Two days before the FCS championship game, head coaches Jimmy Rogers of South Dakota State and Bobby Hauck of Montana talked with media at Toyota Stadium.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT on Sunday, airing on ABC.
Below are thoughts from the head coaches on being in this game and the matchup they face.
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Rogers on this year’s team and its motivation level with being the favorites:
“I don’t think we’ve lost that chip at all. This team is just hungry to deliver their best and take everything very personal. They beat narratives all season long, and whether they listen to them or not, I know they read it. We’ve done our job up to this point. I think this team is a little bit different. If you’re asking for what gets them going, they’re winners, and that’s enough.”
Hauck on facing SDSU:
“They’re veteran. I mentioned that South Dakota State has won 28 in a row — unless my numbers are wrong, but I think I’m right on. You don’t get to that point without being really good at everything. So the team doesn’t have flaws. I mean, some of their players are better than some of their others, and every team has positions that are stronger from the NFL on down. But they’ve got a lot of returning starters from a team that did this a year ago. They haven’t really had many close games or any close games. They’ve just kind of dominated everybody. I think that’s probably what they expected coming into the season, knowing what they had coming back. I think they’re really into the detail of what they’re doing there. We’ve had three weeks. I’ve watched a lot of offense, defense, kicking. I think everybody has an understanding of what they’re trying to accomplish schematically. They know what the guys to the right and left are doing. They play hard, physical. They do things that we kind of espouse ourselves and admire in football teams. They do it.”
Rogers on Montana’s offense:
“I think they do a really good job skill set-wise. They’ve got great skill on the perimeter and a couple of really talented running backs. They play with a little bit wider splits than we’re used to seeing. We’ve seen it a little bit throughout the season. But I think everything starts with the quarterback. The guy that touches the ball is dynamic. He can extend plays and kill you with his arm. So we’ve got to do a good job of trying to manage that as much as possible. The wide receivers are an elite talent, and the running backs can make you pay with their speed and physicality. Overall, I think they’re a really well-coached football team. I think they play extremely hard, and that shows up on film. I know that it’s going to need our best here Sunday.”
Hauck on the three-week break:
“This has been great for our guys. This is a bowl trip to a degree, where you can come down to the bowl site and the game site and continue to prepare and enjoy the camaraderie and get acclimated to the surroundings. So I think that’s been terrific for our guys. … When we used to have to do this, a lot of times we’d play on Saturday, like the James Madison game, I think, played on Saturday and fly all the way back across the country. Like I would leave the game, stop by the tailgate, say hi to my wife, go in and start watching film, have a Monday practice on Sunday, Tuesday practice on Monday, and get on the plane and go play the game on Friday in Chattanooga.”
Rogers on facing Montana’s defense:
“I think it starts up front with the communication of the O-line being able to handle blitzes and twists and late movement and stemming. All it takes is one guy up front to mess it up, that they didn’t hear the communication that’s had from one end to the next end. So all that is extremely important, and we’ve got to be on the same page. We are well aware that Montana is going to get some plays on us, and we’ve got to respond. It’s how we respond that makes the difference in the game.”
Hauck on his team’s rise this season:
“The goal isn’t to play your best football on September 1st. The goal is to improve through the season, and I think we just kind of personify what happens when you stick with things and you keep working and you persist.”
Rogers on two Midwest teams playing each other again in the title game:
“This is an opinion, but I think the best football is played in the Dakotas and the Montanas. You look at FCS football, the couple states — well, we don’t have professional sports. We are the professional sport in a sense. That, I think is cool. And both recruit their home state very hard. You take a kid that maybe is not as recruited as he would be had he lived in — I’m from Arizona. A lot of our team wouldn’t have come here had they lived in Arizona just because the recruiting is quite a bit different. I think that’s really cool. I think it’s cool to have a bunch of guys that take pride in playing for their home state. You can see it with the passion on both sides and how we both play. There’s a physicality to it. There’s an effort to it. It’s bigger than just playing college football. It’s representing something that they take pride in, and I think that you could see it.”
Hauck on two Midwest teams playing each other again in the title game:
“I think it starts with the university wanting to support the programs. I think they’re all universities that view football as important and a priority. And so the universities support the programs, which gets you a foot in the door. Now you have to go execute it. So then if you look at it, the coaching staffs are exemplary. They know what they’re doing. Then they all have a common denominator. … What do all these teams that have been in this game the last few years have in common? They’re tough, physical, disciplined football teams.”