"Third bowl game in four years, that's a great accomplishment for our seniors. I just really appreciate our players and their grit and determination. That's what we talked about downstairs. We started out the year and hadn't yet learned how to close a game out when you have adversity. Today, we learned how to close a game out. Maybe the greatest lesson of all is things were really going our way in the first half and in the second half they really weren't and we still found a way to win the game. Those lessons can really be catapulted to a team and I'm really proud of it.
Defense played lights out which we needed. We were struggling offensively with penalties and drops and a host of things along the way. But we found a way, special teams and defense, and then we made the play we needed to make on offense at the end in order to win the game.
As a coach, you get aggravated when you watch things like that but you also say to yourself that maybe the best lesson that you learn as a team is finding a way to win on the road in adverse conditions, adverse situations in that we are not playing well and closing it out and getting your sixth win and getting to a bowl game."
On what his team's effort showed him…
"I think it shows resiliency of our team and our team was really resilient. We battled, we scratched, we clawed, we hung in there and overcame a bunch of stuff. We had some hard defeats, some close some not but we hung in there and everyone all around us was counting us out but no one inside was counting us out, they were all counting us in. We were able to scratch our way back in and get into a bowl game.
There is nothing more satisfying than watching our kids' faces in the locker room. It's all about the players. You watch them, together, will their way to this, together, is worth everything. We will keep working on the other stuff and fixing stuff and this and that but that moment was worth everything."
On the future of his team…
"I think with the bright future that we have right now with the guys that are coming back, we will lose a few on defense but we have a bunch coming back that have played meaningful snaps. We've been through that metamorphosis last year when we lost five games by less than three points. We've battled back this year through this, our offense will become and older and more mature offense. Our offensive line is in place. The tangible things are in place to win and I like where we are headed and I like the future.
The faith that people inside had in us has been unwavering. That means a lot to our football team. Starting from the top of our university. Unwavering faith in our football program. That's what it takes to build and grow for the future."
On returning to a bowl game…
"We wanted to get bowl-eligible and that is what we are. How you get there is never exactly what you wanted. We had one blimp. We were not bowl-eligible last year. A lot of programs come in and they don't get to a bowl game until their fifth year if they are lucky. This will be our third in our fourth year. That's a credit to these players.
This was so important to get our program back into another bowl game. It's never text book for how things go. Sometimes you go to two bowl games early and then everyone forgets. We have a lot of work to do. We are still doing it. We are not done yet. I like the future.
There is one thing when you are going and you are worried about replace the guys you will be missing. That's what I worried about in year three. Now we are starting to build for the future. You feel good about the guys who are coming back. It's a process right now and it can be painful at times. But to be able to do that and be bowl-eligible is great."