POPEYES BAHAMAS BOWL PRESS CONFERENCE: December 23, 2014
WKU Head Coach Jeff Brohm
“First, I want to thank the Bahamas. I want to thank Popeyes for their sponsorship and all the sponsors that are a part of this tremendous bowl game. I want to thank Conference USA. It’s our first year in the Conference and we couldn’t be happier to be exactly where we’re at right now.
“It’s been an outstanding experience this entire week for not only our players, our coaches, our administration, our fans, but it’s truly been something I think they’ll cherish the rest of their life. It is a premier bowl destination and I think we’re fortunate and lucky to be here. We’ve had a fantastic time. Our players have experienced the culture here. They got to get out in the community. They got to go to the children’s home. They got to put on a football clinic. They came back and they raved about it. They had a great time. They had a great time working with the kids. They’ve had a lot of fun at the Atlantis Hotel the entire week they’ve been here. And, we’ve also been practicing football getting ready for this bowl game.”
“I think our players are as happy as they’ve ever been. Because of that I tell people they’ve practiced better than they ever have, which is a good thing. So, I think they’re ready to play. They’re ready to get out on the field and show what our University is all about. It’s a great opponent we’re playing in Central Michigan, which has had a very good year as well. They’re a very disciplined team, a very tough team, very good on defense, so I think it’s a great match-up that hopefully the fans will enjoy and everyone will have a good time. We’re happy to be here and it’s truly been a remarkable experience.”
What has clicked for your team over the last month or so of the season that led to your four-game winning streak?
“I think our team has grown as the year went on. We were 3-5 at one point in the season and we kind of challenged our team, challenged our coaches that we all had to find a way to get better and do our part. I think we bought in. We were very critical of ourselves individually and as a unit, and then we kind of put a little playoff mode on the last part of our season. We said, ‘We’re in the playoffs now, for us to advance we have to win.’ And, we started to win. Our guys worked hard, they had a good attitude. They practiced hard all year. They are a great group of men that love the game of football. They love each other, they love their teammates. And then as we won, we kind of challenged them even more that the farther you advance in the playoffs, the stiffer the competition gets. When we found a way to go into Marshall on a three-game winning streak, to our team we told ourselves this is our championship game. While Marshall was going to win the championship with their record, for us, if we could beat the champion, who was undefeated, on their home turf – they’re in the top 20 or 25 – we could call ourselves in our room the champion. We were able to find a way to do that in an exciting game, and now because of that we’ve been able to advance to an even bigger assignment and this is truly a fantastic bowl game that we are looking forward to playing in, and we couldn’t be happier to be exactly where we’re at.”
Talk about playing on a natural grass surface.
“Actually, it doesn’t matter a whole lot. Grass surface is good as well. We’ve had an opportunity to practice on the field. It’s an outstanding field. I don’t think it bothers our players one bit. We’re excited to play in this stadium – it’s a beautiful stadium. It’s something our guys, whether it’s turf or grass, they’re ready to play. But this stadium is really what they’re excited to play in.”
Can you talk a little about your defense, especially in the last month?
“We knew going into the season last year we were very good on defense – Number one in the conference – we had about five guys go into NFL camps, so we were a very talented team. This year, truth of the matter is we are very young and I knew there would be some growing pains. Our guys definitely struggled early in the year, but in the middle of the year I think we re-grouped. We found a way to improve. We wanted to try to find a way to take baby steps and get better each and every week. So, about mid-way through the year when we challenged our guys I think they kind of started to mold together a little bit. They got better. We played three really good games on defense that really helped us win. Obviously the last game was a tough game, a high-scoring game (WKU 67, Marshall 66), but we found a way to get turnovers. Our defense has been very good at creating turnovers and giving us the ball. So, if they can do that for us, for our offense, that will help us, but they have improved as the year has gone on and I expect them to play very well this game.”
How important is it to the program to get the first bowl win as an FBS team?
“It’s huge and it’s very important. I think we’ve stressed the importance of winning as the number one goal when we come down here for a lot of reasons. We’ve got some momentum right now. We want to try to keep the momentum and to do that you have to win this game. People are going to remember the last game that you played. Our last game (Marshall) is over. It was a fun game and we found a way to win, but we have to move on. We are facing a different opponent that has different strengths – very sound on defense, they run the ball very well – so we have to take away what they do best, but it is very important to win this game. Our guys, I think, are ready for the game. We realize what a win could do for us.”
Senior Quarterback Brandon Doughty
Tell us about the week at the Bahamas, what you’ve experienced and what you’ve enjoyed about being here.
“When you get to come to a bowl like the Bahamas, you think it’s going to be pretty cool, but it’s exceeded our expectations. Everyone has been awesome and friendly. We’ve just been enjoying our experience, enjoying our teammates, but still trying to keep our focus on playing the football game. I think that’s important for us as a team, as a community in Bowling Green. So, it’s been really cool, really different, and something I’ll take with me the rest of my life.”
Can you talk about your receivers and backs, you seem to have a lot of weapons on offense?
“We have a wide variety of guys that make me look good. I give them all the credit. The offensive line doesn’t get enough credit. I think they do a tremendous job of keeping me upright. I really think those guys (the receivers) of doing a good job of making plays after they catch the ball. Taylor, Dangerfield and Grant – those guys are unbelievable. We’ve got some weapons at tight end that play well and do a good job of running and blocking, and we have a running back, who in my opinion, is one of the best running backs in the nation, and he does a good job of communicating and making sure he’s on top of everything. I’m with a special group on offense and we’re just really excited to be here. We have a big challenge ahead of us. This Central Michigan team is really stout on defense.”
As a fifth-year senior how important is it for you to have control of the offense?
“I think it’s critical. I think you’ve got to be able to see everything, see what they’re doing and react to it. This Central Michigan team is really good. They are sound. They compete their butts off. They really do a good job of doing their assignments and being actual football players.”
Junior Linebacker Nick Holt
Tell us about the week at the Bahamas, what you’ve experienced and what you’ve enjoyed about being here.
“This is the best destination out of any bowl in the country. We’ve had a great time, but one thing we did really well as a team is in the morning we had our meetings and we had our practice – we practiced hard – and we got prepared. But, after that we can all relax. So, we took care of the business side, but also we’re in the Bahamas… you want to go swimming and have fun, and enjoy all the activities and amenities this place has to offer. It’s been fantastic so far.”
Talk about your group on defense and what we can expect from the Western Kentucky defense.
“First and foremost we need to stop the run. They’re a run-heavy team. They like to get into some power formations and run the ball down your throat, and then throw it over your head with play-action, so it’s critical that we stop the run and make them throw the ball, get into 4- and 5-wide receivers, which they don’t do very often. Really, the most important thing is to stop the run early.”
What would it mean for the senior class to go out with a win in a bowl game?
“It’s huge. It’s the only to go out as a senior – winning a big-time bowl game in the inaugural Popeyes Bahamas Bowl – that would mean the world to them, and really to our whole program. This would be our first bowl win as an FBS program and we’ve treated it like it’s the most important game of Western Kentucky’s football history.”
Central Michigan Head Coach Dan Enos
“We’ve had, really, a marvelous time. This has been a first-class experience first and foremost for our student-athletes but also our coaches, administration and extended families that were able to come with us and participate in this week’s festivities. It’s really been a great trip, from the flight over, getting into Atlantis and being able to practice at the stadium and practice facilities has been good. We’ve had just a great time and appreciate the hospitality and look forward to competing tomorrow.”
On the weather conditions
“I think both teams will have to handle the environment, have to handle the weather. Certainly we’ve done our best to anticipate being in this type of environment. We practiced very hard when we were back in Mount Pleasant. We have an indoor practice facility, we’re fortunate to have that. We had the heaters cranked up all night and all day and actually had it up into the mid-80s in the indoor. I asked Titus (Davis) on Sunday during our first practice, ‘Is it warmer in the indoor or here?’ He said ‘At least out here you can breathe.’ So we tried to do the best we could.”
“We conditioned, we trained very hard and we’ve had some good practices since we’ve been here. I think the hydration process and the ability to get off your feet and rest will play a big part. Certainly both teams will have to deal with it and we think we’ve done a good job of anticipating that.”
On the 2014 season for Central Michigan
“We opened up with two wins then I think we lost three in a row until we got back on track. Our difficult schedule had a lot to do with that. We had to play three teams from the (Automatic Qualifier) conferences in a row. A team from the Big 10, a team from the ACC and a team from the Big 12. The FCS team that we played was in the final eight – Chattanooga. Our first three MAC games were on the road against Toledo, home against Ohio and on the road at Northern Illinois so we just talked about playing it one game at time.”
“We went into Purdue, played a really complete football game. Came home at homecoming and beat a really good Ohio team then went to Northern Illinois and beat them and they’re a our conference champion. I said to somebody that the unique thing about this game is that both teams, Western Kentucky and ourselves both have beaten our conference champions. So I think that shows that on any given day both these teams are very capable of being the best teams in their conferences.”
“We just have a team of guys who work, they’re very blue collar. They work very hard. They have a great mindset, they’re tough. We try to be very physical and we just try to play one game at a time and I think as our schedule laid out we just continued to get better and found a way to win some close games there as well.”
“This a reward. Every Division I football team starts the season, one of the goals they put up there in their first meeting is they want to be able to play in a bowl game and this team’s accomplished that. We’re very proud of them and there isn’t a better place that anyone is playing in than where we have an opportunity to play. We’re very blessed to be here. We’ve had great preparation and a great week and we look forward to playing tomorrow.”
On the benefit of bowl practices for younger players
“I think we were able to get in 14 extra practices, which really adds up to an extra spring ball. Especially early in the preparation, we spent a lot of time working our younger players in practice, allowed them to scrimmage, allowed them to get coached, to watch themselves on video a little more than they would be able to so this really helps.”
“Two years ago when we were in the Little Caesars Bowl, the same thing occurred. These guys (Titus Davis and Justin Cherocci) were both young players at the time so they benefited from it as well. Last year we finished 6-6 and did not get into a bowl unfortunately so we lost that practice time and I really felt like that put us behind. So the extra practices have been very good. I think if you talked to any coach in the country they all would say that all teams benefit from that experience.”
On how WKU has changed since the last time they played Central Michigan
“It’s a different team. The Western Kentucky team from two years ago was similar in that they were kind of a West Coast system under Coach (Willie) Taggert. They liked to throw the ball and be balanced. I think Coach (Jeff) Brohm from his Coach (Bobby) Petrino tree is very similar in the fact that there’s a lot of West Coast principles in there but I think they’re emphasizing the pass more than they did a couple of years ago. They tried to be a run-first team a couple of years ago.”
“Their quarterback is obviously playing at a very high level. I think they have great skill – wideouts, running backs. I think their offensive line is very good. I think it’s a lot different make-up than I remember seeing two years ago. Defensively, the multiplicity that they play with, a lot of man coverage and getting in and out of a lot of different fronts creates a lot of issues. From top to bottom it looks like a much different team.”
What did you enjoy about the week here and your experiences in the Bahamas?
Senior Wide Receiver Titus Davis: “Mostly the warm weather. Coming from Michigan where it’s 20-degrees, and being in 70-degree weather is a big difference. That’s probably been the best part for me. Just getting to see everything and experience the things here.”
Senior Linebacker Justin Cherocci: “It’s just been a once in a lifetime experience for a lot of us. It’s just an amazing place, and there’s a lot to soak in. We’re blessed to be here – so I’m just trying to take it all in.”
What we can expect from the Chippewas in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl?
Davis: “One thing about our offense is that we’re really deep especially in the backfield. We have a lot of running backs that can take on whatever we put in front of them. Coop has done a tremendous job all years. He’s taken on the offense, and he’s been a great leader. That rubs off on all of us. Our offensive line has been playing at an extremely high level, and coming into this game, I think they’ve improved a lot. We’re looking for this to be a big game.”
Tell us a little about your defense and what made you guys so good this season.
Cherocci: “I think we have a lot of depth. We have a good class of upperclassmen so just really being disciplined and assignment sound. We’re all on the same page and just swarming to the football. I think that’s a big part of the defense we’ve played this year.”