UCF COACH JOSH HEUPEL: Obviously hats off to LSU. They made a really good football game and did enough to win it. Told the players in the locker room, coach and the players, today we weren’t good enough to find a way to win the ball game. Love the way they competed for four quarters, continued to fight with everything that they had. Believed. Played as a group. Just weren’t good enough at the end. Did some things uncharacteristic of us early in the football game that hurt us a little bit. But, again, our kids continued to fight. So with that, we’ll open it up for questions.
Q. Coach, you guys have made the adjustments at halftime and been a second‑half team this year. Was it that you weren’t able to make the adjustments, or was it more of a credit to LSU?
COACH HEUPEL: They’ve got really good players and coaches, no doubt about it. We had some opportunities on both sides of the football. Taking special teams out of it to do some things in the second half, to make plays, put the kids in the right position, whatever it might have been.
They’re a good football team. We didn’t do enough in this football game offensively just to get the first first down, to get the drive going. Got behind the chains and too many third‑and‑long situations.
Q. Titus, it seemed like, on the offensive line for LSU, they overpowered your defensive line. What you did see from that?
TITUS DAVIS: Honestly, I don’t feel like they overpowered us at all. They were good up front. Early in the first half, we did very good at stopping the run. And all throughout the game, we were pretty good. Like I said, I don’t feel like they overpowered us at all, but they did. They were good at running the ball.
Q. It’s been a long time since you guys lost a game. 25 straight. Describe your feelings and just talk about what a great run it was.
MICHAEL COLUBIALE: Obviously, everyone in the locker room is really upset. We haven’t lost a game since 2016. The sophomore class hasn’t even lost a game since they’ve been here. It’s the first time losing. This program’s come so far. I’m just really excited to watch as a fan for the future.
I think this place is just getting started. I think this is going to be a regular appearance in a New Year’s Day bowl, and I’m so proud to attend this school and play for this program.
TITUS DAVIS: Like he said, it’s difficult in the locker room. These guys haven’t lost a game since 2016. I’m just grateful for the opportunity that we have to be here and the opportunity we had to be there. Obviously just looking at where we came from and how far we’ve come and how far we have to go. I mean, this is just one steppingstone, and I feel like next year these guys are going to come back even stronger.
Q. Coach [Josh] Heupel, obviously it’s a tough loss. But what are the bright spots, what is the biggest positive you would take away from this game?
COACH HEUPEL: I think the kids competed for four quarters. They handle adversity extremely well. I think that’s one of the things I’m most proud of about this group.You look at what they’ve done over the last two seasons, right? You get one opportunity, you got to go out on the field and get one 60‑minute clock to wind down and you have to be good enough. Today we weren’t. Credit to LSU.
I think that also speaks to how special this group is to be able to do that for 25 straight weeks the last couple of years. And I just appreciate who and what they are. I told them in the locker room, in sports you focus so much on the destination. It’s important. We certainly wanted to finish this one off the right way. But when you walk away from the destination, right, it truly is about the journey.
And I love the way that these guys have a tight brotherhood inside of the locker room. I appreciate how they bought into the things that we’re trying to build upon in our program. I do believe this is just the beginning of what we’re going to be.
Q. Coach, just piggybacking off what you said and what Titus [Davis] said, he said he thinks the future is even brighter. The legacy that these seniors have left behind for the underclassmen, what do you think that does for the rest of the team going forward, the example that they set?
COACH HEUPEL: We talked about it in the locker room. What we’ve been able to showcase, who we are individually and ultimately collectively this past season, leading into this ball game. We’ll reveal a lot about ourselves here and handling adversity of this type as well as we move forward. I know that our kids will handle it the right way.
The seniors, to me, they leave a legacy of handling adversity, jumping over every hurdle that’s placed in front of them. Most importantly, leaving a culture of love and brotherhood inside of our locker room. And I think that will be their lasting impression on our program.
Q. Coach, could you get a feel for what LSU was trying to do to mask their holes in the secondary through the game?
COACH HEUPEL: We did. I think you saw at times we had some protection issues. We had some things open. D.J. (Darriel Mack) is getting close to releasing the ball, but he’s not able to hold on to it for one more tick to get the ball out of his hands.
I thought they did a good job of getting to the quarterback. Part of that is playing behind the chains at times, too, where you’re in predictable situations and you put all of those things together. That’s why we didn’t play as well as we were capable of at times for 60 minutes.
Q. Coach, you said you guys did some things in the first half that were uncharacteristic. A couple of penalties. One proved to be really costly.
COACH HEUPEL: Yeah. We talked about every one play makes the difference in the football game. At the same time, when that play’s over, just focusing on and moving on to the next one because every play’s got a chance to be the difference.
We didn’t handle the emotional part of the game as well as we needed to early in the football game and combine that with an early turnover when we got things going. We stubbed our toe enough early that we weren’t able to change the way the game was played a little bit early in the football game.
Q. Coach, I’ve got a two‑part question. First of all, what are your thoughts trying to get Power Five conference games in the regular season the next couple of years and on maybe expanding the Playoff to eight teams?
COACH HEUPEL: If you look at the schedule, we play Power Five football teams, just like every other Power Six team does.
The Playoff, that’s way out of my control. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. I try to get our kids to focus on the daily tasks, the things that they can control. I try to do that myself, as well.
Q. Coach, now that once all of this settles down a little bit, what will be your message to the team as you guys get ready to move forward to the next season?
COACH HEUPEL: First message about next year was handling the adversity of this football game. This program’s not accustomed to losing. No one in that locker room has lost in a couple of years. How we handle that today, tonight, in the week before we get back on campus and we first start our off‑season, all of those things will speak to who and what we’re going to be moving forward. I expect the kids to handle it in a great way.
Q. Coach, you guys spoke about missed opportunities. You had a couple of key drives and a fumble. Could you talk about what that meant to you and how your team reacted when those moments happened?
COACH HEUPEL: I thought they went and played the next play. I thought that happened with the penalty early in the football game, where we stopped them and they’re in a punting situation, where we give them a new set of downs.
There’s a bunch of plays in this game. There’s always a handful of plays that you look back on that are really impactful. But you got to move on from it.
Were there opportunities in this football game that we missed, that we didn’t take advantage of? Absolutely. I think that’s what’s special about this game, though. I mean, you only get one opportunity to walk out on the field. They got great coaches on the other side. I’m talking about in this ball game, but I’m talking about in every game. They’ve got 85 guys with scholarships.
One of the things that’s been missed and it’s been missed ‑‑ not missed by me but I haven’t been able to talk about it because we’re in such a grind of just the season and moving on to the next week, trying to keep kids focused, is all of the national championship talk and banter with our program from last season.
What gets lost, to me, as much as anything, is how special it is for a group of individuals to come together collectively and go out there and have one 60‑minute clock for 25 straight weeks and find a way to be good enough to go get a win. I think it says about a lot about the character that’s in our locker room. It says a lot about the leadership, the toughness, mentally and physically, to be able to handle that and to go and play football for that amount of time and find a way to win.
Q. You guys were part of something that really galvanized the UCF community. We hadn’t seen that kind of excitement week to week in a long time. What was that like playing for these fans, and do you have one last message for that fan base?
MICHAEL COLUBIALE: It is an absolute privilege to be a part of this program and see ‑‑ like I said, see it grow. It is just amazing how much support that has been around this program for the past two seasons. And we just really appreciate everything that Knight nation has come with every week, and just to have our backs no matter what. That’s what we really appreciate.
TITUS DAVIS: For me, it’s truly a blessing just to be in the locker room with these guys and, like I said, seeing where we come from. I keep going back to that. But being 0‑12 is so discouraging, and to bounce back from that to where we are today, to watch our fan base grow and watch them come halfway across the country to watch us play, like I said, it is truly a blessing. I’m looking forward to coming back as an alumni and watching these guys play again.