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January 3, 2014

Craig Bohl

Andrew Grothmann

Cole Jirik

Grant Olson

Ryan Smith


THE MODERATOR:  Craig is the first repeat winner of the Eddie Robinson Award, Coach of the Year.  103‑32 in his 11th season.  Of course the Bison's playoff wins have been over Furman, Coastal Carolina and NewHampshire.  With us today, Ryan Smith, all Missouri Valley second team wide receiver, Grant Olson, All‑America AP third team, linebacker Andrew Grothmann, All American fullback, and Cole Jirik, all Missouri Valley defensive end.  Craig, start us off.
COACH BOHL:  You got it, first of all, great seeing you again.  It's been several years.  But it's good to be here.  We do not take for granted coming to Frisco.  It's very hard to do.  Our team has had great focus throughout the football season.  We were prepared for an excellent game against Towson.  We think Towson's a phenomenal football team, and we've got a good team as well.  So we're anticipating a great game.

Q.  Ryan and Andrew, being NorthDakota guys, what would it a win mean to you guys to help take NDSU to another level?
RYAN SMITH:  Well, first of all, it's been a pleasure playing for NDSU these last four years, and to go out on top it would really mean a lot to us seniors and the State of NorthDakota also.  Just to accomplish what we've accomplished over these past four years has been kind of surreal.  It's been a pleasure playing under Coach Bohl, and a pleasure playing with my teammates too as well.
ANDREW GROTHMANN:  I'd like to he iterate Ryan's point.  It's been a lot of fun to this point in our journey and playing for the team that I grew up watching as a little kid.  Obviously, the support that we get going on our road games is unbelievable.  It's unmatched by other schools, and it would be very special to bring another one back to Fargo.

Q.  Ryan and Coach Bohl, if you could answer about the development of your special teams in this program from all aspects?  Returns, kicking, coverage, it's just been such a big part of your success?
COACH BOHL:  I'll start first then Ryan can answer.  He's been a phenomenal return guy.  I think a lot of it has to do as your football team matures, special teams are an indication of depth, speed and athleticism.  That's certainly been important for us.  Four years ago we started the journey many years ago, but this group of young men came together several years ago.  As a result of those special teams plays, I mean, they're a third of the game.  It's been a big, big weapon for us, and we hope to have it become a big weapon tomorrow.
RYAN SMITH:  We kind of take it as special teams is a huge part of the game.  As Coach Bohl said, a third of the game.  If you go out and make a big play on special teams, it's going to get that momentum toward your side going.  That's what we try to do when we try to get a big return or kick return or punt defense.  It's a big hit on kickoff and punt or just a long punt too.  We just try to make a big play out there and make a difference in the game for special teams.

Q.  Grant, do you guys recognize the fan support or how do you recognize it?  All the tickets being bought up all year and things like that.
GRANT OLSON:  Well, I think probably the first thing as I'm sure everybody on the team and I know people have mentioned it, everybody has fans coming up to them throughout the year saying oh, we got our tickets to Frisco already.  And we're saying we've got to get there first, but appreciate it.  But it's fun being able to come down here and see the buses already in the tailgate lot.  It's fun being able to see people wearing Bison stuff in the hotel and things like that.  There's a lot of support and a lot of people care.
There is a lot of pride in the football team and the program and stuff going on and we represent every one of those fans.  So we definitely appreciate it.  It's great being able to go on road games and having a lot of fans there and having a presence at the game.  It just makes it more fun.  So it's definitely been a blessing to be able to play for such a great fan base.

Q.  Ryan, how are you feeling?  Are you ready to go?
RYAN SMITH:  I'm feeling good.  I feel great.  Ready to go for the game.  Kind of took us the last couple weeks and really tested it out the past couple days, and I'm feeling pretty good, so give it a shot and full bore come Saturday or tomorrow?

Q.  Grant and Coach Bohl, could you talk about Grant coming back and playing those two plays last week?  How much you hope to play tomorrow and just the journey back and how it's been, because I'm sure you thought your season was over?
COACH BOHL:  I certainly thought it was over.  When a guy gets a torn ACL with some other damages his career is pretty much done.  Grant's a very determined player.  He's going to do well in life whatever he chooses to do.  After the initial injury he kind of had it in the back of his mind, don't count me out, Coach.  I'm going to continue to workout, and I appreciated that.
But, quite frankly, I didn't count on that.  As each week went along, we'd begin to run up‑and‑down the sidelines with a bit more exhilaration, said it felt better.  It was interesting, because after the injury he came up to me and said, Coach, all I want to do is just play one more play.  I just want to be able to go out there one more time, which I can appreciate.
The last game he got two, now I know he's been campaigning for some more, so certainly appreciated his efforts and competitive nature.
GRANT OLSON:  Well, I think first off, I don't think I'm the only one on the team that would do what I'm trying to do.  I think everybody cares deeply.  I just happen to be the one in the position.  But it's been tough not being able to play and not being able to be out there when you've been doing it for a while now.  It's hard.  It's hard sometimes seeing your teammates out there competing and being able to play when you can't anymore, so that's been difficult.
But I think it's just the Bison way is that you're going to do anything you possibly can to help out the team and help us win.  So I know when I've been down and everybody else has been down, I know Andrew's been out for a little bit and so has Ryan.  When you're coming to practice, everybody's out coaching and helping the younger guy get better and doing whatever they can to help us win.  That is truly the Bison way.  That's who we are and what we do.  If that means coaching, if that means helping out a younger guy, if that means playing two plays, we are all going to do whatever we possibly can to accomplish our goals and our dreams.

Q.  Cole and Coach Bohl, just talk about the damages of trying to match up against Terrance West.  Does he compare to any running back you've seen in the last couple years?
COACH BOHL:  I'll go first.  I don't think there's any back that we've seen that can compare.  He's got the dangerous combination of size and speed and change of direction.  You'd have to look back to our record books several years in the Valley to see anybody else who has played like that.  I think there have been a couple of our players at tailback who play in the National Football League, and I think he certainly ranks among them.  It's going to be a big challenge for us.
COLE JIRIK:  Definitely.  There is a reason why he's declaring for the draft early.  He's a great running back.  It will be a challenge to stop him.  He reads his blocks well.  He's a patient runner and reads his blocks really well.  So we have to do a good job of hitting our fifth to be able to stop him.

Q.  Cole and Andrew, what do you guys remember about spring football in 2010 and fall camp that was different when you guys red‑shirted in 2009 off the 3‑8 year?  What was different mentality‑wise going forward from there?
COLE JIRIK:  Well, that first year we started doing double reps that practice.  We took a lot more reps at practice and kind of said we've got to change things around and we've got to start moving forward.  We can't have losing seasons.  We came here to be champions and we've been able to do that the last couple of years.  We wanted to win football games and not be mediocre.  We set that mindset then and kept it rolling from there.
ANDREW GROTHMANN:  Like Cole said, we switched a few things up.  We knew what that previous year was about and that was not an NDSU brand of football.  So we started back in that winter and going through all year and that fall camp, it was a tough one to get to that next step and start winning games and consistently being in position to win games.
Looking back, it seems like a long time ago, but this group of seniors it's nice to say we were a part of that and get the ball rolling again in the right direction.

Q.  Coach, you've seen a number of seniors, obviously, move on from your program.  Do you feel like you're maybe senior number 25 in this class?
COACH BOHL:  That's interesting you bring it up.  We are transitioning out, and we have purposely avoided all the sentimental things.  This is about the here and now, about the 2013 Bison, but I joined the senior class.  They're a remarkable group of players.  I mentioned earlier today at the luncheon that I've never been associated with more of a galvanized, focused, unified football team.  So, yeah, they're a very special group, and I'm glad I'll be going out with them.

Q.  I was wondering, Grant and Cole, could you guys talk about thousands of teams like you guys seem to like to run the ball.  You're facing teams in the playoffs that that's not necessarily their first option.  Everybody's been talking about the physicality of Towson and the physicality of the Bison.  Talk about how you see that playing out on Saturday?
GRANT OLSON:  Well, kind of funny.  I know some people have talked about what team has best prepared you for Towson, and my answer would have to be going against our offense in spring ball and fall camp.  You know, our fits and a lot of the plays that we run, our schemes are what we'd run if we had to play our own offense, so in some ways we've had a lot of repetitions.
Obviously, there are some differences, but the general core concepts of the plays and things like that and the principles of what they're trying to do is very similar.  I think both offenses run it extremely well.  They're two of the best in the country, and we're here for a reason.  It's definitely a great challenge.  We're looking forward to it.
But I know Coach Stanard in meetings keeps saying Ali versus Frazier.  This is going to be a heavyweight slugfest, and we're really looking forward to it.
COLE JIRIK:  Kind of like Grant said.  Our offense runs a lot of similar plays so we've seen a lot of the fits before.  But you watch their offensive line and they're good at what they do.  They're really big, really fast and really aggressive.  Probably the most athletic offensive line we've seen out here, and probably the best group of five guys we'll go against all year long.  It will be a challenge all day long.

Q.  Cole, you mentioned the report about Terrance West declaring for the NFL Draft.  Is the defense using that as motivation?
COLE JIRIK:  Not really.  It doesn't matter where he goes at the end of the year.  We have to stop him in this game.  We know he's a really good running back, and we have to stop him.  Doesn't matter if he's leaving for the draft or not.

Q.  Cole, when you were in August before you guys even played a game, people were asking you about the threepeat and potential of winning another National Championship.  How did you deal with that type of pressure when the expectation was set so high for you guys.
COLE JIRIK:  We knew coming in this year we wanted to win a threepeat.  We weren't shying away from anything.  We knew that was our goal coming in to three peat.  People were expecting it, but we were expecting it of ourselves.  We want this threepeat, and we have a chance at it on Saturday.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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