
COACH BOHL:  Coach Polasek did a nice job scheming up, since we didn't know how Sam Houston would align, but we had some things in place.
And Matt Voigtlander has been a running back for us for a lot of years and got a strong leg, but we had not used a fake at all.  We kind of kept it in our hip pocket, felt like there'd be a game that we'd need it, and this was the game we needed it in.

Q.  Matt, on that fake punt, when you got the ball snapped to you, what did you see to your left and what was kind of going through your head when that all went down?
MATT VOIGTLANDER:  I looked to the outside.  We got out of the box, came down, blocking down like we were expecting, hoping, and good‑‑ just good blocking there.  And it was wide open.  So my eyes were wide open seeing the open field, and I did what I could.

Q.  Running back to punter, or you've always done both?
MATT VOIGTLANDER:  No, I was just emergency backup while I've been here, but it was this past spring practice.  This was my first full year with punting.

Q.  Yesterday in the press conference you said that the most important play of the game would be that first drive of the second half.  Down 6‑3, at that point, did you have that in mind when you decided to or when you guys decided to run that fake punt?
COACH BOHL:  Well, field position came into play along with that, but we really felt like we needed to establish some momentum.  And Sam Houston is such a prolific football team coming into the third quarter.
So we were disappointed we couldn't come up with a first down in our normal way.  And things were right, and, like I said, I thought our players executed a great idea.

Q.  Matt, this is your first carry of the year.  In past years you obviously moved around to a bunch of different positions and carried the ball before.  How much do you draw back on that past experience when they made the call today?
MATT VOIGTLANDER:  Actually, I got a hard time from the guys saying that shouldn't have went down and that I lost some of it.  But as open as it was, just about anyone could have done what I did with the wide‑open field.

Q.  D.J. and Coach, last two minutes of the game, what was going through your minds when you look at some of those seasons you guys have talked about a few years ago and just everything that this program's been through?
D.J. MCNORTON:  Well, man, it went by really fast.  I'm speechless right now.  We worked so hard for this.  And with that time ticking away, you are just waiting for it to say 0, because anything can happen.
Last year we lost to Eastern Washington in probably a similar circumstance.  And they came out on top.  So anything can happen down the stretch.
So unfortunately the offense wasn't able to finish it like we wanted to.  And I credit the defense so much.  And I know they'd do the same for us.  And we all just love each other so much, and we pick up the slack whenever we have to.
So that's the good thing about this team.  It was really special.
COACH BOHL:  I think the second part of the question, there was a real resolve and a determination typically by our seniors.  We had a couple of tough years there.  And our guys wanted to make sure they returned Bison football back to national prominence.  It's not easy to do.
Certainly want to thank them, because we certainly returned Bison football back to national prominence today.

Q.  Travis and then Coach, a follow‑up.  Travis, talk about the interception, what you saw.  Did you long jump in high school?  And, Coach, talk about the significance of that play at that point?
TRAVIS BECK:  I wish I had long jumped; I maybe could have got in there.  But I saw a receiver coming behind me.  I thought he was going to be a high pass; that I would have to jump for it.  And I don't know if it hit me right in the chest, and I decided I better catch this one or else I'll never hear the end of that.
I did what I could.  Couldn't get it in, but offense finished it off.
COACH BOHL:  Well, anytime‑‑ even though we didn't score a touchdown, you know, two things usually are going to decide games, either a blocked punt‑‑ we had one tipped against us.  If you can score on defense, typically you're going to win.
It was an exceptional play by Travis.  He showed some great athleticism and great instincts picking off the football.

Q.  Sam Houston hasn't played from behind a lot this year.  To go up by 4, I know it's still close, but then the score is at that point.  Do you feel a little more comfortable at that point to be ahead like that and knowing that they're a team that hadn't played from behind as much this year?
COACH BOHL:  No, I can tell you there was no comfort feeling at all.  And Coach Fritz and that staff, we knew that they were going to play to the very end.  And we really‑‑ our offense controlled the football there.  We didn't turn the ball over and played solid in the kicking game, and our defense really came out and kept holding up.
And so it wasn't until we got under a minute that I started to feel comfortable.

Q.  With this being Travis's first year as a linebacker, how have you kind of seen him grow throughout the year?
CHAD WILLSON:  Travis has really come a long way from when he came in.  He worked real hard.  His redshirt year I saw him working hard, lifting weights and getting stronger.  And when his opportunity came at the beginning of the season, he took it.
And he's been playing great ever since.  We're lucky to have them here and NDSU is going to be happy to have him here for a couple more years.

Q.  Travis, did you get to take a look at the block that sprung you on the return?
TRAVIS BECK:  I heard it.  (Laughter).  I didn't see it.  But as soon as I caught it‑‑ I heard it was Dudzik, I believe, but he knows how to hit.  And anybody could have made that play.
And just our defense, our coaches, they put in so much time, offensive coaches as well, and just this whole play out front has just been unbelievable.

Q.  How pleasant is it to keep an explosive offense out of the end zone?
TRAVIS BECK:  Game plan.  Coaches put in twice as many hours as us, probably more.  They just did a great job, and we executed pretty well tonight.

Q.  Coach, they say defense wins.  But if you would have been told beforehand you'd be one of 13 on third downs, what would you be thinking at that point?
COACH BOHL:  I wouldn't think that our odds looked very good.  But I haven't even seen the stat sheet.  I know it was a great defensive battle.  And it felt like we had pretty good tempo, though.  Sam made a couple of plays.
But these players are very modest.  They embrace that game plan.  And our coaches.  Very rarely was there a play that occurred that was uncontested.  Usually we had some guy there in good position.
So with the tempo and how we were playing, it felt really good about our opportunity to win.

Q.  D.J., can you evaluate Matt's running ability on that play?
D.J. MCNORTON:  (Laughter) man, I might be the toughest critic on that.  We came in‑‑ we came in together as running backs.  And one of the smartest people I know as far as everything.  He helped me with so much as far as learning schemes and different types of formations on defense.  And, honestly, like I said, one of the smartest people I know.
So I've been waiting for him to run.  We finally called it.  I've been waiting for him to do it.  And we originally planned on him running for about 60 and the touchdown.  But he kind of let us down on that.  (Laughter).

Q.  And, Travis, are all 30 people in Munich or whatever going to celebrate tonight?
TRAVIS BECK:  They're probably all down here, actually.  But, yeah, I'll have to tape that right there.  Some of them may be UND fans, but I'm sure they're celebrating this one.

Q.  Travis, can you talk about the play of the defense after Sam Houston got the ball back off those two turnovers?
TRAVIS BECK:  We have a saying:  Bend but don't break.  And we showed great resilience.  We just tried to get off the field and let our offense do their thing.

Q.  Chad, is this as complete a defensive effort as you've put together this season?
CHAD WILLSON:  We've been playing really well as a defense throughout the playoffs.  And to come and hold a team like Sam Houston to six points, it's a pretty big deal.
And so I think it is probably the best game of defense we've played this year.  And really proud of all the guys on D and our coaches.  They, like Travis said, put in twice as much work as we did and gave us a great game plan, and all we had to do was execute it.

Q.  Coach, yesterday you said that field positioning throughout the game would be a huge key, especially with their explosive offense.  You talked about Matt's role in punting today to keep them turned back for the majority of the time.  And, Matt, talk about that first kick.  Did you really get behind that one, or what happened on that 66‑yarder?
MATT VOIGTLANDER:  Part of it we had the wind coming out of the north.  That definitely was a big help.  And just caught it good and carried it through the wind and got over his head, and it wasn't returned.
COACH BOHL:  I think field position certainly came into play.  Particularly in the fourth quarter.  That wind had a difference there, and so having them pinned deep like that.
But you know what?  I am a little bit surprised we were able to come up with a win.  Typically we're way ahead in the turnover margin.  And the field position has always been more in our favor.  And we had to battle some things.  I thought our defensive guys did a phenomenal job keeping Sam out of the end zone there, because they played on the short field a little bit more than I would have liked.

Q.  Travis, can you talk about the two fourth and one stops and kind of the importance of those?  Like you had one in the first quarter and one in the third.
TRAVIS BECK:  That was huge.  We had a good defense called for that situation, and we kind of knew what was going on, what they were thinking.  And our D line, that's basically it.  They played a great game today.  And I'm not sure how many tackles they all had.  But our D line really showed up today.

Q.  Can you just talk about what it means to come back to Texas and win?  And did you two say anything to each other after the game?
D.J. MCNORTON:  Yeah, I talked with him.  And we were together for a good little while, just to kind of reflect on everything.
And it's special for both of us to get our family and friends here.  I think that was real big for us.  They haven't been able to make a lot of games, so it was really special.
And for me and him, it's the end of the road for us at NDSU playing football, so to go out on top like this, couldn't ask for nothing more.

Q.  Coach, going back to the fake punt, how do you think that affects the opponents when something like that is done against them?
COACH BOHL:  I can only say when it's happened to us, it's hard.  Because as a defense you play on emotion, and momentum certainly comes into play.  And for us, anytime there's been a fake punt, it really can suck the life out of you and the wind.  And typically it's going to be a significant momentum change.  There's a lot of risk going into it.  And our guys did a great job executing it.
I think the other thing that probably had a bigger impact, as soon as I think we had the fake punt and scored on the very next play, a long play, certainly changed the momentum in the football game.

Q.  Coach and Travis, looking around the stadium, a lot of green and gold out there.  Obviously you knew there was going to be a lot of people here.  But was it more than you expected?  And how did it feel to have it split pretty evenly both ways?
COACH BOHL:  Travis is right, literally his town is‑‑ actually where he lives‑‑ there's less than 30 people up there.  I joked that the last person in the state of North Dakota needs to turn out the lights because I don't know if there's anybody left.  What a great showing of support.  I want to say thanks to all our fans.  Not only fans that were from our region, but they flew in from all across the country.  But this is a great game day venue.  And Sam Houston State had a great following, too.
And I think it just sets a tone that this championship can really be special.
TRAVIS BECK:  I'm sure there was tons of people from my hometown.  My family was all here.  It means a lot, and that's a pretty big deal, all these North Dakota fans came.  Coming in, we saw all the fans.  It was pretty much split half and half.  And we could have filled up an even bigger stadium, I'm sure.
And Grandpa, if you're watching, I'm sorry I didn't get that touchdown like you said.  But maybe next year.

Q.  D.J., you alluded to it a little bit in talking to Warren after the game, but as you look back at your time at NDSU, what's the first thing that comes to mind?
D.J. MCNORTON:  Eyes on the prize, without a doubt.  And once we come in, you just learn from everybody, from the older guys, and from everybody that has been part of the program.  Even the alumni and the players in the past, you learn so much from them.  You see what it takes.
And we worked so hard.  We worked really hard to get to this point, because it's not easy.  You have to think like losing last year, we had to come all the way back a whole nuther year and go through the playoffs again.  It's not easy to do that.
And we made a commitment to get better and work hard to get to this point.  The coaches put us in great situations.  We got a lot of double reps this year during fall camps, spring ball.  And it helped us to get to this point.  And to win it, just feels like it really paid off.

Q.  D.J., talk for the offense.  At the end of the second quarter, you guys kind of got bogged down.  They stopped you on three straight drives like minus five yards total.  Coming out in the second half, looked again like you were going to have to punt.  And the momentum changed.  How big was that for you guys to be able to put that behind you, that you got a drive to sustain a little bit?
D.J. MCNORTON:  First off, I'd like to credit Sam Houston.  They were the best defense I've seen this year.  And I'm sure a lot of the offensive players would say the same.  Athletically, they have a lot of speed.  They play with a lot of heart and passion.  And it's really good.
We struggled a lot.  And we got‑‑ fortunately we were able to get Voigtlander on the fake punt.  And coach does a great job of calling plays.  And we called the catch screen, hasn't worked for us this much this year, because we ran it a lot last year.  A lot of teams were on to it.
But he called it at the right time.  Perfect timing.  Everybody was out blocking linemen.  Receivers.  I'm sure Warren was down the field.  I set up a block for him, and he sprung me free.  And you could see everybody playing really hard and doing their part.  And just that little oust probably gave us the momentum we needed to finish the game off.

Q.  Coach, only a couple of years ago you guys finished the season 3 and 8.  And now you guys continue to set the ball very high.  And now to be sitting here two years later as national champions, how rewarding is that?
COACH BOHL:  It's extremely reward, and that doesn't happen without the efforts of a whole lot of people.  Our challenge now is to keep the momentum going, but we're going to sit back and enjoy this victory for quite some time.

Q.  Coach, what you're alluding to, obviously you realize you do have to take it to the next level to stay here, but how do you implement that and actually go about that?
COACH BOHL:  Well, I think you look at everything within your program, and you're striving for excellence, how you're doing in the classroom, what kinds of things are you doing in the offseason, what's the team chemistry like.  Margins for victory and losses are very slim.
So it's about the process.  And, like I said, we're going to enjoy this victory for a while.  But where we go from here, maybe in a month I'll talk to you then.

Q.  Coach, at the end of yesterday's practice you brought the alumni and those former players.  Why was that important for you to do that and send that message to both them as well as the current players?
COACH BOHL:  We have a great, rich tradition at North Dakota State.  The school has won eight National Championships in football.  And so we've got a lot of pride, not only with these guys‑‑ and D.J. alluded to it‑‑ Bison pride.  That goes all the way back to the'60s, I believe 1965.
We want to make sure we embrace our former players, that we are family.  And I also think it sends a message to our players right now that it's more than just them.  There's a whole lot of guys that have gone before them, and it also sends a message to them that someday they're going to be one of those guys, and we are family and they'll always be welcome back.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.

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