Postgame Quotes: Louisiana Tech
TIM SIMMONS: Coach Holtz start off, obviously an excellent win for the Bulldogs.
COACH HOLTZ: Excellent win would be an understatement. There was so many things we were trying to accomplish with this week. One, we came off the end of the season where we lost our final two games of the season.
With this senior class, I mean, they have done so many incredible things. We talked about what this class could accomplish, being the first class ever to go to three bowl games in a row.
We only have five bowl wins in our school history. This senior class owns three of them. They go out as one of the winningest classes in school history.
With this win, three nine‑win seasons in a row. Just unbelievable. I could go on and on and on about what they accomplished. That's why this game was so big to us. We wanted to send the seniors out the right way.
And then we talked about the momentum also catapulting this team into a 2017 football season. We knew we were going to play a great opponent in Navy. Unbelievable respect for Navy, the way they play, the effort, the toughness, the competitive nature they play with. We knew it was going to be hard.
And it's also an opportunity to play in an Armed Forces Bowl where, as I told Brant Ringler and the people from Lockheed Martin, this is much more than a bowl game. I have had an opportunity to play in a lot of bowl games in my career. I should say I have had an opportunity to coach in a lot of bowl games in my career. Haven't played too many.
But this one is about two teams and the final game of the season. But it's also about the men and women, what they do on a day‑to‑day basis in the Armed Forces all around the world. To give us an opportunity to enjoy the freedoms that we have and put our heads on a pillow at night and sleep soundly. And for that we're incredibly grateful. so it's also an opportunity for us to be appreciative of the men and women in the Armed Forces today.
It's been an educational experience for us as a football team to have this experience. But as I told these seniors how proud I am of them, it's about the journey. It's not about the destination. It's about the memories you make on the way there. It's about the friendships that you make. But without a doubt, for this senior class, it's about the imprint that they have left on Louisiana Tech and what they've done for this program. Just really proud of these guys.
TIM SIMMONS: Coach, if you can make a comment about your two players here, about their play today.
COACH HOLTZ: Well, let's see. Trent Taylor has another ho‑hum 12 catches, 233‑yard day with two touchdowns. Trent Taylor, incredible competitor. People want to evaluate a football player by his height, his weight, his size and his speed. They think it's all about the numbers that you put up, and that's why a guy like this is at Louisiana Tech. He is at his best on the biggest stage. He's an incredible competitor. He brings it every single day. I couldn't be more proud of him.
And I made the comment to the staff, I said, We will find out how valuable Trent Taylor was when we have to play without him. And he is going to leave a huge hole when he walks out this door for what he was able to do for this program. Couldn't be more proud of him.
For Jonathan Barnes, to make a field goal, as I said to him, I went to him and I said, Hey, relax. You got this. He said, Coach, you put it right where we kick it for pregame warmup every day. This one will be easy. And he put it through the uprights.
As I told him, we started the season with a miss from 39 yards that went off the upright, that left a little bit of all of us in Fayetteville, Arkansas, that day with an opportunity to win that game. But he came back and won seven games in a row without missing a kick. And if you have got a game winner, there's nobody else I rather put on the line than Jonathan Barnes. I trust our snapper and our holder, but I was more concerned about the snap and the hold and the protection than I was the kick. I knew if he got the kick off, I felt really confident it was going through the uprights.
TIM SIMMONS: Jonathan, biggest kick of your career?
JONATHAN BARNES: Probably so just because of the seniors that are on this team are a bunch of guys I came in with and it means a lot to be able to send them out the right way. It's definitely fitting for them to go out this way and something they deserve because the four years we put in here together has been incredible.
And we are where we are today because of them. And to be given an opportunity to go out there and be able to put the ball through meant a lot. I told my snapper, Darrell (Travis), and my holder, Logan (McPherson) before we went out there ‑‑ we ran the clock down and we're sitting there ‑‑ and I said, Would it be fitting for this to end any other way than for us three to go out there and be able to finish it like this?
And as soon as the ball flew off my foot, the first person I looked for was Darrell just because it meaned so much to both of them and to me. But to send them out the way we sent them out meant a lot.
TIM SIMMONS: Trent, MVP of the game, had a pretty good game. Your thoughts.
TRENT TAYLOR: It was a fun game and just the way this offense executed the whole game. Couldn't be more proud of the guys that were around me.
Just every time we got the ball, we executed to the best of our ability. And throughout the whole game, through the ups and downs of it, nobody flinched. Coach tells us that all the time, just don't flinch. And we were able to look at guys around us on offense and we all believed in each other, and that was a great feeling. And we had confidence in one another out there on that field that we were going to get the job done, and that's what we did.
TIM SIMMONS: Coach, talk about your quarterback.
COACH HOLTZ: He doesn't listen anymore. He does whatever the hell he wants to. He doesn't listen. He's undisciplined. Oh, hey, Ryan, how you doing? Glad you could make it. (Laughter.)
Couldn't be more proud of this guy. I'm going to miss all these seniors without a doubt. And, obviously, there are special ones. And with my involvement on the offensive side of the ball, I don't know that there's anybody that's taken more verbal harsh lashings on this team than Ryan Higgins has.
He's the guy that's waited his turn. He's waited patiently. He believed in this school. He believed in us. And even when a transfer came in here after going into his junior year, everybody thought he would leave. And he said to me that day when I talked to him about it, he said, Coach, this is my school. I'm not going anywhere. If you feel you need to bring somebody in, bring them in and let's compete. He got injured. Missed about five weeks at the beginning.
This year going into it, I felt very comfortable with him being our starting quarterback. We had a life‑learning lesson earlier in the season going into the season that was painful to go through.
But I think it makes watching this season that much sweeter for me to know what he's overcome, to be where he is, to watch the hard work that he's put into it, and the way that he's grown.
As I tell our team every day, I mean, our bunch, every face has a story. Every face in that locker room has a story. And Ryan's story is pretty special for what he's done, his focus, his toughness, his competitive nature, his leadership, what he brought ‑‑ or these two guys brought to this offensive football team is incredible. I think he threw for 400 yards tonight.
But as a coach, I don't think twice just as I don't think twice putting the ball on Jonathan Barnes' foot and saying, Let's go win it with that. I don't think twice about putting the ball in Ryan Higgins' hand and saying, You know what, son? Protect the ball and go do what you do. And it's the biggest compliment I can give him. That's how much I trust him as a quarterback, and I love him, appreciate him.
TIM SIMMONS: Ryan, we have had three pretty good quarterbacks last three years, yourself. We had Jared Goff last year, number one draft pick in the NFL. You had Greg Ward, Jr. from Houston. Your thoughts on the game.
Q. You're going to be a number one pick?
RYAN HIGGINS: Sounds amazing. Just really proud of all our guys. And when we needed to answer, we did. And when there was a swing momentum, we shut it down, anything like that. I was really proud of how anybody ‑‑ and definitely offensively, I could say when we needed a score, we were all there saying we're going to move the ball down the field of the. Let's go take care of business. I had complete faith in all of our guys. And as scary as the end was, I had 100% confidence in Mr. Jonathan Barnes.
Q. Jonathan, is that a moment that you live for as a kicker, that final kick?
JONATHAN BARNES: Absolutely. If you want to be a kicker, you live for that because if not, you won't be a kicker very long. Last year we had a couple big moments, and so it definitely builds upon itself, gives you confidence to come into the next moment. But that's something you live for. And I'm lucky to be able to share it with a bunch of guys that are like my brothers.
Q. Coach, did you envision a shoot‑out like this with Navy? I remember back in September in Lubbock, you got into a shoot‑out with Texas Tech.
COACH HOLTZ: We have been in a couple of them this year, for sure. We were at one in Texas Tech. We were in one ‑‑ the first game against Western Kentucky was a defensive struggle, 55‑52. We've been in a bunch of them this year. And you know what? That's the thing and why I'm so proud of these guys.
Did I think it would be high scoring? I felt like it could go one of two ways, and that's one of the reasons I took the ball to start the game. It's the only time I have taken the ball all year. I've deferred all year.
But in this game, I felt like if they came out and had the ball their first two or three possessions and had a drive like they had to start the third quarter that took seven minutes, eight minutes ‑‑ what it was, eight, a bunch of time ‑‑ that I was concerned about offensively us getting a little bit frustrated because we were used to moving the ball and scoring points and being very aggressive.
And that's one of the reasons that I took the ball. And Carlos (Henderson) goes down the field and the offense punches it in the end zone and it kind of put us up. And then we went back and forward.
But when I saw our defense, I told this team last night, the defense was going to be the difference in this game. And the stops our defense got today was the difference in this game. That's why it was a higher scoring game because we got some stops on the defensive side of the ball.
And we had had a lot more possessions than I thought we would. We talked about having to be really efficient on offense, trying to get some stops, keeping the ball in front of us defensively.
But coming into it, I mean, we have an offense that's built that if we have to go throw it every day ‑‑ we're probably at our best in the two‑minute drive. I mean, honestly. That's probably when are we operating, that's where we're in a rhythm. And that's where these guys feel like, yeah, let's go. And that's when we're at our best.
And we were able to do some of that today because Navy wasn't able to just take the ball and control it the entire time. But I know they can score points. Like I said, they've got a great offense. They have some unbelievable schemes. We did some things to them that I felt really good, and we stopped them at second and 10. And then they doubled that guy and arc another guy. And you're like, oh, golly. They've got a lot of answers. They're explosive.
But this was a game that we said we have to score one more point than they do, and we're prepared to win 17‑14. And we're prepared to try and win 55‑52.
Q. Coach, you talked about the stops that your defense made. Could you elaborate on how they did against this triple option offense?
COACH HOLTZ: Really, I thought for the most part, they did really well. I mean, I thought they did some really good things. When you look at Navy's averaging 40 points a game, they played some pretty good teams. Beating Notre Dame and Houston when they were top ten in the country, top five in the country, wherever they were ranked at that time. They've won some huge games. They have got an offense that can put up a lot of points.
So I felt like if we could get a couple stops that was the difference we were going to have to make. But when we had to punt twice when somebody took a sack in the first half, when somebody took a sack in the first half, we ended up having to punt twice. I thought our defense came up huge. Defense came up huge. Got a couple stops, got a turnover, got us a field position and we were able to stay ahead of it and go into halftime with a lead.
Q. Trent, think of your career at this school. For it to end this way what does it mean for you?
TRENT TAYLOR: I couldn't ask for a better way for it to end. The last game of your career, to see it come down to the wire and just to be able to as an offense drive the ball down the field to get that winning field goal, there's nothing more you could ask for. It's been the best four years of my life. And just my time with all these guys on this team have been incredible. I mean, I'm definitely going to miss it.
Q. Coach, what does it say about him that he has this performance in his last game?
COACH HOLTZ: He's always at his best in these big games. You go back and look at how he played at Arkansas. He had a similar day like he did today. And you look at how he played at Mississippi State a year ago and how he played at Kansas State and the big games, how he played at Texas Tech, Middle Tennessee. In our biggest games, Trent's always stood up.
But I'll also say this. The biggest moments is when we call plays kind of designed to go to him. And I'm sure that Ryan would tell you in the bigger moments, he's the guy we're looking for, too.
Ryan does an excellent job of taking what the defense gives him. And that's when he's at his best to playing in the system, to throw the ball 40 times and to not throw an interception, the way he protects the ball.
But it's pretty hard in a critical third down not to kind of glimpse over there just to see what Trent's doing regardless of where the lead takes you because ‑‑ where your read takes you because he's so productive. And he can be double covered. But if it was a game‑changing play, put the ball in his hands and he will find a way to make it.
Q. Coach, following the game, talking on stage, as you would expect, a lot of genuine emotion, all fired up. Where does this rank in terms of emotional wins in your career?
COACH HOLTZ: This week it's the biggest without a doubt. It would be the biggest. It's huge. You know what? It's big for so many reasons.
It's big because we lost the last two games, and these guys are so special to me. As much as they say thank you, I say thank you to them. I have learned more from them than they have taken from me, I assure you. I love these guys. I'm proud of them. I wanted to send them out a winner. I wanted to send them out with a victory.
But you know what? For the program, for three bowl wins in a row, for three nine‑win seasons in a row, we said when we came here we were not going to build a season, we were going to build a program. And we got a great nucleus of guys to build on it.
And their legacy will be long felt here because next year you're going to hear us saying to the young guys, You know what? Remember, why can't you be more like Trent? Why can't you be more like Ryan Higgins? Why can't you be like some of these seniors and the unselfish attitude they had and the stories that nobody is going to write about.
A guy like Kirby Wixson was a Remington watchlist guy a year ago, was a center and got hurt. David Mahaffey was our starting center every game last year. Both of those guys played backup roles as seniors. Neither one of them started. I think Mahaffey ended up starting today because of O'Shea Dugas.
But those guys are the two most positive guys on our team. Those guys are the energy guys there. They're team guys. And that unselfish attitude is one of the reasons we've been able to have this success.
It ranks up there. It's a bowl win. It's a last‑second bowl win. You don't get many of those in your career. I have lost on a last‑second field goal in a bowl game. I know it's a gut‑wrenching feeling. I feel for Navy as hard as they played and as great of a program they have.
It ranks up there pretty high, but more for my emotions for these guys that are sitting here in this senior class than for me selfishly.
TIM SIMMONS: Coach, can you make a comment about the Navy quarterback. They went through three or four and even had a fourth one in. What about his play?
COACH HOLTZ: On the fourth one, one play went 50 or 30 yards, whatever that was, and scored. I've been there when you go through seasons and you have injuries and how hard that is and how bad it affects your football team.
I've told Ken a hundred times this week I have an incredible amount of respect for his program because every year, they're good. Every year, they're disciplined. They're smart. They're tough. They're hard‑nosed, incredibly well‑coached.
And I know how hard it is to replace a quarterback and to see what their third‑string quarterback did coming in there and the way he competed and what he did.
I said to our running backs at one point in time during the game, I told Mickey Joseph, I said, Tell our running backs to sit there and watch their quarterback run because he's running harder than our running backs. He's getting hit, spinning, and then dragging the pile for six yards. We're getting knocked backwards on the goal line. I said, Tell our running backs to watch their third‑team quarterback run the ball. I have great respect with the way they play and how hard they play, but I was really impressed with what he did in that game today.
TIM SIMMONS: What do you think about the conference so far? You're 4‑1.
COACH HOLTZ: I think that makes us 4‑1 at this point. And I think we were 21‑9 coming into this season, I believe. You look at the conference record ‑‑ somebody is going to have look me up on that because I'm not sure that's what it is. It's close to that.
Great conference. You're lucky we have got some new coaches, big‑name coaches, coaches that coached at a lot of different places in this league. There's great football in this league, I think lining up playing Western Kentucky and playing Southern Miss who beat Kentucky to start this season. We lose at the end of the game on a fourth down touchdown against Arkansas at the end of the game.
I think there's great football in this league. I think there's really competitive football in this league. And I think it's a great brand of football and it's a very well‑coached league. Even Ken said that to me when we're talking, Holy Smokes, I watched y'all's league and that ain't no joke. This league, it's strong.
We haven't had that undefeated team to make that run for everybody to talk about our conference being special because we're all beating each other up. There's a lot of good football being played in this league, and you have got to bring it each and every week. I know last year we were only second to the SEC in a bowl record. And so when you look at what this league is doing right now, very competitive from top to bottom.
Q. Coach, you talked about three straight bowl games and winning those games. I think that has to do something with the culture and the kids that you talk about. Is it recruiting the right kids or getting them all together and doing that stuff there?
COACH HOLTZ: It's a combination of both. You have got to have the nucleus of people that are good ‑‑ these guys that are sitting here. Those offensive linemen we talked about, Xavier Woods. We've got some incredible role players that are guys that are doing great in the classroom. They do everything right. They're professionals. They do everything the right way. They're not cutting corners. They don't take short‑cuts.
And I think that's how we got here. You're not going to get on top taking short‑cuts. You have got to do it the old‑fashioned way and you have got to earn it.
And Kurt Hester has been a huge part of that. He breaks these guys down during the off‑season. He beats them up. I will go back to the summer when they were crawling through sandpits and running over and swimming across the lake and getting sprayed down with hoses while they do planks and everything else. It's almost military‑type training that they're going through.
But it's not just to condition them physically; it's to condition them mentally for moments like this when nobody flinches. And that's what it's all about. It starts with the people in your program because when we go recruit a young man and he comes on this field, on this team, or in this locker room, these are the guys that are selling it. It feeds itself, and hopefully we can keep it rolling.
Q. Ryan, considering your journey, what's it like at this moment?
RYAN HIGGINS: Pretty tough to describe really. So many different emotions. As soon as Logan put the ball down, I felt like the kick was money and I just started balling like a baby.
And each person I hugged after that, it was just getting worse and worse. And just so much emotions running through me it's really hard to describe. But I couldn't be happier to send my class and this team out on a high note.
COACH HOLTZ: And thank you for the City of Fort Worth. It's been an unbelievable week. Thank you.