THE MODERATOR: I think we're ready to go ahead and get started here. Willie, why don't you give us an overview first and then we'll open it up for questions.
WILLIE FRITZ: We're very excited about being here in Frisco. They really roll out the red carpet when you come to this event. Everyone does a fantastic job, Southland Conference hosting the event, as well, does a great job.
It's a lot different road to get here this season than it was last year. We started the season off 1 and 2, and we really kind of had our backs against the wall. But our guys did a good job of focusing on each and every game, the task at hand
and getting better and better throughout the season. So we're just elated to be back here at the National Championship and very excited about competing against North Dakota State tomorrow.
Q. This is actually for the players. Darnell, if you wanted to answer, what is like for you guys to come in and to establish what you guys have established at Sam Houston and be a part of the most successful part of Sam Houston's football history?
DARNELL TAYLOR: It's been fun. I know when Coach Fritz came in, I think the season before, we were 5 and 6 or something like that, and he's done a great job. He's changed it around. It's been fun. He's a great coach, and I feel like this
happened all because of him. He's been good.
Q. I just was looking at your schedule, and Coach Fritz as you mentioned started off 1 and 2. I know the record may look a little bit different, but certainly you're battle tested playing some of the teams you've played, in particular Baylor
and Texas A & M, ironically who are playing tonight about 25 miles south. Can you talk about how maybe that prepared you for this playoff run and this game in particular? This is for the players and coach both.
RILEY SMITH: Yeah, Coach Fritz always tells us when we go on the road it's kind of us against the world. It kind of brings us closer together as a team because you're all staying in the same hotel, you have your meals together, you're in your
meetings together, in your rooms with your buddies, teammates, so it's fun. You've got your backs against the wall, and we definitely are battle tested from Arkansas to Washington to Montana to just right down the road in College Station. It's been a heck
of a year; tough, but I think it's definitely prepared us for what we have coming tomorrow.
CHRIS ROGERS: It's been a great season so far, Texas A & M was one, 87,000 people there, can't get much louder than that, can't get much more hostile than that. Pretty much all of it along the way, playing in Arkansas on the purple and silver
field on a 100 degree day, and all of it has been very beneficial for us to get to this point.
DARNELL TAYLOR: Yeah, I think they pretty much said it all. Like they said, we are a tested team. I think this is going to be our 10th game on the road, so I feel like this is going to help us just because we have played so many games on the
DARIUS TAYLOR: Yeah, like they said, this being our 10th game on the road and us winning and being able to produce on the road I think shows that we as seniors need to take over and kind of lead the young guys being on the road, being their
first time, but I think it's going to play a big role in tomorrow's game. We're used to being on the road, and I'm just ready for tomorrow's game.
WILLIE FRITZ: Well, yeah, I do believe we're battle tested, had a very tough schedule, and we knew that going into the year. I'm not into excuses and those kind of different things, and the players aren't, either, this team. The guys just
did a tremendous job delivering and playing hard each and every week. The credit goes to the players and the coaches and the great preparation that they did each and every week. It's hard to do week after week after week after week. Sooner or later somebody
bends or just doesn't give it their best that upcoming week, but our guys really did a good job of stepping up to the challenge.
Q. Darius, can you just talk about finally getting this last practice behind you here in a little bit and being back here, another chance to play for a National Championship?
DARIUS TAYLOR: It feels good. You know, to go out our senior year, us and my teammates, and to be able to get back for the second time is something special. We're just taking it one day at a time, this last practice, it'll be a lot mental,
but we're just going to enjoy soaking it all in, and we've just been preparing for the game tomorrow.
Q. (No microphone.)
WILLIE FRITZ: He's the all time leading interceptor in school history, really a great ball hawk. They put a lot of pressure on our secondary, play a lot of man to man coverage, plus (inaudible) our safeties and our corners. The backs definitely
had a great season, great career.
Q. This is a two part question. Could you speak about the legacy of your senior class, and then maybe a player or two, just talk about being here the second time and the difference between getting a National Championship title once as opposed
to being there twice?
WILLIE FRITZ: Well, I really think these seniors, they've won a lot of ballgames. A lot of these guys have been three and four year starters at Sam Houston. Very talented group, a bunch of really good students in that group, a bunch of guys
who really evolved with the University. I've said this before, I think there's a big difference between FBS and FCS is the accessibility of our student athletes, with the community and with the University, and these guys are darned near all, not just two,
three, four guys, but the majority of our team probably know their classmates better than most college athletes know their classmates, so they've been very easy to work with, and I really think do things right on and off the football field. I'm very demanding
as far as what they accomplish in the classroom and how I want them to behave off the field and then also how we practice. I'm very consistent in making sure they do those things right day in and day out. We've had very, very few problems with these guys.
That's a credit, I think, to the senior leadership and that these guys can provide it for us.
CHRIS ROGERS: I would just say that this is a special opportunity, especially to get the same team twice. That doesn't happen very often. A lot of us are very lucky to be in the situation that we're in. We'll never get a chance to put pads
on again after this day, so we're going to leave it all out there and see what happens.
Q. I'll ask you, Riley, can you just talk a little bit about what it was like to play in this thing last year, what you learned from that ballgame that you can carry into this ballgame on Saturday?
RILEY SMITH: Yeah, it's been almost an entire year. I know myself, I struggled a little bit last year in the game. I had injuries, and I know I've gotten better as a player, but I think we also have gotten better as a team. We learned that
we need to be able to be more than just a run offense, and I think we've bettered ourselves in the passing game. The new offense that we're running, no huddle, it's been a huge change, but then again, it's not really that different because a lot of our offense
is the same, we just pass the ball a little bit more, which as an offensive lineman I know it's a little more fun to pass block than it is to run block. But it's been a heck of an experience, and like Chris said, it's been a wonderful opportunity. We get
to do what everybody is calling a rematch with the same team, and I think we're a lot better team than we were last year. We know what we have to work on and we've done that, and like one of the questions earlier, we've been battle tested with our new offense,
and we're excited to see how it turns out tomorrow.
Q. Can you talk about the differences between this year and last year between both Sam Houston State and North Dakota State and also what is it that your team has to do to be successful tomorrow?
WILLIE FRITZ: Well, offensively throwing the ball better. Last year I was on the sidelines trying to keep (inaudible) game. I knew then that we had to improve that area of our offense, and we had to be able to throw the ball when everybody
knew we were going to throw the ball. So we really made a conscious effort to work on that in the off season, hired a coordinator, and we blended what we did well with the option attack and the run game, the play action pass, which are some of the things
he does very well. Doug Ruse, our offensive coordinator, he does an excellent job, and also, we took a chance, I've never been a no huddle team before. I've used it in a game but I've never done it for the whole game before. He convinced me that would be
something that would help us.
Early in the season I wasn't quite sure about it after the first few ballgames, but we stuck with it, and I think it's been great for us. Got a lot of veteran players that are back. They by and large have a lot of similarities between what
we are doing this year and what North Dakota State did last year, but I think in games, championship games, it's going to be very important to start fast. It's going to be important to turnover and takeaway is always very, very critical.
Our motto this season is finish. I believe it's going to come down to the fourth quarter. Whoever plays better in the fourth quarter is going to win the National Championship.
Q. This is for everybody who can answer it. What is the toughest part about getting back here?
DARIUS TAYLOR: Well, playing on the road. Last year we came in 14 and 0, being able to play all our games at home. And this year being on the road in the cold, not really being used to it.
DARNELL TAYLOR: I would say the pressure. I feel like this year people, they knew we had a good thing, so it was like, we had to win. I feel like this year it was more pressure on us as a team because we knew we had (inaudible).
RILEY SMITH: Kind of like what Darnell said. We're not sneaking up on anybody anymore. We're not just that lonely team out in the wind. But like he said, it's all about being the hunted or being the hunter, and we're better as hunters, and
tomorrow we need to be hunters.
CHRIS ROGERS: Coach Fritz told us at the beginning of the season that now that we have been recognized and played in the National Championship game, there's a target on our back. I think like what everybody else said, we've had to kind of dig
deep and prepare ourselves for the tough year ahead. We knew we had a tough schedule and we also struggled with some injuries, but everybody is pretty tough on the team. Coach Fritz said he likes tough guys and that's what he's got playing for him. We're
all pretty pumped up and ready to roll.
WILLIE FRITZ: Like these guys said, staying after this week after week, had high expectations coming into the season, and our guys have done a good job of kind of putting that on the back burner and focusing on the task at hand each and every
week. We don't look back too often at past successes and failures. If you do you're going to be unsuccessful. We really worry about just getting ready to play that upcoming week. As soon as we get done with the game, we review the videotape, flush that
down the toilet, we're on to the next one.
Q. As you look back at last year's game, it was just a couple of big plays that really made the difference, the interception return and the screen pass. Do you take confidence knowing that there were just one or two big plays that could have
won the game?
WILLIE FRITZ: Well, you kind of have to be very disciplined and sound in what you're doing with the offense, the kicking game. We've got a lot of respect for North Dakota State. We're going to run a lot of the same things we've been running
all year and they're going to do the same things they've done. There's going to be a wrinkle here or there or a trick play here or there, but for the most part I think both teams have a pretty good idea about what to expect.
Q. Chris, what will you do tonight, just kind of relax, think? What will you do this evening to get ready for this game? Do you get away from it or do you really get into it more?
CHRIS ROGERS: I guess that everybody does it their own way, prepares for a game a little bit differently. But we're about to go to a walk through here in a couple hours and eat dinner. We've got a team meeting tonight, same schedule as we
always have, just go to sleep with a smile on your face, wake up and (inaudible).
Q. I have a question for Darius and Darnell. Darius, can you talk about stopping the run, what the defense has been doing strong all year against a team like this, 1st down, time of possession going to be crucial? And question for Darnell,
if you can talk about the amount of turnovers you guys have been able to produce in the playoffs.
DARIUS TAYLOR: We've got to get sound. We've got to look after our responsibilities, and they've got to count on you to do that. We've got to get sound and everybody do their job, and if you do that, everything takes care of itself.
DARNELL TAYLOR: As far as takeaways, I feel like that's something that coach preached. He preached that every day. I feel like our team now is a team that we feel like we know if we need to stop, we can do that.
Q. The health of the team, is there anyone coming back that may not have played in the semifinals or in a playoff game? What's your injury report?
WILLIE FRITZ: We're in pretty good shape right now. The time off was good for guys that were beat up a little bit. I was a little worried about our offensive line after the eastern Washington game. At this point in the season we're in pretty
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