Joe Tumpkin – Safeties Coach
Tedric Thompson – Sr., SS
Jimmie Gilbert – Sr., OLB
Jordan Carrell – Sr., DE
Chidobe Awuzie – Sr., CB
THE MODERATOR: Could you tell us how the week has gone for you?
JOE TUMPKIN: The week has gone real well. I think our kids have been focused the whole entire time as a football team. We came down here and really just kind of been honing in on what Oklahoma State is doing and just kind of getting our fundamentals and prep back and getting the things oiled back up since it’s been a little bit since we’ve played.
Q. Joe, throughout your career, what are some of the experiences that you think really sort of shaped who you are, maybe some of the stops that kind of shaped your coaching philosophy or has it been a blend of all the places you’ve been?
JOE TUMPKIN: It’s been a blend of some of the places that I’ve been. I’d say coming back from high school and my high school coaches and that was a big fundamental for me, Coach Uspensky, Coach Manion back in Miami. Coach Awrey, who’s the head coach at Concordia River Forest, he was the first guy I worked for at Lakeland College. He was a big influence. But probably recently, Phil Bennett, Coach Wannstedt and Gary Darnell.
Q. Jimmie, take me back to some of those first years in the program when the team was struggling; what gave you hope or made you confident that Coach MacIntyre was the guy to really lead this turnaround that we’ve seen now in his fourth year.
JIMMIE GILBERT: He’s always been pushing like the first four years that we were trying to build a foundation, coming back from those tough years that we had, we were really focusing on just building a program from the ground up and the seniors in years past were really emphasizing on doing their thing, and this year we’re just trying to build up from where they left off.
Q. Joe, the previous experiences you’ve had in bowl games, are you drawing anything from that as you’ve gone about preparing your defense for this week?
JOE TUMPKIN: Yeah, you know, the biggest thing when you get there is doing the prep before you get to the bowl site, and I think the amount of time that we spent and the practices that we had before that, that was really where you’re coming in here. Coming into the bowl site because of all the activities and the schedule that we have as a football team, you want to make sure you keep it short and precise and just focus on the little things and work things through there. But the majority of our work was done before we even got here.
Q. Coach, it’s not often you see college quarterbacks that are in a program for sometimes three, maybe four. You guys got a guy who’s been there a while but so does Oklahoma State. What have you seen out of Rudolph and how maybe that longer-term experience has impacted what he does for them?
JOE TUMPKIN: He runs it. I mean, they go on how he goes. He’s the guy that makes the engine go, in a sense. He puts them in the right place, he makes very good decisions in there. He’s very well-coached. I think what he does is he sees it, makes his decisions, and puts those guys in a very good position. He doesn’t make very many mistakes. You don’t see very many mental mistakes come out of him. He doesn’t make bad decisions.
Q. Tedric, what challenges do you anticipate from the Oklahoma State passing offense which is ranked 10th in the nation?
TEDRIC THOMPSON: I think just how big and how physical their receivers are. I think these are some of the best receivers we’ve faced all season long. It’s kind of a Pac-12 opponent because of how much they pass, but they also have a great running game. We’ve got to trust in our corners that they’re going to play a great game, and as safeties we’ve just got to try to help our corners out as much as we can. I just feel like how big they are, they’re big and they’re fast at the same time, so it should be a good challenge for us.
Q. Coach, what did you see on film from Oklahoma State’s true freshman running back, and are you kind of impressed that he’s been able to do that as a true freshman?
JOE TUMPKIN: Well, I think both their running backs run hard, and what they do a nice job of, he’s got good vision and he’s able to see some seams and some holes and then once he gets in there, he has a burst, and he’s tough to bring down. He break through some tackles. His yards after carry is pretty good, after contact is pretty good. He runs low, and he’s going to be a challenge for us for our guys up front.
Q. What did you guys take away from the game against Washington? They kind of ran the ball really well. What did you guys do as a defensive line regrouping after that to set a focus for this game?
JORDAN CARRELL: You know, we broke down the film. We corrected our mistakes and throughout these last couple weeks of preparation, we’ve really toned into our technique and fundamentals and just really focused on coming back together and going out on top one last ride.
Q. You guys have been off for a little over three weeks I guess to this point in time. How do you guard against not being sharp being that you haven’t faced game action for over three weeks?
CHIDOBE AWUZIE: Well, in practice it’s pretty much a game every day. We’re always trying to get better and compete with the scout team and our own offense, and that really helps us get the speed of the game, and finishing on balls and stuff like that is stuff that that Coach Tumpkin, Coach Clark and Coach Mac emphasize every day, so we just try to get to the speed of the game in practice, and that usually helps us during the game.
Q. Can you address how important it is for the seniors, speaking for all of you guys up there, to finish this game, finish this season with a win?
CHIDOBE AWUZIE: It’s very important. From our freshman year we’ve been told that that was our goal was to go to a bowl game, and then this year we realized that we were good enough to play in the Pac-12 Championship, which is good and all, but from the first day here, I feel like that was our first goal was to go to a bowl game and to finish out with those seniors at the time, and those seniors didn’t get a chance to play in a bowl game, the next seniors didn’t get a chance, the next seniors didn’t get a chance, and now it’s right here in front of us, so I feel like we’re playing for our own dreams but also for theirs that didn’t get a chance. We want to finish out strong and make sure that we secure our legacy.
Q. Jordan, what has been the biggest factor that has allowed your defensive line to create such good chemistry and play consistent all season long?
JORDAN CARRELL: The trust and the brotherhood that we formed throughout the off-season. We’re pretty close off the field so that correlates to what we do on the field. We just want to be great, so we’re all three seniors, and we just play for our whole team.
Q. Jordan, can you talk a little bit about your partner Samson and Josh and their stories of bouncing back this year?
JORDAN CARRELL: Yeah, both those guys, they’ve faced adversity but they didn’t let that detour their ultimate goal of playing football. You know, I’m proud of those guys and what they’ve gone through and how much they’ve overcame and the amount of work that they’ve put in this off-season has really shown on the field, what they’ve done this year.
Q. Jimmie, given you guys’ history and having some losing seasons coming into this year, it would have been natural for you guys to just have the goal of going to a bowl game, but you shot higher than that. How important was it to set the bar higher?
JIMMIE GILBERT: Last year we realized we could play with these teams that were blowing us out in years past, so with that in mind, we set our goal higher. We felt that we had the ability, we had the chance to win the Pac-12 South, and we did. We felt that we had the ability to win the championship, which didn’t turn our way, but at the same time, you’re not trying to limit your team to just something small, something that can be achieved easily, so by having these bigger goals, it really allowed us to push harder and do things that people didn’t expect us to do.
Q. Coach Tumpkin, after the Pac-12 title game and the fall to Washington, have you sensed in the last three weeks that this is a really hungry football team?
JOE TUMPKIN: Definitely. You look at one of the things I sensed about our whole football team and especially us on defense is that they are a brotherhood. They do a lot of things together. They clown around together, they work together, they get on each other together. They’re probably one of the — in my 22 years, probably one of the tightest groups I’ve been around, and when you have a successful football team, a lot of that comes together. They know each other. You watch them communicate on the field. You watch them how they talk to each other in game situations. A lot of times they’ve been around each other, they know each other, they believe in each other, they trust each other, they’ll fight for each other, and that’s one of the biggest things that has showed our success this year.
Q. Tedric, you had six career interceptions coming into your senior year and you’ve surpassed that with seven interceptions this season. What do you attribute your success this season to?
TEDRIC THOMPSON: My teammates, really. I think my teammates always push me. I’m probably one of the quietest guys on the team, but I look at everybody from afar, like Chidobe, Afolabi who’s my roommate, Ahkello, I look at all those guys and see how much they push each other during practice and during the film room and stuff like that. If you go back and look at the interceptions I did get this year, it wasn’t really me. All I did was catch them and I dropped a lot, but the D-line got a lot of pressure, the linebackers underneath routes, and then our coaches — Coach Clark, Coach Tumpkin and Coach Mac — how they stretched the film room and stuff like that, and me being able to watch film and my teammates helping me. An example was the two picks I got during Stanford. The first one I caught, it was just because the D-line got pressure and I just dove for it. And if you go back and watch film on the second one, Chidobe told me the route right before the play. It’s just stuff like that that shows how close we are, so like the interceptions I did get was really because of my teammates.
Q. Jimmie, can you talk a little bit about just how Colorado fans have reacted this year to what you guys have done? How did you guys see the fans react to this season and what are you expecting out of them this week?
JIMMIE GILBERT: One thing that Coach Mac has really shown us is just the faith that the fans had. We had influenced a lot of people, just giving them the will and the drive to do things that when they say they have hard times, just watching our team light back into their lives, that really touches you because it lets you know that what you’re doing around isn’t just on y’all, it influences the whole circle around you, and people from afar also have their eyes on us, and we’re hoping people who at first weren’t even Colorado fans weren’t even paying attention to us, but when they see we can go from zero to 100 really quickly, that really motivates us to do harder and won’t let their goodwill go to waste.
Q. Joe, Tedric mentioned that Oklahoma State’s passing game is a little bit reminiscent of some of the Pac-12 offenses you guys have faced. Their wide receiving group as a whole and James Washington specifically, do they remind you guys of anybody you’ve played this year?
JOE TUMPKIN: I think they’re very similar to Washington offensively, what they do, how they do it offensively, the quarterback is the key, same thing with Washington’s quarterback. Us being able to control and stop the run is going to be key for us, and then keeping them off their play action game.
Q. Tedric, the match-up between you guys, your defense, and Oklahoma State’s offense, I think a lot of people are saying it’s one of the better match-ups in the non-New Year’s Day championship bowl games. Are you guys excited about seeing how this shakes out?
TEDRIC THOMPSON: I think we’re just a competitive group, so we’re excited to play every single game. We take nothing for granted, but because of how competitive we are and how competitive I’m pretty sure this offense is, we’re looking forward to it, looking forward to the challenge, and we just expect a great game because they’re just not going to hand it to us, we’ve got to go out there and compete like we’ve been doing all season, so it should be a fun game.
Q. Jordan, we just heard Coach Tumpkin compare Oklahoma State to Washington offensively. We haven’t seen many teams run against you guys up front like Washington did; do you and Josh and Samson got a little chip on your shoulder heading into this game after what went down in the Pac-12 title game?
JORDAN CARRELL: Yeah, we’re ready to come out and play physical. We’re going to apply our techniques and do our job. As a whole defense, we’ve just been pounding our technique and just dialed into the scheme that Coach Tumpkin has prepared for us. We’re ready to go out there and make up for what happened the last game.