COACH KELLY: Great football game. First, I want to congratulate K State, an outstanding team. A real hard?fought battle. I thought a real clean game.
They made us earn everything that we did, especially on the offensive side of the ball. They did some great things early.
I think our guys found a way to kind of overcome that. It's kind of what we stand for. We talked about it when we got an opportunity to get invited to this game is about finishing. We had a great month of preparation for this. These guys were just outstanding. I can't say enough about these guys, so...
THE MODERATOR: Let's go to questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Kenjon, what does Coach Kelly mean to you as an individual?
KENJON BARNER: He means everything. Without him I wouldn't be the runningback that I am, nor would I be the person that I am. Sitting with him in meeting rooms is a lot different than sitting in any other meeting room that I've ever been in because it's not just about football, it's about life. He teaches you life lessons as a man, so he means a lot to me.
Q. DeAnthony, can you talk about that opening kickoff.
DeANTHONY THOMAS: I just feel like my role in this game was just to be a momentum builder and a game changer. Once I seen that opening field, I just wanted to get to the end zone fast and celebrate with my team and get ready for the next play.
Q. Erick, what kind of adjustments did you make in the second half?
ERICK DARGAN: We just talked about it as a team, the drops, we were alerted that was coming, stayed focused, read our keys.
Q. Marcus, for you offensively what did it mean to start with a lead like that?
MARCUS MARIOTA: Yeah, it was a great start. To be able to be up 8?0 really gives you a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence in what you're doing. To be able to have guys like DeAnthony, to have them have the ability to make plays like that shows the kind of team we have.
Really just kind of makes us very dimensional.
Q. What does it mean, you've had a long career, good career, to go out with this win?
MICHAEL CLAY: It's a blessing. We were like the first class under Coach Kelly. He's meant the world to us. We bought into whatever he said.
For everyone in that locker room, everyone's bought in. It shows throughout the past four years. No team really has gone to four straight BCS games. It's just an honor and a blessing to be able to play for him.
KENJON BARNER: Piggyback right off of what he said. It's an absolute honor, an absolute blessing. What Coach Kelly brought to this program has taken it to another level.
It's set the tone for teams to come and for the future. We've been on an amazing road and couldn't have ended on a better note.
Q. You talked a little bit about the success of the past four years. Can you compare the emotions or feelings to last year's Rose Bowl?
MICHAEL CLAY: I think right now it's kind of surreal 'cause it's our last game. Last year we had the thought that we were going to come back for our senior year, hopefully go to another big game.
Right now, things are a lot more surreal than anything else. The last time playing with these guys, taking off the pads, the last time in an Oregon jersey. You're kind of surreal and in a daze right now. Compared to last year, it's more joyful sending the seniors out the right way. For us, it's surreal.
Q. Sadness, kind of?
MICHAEL CLAY: Right now I don't feel any sadness. Maybe tomorrow. Not being able to go back to Eugene and see these guys, 105 brothers. Maybe next week and tomorrow, I'll be like, I don't know what I'm going to do.
KENJON BARNER: For me, definite sadness just knowing that what I've known for the past four and a half years is now I've got to get ready for the next chapter of my life. I'm definitely enjoying this moment.
Compared to last year, it feels exactly the same, excited that we won another football game.
Q. DeAnthony, can you talk about the touchdown catch you have. Two bowl games where you had big plays.
DeANTHONY THOMAS: I just seen it as like a team effort. We had some great practices out in Eugene. We came to Scottsdale and also had some great practices.
I just feel like it was a team effort. We got the win. I feel like our team is young and we still got a lot to accomplish.
Q. Marcus and Kenjon, they had some success slowing you down in the first half. When you got a field goal, you slowed them down. Take us through that drive and tell us what was working on that drive.
MARCUS MARIOTA: Definitely the tempo. We started playing at our pace. That really allowed us to get stuff going and get in a rhythm.
To be able to mix it up a little bit, Colt had some big catches, Kenjon had a big run, really kind of opened up things for us.
Q. That pass in the first quarter, did that get lost in the lights?
KENJON BARNER: Yeah, I couldn't see it. I didn't see it from the time it left his hands until the time it hit the ground. If you watch that play, I'm still running looking for the ball. I didn't see it from the get?go.
Q. DeAnthony, how does that opening touchdown compare to the other big plays you've had throughout your career, especially to the two big ones in the Rose Bowl last year?
DeANTHONY THOMAS: It's nothing to me. I feel like it's another play. I just feel like I should have a lot more to accomplish and a lot more things to work on.
I'm just out there having fun.
Q. Kenjon and Michael, you mentioned this win being a blessing. Are you able to enjoy it without thinking about any what ifs, or if the system were different, if you could play the winner of Monday's game?
KENJON BARNER: You got to take it for what it's worth. We're not in that game. We're here in this Fiesta Bowl. We're going to take it for exactly what it is, it's a BCS win, a Fiesta Bowl win, we'll just leave it at that.
Q. Marcus, do you feel like that was the last game you played for Chip?
KENJON BARNER: Do you want me to get it?
MARCUS MARIOTA: No, I got it (laughter).
He's right here, if you want to ask him. We'll have to see. Whatever he decides to do, we're all behind him. He's an unbelievable coach. Like Kenyon was saying, he's not only a football coach, but he's someone that you can look to and learn a lot of life lessons from.
Whatever happens, happens. But we're all behind him. We'll see where it takes us.
Q. Marcus, just talk about what Coach Kelly has meant to you this season, how much he's taught you as a football player, as a person.
MARCUS MARIOTA: You know, actually from the moment I got here, to be able to learn from a great football mind has been able to make me the guy I am today, the quarterback that I am today.
The success, all that's happening with this offense is from him. To be able to just kind of go through that and to learn from it, you know, it's going to make me a better quarterback for future years.
THE MODERATOR: We'll dismiss the student?athletes and continue with questions for Coach Kelly.
Q. The opening kickoff was returned for a touchdown. The suddenness of that play, did that encourage you to go for the two points? Did you feel that was going to psychologically impact Kansas State?
COACH KELLY: No. That's something we do. We've done it for a while. We're always going to try to see if we can steal a point here or there. We did it two years ago when we were down here, got two points on the first play.
Sometimes during the course of the game I think those things kind of go unnoticed, but it gave us an opportunity to be with a three?score game down at the end.
We're always trying to see any way we can steal a point. We got a safety for one point today, where I have no idea where that was. When they told me they were going to give us one point, I said, We'll take it.
Q. Obviously next week, Notre Dame and Alabama are going to battle. Your thoughts on your team, another remarkable year, where you rank as far as the best teams in this country right now.
COACH KELLY: Just really proud of our guys. Knew coming in it was a young team. Lost an unbelievable tightend, lost a great quarterback, lost a great runningback, maybe the best in school history. To have guys step up at different positions, just kind of our "next man in" philosophy. These guys embodied it. It's as much fun as I've ever had.
They totally buy into everything. Our coaching staff, we all kind of think with one thought process, one heartbeat. It was a lot of fun.
So where do we rank? I don't know. I don't have a vote. I don't want to vote. It's my favorite team. So I vote us No. 1.
Q. The tempo in this game, how much did or didn't you want to tempo them from the start? The importance of that drive right before halftime. Trying to score quick in the second half, but being able to milk some clock in the end.
COACH KELLY: The end of the first half was huge. We were off a little bit there early. It's tough. We're always trying to get that first first down. We don't like three?and?outs. Kind of throws us off balance a little bit. I knew we were leaving our defense on the field.
We just talked at halftime that we need to go back to tempo. Then when you get a lead, you have to be able to play both games. I thought Marcus did a great job of managing it.
That last drive was huge for us. We had seven minutes on the clock. We talked we were either going to run the seven minutes off or we've got to finish with a score to make it a three?score game.
Really proud of Alejandro coming in there and banging that field goal. I thought it was a fitting way to finish the season.
Q. Can you talk about DeAnthony returning that kick.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, he's always been a spark for us. But this group practiced really, really well. I was confident that we were going to be pretty good.
Just the one thing that's happened to us almost all season long is, Are you going to kick to him? Yes they are, no they're not.
But we knew K State was outstanding on special teams and it was going to be a big challenge for us. Obviously to get one to start the game, to be up 8-0 without having our offense on the field I think was a huge jump for us.
Q. I recently spoke with Chris Herren. He said he came and talked to the team. Can you talk about what he said to your team.
COACH KELLY: Chris Herren. Yeah, he's a great friend of mine. Unbelievable story. Really resonated with our players.
He's an amazing human being that is really totally selfless and wants to give back. For Chris, he's made some mistakes in his life, but he wants to make sure other people don't make those mistakes.
I think our message to our players is always very consistent. I think what we have to do as coaches is change who the messenger is. Sometimes you tune out your coach or your parents. But to have Chris come and spend time with the team, actually we texted before the game, really a special guy and I'm really proud to call him a friend.
Q. You mentioned all week your sole focus was the Fiesta Bowl. Now that the game is over, when will you entertain thoughts of the NFL?
COACH KELLY: I'll talk to Dave tomorrow. He was great. I was getting a haircut. I tried to get a haircut on New Year's Day and couldn't figure out why stores weren't open. That's the kind of stupid life a coach leads.
But I was getting my hair cut on Wednesday and saw my name at the bottom of ESPN, which I thought was funny because I haven't talked to anybody. I'll sit down and talk with Dave. I've said I'll always listen. That's what I'll do.
But I know that people want to talk to me because of our players. The success of our football program has always been about our guys. It's an honor that someone would say they wanted to talk to me about maybe moving on to coach in the National Football League. But it's because of what those guys do.
So I'll listen and we'll see.
Q. I'm sure you heard the fans late in the game chanting, Chip, we want you to stay. What does that mean to you?
COACH KELLY: I think it just really for me reaffirms what this place is all about. It's a special place with special people. They accepted me six years ago when I was at New Hampshire. Not many people knew about me. Gave me an opportunity to come here. It really means a lot.
Q. Erick had a couple big plays. Can you talk about how he's improved over the year and how that depth helped out down the stretch this year.
COACH KELLY: I thought Erick played really, really well today, is really starting to blossom. We're playing three true freshman with him and DeForest and Alex Balducci. When you watch him and seen him mature as the season has gone along, getting stronger. I kind of looked out there a couple times, all three are lined up next to each other, the confidence our defensive coaches have in them.
We got a bright future on the defensive line with those three guys.
Q. Last January after you had another opportunity, you said you felt you had unfinished business here. Another BCS win, another 12?win season. How do you feel about what you've accomplished to this point at Oregon and how will that influence when you listen to possible opportunities this week?
COACH KELLY: I never quantify what this football program is about by wins and losses. I quantify it by how our players are.
It's a whole thing, it's on the field, off the field, in the community, what they do. This group, I can't tell you how proud I am of what they do, every day, how they conduct their business, what they do.
When we're there at the hotel, people tell me it's the best group they've ever been around because of how well?mannered they are. Everywhere people get a chance to touch our players, the positive impact these players have in Eugene, throughout the state of Oregon, that's what's important to me.
The wins and losses, they come and go. People forget your record. For us, our record really kind of validates how we go about things. We do have a different approach than I think some other people. It's always about the players and it always will be about the players.
Q. I think everyone thought coming into this game the D?line would be an important factor getting to Collin Klein. Can you talk about how the defensive line played against him. You mentioned about you'd listen to offers. When you go into those interviews, what are you looking for in that process in the NFL area?
COACH KELLY: First question, I thought our entire defense played extremely well at every level, our secondary, our linebackers, our defensive line. It's truly a team effort. It's 11 guys. I thought they got a lot of good pressure without having to all out blitz Collin, kind of disrupted him a little bit, kept him off balance.
The second thing, I really don't know. I've only been in one interview in my life. I can't really tell you I have a checklist of what I'm looking for. Last year it kind of came out of the blue. I thought it would be a good life experience, and it was.
But I really can't answer the second part of that, so...
Q. When you now weigh the pros and cons in the next weeks of going to the NFL, what are some of the draws to you of moving on and coaching at the next level?
COACH KELLY: I don't really know. I mean, that's part of what this whole thing is. It's more a fact?finding mission, finding out if it fits or doesn't fit. I don't really have that answer. Like I said, I've been in one interview in my life for the National Football League, and that was a year ago.
I don't really have any preconceived notions about it. I think that's what this deal is all about for me. It's not going to affect us in terms of we're not on the road.
I'll get an opportunity if people do call, see where they are. I want to get it wrapped up quickly and figure out where I'm going to be.
Q. Do you have interviews scheduled with the Eagles?
COACH KELLY: My agent is outstanding and he knows that I wanted to coach this football game. There was nothing I was ever going to do that was going to distract me from this game, nor was it going to distract my players from this game.
I'll talk to Dave tonight or tomorrow and see what he's done on my behalf. That's why I have him. This wasn't going to be a distraction. It wasn't a distraction for me. I think it's an honor. But I think it's an honor because of the players we have in this program that people want to talk to me.
Q. Now that it's out there that you're entertaining and willing to listen, I'm sure you've had conversations with your players perhaps today on what the future holds. You haven't talked to them about anything?
COACH KELLY: No.
Q. I meant after the game.
COACH KELLY: After the game we sung the fight song. We were kind of fired up to do that.
We got a great relationship. Our players, I want what is best for them, they want what's best for me. I really haven't had a conversation for them. We were in the locker room for a brief amount of time. We had to hustle out here to this press conference.
Q. How much will possible NCAA sanctions coming down affect your personal decision?
COACH KELLY: We've cooperated fully with them. If they want to talk to us again, we'll continue to cooperate fully.
I feel confident in the situation.
Q. Back to the Fiesta Bowl. It looked like you really hit the throttle in the second half. Was that part of your game plan or an adjustment you had to make on offense?
COACH KELLY: We just kind of were off track a little bit in the first half. Wanted to see. We have to get in a rhythm. When we get into a rhythm, the rhythm of our offense allows us to do that. It's usually one first down, one big gain on first down that can really put us in that situation. Just kind of had to get back on track.
Q. You hate hypotheticals. Any thoughts on the group coming back, what it might mean to say goodbye to them?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, you're not getting a chance on hypotheticals. One thing we pride our football program on is consistency. I can't change now. I'm going to be pretty consistent with that, so...
Q. On that DeAnthony Thomas run, Hroniss Grasu made a great block up field. Can you talk about what it's like to have such a great lineman that's able to get up and down the field and make blocks?
COACH KELLY: I don't know what particular run you're talking about.
Q. The screen.
COACH KELLY: Part of what we're looking for in our offensive linemen is guys that can run. When we saw Hroniss, he was in our camp. Just watched him run. Thought he was going to really fit what our mold is. Max Unger I think made the Pro Bowl as a center. Hroniss is what we're looking for, that athletic kid that can play in space, strong enough to play at the point of attack, real intelligent. The bright thing with him and Jake Fisher, Taylor Johnson, we have guys coming back, Jake is a sophomore.
But Hroniss' ability to get out in space is big for us. I think it's key in a spread offense to have a guy like that, a couple guys like that.
Q. Howie Roseman talks to coaches when he goes out on scouting trips. Do you know him? Do you have impressions of him at all?
COACH KELLY: I can't do an impression of him, but I've met Howie twice. He was there a couple years ago. I think he was here in September, whatnot.
It's the same. Trent Baalke from the 49ers was at our last practice. Scott Pioli has been to our place, Thomas Dimitroff from the Falcons. I think it's a testament to the players we have.
Five, 10 minutes, these are the guys you should look at, give them anything they need. They're very helpful to them and we try to be helpful to them. We allow scouts to come in at any time. We don't have set things for that. I think it's important for our kids to have exposure if we have kids that have the ability to play at the next level.
I think it's because of the kids we have, the Dion Jordans, the Kiko Alonzos, the Kenjon Barners, kids like that usually when you have better players, the more higher?ups come in. I think that's really what the case was this year.
Q. You've coached with Mark Helfrich now for a few years. What about him specifically makes you think he could succeed as a head coach of a college football program?
COACH KELLY: I think Helf could succeed at anything he wanted to. Intelligent, detail oriented, great manager of people, great friend, one of the funniest guys I've met in my entire life, but knows how to be serious when he has to be serious. We hit off immediately.
I know Steve Greatwood and Tom Osborne had an existing relationship with him. When I became head coach, I was looking for an offensive coordinator that could bring unique qualities to our staff, someone that didn't just want to tell us what we wanted to here, that could challenge us, came from a different system. I think he's special and I love the guy.
Q. Are you able to enjoy this win this season for what it is without getting into 'what if's' about the Stanford game.
COACH KELLY: We knew the rules of engagement coming in. We lost to a real good Stanford team. That happens.
I think the unique thing about our sport right now, an expanded playoff system, the playoffs start in week one. If you lose a game, you're leaving it up to chance.
Alabama lost a game. Everybody said they were out. We lost and K State lost, they were back in.
It's unique. I don't have the magic answer. The other unique thing is no one asks us. Coaches don't have an opportunity to weigh in on how it should be played. We're not a "what if" operation. We control our own destiny. You can't really control destiny because destiny is a predetermined set of events. I get mad when people say that they can control destiny.
We controlled our season. We lost to a great Stanford team. Take my hat off to them. I watched them represent this league extremely well with a big win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. What they've done down there in the last couple years, I think it's great for our league.
It is what it is. We lost in a hard?fought game in overtime. But the deal for us was we had an opportunity to play one more time. It was an outstanding event.
I thought the Fiesta Bowl people were just fantastic. Our kids had a great experience. It was a chance for us to improve on our season, and that's what our guys did. They accepted the challenge and they did it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
COACH KELLY: We just set a record for my longest press conference (laughter).