BOBBY PETRINO: Very proud of our football team. Very proud of our assistant coaches. And not just the game tonight but how the entire bowl preparation went. We’ve got a group of guys that have a great attitude, worked extremely hard, were on time for things that we did, and that means a lot. You know, that means a lot. It was an enjoyable preparation. The game tonight was a lot of fun.
I think the preparation showed up early when we came out and executed and jumped on top of them. We had some great individual performance, but it really was a team win. You know, we needed everybody out on that field, come down right to the last second to win the game. That’s what football is all about: Being a team. It’s the ultimate team game, so it was fun to get the team win.
Q. What did you have to change at the beginning when Burgess got ejected?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I mean, he’s a great football player, and Stacy Thomas is a guy that’s played a lot this year, practices, gets a lot of reps in practice. That’s one of the things we really try to do is get our twos a lot of reps in practice, so when he steps that he’s able to jump in and play really well, and I think Stacy competed really hard and played well for us.
Q. Some thoughts about what Lamar did tonight?
BOBBY PETRINO: Oh, man, he really executed. Really proud of him. I’m most proud about Lamar that over this preparation he worked really hard. He was up there for extra hours for himself, in watching video, taking notes, trying to really learn what it takes to be a quarterback. He improved tremendously on his footwork and his accuracy throwing the ball. If we could ever get him where he doesn’t get caught from behind when he runs — we’ll work on that speed here in the off-season, make sure he doesn’t get caught from behind. Actually I’ve given his coach a bad time because usually guys that cut back all the time aren’t fast, and he’s fast. You know, that’s why we used to call Kolby Smith “Cut-Back Kolby” because he cut back all the time, and he wasn’t fast enough to go the distance. But Lamar executed the offense. He did a great executing our run game, running the ball himself. I was happy with the way he threw the football, and it was a great win.
Q. You want to talk about what it means to you to get your first bowl win at Louisville?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I’m just really happy for the players. That’s what it means to me is we don’t have a big group of seniors, we have a group that have really put a lot into it, invested a lot into our program and giving everything they’ve got. To send them out with a win means a lot.
I always feel like a bowl game is the start of next season, so with what we have coming back and winning that game, hopefully it helps us there get going for the season.
But it’s really just about the players.
Q. Bobby, he accounted for over 450 yards so it’s crazy to say, but isn’t there a lot of room for improvement for him?
BOBBY PETRINO: For everybody. Yeah, we always feel that. But what you really do is you go out in a game and you try to compete as hard as you can, you try to do your best, try to execute. You feel really happy about it when you get a win because wins are hard. They’re hard to come by.
This team, we started the season out tough. You know, it was hard on everyone. We’re not used to that. None of the seniors, none of the juniors are used to that. I’m not used to it. Our coaches weren’t used to it.
But we stuck together. We had a good attitude, and I think that’s what the victory tonight — the first thing I thought of was why we were 0-3, and we got a great win at the Music City Bowl, so that’s what I’m most proud about these guys.
Q. Do you think you kind of showed that tonight because you got some calls that didn’t go your way —
BOBBY PETRINO: I was nervous. I can say that, right?
Q. It didn’t seem like anybody hung their heads, they just kept going?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, we did, and we’ve got good leadership out on the field. And the attitude when we took the field on defense was we’re going to get the stop and win the game. In fact, Keith said, we’ve got it, Coach, and they did. It took a lot. Took a couple 4th downs, but we did get it, and I’m really proud of their effort and the team that we became.
Q. With so many young guys going through so many adversities along the way, what does that do for you big picture? What does that teach them about where you guys can go?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I’m really excited about what we’ve got coming back because they know how hard it is and how hard you have to work, and nothing is just given to you. You have to earn it and go take it, and I think we’ll have a confident team, a team that’ll work extremely hard in the off-season, and we’ll push them really hard. We’re going to be able to get bigger and stronger and faster with the young guys. So it’s exciting. I’m excited to get started.
Q. During bowl prep was there anything that you saw that made you think Lamar could have a big day today?
BOBBY PETRINO: You know, we worked a lot on throwing the ball and his footwork and executing from under the center. We did work a lot on the read game, and he did a great job of executing that. We worked a lot on our tight ends and receivers blocking, and they did a great job. A lot of those runs that he was able to take off on, we had some great blocking on it, so it was really good.
Q. What did the ref say at the beginning of the game, the targeting penalty?
BOBBY PETRINO: He said it was targeting. You know, I didn’t agree with him, but they do have a little newness to the rule where he did hit him first in the chest, but if it extends up — I can’t remember the exact words that they used. He used those words. I probably wasn’t listening to him.
Q. Is that something they need to look at further in the off-season?
BOBBY PETRINO: I mean, it’s about player safety, and we’re trying to do everything we can to keep players healthy and players safe. That’s always a really hard call and a really hard thing because I think we do a great job of teaching our players what we call the strike zone, where we want to hit from, from below the chest to the top of the knees. But on that particular play, you’ve got a receiver coming from in the air down, and even though you’re trying to hit that strike zone, as you’re going up and he’s coming down, sometimes it happens. You see it throughout.
The rule is good. It’s a rule that we need in our game, and you just have to live with it sometimes.
I know James wasn’t trying to do that.
Q. Talk about at this stage to get career win 100 for you? Just your thoughts on that milestone?
BOBBY PETRINO: I’m just happy for our team, that’s all.
Q. Lamar, what gave you the idea, it seemed like the bootleg off the play fake on the read option, the bootleg was open all night for you to gain big yardage. What was the key to that success?
LAMAR JACKSON: Man, it was just good execution by our line and our tight ends blocking. Like I say, we’ve been practicing it all week in practice, and just executed it now.
Q. Lamar, how big was it to complete a couple of those passes early on for you to get going and then the run game kind of open up?
LAMAR JACKSON: It was very good because I let people that I can throw instead of running because on tape it didn’t look like I ran a lot, and it was just good for our players, too, also, because they just get a chance to get the ball in and show what they can do.
Q. Lamar, what made Cole so effective tonight?
LAMAR JACKSON: He’s a great athlete. He’s just not a tight end; he can be a receiver, too. And he’s got skills, so he just did what he does.
Q. Keith, talk about after you lose James and what the defense did, and Travon, just how you guys hung together on defense?
KEITH KELSEY: We just had to keep our composure as a defense. We know players go down all the time, and we’re going to have people come in and step up, which Stacy Thomas did, Jaire Alexander, so we just kept our composure and we just went out there competed.
Q. What was the defense’s mindset on the last drive where A&M got into position to possibly tie it or win it?
KEITH KELSEY: Well, we’ve been in those situations a lot, so it wasn’t nothing — like I told Cole, we’ve got your back, man, and we just went out there and got another stop.
Q. Did you both feel like this was a game where you could exploit some things with the tight end?
COLE HIKUTINI: I mean, we prepared for about a month for this game, so we all knew what we had to do and just executed with full speed. We believe we can make plays every game, it just happened to happen this game.
Q. Talk about the numbers you put up tonight, 227 passing yards, 246 rushing yards. What kind of goes through your head when you think of some of those things?
LAMAR JACKSON: We got the win, and that’s all that matters. I don’t really look at it for me breaking records. I just go out there and just play football, really. That’s all.
Q. Keith, how frustrating was it that your guy James doesn’t get to play in his last game?
KEITH KELSEY: It was real frustrating, man. Last game for us both, and he went out with a bang, though, so I was still happy for him. We just had to get the W.
Q. After that happened, what was said on the sideline?
KEITH KELSEY: Stacy Thomas just had to come in and step up. Stacy is a good player, not only me and the team, but the coaches got confidence in him, as well. He didn’t miss a beat came in and did the job.
Q. What made Devonte so effective today?
KEITH KELSEY: Devonte, he’s just relentless. He’s not — I wouldn’t even just call him a pass rusher, just his motor never stops, he’s always going and going, and he always finds the ball.
Q. James, what does this do for you guys in the off-season? How much does this motivate? And there’s so many young guys on this team.
JAMES QUICK: Basically it just builds confidence for the young guys that they’re coming into the winter with confidence. They want to come in and play and get balls and everything, and everybody is just going to have to be more confident coming back.
Q. How hard is it running like that for you guys? You guys really got some downhill blocks. Talk about how difficult it is when he’s running and not knowing where he’s at?
JAMES QUICK: Honestly it’s not that difficult because he’s going to make us right. Regardless of what type of block we make, he’s going to make us right. He makes us look good and we make him look good.
Q. Just your thoughts about what this end means to you guys after starting 0-3 like you did.
KEITH KELSEY: I mean, it just shows a lot of resilience throughout the whole team. A lot of people can’t come back from 0-3. A lot of people would just hang their heads down, but we just had meetings and it was really up to the players, not only the coaches but we had to take control of the team and say we’re not fitting to go out like this, and we’re going to make a bowl game, and we’re going to win one, also.
Q. Keith, was there any doubt during that last series that you were going to get that stop there? What was going through your mind when they were driving to win the game?
KEITH KELSEY: I mean, we don’t really think about it. We like when the pressure is on us and the whole defense, and we just came out and made a play. I mean, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, and we’ve got our brothers’ backs at offense, so it wasn’t nothing.
Q. What does winning six of seven including the bowl win tonight do for a locker room heading into the off-season?
KEITH KELSEY: I mean, it just brings up just the whole spirit in the locker room, and guys are going on the right beat and just getting ready for a new season, really.
Q. Lamar, Coach McGee said you still have a lot of room for improvement. Just talk about what you did and kind of going on from here and moving on and the improvements you can make.
LAMAR JACKSON: It’s just getting into the system even more, become a better quarterback, and going to go into the off-season looking to improve in a lot of positions passing and throwing, that’s it.
Q. Lamar, do you feel like you got faster as the season went on? Seems like each game you got faster than the previous game.
LAMAR JACKSON: I’ve been there. I’ve been there. I just can’t say I got faster. Our strength coaches have improved a lot, just squatting and just running a lot in practice. That’s it.
Q. For Keith or James or both of you, was last year’s bowl game a disappointment, the way that ended, any motivation for this year?
KEITH KELSEY: I mean, it was a lot of motivation because we wanted to send our seniors out the right way, and we just wanted to get Coach P his first win back here at Louisville, so it meant a lot. Just to go out there for the fans, too, just to get a victory for all of them.
Q. Did you guys feel the fans out there? There was certainly a lot of red and black.
KEITH KELSEY: Yeah, it was electric. They was up every play, and they was even behind us, so we just owe them a lot for this win, as well.