Courtesy GoBearkats.com Media personnel from both the Southland and Big Sky Conferences chatted with Sam Houston All-America performers safety Darnell Taylor and running back Timothy Flanders Tuesday about Saturday’s NCAA Division I semifinal game between the Bearkats and Eastern Washington.
Here’s what the players had to say:
DARNELL TAYLOR –
Question: You’ve had an opportunity to see Eastern Washington’s offense on TV. What are your impressions.
Darnell: Eastern Washington is a good team. They have three excellent receivers and quarterbacks who can get them the ball. Stopping them is going to be a challenge. It’s going to be a great game.
Question: Once again, you’re coming to the northwest to face a team in the cold. How do you feel about that?
Darnell: I really don’t like the cold. But it is what it is.
Question: You reached the national championship game last year, but lost in the finals to North Dakota State. What would it mean to you and your team to get back to the finals this year?
Darnell: It would mean a lot. That’s been our goal since last January, what we’ve worked so hard to do all year long. We think we have the team to get back to Frisco this year. We’re one game away but we’ll have to play our best.
Question: Where do you think the turning point in your 10-3 season this year came?
Darnell: The turning point definitely was when we lost to Central Arkansas. That showed us we can be beat. We came out flat that day. That loss changed things around for us and how we viewed ourselves as a team and players.
Question: Has your defense changed much from last year?
Darnell: No, not really. We had eight starters back from last year plus a lot of guys who had played as part of our defense. We have the same scheme and we feel like our defense is just as good as last year.
Question: As a two-time All-America, first team All-Conference and Southland Defensive Player of the Year, a lot of your teammates must look up to you. What is your leadership style?
Darnell: I lead by example. I don’t do a whole lot of talking, telling them what to do. I play like I know how to play and let actions speak. I don’t like talking.
Question: Do you plan to do anything special to slow down Eastern Washington?
Darnell: We’re not going to change. We’ve been running man and blitzing all year. We’re going to keep doing what got us here.
Question: What has it been like the past four years playing college football with your twin brother Darius?
Darnell: It’s been fun. When Sam Houston came and signed us both to play college football on the same team, it was a dream come true. We knew we wanted to play together in college. We’ve loved it.
Question: What was it like getting to play against the Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M?
Darnell: It was different. There were 87,000 fans there. He is a very good player. Definitely he deserved to win the Heisman.
TIMOTHY FLANDERS -
Question: The Sam Houston offense appears to be even more productive this year with an improved passing game. What has been the key for your offense this year?
Timothy: It all starts with preparation. With a new offensive coordinator, we had to pick up things fast last spring. We’ve worked a lot more on our passing game and its showing. And we just continue the running game.
Question: What do you think of what you’ve seen of the Eastern Washington defense?
Timothy: They play hard. They line up in a base defense and just come at you. They’ve had a great season and we expect them to play just as hard against us.
Question: In the playoffs, you’re in a one-and-done situation. How does that affect how you approach this game?
Timothy: One of the first things we talked about at the beginning of the season was taking each game one at a time. It’s a one-game season each week and you have to play hard.
Question: What’s been the key to your improved passing game?
Timothy: We’ve work hard on improving. We put the ball in Brian Bell’s hands and know he’s going to make good decisions. We’ve got some great receivers. They’re some guys who don’t get talked about a lot, but they’ve done a great job. And our offensive line has done a great job too.
Question: After the loss to Central Arkansas and a 1-2 start, you knew you had to win out in conference to get back to the playoffs. What was the key in your seven-game winning streak?
Timothy: It came down to what type of team we were. We have a lot a maturity on this team. We have some great seniors who helped us keep our heads on straight. Knowing we had to win opened up everybody’s mind. We’ve worked hard to keep that mentality in the playoffs. We feel like we’ve gotten better and better since that loss.
Question: You had a close game in the second round against Cal Poly and then kind of exploded last week against Montana State. What was the difference?
Timothy: We played harder. We came out two slow against Cal Poly. For Montana State, we had a better week of practice and it showed.
Question: Eight of your 11 regular season games were on the road. What kind of difference has that made to this year’s team, considering you will have to win two road games to get back to Frisco.
Timothy: It really helped us. Your focus has to be straight when you go on the road. It’s all business. Montana State had a great crowd and we know Eastern Washington is going to have a great crowd. We have to stay focused like we have all season.