VITA VEA: I was a redshirt. I wasn’t playing at all. I was just doing the workouts.
Q. Dante said that he thought guys were maybe having a little too much fun and weren’t concentrating as much on the game, and maybe Pete wasn’t as strict as maybe he would be nowadays maybe — and I don’t know if it’s just because it’s Fiesta Bowl and his experience here, but have you noticed any difference?
VITA VEA: Yeah. You know, maybe different for Dante just because he was playing in that game. It was different for me because I was still redshirt. So all I had to worry about was workouts and keeping the NG up on the sideline, swinging my towel around and around.
Coach P is definitely a lot more honest about getting right and getting out there and staying focused throughout this week, and also letting us know that this is a bowl game but we aren’t on vacation. So we came here for one job and basically trying to get it done.
Q. Penn State has an explosive offense — they can run with Barkley, they can throw with a couple of different receivers. How important is your defensive line going up against their offensive line in the matchup?
VITA VEA: It will be very important. It would be very important including the linebackers as well to fit that run game. Saquon, he’s a hell of a back. He can go side to side and create space with just a couple of inches. And that will be — still working on the game plan, (indiscernible) the O line is ready to get out there this Saturday.
Q. You had some problems with Bryce Love. How does he compare to Bryce Love would you say?
VITA VEA: They’re both up there, the top tier backs. Obviously Saquon, I think Saquon might be better. It’s a better team than we’ve played all year. So we’ll see when we get out there Saturday how everything works out.
Q. Both teams have really good seasons and a couple of losses have tarnished what could be a perfect season for you guys to put the cap on a good season. What would it mean to have a signature win against Penn State?
VITA VEA: It will mean a lot to all of us, especially to the seniors. And this is their last game. Gotta send the seniors out right and win our last home game and our rivalry game. So just the cherry on top for them, as they step on the field for the last game in college.
Q. Myles talked a little bit about Coach changing the culture, and how maybe that’s the biggest thing for him being part of the program and what Pete’s brought to it. How has the culture changed from when you first got here to now?
VITA VEA: It changes in a lot of different ways for everybody else. I say when I first came in, I’d have to say that the team aspect, all of us, I feel like we’re all closer, but it may be different for me because I was only redshirt that year so I only knew better.
Q. But you did experience the Sark — you were there the first year?
VITA VEA: I was there — no, I came in after. I wasn’t here yet. But, you know, just the energy is way different every day. You see everyone all in, including the coaching staff, to the trainers, to our nutritionist, to our managers, to the people who give us water.
That as well, but I’d have to say just the team aspect of everything. Everyone’s closer. Coach Pete’s done a good job of teaching us. We have a little saying called “team, unit, me.” Worry about your team first, then your unit, then yourself and make sure you get that order right and not be selfish and worry about yourself and you forget about the team. So just trying to stick together as a team and working together.
Q. Speaking about the individual thing, talking to Saquon yesterday he said the first thing that jumped out on film from his standpoint was just that you’re huge. He just said you’re a big guy. Do you get the sense sometimes from the outside looking in that maybe people do immediately, you stand out initially as being the guy that’s the main disrupter and everything kind of changes from there?
VITA VEA: It’s weird. I step on the field and sometimes I feel, I still feel kind of small. I don’t really feel until after the game, especially after the Wazzu game, shaking hands, I’m looking, wow, these guys are big. And there’s a few O linemen that are taller than me.
And like size-wise, they look bigger, but I always know I’m the heaviest man on the field. So I guess that helps me.
Q. What is the first thing that stands out about Penn State to you and their offense?
VITA VEA: Their O line. Basically their offense, their O line. Also their special teams. They do a tremendous job of getting great returns on special teams. Their offense does a great job. The O line, especially their quarterback. He’s one person you have to contain to stay in the game on top of Saquon.
So it’s both of them. It’s a very rare combo to have a running quarterback and a great running back that can really hurt you in the game.
Q. Is there a particular matchup on Penn State’s O line that you’re most looking forward to?
VITA VEA: Not really, no. I know they’re a great O linemen overall. So I guess just to see how it works out, you know. They’ve got a lot of the spotlight this season. So just seeing, how it is going against one of the top tier O lines in college football. So just that.
A lot of people will say the East Coast linemen, they’re tougher and they’re more better at football. So it will be fun to see how this all plans out, heads out.
Q. What’s your sense of disappointment not going back to the playoffs this year?
VITA VEA: I think everyone in the country, their goal is to win the national championship and do that, you know, run off last year. Last year, it was a great experience to go there. But that’s past us now. We have to get over it.
We’re in the Fiesta Bowl, so we focus on this and trying to get this win so we can’t worry about that. We can’t control it anymore.
Vita Vea II
Q. I’m sure your goal, though, when it was over last year was, we made it to the tournament this year; next year we’re going to win it?
VITA VEA: Oh, yes, most definitely. It was so fun last year. All of that was unexpected. It was unexpected for us. We enjoyed it while it lasted. This whole offseason that was our motivation to get back there. We could have — we had our chance. We slipped. We got (indiscernible) twice. Ended up shooting ourselves in the foot.
Q. So what’s your motivation, you and your teammates, coming into here, coming into this bowl game?
VITA VEA: I’d have to say it was Alabama. Some people say we didn’t — we were missing Joe Mathis and Azeem Victor and some people say we could have had a better game with those two. You never know.
That was our main motivation to getting back there. We thought we played a good game for a little bit, but they ended up separating and beating us. And our motivation was just to get back and try to beat them. But we’re here now and we’re playing an even better team, Penn State.
Q. Your motivation here, this year, coming back knowing you’re not in the tournament but at least you’re in a pretty good bowl game, what’s the mood of the team?
VITA VEA: This bowl game’s amazing. I feel that doesn’t matter anymore. We’re in here playing Penn State and Saquon Barkley, the number one — so they say the number one draft pick in 2018 NFL draft. So that’s pretty cool to go against — something to tell your kids: I played in the Fiesta Bowl, it’s one of the biggest bowls in college football.
And we played against the number one draft pick in the NFL. He was a great running back, Hall of Fame in college, and then probably definitely be in there.
Q. They’ve already faced, when they played Ohio State they were the number one defense rushing. When they played Michigan State they were the number one — it was Michigan against Michigan State. Now you’re the number one defense. What’s your sense of pride as a team being number one in the country against the rush?
VITA VEA: I didn’t even know we were number one, to be honest with you. Doesn’t feel like it. Offense beats up on us every day. That’s probably why we’re up there, taking a beating from Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman and Salvon. Salvon threw a couple of punches in there hurting us with the run game.
And I guess it feels good. Like I said, I had no awareness of this. I tip my hat off to the defense. Those guys, they’ve done a great job, these guys up here — Tevis, Taylor, Bartlett, Burr-Kirven, they’ve all done a great job this year.
Without those guys, we probably wouldn’t be the number one defense. And also the guys who aren’t here, the rest of the “D” line and our DV unit. Also a great game, probably wouldn’t have so much success without them. I feel like I don’t work good without them. We work — we’re like a puzzle, a missing piece, we’re not the same, I guess.
And I feel that’s our defense, take one piece out, take one piece out of the puzzle and it goes back to the team aspect, sticking together as a team.
Q. I guess you get double teamed all the time. How does that help you guys. And does it frustrate you at all sometimes that you get all the attention?
VITA VEA: No, it’s weird. I’d have to say as a “D” lineman, getting double teamed, triple-teamed, it seems kind of fun for me. You find ways to beat them and sometimes you don’t beat them. It’s like that competitiveness of trying to beat a double team.
You get beat one play and you’re like, oh, man, I almost had them. I’m getting this play. (Indiscernible) get them again. You keep fighting to win and you keep trying to — keep striving to win every play, it’s just funny for me.
A lot of people ask questions and ask about the double team, how do you feel, do you hate them, do you like them? I say I really like them — it’s not like that. I’d prefer one-on-one (indiscernible). Over time you’ve gotten used to it.
It’s just one of those things you don’t mind anymore. It keeps happening over and over. And you get used to it. And it starts to become fun to you and you look at other “D” linemen on the line, they’re getting doubled as well. So you look at each other. When you beat a double team and you look the other guy in the eye, you see them, you’re like “I gotcha.”
Q. Do you remember the last time you had a single blocker?
VITA VEA: Wazzu, they had a couple of single blocks, being they were passing — I got a couple of one-on-ones. They also held the ball longer than everyone else. Everyone tends to lean over the quick pass.
Wazzu, they had a lot of single blockings, held the block four seconds when everyone else holds it for like one. That was good for us. First passes out there, seeing that single blocking going, and used to turning around and looking for the ball. But that was the point we’re still working our pass rush and still on the ball. I think that was the last time, other than practice.
Q. That was as good as I’ve seen you. Is that as much fun as you’ve had on the field?
VITA VEA: That game was amazing, especially seeing all the fans and our support out there. They lit up our stadium with a lot of energy.
That was pretty cool. It was a different game. We played on Saturday and stuff, instead of Fridays, I guess that helped fan-wise. Their support was tremendous this year. So thank you to them.
Q. You mentioned Barkley being a top draft pick. But your teammate, Gaskin, has put up some real monster numbers. What do you like about Myles’s game, and does it compare at all with Barkley’s?
VITA VEA: Myles, he’s a unique back. He’s someone that you see him and you see his size. He doesn’t wow you to open anyone’s eyes when you see his size.
But when he’s out there, he’s playing, in my opinion he’s one of the best. I feel like he should have been a Heisman candidate. I might be biased, my teammate, biased towards him.
He’s a well-balanced back and hard to take him down, hard for me to take him down.
BEN BURR-KIRVEN: Couple of days, all the hospitality has been amazing. We had a really good practice yesterday. So it’s definitely just great to get down here, start playing football again.
Q. Recapping back when you guys were here playing Arizona (indiscernible), what’s changed in the depth of your team and just your ability to grow?
BEN BURR-KIRVEN: Obviously that was a really tough game for us. It’s tough to lose a game anywhere, but I think for us that was kind of a learning moment for a lot of the young guys because it had been so, not coasting but felt like we can beat anyone and no matter what happens we’re going to be fine.
So I think it kind of opened up a lot of guys’ eyes — this is a hard game we play, these things are going to happen. I think for a lot of the young guys it was a time like we’ve got to step up and mature and what can we do to help this team.
Q. Would you say the Pac-12 is anybody’s game on any given day?
BEN BURR-KIRVEN: Yes, that’s something that Coach Pete says every day, any team can beat you any day. I think it’s the reality of playing Pac-12 football. There’s so many great athletes and coaches, and no matter what the records say there’s always a chance that some team is going to come out there and play their game.
Q. Would you say the level of competitiveness at the Pac-12 level is where it should be?
BEN BURR-KIRVEN: I mean, I think so. I think you want to be playing in a conference where all the teams can really go at each other. It’s not that fun if you know half the teams aren’t that good. I think that’s the best thing about the Pac-12, like you said, any team can beat you. And I think that kind of keeps you on your toes because there’s no week where you’re, like, oh, it’s a pushover week. You have to go out there every week and compete to the highest level.
Q. What is the biggest (indiscernible) Barkley?
BEN BURR-KIRVEN: I think just the different ways he can beat. You watch film he’s running through guys, past guys and juking guys and then he’s split out at receiver, taking cornerbacks deep. So he’s definitely a pretty unique talent, nothing like we’ve seen.
I think it’s going to be a matter of gang tackling, the whole team always running to the ball no matter where he gets it because he’s a dynamic player.
Q. Looking at guys (indiscernible) have taken it to the next level, Budda Baker, how does that inspire you as a player?
BEN BURR-KIRVEN: It’s always awesome to see those guys. You spend so much time around them and in the workouts. To see them go on, to see Budda doing so well in his first year, it’s definitely exciting. You want to keep pushing, you want a chance to do that some day.
Q. Are you at all surprised by what he’s been able to do?
BEN BURR-KIRVEN: No, Budda he’s one of the guys from the moment I met him, he’s going to be doing this for a long time. So I’m not surprised at all by Budda.
Q. Can you talk about Penn State tight end No. 88. What have you seen on film from him and your overall impressions in general?
BEN BURR-KIRVEN: Just watching him on film, he’s been one of the most polished route runners I think I’ve seen all year at receiver/tight end anywhere.
Just watching what he’s doing, he’s pretty dominating in the middle of the field, most of the games I’ve watched. He’s been a pretty massive part of their offense. You don’t see as much kind of that old school tight end inline running his routes. I think it will definitely be a good challenge for us over the middle dealing with him, but he’s definitely a really polished route runner. I think that’s what stands out the most.
Q. What’s the most challenging about having a receiving corps that includes a tight end like Gesicki, a running back and the outside guys?
BEN BURR-KIRVEN: I think it definitely is a unique challenge. When you look at the stats, when you see Barkley is right there with the receivers in terms of receptions. I think it puts a little bit more onus on us at linebackers; you just can’t be focused on filling holes, filling gaps.
We have to be ready to play in space and be ready to take those guys wherever they are. I think it kind of shows a lot of what Penn State does. They’re very multiple on offense. And I think it’s kind of a representation of that when you see them getting the ball to so many guys in so many places.
COACH KWIATKOWSKI: … it’s still a big-time football game.
Q. Do you prepare for Saquon Barkley differently —
COACH KWIATKOWSKI: No, not really. Just every week it’s, the goal is the same how, we go about that is the same. You just know going into it the guy’s really, really talented. So guys are going to be — you’re going to have their attention going into a game like this as far as getting prepared.
Q. He’s going to be a big part of the passing game. Does that fact also — a receiver in some sense?
COACH KWIATKOWSKI: No, they get it to him out of the backfield most of the time. But, yeah, sure, that’s been bantered around how we are going to match up with him in those situations for sure.
Q. The comparison between Bryce Love and Saquon Barkley, how do you compare those two, and Bryce Love was pretty effective against you guys?
COACH KWIATKOWSKI: I think they’re both real similar backs. Style of offenses are different. So they ask Bryce to run it up inside a lot more, the power running type of game. And this is more spread. So it gets on edges a lot more. But they’re both really, really good and they both can take it to the house on any play.
Q. How do you prepare for a team like Penn State that has so many different types of receivers, big receivers, fast receivers, small receivers? What goes into the preparation for that?
COACH KWIATKOWSKI: Nothing different than any week. You just know who you’re going, study who you’re going against. But we can never, it’s not like you can go out and get a bigger DB or quicker DB. So the guys work on their techniques and knowing our coverages and play good team defense, and when they do make a play, line up and get after it again.
Q. A lot of people have tried to take Saquon Barkley out of that receiving game. Is that something you’re going to try to do, and if so how do you cover all the other threats they have?
COACH KWIATKOWSKI: Yeah, I mean, it’s not — I don’t think you can take just one guy away. You can hope to limit what they do, how they do it. But again it comes back to team defense and guys doing their job. And the first guy that misses a tackle because of a pursuit, the rest of the guys running to the ball, and they’re getting him on the ground.
But it’s hard to you say we’re going to take one guy away, because then, you’re exactly right, someone else is going to be exposed.
Q. What’s it like being here back in the valley and just kind of being here at the Fiesta Bowl?
COACH KWIATKOWSKI: It’s awesome to come down here this time of year and enjoy the sunny weather and cool nights. But this bowl’s been awesome in the past and it’s living up to its billing again this time again.
Q. What are the biggest threats that Barkley possesses for your defense?
COACH KWIATKOWSKI: You can do a great job of defending him and keeping him in check and then on any given play he can take it to the house. He’s just really talented running back, big, physical and fast.
Q. As a collaborative, the Pac-12, the competitiveness, do you see it growing and do you think it’s where it should be?
COACH KWIATKOWSKI: The one thing I know, there’s no weeks off in our conference. From week-to-week, you see across the board anybody can beat anybody if you don’t bring your A game and are prepared mentally. So I think from top to bottom there’s a lot of parity, because of that and — which makes it very extremely strong conference.
Everybody’s striving to get better and I think the commitments at all these schools and I think it’s all going to get better.
Q. Looking back against Arizona State University, what do you think of all the changes in the hiring of Herm Edwards?
COACH KWIATKOWSKI: I haven’t really put much thought into that.
Q. Looking at some of the players who have gone on to play at the next level, Budda Baker comes to mind, Washington product. What do you think of his competitiveness? Where he’s been able to take his ability?
COACH KWIATKOWSKI: Budie is one of those guys, if you had every player like him, his work ethic, his love for the game and how hard he practices, you would have an unbelievable football team. And you pair that with what kind of young man he is, he was awesome to coach.
Q. Covering Mike Gesicki, he’s been a matchup problem through the Big Ten this year.
KEISHAWN BIERRIA: I think our coach has done a great job of coaching us up based on that. Understand they’ve got some good athletic players on their team, guys who run well and are absolute great receivers catching the ball.
But as far as that, we’re going to just play team defense, do what we do best, communicate, make sure to make the right plays, the right calls and always be on point in our communication. I mean, as far as like communication, understanding what people are doing the play, like what we see, what we understand if we see something call it out.
And it all goes into the game plan. We definitely do a great job of like practicing and understanding what we’re going to do in practice and it’s all about executing on the field. As long as we play good team defense, communicate, I think we’ll get the job done.
Q. How do you stay sharp tackling (indiscernible), seemed like a struggle in the first game here. It kind of carries into the bowl games sometimes.
KEISHAWN BIERRIA: Gotta practice it. A lot of guys don’t want to go into practice live tackling but throughout the weeks we definitely kept the shoulder pads on and the thigh pads, and we stayed true to what we do. We run the same drills we ran all year, maybe do a little more than what we’ve done all year it’s preparation time.
Throughout the few weeks we make sure we prepared as hard as possible, doing our drills as hard as possible and getting in mental reps. We don’t want to hurt guys in a bowl practice, live tackling. But we definitely make sure our drills are like high tempo, high energy, like very focused. And I think our coaches do a great job of preparing us for tackle.
Q. How important are Vita and (indiscernible) on defense because they seem to win so much up front?
KEISHAWN BIERRIA: They’re very important. They’re the center of our defense. They really are the base of our defense. So as long as you know they’re taking two and making openings for other guys to make some plays — it starts with them honestly. So they’re very important. They’re very important.
Q. How would you compare and contrast Barkley with Bryce Love, the different styles, the two top backs this year?
KEISHAWN BIERRIA: They do have very different styles but similar playmakers. Saquon, he’ll show like inside run, it will be an inside run, and he’ll just make something happen, boom, bounce outside, 30 yards, touchdown.
Bryce Love is a similar way, but he’s more like inside consistently, inside, inside, pounding the rock, five yards, three yards, two yards, and keep going right back to that.
They do have, I want to say very similar, but I would say Saquon is a little more illusive and Bryce Love is like kind of more just pounding the rock.
Q. (Question about Budda Baker)
KEISHAWN BIERRIA: Budda has always been one of those guys who pushes himself every day. He’s always one of those guys running at full speed throughout the tempo, just making sure he’s, like, in the right position, and it’s paid big dividends for Budda.
He’s done some great things at the NFL level. Also with that, the guy’s a phenomenal person. He’s an all-around good guy.
He’s one of those guys that Coach Pete loves to bring in because he’s going to do everything right, going to go to class. And life in general, Budda is doing it the right way.
And, I don’t know, I suppose he’s like a younger guy but he’s already at the next level. Kind of like my little brother, but my big brother at the same time.
Budda is just a great dude. Probably going to be friends for a long, long time. And at the next level, man, that’s just what he does, that’s Budda Baker. He goes out there and makes plays at the next level, and he makes it look easy. He makes it look easy when it’s really not. But that’s just really who Budda is.
Q. He’s a rookie now going on to the Pro Bowl, making such an impact on the Arizona Cardinals defense. Not surprising to you at all?
KEISHAWN BIERRIA: Not at all. Pro Bowl Budda, that sounds right. For some reason that just fits: Pro Bowl Budda Baker. Yeah, I can see that happen a few more times.
But, yeah, that’s just who Budda is. He’s a hell of a competitor. He is one hell of a competitor, I’ll give him that. That dude does not quit. And he loves playing football. So, I mean, the Arizona Cardinals have a great football player on their hands.
Q. Talking about your matchup with Saquon Barkley, can you contain a guy like that and keep combatting that?
KEISHAWN BIERRIA: We’ll see. I’ve seen guys get contained before. Think about it. But you really can’t contain a guy like that. You can limit him, take some things away.
But as far as that — as a defense, I’m pretty sure we can do our job and get it done. As far as containing, I mean, we’re dogs. We’re dogs. We’ll see. We’ll see.
But, I mean, he’s on a very explosive offense. The QB is a great QB. Nice big tight end. They’ve got a lot of options to go with.
TAYLOR RAPP: Unique running styles. They’re not very similar. Like I said, they both have very unique running styles.
I think Bryce, he’s a lot more crafty and he’s shifty, kind of like our guy, Myles. In between tackles, he can slip through things that you never thought that you could slip through. Outside tackles, making people miss in open space.
Q. Relish an opportunity like that?
TAYLOR RAPP: Yeah, anytime we can go up against an opponent like Saquon, we’re looking forward to the challenge. I’m looking forward to the challenge anytime you can go up against a top guy like that. It only makes us better, too. So we’re always looking forward to that challenge.
Q. (Inaudible). As a safety, you’re one of the keys, the quarterback is looking at, what does that mean for you and how have you adapted to that?
TAYLOR RAPP: Definitely have to get our eyes right, all the DBs, our eyes can’t be in the wrong place or else a big play is going to happen.
I think that’s a big coaching point that Coach Lake preached: Our eyes are on our keys. And if any little second that our eyes are not on our keys, a big play is going to happen.
Q. There’s obviously — although Barkley — and rightly so — a few of your guys have said, it’s kind of an unfair spot because the offense runs through Trace McSorley, making all of these decisions in the offense, what do you see with him?
TAYLOR RAPP: I’m right there with my teammates. I think everyone knows about Saquon, and he’s a big part of the offense.
But I think the offense runs through Trace. They actually have quarterback-designed runs for him, not just zone reads. So I think he’s a huge part of the offense. He’s the engine to the offense. And anytime like we can play a dual-threat quarterback like that, it can be pretty frustrating because, like I was telling all the other guys, our DBs can cover down all the receivers, lock them down, do our jobs, but Trace can scramble outside of the pocket for a little bit and scramble for a first down. So that can be frustrating.
And I was just about to say that their big tight end, No. 88, I think he’s their leading — he’s leading the team in receptions. So he’s a big target. He likes to go up and get the ball. Box defenders out. So I think that’s going to be a big challenge for our defenders, mainly our safeties, our safeties are going to cover down the tight ends.
Q. The size advantage you’re talking about with (indiscernible), he has a positioning and what do you have to do to break through that?
TAYLOR RAPP: I think we just trust our technique, what Coach Lake taught us. We can’t — we kind of have to let the — Coach Lake says let the big guys hang. So we can’t let them box us out.
So we’ve got to try to stay under him a little bit because he’s not going to beat us deep. He doesn’t have the best speed. I’m not saying he’s slow. He has pretty good speed, actually.
Q. Better defensive back?
TAYLOR RAPP: Exactly. We’re going to use what we have to our advantage and not let him box us out.
Q. Is their offense similar at all to any of the other ones in the Pac-12?
TAYLOR RAPP: I got that question earlier. And I think they’re pretty unique in their own way. Using their quarterback as much as they do, you know, they have quarterback-designed runs for him.
And I think that’s pretty unique because I think Trace, he runs the offense. So if he goes down with the quarterback run, I don’t know what was going to happen. So I think that’s pretty unique that they use their quarterback so much in, like, designed runs and run him so much.
Q. There’s nobody that you played against this year that does that as much?
TAYLOR RAPP: I mean, a little bit. We played against a couple dual threat quarterbacks but definitely not as much as they use Trace.
Q. Utah, is that similar?
TAYLOR RAPP: Yeah, Tyler Huntley, they use him to run the ball quite a bit. But I don’t even think if it’s close to how much Trace is involved in the offense.
Q. I heard you tell him what makes him successful —
TAYLOR RAPP: He can hurt us both ways running on the ground, in the air, passing. So our DBs, we can’t really control him scrambling, that’s kind of on our front seven or something.
But all we can control is like the passing, locking down receivers. I was telling him, it can be super frustrating, because we can cover down all the receivers and the defensive line is not going to contain him every down, every play. There’s going to be one or two times where he can slip outside the pocket and scramble for first down. So that can be really frustrating.
Q. When was the first time you saw him, as far as preparation for this, or have you seen him on TV or highlights?
TAYLOR RAPP: Yeah, I’ve watched a few Big Ten games and watched Penn State a little bit. I watched their game against Michigan.
And I watched the full game because I think the game was early in the day and we had a late game that Saturday. So we were posted up in the hotel watching that big game. And, yeah, I mean, just from going to watching them on TV and then to matching up, matching up to them, it’s super exciting.
TAYLOR RAPP: Yeah, I didn’t know he was that short. But, I mean, kind of reminds me of a little Johnny Manziel, a little bit. He’s so crafty. He’s a tough, gritty guy. He’s a competitor. He loves to win. That’s going to be a big challenge for us.
Q. What are your thoughts on Barkley; (indiscernible) a running back to, have a couple of good ones for the team. Does he do anything unique that you haven’t seen?
TAYLOR RAPP: You know, I think he’s just so well rounded. He does everything so well. He’s so versatile. He can catch the ball out of the backfield a lot. He can run the ball well inside the tackles. And once he gets outside in space, it’s so hard to tackle the guy, he makes people miss so much.
TEVIS BARTLETT: If we can limit their big plays, you see, I don’t even know how many games in a row it was Saquon Barkley had a long touchdown run. So limiting those kind of plays and I think if you can do those things, then you’re going to have a good chance.
Q. What does it mean to go up against a team like Penn State, their tradition, in game like the Fiesta Bowl?
TEVIS BARTLETT: It’s pretty awesome. It’s pretty special. I think we’re pretty blessed to be in that situation. There’s a lot of people that play four or five years in college and never make it to a bowl game like this against a team like this. And so for me it’s a great experience, and I’m just going to try and take in as much as I can and enjoy it as much as I can.
Q. (Question about wrestling)
TEVIS BARTLETT: I understand the position, obviously I don’t know all the moves and all the counters.
Q. As far as kicked in the head?
TEVIS BARTLETT: Kicked in the head. In wrestling, you don’t worry about somebody locking up your ankle on bottom to where you have to tap out, kind of thing. But I think it would be pretty fun. I don’t know if I would do it. You gotta be kind of crazy. A little bit loose in the head.
Q. You got a little crazy in there.
TEVIS BARTLETT: Yeah, we all kind of do if we’re playing football, right?
Q. But then the smart side kicks in, too?
TEVIS BARTLETT: Yeah. It would be cool —
Q. (Inaudible) coming from wrestling?
TEVIS BARTLETT: It’s a lot of position stuff. Yeah, you look at a lot of the really good ones, they come from wrestling backgrounds, yeah.
Q. What do you weigh right now?
TEVIS BARTLETT: About 240.
Q. You take a look at those guys at 240, do they look different?
TEVIS BARTLETT: Yeah, because when you’re training, wrestling-wise, that kind of, I guess you could call it hand-to-hand combat, your body just shreds all of the fat. It’s so lean.
Q. You’re really at 240?
TEVIS BARTLETT: Yeah. When I was in high school, my senior year, I was wrestling — I started the season, wrestling 220, and I’m like I’m not doing this. I started at 210 and just by the end of the season I was consistently weighing out at practice at 199.
Q. I heard you on the radio back then, you said you were close to 200.
TEVIS BARTLETT: It was low.
Q. I was thinking he’ll have to bulk back up. Did your coaches say anything when you got that light?
TEVIS BARTLETT: No, it’s just how it is.
Q. Is it harder to drop it or put it back on, for a guy like you?
TEVIS BARTLETT: If it’s like gradually, it’s not that hard to drop. For a while putting it on was — it’s a process.
You got to be on your protein and gotta be on your lifting and gotta be on your hydration. People always ask me that. Tell us about wrestling. I’m like, well, it takes a lot of self-discipline. For example, you got weights right at the beginning of the season which is, by the way, right after Thanksgiving.
So you get to sit at Thanksgiving dinner and just pass the mashed potatoes and gravy right by you, have a little piece of turkey. That takes some self-discipline, Thanksgiving dinner, not gore yourself with food. So it’s definitely harder not eating than eating.
Q. Not eating takes more self-discipline; eating takes work.
TEVIS BARTLETT: That’s a good way to put it, I guess.
Q. Where are you heading when you’re done, heading back to Seattle?
TEVIS BARTLETT: After the game? Well, I’m going to head back to Wyoming. My birthday is on the 1st. I’m going to go spend that with my family. And then we have school on next Wednesday.
Q. You’re going back to school?
TEVIS BARTLETT: Yeah, I still have another year.
Q. I thought you were a senior.
TEVIS BARTLETT: Because I played as a true freshman. That’s probably why. I’ve been around for a while.
Q. Are you going to wind up back in Wyoming eventually, then?
TEVIS BARTLETT: I would like to, just to be close to home. I want to be an educator. Wyoming pays their educators very well and the cost of living is a lot less than Seattle.