Key to the front seven’s efforts was the play of Terrence Stephens, a first-year starter at nose tackle who made a strong impression this season. The Bootleg caught up with Stephens in the locker room after the Fiesta Bowl, to get his take on the defensive front’s performance and the emotions surrounding the loss to Oklahoma State. [Ed: An incredible read. After finishing such a physically and emotionally exhausting game, Stephens still manages to speak with profound eloquence and perspective.]
The Bootleg: What are your first reactions to the Fiesta Bowl?
Terrence Stephens: It was a great game. I think that as a team, we played our ass off. Some things didn’t go our way, and sometimes in life that happens and you have to be resilient with everything that you do. I think that’s what we have to hold high, is you keep your chin high and you keep playing the ball game. It’s not like we’ve never experienced a loss before but we know what to do with these losses. They hurt, they sting like everything else in life that doesn’t go your way, and you just have to be resilient.
Coach Shaw said in the press conference that you guys weren’t able to finish the game the way you wanted. From a defensive standpoint, why weren’t you guys able to do that?
TS: Oklahoma State has a very powerful offense. They’re a team that scores at will. They expose just the smallest of mistakes, the smallest of errors. When playing a team like that you have no room for errors. They have excellent athletes, they have an excellent quarterback and they have excellent coaches. With that, you have to be on your P’s and Q’s, and that’s something that we didn’t do tonight. It boils down to that.
You guys seemed to do an excellent job of shutting down their running game. What went into that?
TS: We’ve always been proud of shutting down running games. That’s what we do, especially in the front. That’s what we’ve done, that’s what we’re going to continue to do. At the defensive line, it’s always not about getting to the quarterback, it’s making this team one-dimensional, and that’s what we’ve done the best at all year, making a team one-dimensional. That’s what we did today, and they were pretty damn good with one dimension. You just gotta take it with a grain of salt, and hopefully look for some revenge in the future.
Do you think you did enough to get pressure on Brandon Weeden?
TS: I would never say enough is enough, because obviously it wasn’t. He’s a great quarterback, he’s an athlete obviously. I wish the best to him. He made some great plays, we made some great plays, and at the end of the day they won.
Obviously this last loss is tough, but it’s still an 11-win season, especially considering where this program has been. Would you still rate this season as an overall success?
TS: It’s great to win and it’s great to be a winning team, but any team that’s competitive wants to win at the end. Every team wants to win and reach their goals, and our goal was to win the Fiesta Bowl. As an overall success, I would say that we didn’t. This is because of our competitive spirit—we didn’t win at the end, and that’s what we were looking forward to. So we’ll take it with a grain of salt, we’ll keep on punching and we’ll become a better team.
What do you think the future of this program is?
TS: That’s a great question. I couldn’t answer you—I’m just one very small part of the program. There are 120 other guys in here who contribute to the program in many different ways. I think with the attitudes that we have and—I’m going to bring the word resilience again—with the resilient attitude that we have, we can be a team that soars very high. I have high expectations for this team.
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