Q: Peyton, just talk about the challenges that Montgomery presented and what you all were ultimately able to do defensively to gut out the win.
PEYTON PELLUER: Yeah, I mean, he’s a big, physical back, and we knew we were going to have to tackle well all game if we were going to stop this offense, and there were times that we did, and they capitalized, so my hat’s off to them. When it came down to it, we tackled, got them down when it counted the most, and so I can’t credit my defense enough for that.
Q. Gardner, just tell us what you were seeing as you were reading the defense. Y’all weren’t going to the long ball, but what was presented to you and how did you capitalize?
GARDNER MINSHEW: They do a good job of mixing up the looks. Most of the time they’re going three deep, drop eight. It’s kind of hard to just get behind them when they’re doing that, and they had a good plan for us, luckily our defense came up big today and we were able to come out with it.
Q. You guys set the program record for wins in this game. How do you reflect on what this group was able to accomplish this year?
MIKE LEACH: I think the most impressive thing this group did was they improved every single week. I think that player-wise and coaching-wise we didn’t have any selfish people that were thinking about their own agenda, and if we did, then they were overshadowed by those that thought about the team first, and I thought they — as a result we were able to steadily improve each week, and I thought that was critical, and Iowa State is a great football team. There are very few teams I’ve played that I have more respect for than Iowa State. I thought they did a great job, but I’m really proud of this team and how we were able to grow this year.
Q. Coach, just talk about what worked offensively tonight.
MIKE LEACH: You know, stuff generally worked. The biggest thing we battled is we’d go through little stretches and all of a sudden drop a ball or get a penalty or give up pressure or something like that. I really did think that most things worked if we executed it, and when we did execute it, we marched right down the field. But I thought we hit a few stretches where we weren’t as consistent as we’d like to be.
Q. Coach, you had Iowa State down 21-7 and the Cyclones battled back. What did you think of the Cyclones’ effort tonight?
MIKE LEACH: Well, honestly the same thing I thought going in. You know, the biggest thing we battled, I guess, with the Cyclones, I felt like they’ve got some tough players, and I knew there would be some of this, was the explosives that kept drives alive, because I thought we did a pretty good job, and then at times they got off the hook with the explosives, and some of that is a credit to some of the players they have. But the thing is defensively we didn’t allow that to discourage us, and they did a good job taking the ball away from Iowa State, I thought.
Q. Gardner, I’d like to address this to you and Mr. Pelluer as far as just the legacy of this team. You guys are really leaving an indelible impression on the program. This team has won more games in one season than any other team in history. Talk about how fulfilling that is to you and the other seniors.
PEYTON PELLUER: Speaking for myself, this is what I came here to do is to leave my mark with the group of guys like we have here. We set a high standard at the beginning of the season because we had great expectations of what this team was capable of, and so we’re just thankful that we had this opportunity to get this 11th win and leave a winning legacy that Borghi and Jalen here are going to keep going.
GARDNER MINSHEW: One thing I’ve always been told is to leave a place better than you found it, and I felt like myself and these seniors have definitely done everything that we could to create these great work patterns, these winning mentalities that hopefully these guys carry on, man, because this place could be really special. It is really special. And to be a part of it’s an honor, and I can’t wait to see what they do in the future.
Q. Gardner, you set the Pac-12 single-season passing record with your performance tonight. What is the significance of that accomplishment for you?
GARDNER MINSHEW: It’s not nearly as significant as 11 wins being a school record at Washington State, but I mean, obviously it’s an honor. There’s a bunch of players that have helped me get to where I’m at. We’ve had more guys catch big-time balls than anybody I’ve seen this year, so I mean, it’s really a team. It’s an offensive reward, and just to be a part of it, it’s pretty cool.
Q. Peyton or Jalen, does Marcus know that Deion Sanders came to his defense for that pick six and was he pretty excited about Prime Time coming to his back like that?
JALEN THOMPSON: Yeah, he was pretty excited. After the game, he showed everyone, was like Deion Sanders tweeted to me. He’s pretty lucky. I wish I could get tweeted by Deion Sanders. But Marcus played great today, and he did his job, and you saw what happened. He made big plays.
Q. Peyton, everything that happened to begin this season in the off-season and then just what you guys accomplished, can you reflect a little bit just from the incredible down to how you guys rallied into one of the best seasons if not the best season the Cougars have ever had?
PEYTON PELLUER: Yeah, anything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger I feel like. This team just really meshed together, got closer as a unit with every bit of adversity that we faced, and with that, you know, we learned to handle success well, as well. So I’m just blessed to be a part of this group. This was such a fun season. I had a blast. Each game, each practice, each day, and I’m going to miss playing with these boys.
Q. Coach Leach, you guys had a lot of stops in the red zone. They out-gained you guys by almost 200 yards, but what can you say about the effort by your defense despite giving up those explosive plays?
MIKE LEACH: I thought the turnovers was outstanding. As far as the yard differential, turnovers are part of what costs you a few yards. When you get to the end zone you stop. But I thought they were an efficient and aggressive team. Defensively they’re one of the best red zone teams in their conference, and then they’ve been stingy with everybody as far as getting points. I thought, again, like I say, we did a good job getting turnovers, and I think in hindsight, we wish we’d be better at stopping the explosives, and then offensively we wish we’d be a little more consistent.
But that’s why you have these games is to fight it out and see what happens, and we were fortunate to come out on top, and I think a lot of that has to do with our players and their ability to just focus on the next play and not get rattled by the results, and we truly did play until — throughout until the end of the game. We finished the game, and I think that’s what was critical, and I did think this would be a hard, long battle, and it was.
Q. Coach, you talked about how proud you were of this team. Can I ask you specifically about your senior class. They won a lot of games here. What are you going to remember about them most?
MIKE LEACH: Well, they’re on outstanding class, and they’re part of what built the foundation for us to start going to bowls since I’ve been there. They’re a group of guys that worked together, and they played early, and then as a result of their diligence, they’ve developed a vision of bigger things and higher aspirations were possible, and I think that they brought a lot of young guys with them through their example.
Q. Coach, just want to ask you about the setting here. You came here when you were coach at Tech, the setting here at the Alamo Bowl tonight. You guys drew 60,000 and change. That’s the largest Alamo Bowl attendance since 2005. I wanted to ask you, this dome is 25 years old, be it ever so humble, but what kind of a setting is the Alamo Bowl? What would you say? What’s it like here?
MIKE LEACH: Well, the setting is outstanding. The facility is naturally a loud facility, and then the Alamo Bowl does a great job promoting their bowl, and San Antonio is a city that sells itself as far as being a great place to go, and then both of our teams brought a significant number of fans, and then also I think within the state of Texas there’s a lot of people that just love football and are going to attend a football game if you’re having it. And so I think they brought great energy to the game, as well.
Q. Peyton, could you take us through that takeaway? It kind of looked like you had the only vantage point on it.
PEYTON PELLUER: Yeah, no, it was just kind of weak really, and they’ve been running that with the jet motion throughout that game. Jahad and I knew it was coming. They had a blocker up on me, and I had to get through him, and Montgomery was right there on the other side, and I just got my hands on the ball, and it was pretty loose, so I yanked at it and ended up with it. I don’t know, it was a fun play. Glad the offense could capitalize on that for sure.
Q. Max, going back to roughly a year ago, you kind of waited a day there before officially signing with the Cougars. What is this moment for you, to have this sort of impact in your first year, and then take me back to that moment when you did sign with them, and was this everything you were hoping for?
MAX BORGHI: No doubt, looking back, it’s just unbelievable. Getting that 11th win and doing all this as a freshman, words can’t explain it. It’s still sinking in to be honest. Just more than grateful for everything, and I’m more than happy with where I’m at right now. Shout out to Gardner and Peyton. They’ve really led me as like older brothers, and I love them both, and I’m going to miss them. They definitely deserve both those trophies right there, and yeah.
Q. Peyton, between the third and fourth quarter, you gave a passionate speech to the team. What were you saying to those guys in that moment?
PEYTON PELLUER: I was just telling them, you know, we’ve got 15 minutes left to play as a group. These last moments that we have together as a team, just leave it all out there. You’re going to remember this for the rest of your life. This is what we worked for all off-season, all season, and so it just kind of came down to that, and I was just kind of trying to inspire the troops and rally them and get them to finish that fourth quarter because I feel like we’re a good fourth-quarter team, and we just needed to finish that game, and we did.
Q. Peyton, can you talk about the two-point conversion, what you guys saw there and how you were able to smother that play up and seal the game with that play?
PEYTON PELLUER: Yeah, I think they started in empty, and we were dropping eight, cover two, Tampa two that we like in the red zone, and quarterback stepped up, kind of got flustered, so shout out to the defensive line for getting pressure on him, and as the low player I had to come up and stop him, and he threw that pass to Montgomery, and Willie and Marcus were there and just tackled, like I said. We didn’t make all the tackles tonight, but we made them when they really counted, and that was one of them.
GARDNER MINSHEW: I just want to say thank you to these coaches, this team, this university for really taking me in. I really didn’t know what to expect coming into the situation as it was, and man, just the family that we’ve developed, man, these brothers of mine, it was only for a short time, but man, it means so much to me, and I couldn’t be more appreciative.