JON HEACOCK: I think first and foremost, we’d be remiss not to thank the Alamo Bowl committee, the people here in this town, the city. It’s been an outstanding opportunity. Alamo Heights, our host for practice, everybody has just been truly first class and I know on behalf of all of our staff, very appreciative of all of that. Practice is going well. We started out with our Tuesday practice and worked our way through today and through the week and our guys have worked really hard
Q: Coach Heacock, you guys have already faced four of the top 11 passing offenses in the country, now you get a chance to face the No. 1 passing offense. How do they compare or contrast to other air raids you’ve faced this year?
JON HEACOCK: I think first of all, this offense is different than anybody really that we’ve played. I think the quarterback obviously well documented, going to be a first-round draft choice, tremendous player, tailback is a tremendous player, and I just think it’s a different offense, and unless you would just really view and see all the games, it is very different. They force you to do different things, will have to do some different things, and I think it helps us in honesty because we have seen parts of it, we have not seen all of it like you see with Coach Leach’s offense.
Q: Coach Gordon, how has the offense evolved throughout the season?
JOEL GORDON: Well, I mean, it’s been a work in progress. You know, we’ve had guys, new guys step into new roles all year long and played with a couple different quarterbacks, played with a good group of running backs. We’ve had a bunch of wide receivers step up and do different things and new guys at the tight end position, and it’s really just been one week at a time, getting through an injury here or there at a position and going one week at a time and figuring out who’s ready to step up that week to try to help us win a game, and there’s been a lot of guys that have proved that they could do that.
Q: What is it about your offense that makes it be able to have success when you have injuries, just different quarterbacks, since you’ve lost David, you’ve been through a different quarterbacks, all that type of stuff?
JOEL GORDON: Well, having some depth for sure, I mean, we’ve got a great group of running backs in that room, and Coach Scheelhaase has done a great job of getting Johnnie Lang and Kene Nwangwu ready to go when their number has needed to be called. The same could be said in the wide receiver room with Coach Gasser and Coach Golesh in the tight end room. Our offensive line, we’ve had some guys that didn’t have a lot of experience coming into the year, and we’ve had some injuries there, as well, so it’s been a group effort. Our coaches have tried to do as much as we can one week at a time to get the guys that are healthy ready to go, and our coaches have done a really good job with that.
Q: Willie, how does your mission on Friday differ from facing West Virginia?
WILLIE HARVEY: Obviously, like Coach said, their offense is like no other, but we’re going to take it just a regular game. We’re going to approach it the same way.
Q: I’ll ask Brian the same question, please. How is this different than West Virginia?
BRIAN PEAVY: Oh, man. I’m just going to piggyback on what they said. Like you said, another air-raid offense, but different personnel. They have guys that can make plays all over the field. One thing Coach Heacock tells us is to view it as a day like yesterday, and I’m going to approach the game as such.
Q: Coach Heacock, how would you describe the perfect Cyclone defender, like the attributes you could look for in a defensive player?
JON HEACOCK: Well, I think these two guys sitting next to me would probably be a good way to start. I think our guys, and I think I would just talk about our group as a whole. I think our guys, I think what we do is one thing. I think how our guys do stuff is what is different. In my 35 years, I think it’s built on trust amongst the players. I think these guys truly care about each other. I think our unit is different and such, and I guess I can speak because I’ve been doing this 35 years, I think our room is different from the standpoint that they really, truly care about one another. They hold one another accountable. Our defensive staff cares about each other. They care about those kids, give them an opportunity to have success. We practice extremely hard. We prepare extremely hard. So I think if I were starting to build one of our perfect defenders, it would be based on how they do the things, not what we do schematically. And I think that’s where I would approach what I think are these guys have led as leaders, tremendous work habits, tremendous practice habits, and like I said, they truly care about each other and our coaches care about them and they care about us. I think it’s more how you would build that group, that guy.
Q: Coach Gordon, since Brock took over against Oklahoma State, what is his biggest progress in eight games, and where is his next springboard step?
JOEL GORDON: We’ll worry about the spring when we get out of this game, but he’s gotten to the point where there’s play calls that he’s heard. There’s experiences that he’s had in games now, going for most of the year, and going into that first year, he didn’t have any of that. So just the opportunity to have some kind of comfort level, getting some experience has been huge for him, and he hasn’t been perfect, he’s been pretty good, but just continuing to learn about the offense and learn about defense. He’ll continue to go down that road when we get to spring practice, and I think he’ll continue to improve.
Q: Willie and Brian, could you each answer specific to this question: What’s it been like to — as redshirt freshmen go through losing seasons and now having a chance to win 17 games over back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history? Can you put into perspective how special this time is for Cyclone football?
BRIAN PEAVY: Yeah, it’s very big for Cyclone Nation, all the support they gave us through those two-win seasons, three-win seasons, and to basically give back to our community, like I said, they’ve been there through the ups and downs. That’s been big for this program, not only us. Just to see the fruit of our labor, and it’s perfect how coach Campbell came in with trust the process and you can see it in our journey and how our process has went.
WILLIE HARVEY: Just to piggyback off what he said, we owe everything to Cyclone Nation, being with us through the two and three-win seasons, and not so much the wins, but just the fact that Coach Campbell came here and he really changed the process and he changed what we thought as players. He changed my life forever because after my second year I really was done with football.
Q: Coach Heacock, can you kind of put into perspective the resiliency of these two guys next to you and what that’s meant for your program to have the kind of success that you’re having?
JON HEACOCK: I think part of that goes back to the question that was asked earlier is how do you build that person, and I think it’s all of these guys. I think it’s David and Hakeem and Willie and Brian. I think it’s built. I think watching them change work habits and lifestyles, and they were part of that. They were the ones that did it. It wasn’t coaches involved. This is player driven. We’re blessed to reap some of those benefits as a coach. But our players changed what’s going on in our program. We gave them some leadership, some guidelines, but these guys did it. It wasn’t me on defense or coaches. It was players. You know, they led with love in their hearts and work habits and perseverance and all the things that it takes when things aren’t going good, and that’s when you really measure what kind of people they are, and that’s why you’re looking at where we are today is because of the kind of people that they are. Very talented on the football field, winning in the dark, what these guys have done and the rest of this football team is based on what happens outside those lines that you all see.
Q: We talked to JaQuan Bailey the other day and being able to recognize schemes and tendencies, and with him being one sack away from the school record, what kind of growth have you seen him make on the field but also the understanding of schemes and being able to be a part of the defense and do his job?
JON HEACOCK: I think tremendous growth, but again, it goes back to the same thing. I think what these guys have brought forth — I think our seniors and underclassmen have bought into preparing to win and that process that is really hard. It’s hard for adults. It’s hard for a coach. It’s hard for all of us in this room to follow a process, and when things aren’t going good, keep following the same process. These guys did, and he has done that through leadership of our seniors, and he bought into it, and he changed his world, in all honesty, and how he plays and how he prepares. It isn’t by accident. Those guys have worked really, really hard.
Q: Brian, looking back on those early years those first couple of seasons when you were going back through those tough times, now that you’ve had some time to reflect, how difficult were those first couple of seasons?
BRIAN PEAVY: Yeah, just reflecting, I would say it’s very difficult being a young guy entering college and really not knowing what the process was. You just know the culture that you’re in. I think my heart is — I reflect on my hardest thing was how do I get out of it because I’m a guy that I’m new to it and this is all I know so how do you get those wins and overcome adversity. These were things I didn’t know, and now reflecting on it, I would say that was the biggest challenge. Basically learning how to trust the process and how to believe in yourself.
Q: David, what role can the offense take in helping out your defense stop the best passer or slow down the best passer in the country?
DAVID MONTGOMERY: We’re going to compete to do what we try to do every Saturday, being able to fool the offense and make plays, taking the small plays and making the most out of them. The defense, I’m 100-percent sure they’re going to do their job and do what they need to be doing for the proper moment. We’re excited to see what happens, and we’re all prepared the same way we’ve been preparing to go forward the right way. We’ll just see what happens.
Q: Jon, what role can your offense do in helping you guys combat this offense of Washington State?
JON HEACOCK: Well, again, I guess I show my age sometimes. I’ve been around a long time, and I’ve always said we play the best defense when we’re standing on the side. My calls are a lot better. You know, I’m really smart when our guys are over there behind the bench. So that’s important. And our offense, I think the blessing for us has been we’ve been a team. Our offense has helped us. Our defense has helped us. Our special teams has helped us. And we’re going to have to help each other again on Friday night. That’s the only way we know how to have success.
Again, we’re playing the best defense we can play, we’re error free over there where we’re standing. Them guys are behind me. They’ll help us. We have to help them and I’ve always said you have a great defense when your team needs you the most (indiscernible), and that’s what we’ve been working hard to do.
Q: Hakeem and David, how has the bowl experience, how has it been different this year from the way it felt this time last year?
DAVID MONTGOMERY: The experience is definitely different being two different places. I think the mentality is the same, though, as far as what we’re trying to do, trying to handle the task at hand, having to prepare for another big moment, for a large stepping-stone for our team and for this program. So yeah, the environment is different, but the weather is way better here, but the mentality is the same as far as where we’re trying to go and where we’re trying to take the program.
HAKEEM BUTLER: I would say it was very different being in two different places, of course. Last year it was a lot of people’s first bowl game, and we didn’t really understand the experience, but we experienced it, we handled it, and we came out with a victory. This year we know how to prepare and how to take care of ourselves, and we’re just enjoying ourselves and getting ready for the game.
Q: Brian, you’ve got nothing to lose. This is your last game. Tell me something about Jon that nobody knows.
JON HEACOCK: I mean you could still lose playing time.
BRIAN PEAVY: Man, that’s a setup question. Oh, man. I mean, Coach say the wisdom teeth, man, as a guy that can tell you about your life before you live it. He’s helped me with decisions, and I didn’t know where to turn, and like I said, he’s a guy with experience, a guy to knows how to lead you down the right path. I guess not many of you guys know that, but if you look at our defense, we’ve made turnover margin changes. If you just look at his coaching you’ll see what kind of man he is there.
Q: David, how about you, what’s he like on the practice field?
DAVID MONTGOMERY: I would just say he doesn’t let you settle for less. He just wants you to get to your full potential and that’s something I learned from Coach and something I really appreciate, because before we weren’t like that but you can tell he really loves and supports everything you do, but he wants you to give your all, and he’s going to get the best out of you every day.
Q: David, you talked about taking the program to the next level. What’s that look like, and what’s the ceiling for this program moving forward?
DAVID MONTGOMERY: Yeah, I think if we continue to prepare the way we prepare and we sacrifice as much as we’ve sacrificed and more, the ceiling is untouchable. I feel like it’s high. So I feel like if we as a team, as a family, because I think a lot of people get that confused, a team and a family, but this is a family. Like a teammate is my brother, Willie and Peter are my brothers, as well. So I think that being what it is will definitely help us in the future raise the bar because that’s always what the plan is is trying to get better, for our players as individuals
Q: For Hakeem and Brian, thousands of Cyclone fans are arriving as we speak. I know this is a frequent topic, but can you speak what it means to have the support and the San Antonio takeover from Cyclone fans that’s expected here this week?
BRIAN PEAVY: Yeah, that Cyclone Nation, definitely known to travel. Like I said before, I know we’re doing this for our community. They believed in us when we were nothing, and we’re here to serve them now. Yeah, you’ll see red and gold all over San Antonio this weekend.
HAKEEM BUTLER: Yeah, Cyclones, like I said before, they’ve been with us through 3-9 and they’ve been waiting a long time. They’re traveling to see a bowl game, and last year was pretty cold, and so this year, better weather. The turnout, nobody knows who is coming really.