Kyle Whittingham: “We’re thrilled to be here, to be back here. Second time in a row. Honored to play at Penn State, a long tradition, a program steeped in tradition I might say. Absolutely a team complete football.”
“You watch them on tape, strong at every position group. Definitely the best defense we’ve played this year. Very impressed – I’m a former linebacker so I watch these guys, very impressed with their linebacking corps, must be one of the best in the country without a doubt.”
“We’ve got our hands full in that regard, but we’re proud of our lads for making a comeback in this game.”
“We had adversity that we had to deal with throughout the season. They answered and answered the bell every time, and for our program to get back-to-back Pac-12 championships, that was a huge step in the evolution of our program, and as I said, very proud of our coaches and our players for what they have accomplished, and now we have the opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl Game, so we’re thrilled about that.”
Question: How did the adjustments go in the absence of Dalton Kincaid and Brant Kuithe?
Kyle Whittingham: “Yeah, that’s obviously a position that’s had a lot of production for us this year, but like everyone in the country, we have injuries and guys that pulled out. It’s almost like it wasn’t the team you played in the regular season it’s a transition team, transitioning to next year where you don’t have your rookies yet for next year but you’re missing a group of guys from the regular season, and everyone in the country is in the same boat.”
“We’ve got a few other tight ends that we feel really good about, Thomas Yassmin is the guy who’s really going to pick up the slack for what those two guys we miss; Logan Kendall, more of a blocked winger who’s invaluable to us. That he brings to the table in the running game, and he can catch too, but he’s a guy who does the dirty work for us.
“Then we still have guys there, but obviously it’s hard to miss guys of the caliber of those two tight ends. We thought we had maybe the best tandem in the country, but they’re missing, so we pass on, next man mentality, and let’s go.”
Question: What does defensive success look like in the age of college football?
Kyle Whittingham: “Okay. First of all, win the game. If they score 50, you have to score 51, so whatever you need to do to win the game.”
“Our philosophy, and it seems like Penn State is very similar, is to be tough on the run. If you take the run away, if you can tell a team they can’t run football and turn them into a dimension and get them to third down, third and long ideally and get after the quarterback, that’s really the simple formula in its most simplistic terms for us is take off the run, get after the quarterback at the third try, and that’s what we’re looking for.
Question: What do you think of Penn State’s freshman running backs?
Kyle Whittingham: “As far as running backs go, two terrific backs. One is getting closer to 1,000 yards, the other is getting closer to 900 yards. They’ve got exceptional vision. They’re tough. They’ve got size. They can run indoors or outdoors.”
“Obviously, no running back can have great success without an absolutely phenomenal front, and these guys have a great front. They play well together. They’re efficient. They’re physical. They do a great job in engaging in the running game, a lot like us. There are so many similarities between these two teams, in my opinion. It’s very intriguing.”
“But they’re determined to run like we are, and take away the play-action pass system, and that’s really the formula for success, and those guys have done a great job running the football for them this year, and again, the offensive line that moves people is really where it starts.”
Question: How was the preparation when you face a team similar to yours?
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Kyle Whittingham: “I would say generally speaking it helps prepare you to some extent. There’s definitely enough difference in what we do to make sure you cover all your bases and expose your players to what that they’re going to — all the things that they’re going to see.
“We do good, as the coach (Franklin) mentioned, throughout the season. That’s the way we operate. We did that the other day. It helps us when you play against a team where the offenses are so similar.
“We had a lot of time to prepare. I think we had 15 practices. I’m sure we’re going to see things that they didn’t show on tape, just like us. Get ready for their attack base and their base races and what they do, and like I said, being as similar as we are to each other helps a bit.”
Question: Thoughts on Penn State linebacker Abdul Carter?
Kyle Whittingham: “Well, first of all their defense, as I mentioned, is phenomenal. He’s a great player, great mover, very skilled, obviously. But we have respect for every level of their defense. As I mentioned, there’s no doubt that this is the best defense we’ve faced all year, so we can’t really focus on any particular group of positions or on one guy in particular. We have to be prepared to try to move the ball somehow against what they’re doing.”
“But I have a lot of respect for him, obviously, and he’s a great player.”
Question: What would winning the Rose Bowl Game mean for your program?
“Well, first of all, going to the Rose Bowl was phenomenal. They treat you well. We’ve been to a lot of bowling games and it’s a great experience for our players.”
“The second time we fell short last year against a very good Ohio State team, lost by a point or two there, the last practice of the game decided the outcome. But if we could Getting a win would obviously be another step in the right direction for our program.”
“But I can tell you right now that the season is a success regardless, for our program to come back from where we started when we joined this conference 11 or 12 years ago, it was a big step in the right direction, and we’ve said all season that getting to the top is one thing, but staying at the top is another, it’s a bigger challenge and it’s harder to maintain success than to getting there the first time, and I think our guys did a great job of taking that to heart, so here we are back.
“But yeah, if we could get a win it would be another big step in the right direction for us.”
Question: What are you most confident about in your team?
Kyle Whittingham: “You know, proud of our football team. We’ve shown a lot of resilience this year. Like I mentioned, we got off to a horrible start in The Swamp against Florida, dropped that game of ball, gave up a few Pac-12 games along the way, but they kept fighting, kept persevering. There’s no giving up on our football team. They’re a bunch of warriors. I like to be with them.
“We’ve only got seven seniors so what you see with us is going to be very similar next year. We’ll have some guys stepping up, downgrades, but we’re also having these conversations and giving advice. to our guys when they pick it up.
“You have to be careful when you have these conversations because it has to be their decision. You can’t be too forceful one way or the other because at the end of the day it’s their career, their life. Our position has always been during the season, it’s all about the team. After the season, it’s always about what’s best for the individual. That’s our approach. We’ll see what happens here with some of our subclasses, but I think we’re going to get the vast majority of them coming back, and that would be good for us.”
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