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November 17, 2012

Bill Blankenship

Tulsa – 23
UCF – 21

BILL BLANKENSHIP:  Well, couldn't be prouder of our players, obviously.  Great, just resilient team.  Very disappointed that we turned the ball over twice early, and it's the kind of team Central Florida is.  They cashed both of those into points.  And took us a while to get going.
But that celebration was a lot of fun downstairs.  You love getting to see your players achieve something and then watch them realize the moment.  It's pretty special.

Q.  Has it occurred to you how similar to the Fresno game this wound up being?
BILL BLANKENSHIP:  Not yet.  Not yet.  I knew that we were in a position that we couldn't quite run the clock out at the end, and it was going to take it to a 4th down, and that very similarly we knew we might have to give the ball back to them.  We weren't going to kick again down there deep.
Yeah, when you make a point of that, it could have easily turned into that big 1st down by Alex there at the end.

Q.  With the stakes that you had today and you hold them to 85 yards in the second half total‑‑
BILL BLANKENSHIP:  Is that what it was?

Q.  You made touchdowns all day offensively.  Is this the best day your defense has had?
BILL BLANKENSHIP:  Well, I'll tell you, I think the points are very not indicative of how well they played because a couple of those came after turnovers.  One was a pick six.  But gosh, they're playing very confident, extremely hard.  Central Florida is a good offensive football team, and to be able to hold their running game in check is a big deal for us.

Q.  Talk about your linebacker play.  They seemed to do well in all aspects.
BILL BLANKENSHIP:  Well, we had a couple of options and that was one thing that Brent did such a great job in setting up our defense this week.  We knew that they would have some power football, and we tried to match up and put DeAundre outside linebacker and Trent Martin, who's a little bigger, more physical linebacker, inside when they were going to run base downs, and then be able to move DeAundre back inside and go to a little more of our conventional set when we knew it was a little more of a pass‑oriented game.  To keep them all in front, I think we matched up their routes pretty well.
I think if you ask our players defensively, I think they had a really good game plan and understood what was going on.

Q.  Bortles made a couple plays with his legs but you guys had him under pressure.
BILL BLANKENSHIP:  And ironically one of the things we had talked about earlier was he seems to be able to extend plays and then throw magnificently when he's out of the pocket, which is a little unusual for big guys, and that first touchdown he got when we actually had him in check, I mean, that's the kind of player he is.  I think you've got to give him‑‑ we hit him hard several times.  He kept fighting back.  But very good quarterback.

Q.  Keyarris showed his versatility; he had touchdowns three different ways.
BILL BLANKENSHIP:  He's just getting better and better.  You know, he's becoming a little more complete receiver.  Early in the game we actually had a‑‑ we were going deep with him, the one he caught, but he got the corner in press coverage and gave him a nice inside move, and then the guy was nowhere to be found.  I mean, that's where I believe he's beginning to grow, where he's able to escape press coverage and not let people bang him around, and then we didn't see much like that anymore.

Q.  It looked like Cody after the pick six was a little shaken but then seemed to get on track.  Was that play calling or his resiliency?
BILL BLANKENSHIP:  Well, both.  We were trying to take a shot on the 1 and hang the ball up for our receiver.  That's been good to us at times.  It was really our first deep throw into the wind, and I think he misjudged it and didn't throw it very well, and that turned around to bite us.
So I think anybody would have a little bit of hesitation.  It took us a while, but I thought really right before half he actually made some nice throws, and we didn't finish the drive, we wound up not getting anything out of it.  But kind of got back in sync a little bit.
The best drive was when we drove the length and got it on the board because he did a few little dinks and dunks that were strictly his reads, and he did a good job with that.

Q.  Can you talk about the sequence where Jordan James' touchdown gets knocked off the board and then you turn around and Cody makes a play, an even better throw?
BILL BLANKENSHIP:  It was.  Yeah, I thought Jordan did a great job on his catch.  We thought that we had it, and I guess they ruled that he had stepped out of bounds before the catch.  So anyway, the whole thing was trying to keep it together, and we had a little time because of the review to assume that‑‑ we assumed that if it was going to be negated, it would be 3rd and 5, and then to come back and have another penalty that kind of canceled it and made it 3rd and 10 really kind of threw us for a loop at first, and then we got a play called, and actually that was one that Cody checked to.  He saw the man coverage, checked to it, and we've got some good match‑ups when you go man.  I think that's the good thing about what we're doing in the run game is it's forcing people to have to decide do they want to crowd the box and play man, or do you kind of take the slower way.

Q.  What's the biggest factor that made Keyarris, his improvement this year?
BILL BLANKENSHIP:  Well, I'd certainly give a lot of credit to Greg.  Coach Petersen has done a great job of developing him.  But if you'll really just look at his physique, it's really changed in a year.  He's been in that weight room, he's been training.  I think he's one of those guys that's gotten a little bigger and stronger, and it actually made him faster.  So you certainly credit our strength program and all that.  But part of is just him becoming a man.  He was a young guy last year, and he's starting to grow up.

Q.  How critical was it once you lost Bernie for him to‑‑
BILL BLANKENSHIP:  Well, he had to step up, and that's what we've seen.  I think he and Jordan have both kind of ‑‑ week in and week out, it seems like one is the guy that gets more of the catches, and I think that's been good, and very quietly, and he did it again today, Thomas Roberson just makes big huge 3rd down plays and catches for us to keep drives alive.

Q.  I heard you mention some things about the crowd and home field advantage.  Can you talk about the difference you see it make?
BILL BLANKENSHIP:  Well, synergy is a big deal.  I'm an old science teacher, and I know what synergy means.  That's where people actually get stronger when you're together.  There's no question when you have a crowd that‑‑ when they're into it, and I think we got folks into it.  If they liked today, they ought to be back in two weeks.

Q.  Did Trey Watts have his best day?
BILL BLANKENSHIP:  I don't know.  Trey has been one of those guys that he has a lot of big days, but I thought when we needed it, he really elevated his game and ran harder and got extra yards, yards after contact, and Trey I think is really one of our keys to our offense because he does some things that other guys have a little more speed, a little more size, they have all that, but Trey just seems to have that little wiggle that can find that hole.

Q.  Can you talk about the significance of this win and the impact it has?
BILL BLANKENSHIP:  Well, it's pretty nice to go into next week knowing that we are already penciled in at home.  We already have the home‑field advantage.  These guys are pretty dang excited downstairs because most of them, I don't think any of them maybe have played in a championship game.  So it's a huge deal for them.
I know Dexter talks about it all the time, it's the one thing in our program that he hadn't done.  It's not going to be lost on them, too, that there's an opportunity to run the table, and I don't think that that's been done in Conference USA and win the championship.  Houston actually went undefeated last year and then got beat in the championship.  We're going to take it one at a time, but we're going to try to get into SMU and try to keep the streak alive.

Q.  There's a lot of pressure on you going into this.  If you win you play off.
BILL BLANKENSHIP:  Right this team has been showing their toughness all year.  This is one of the most mentally tough teams I've ever been around.  These guys, and not just because we won today, these guys have been resilient.  They just are unflappable.  I've been in programs and on teams where if what happened in the first half would have happened, there would have been defensive guys really upset and talking about the offense and vice versa.  I mean, here we are stopping them and you're giving up‑‑ this team is not like that.  This team understands that on any given play, their brother is going to make a play for them.  That's a lot of fun to be a part of.

Q.  The last time you won a championship as a head coach, you did not have any grandkids.  Now you've got like six.
BILL BLANKENSHIP:  Yeah, just five, but that's all right.

Q.  In that seven‑year period between championships as a head guy, what is it like here versus what you experienced‑‑
BILL BLANKENSHIP:  Oh, I think it's all relative.  People talk about the biggest games you've ever won and all that.  It's hard to say that the Spiro over Ada in the semis wasn't a big game.  You just go down the list.  I think the moment is what's always big for you, so where are you at the time.  For me right now there's none bigger than this, because those guys, I see it in their guys.  I see that they're accomplishing something, and that's what's fun for a head coach.
There's more to work on.  I mean, that was one big one, but that's not what‑‑ they don't break the huddle every week and say division champs.  They want to go CUSA champs, they want to go Conference USA.  We've got that opportunity, and that's the greatest thing about today.

Q.  You had kicking game problems again today.  Two weeks ago it really hurt you.
BILL BLANKENSHIP:  Yes.  I honestly don't‑‑ the first PAT looked like he was low with it.  The one they blocked at the end, the guy really elevated.  I want to get back and look at that.  I don't know if he hit that one as low as he had done the others.  I think you give them credit for making a good play.  But shoot, that's very frustrating to play that hard and you come down and you don't convert there at the end.

Q.  You held their lead rusher to only 60 yards.  He had a streak of 100‑yard games.  Is that something you focused on throughout the week?

Q.  What do you attribute that success to?
BILL BLANKENSHIP:  Well, I think defensively our guys are just pretty dang tough.  I think if we go back, and I'm just operating off the top of my head, I would think our 1st down efficiency was really good, and so if we can keep them behind the chains, that was a huge advantage for us defensively.  When they gain four or five on 1st down, they're a lot better offense.  So 1st down we were winning, and some batted balls and some quick tackles outside.  There was just some good solid defense.

Q.  What were your thoughts on the proposal?
BILL BLANKENSHIP:  Strangely I had known about it for quite a while.  I just almost hit my knees and thanked the Lord that she said yes because I didn't want my right tackle being out of it because all of a sudden he gets dumped.  I thought it was a little cheesy, but other than that... (laughter.)

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