Here are some selected quotes from Washington's Cactus Bowl media day earlier this morning, distributed by the folks at ASAP Sports.
COACH CHRIS PETERSEN
(Opening remarks) Thank you. Really appreciate being here. We've had a really good week. We've had a good couple weeks of preparation. Come over here four, five days ago, beautiful weather. Today we get a little of our hometown weather, we appreciate that. The players like to be out in a little bit of mist, but I'm sure it will clear up. We're excited to play Oklahoma State. We have tremendous respect for those guys. You get a chance in these bowl games to see all their games, really study them. The more you study somebody, the more you really appreciate what they're doing, all the good work, hard work they put together. But we're getting to that point where it's time to play. I know our players are itchy to play. In two days we get to go do that.
Q. (Question about practice.)
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COACH PETERSEN: I'm really proud of our players. They've done a great job. This is a Thursday‐type day for us, Thursday‐type practice. We've kind of gone through the week since we've been here and they've practiced really hard. Really been focused. We've kind of been in the morning. They've gone out, hung out. Some guys have been in the pool, different restaurants, those type of things. It's been good. To me it's the way a bowl game should be approached. I'm proud of our players for how they've handled it.
Q. Just as a fan of the game, what position do you enjoy watching him play the most?
COACH PETERSEN: "Shaq seems to show up and make plays wherever he is. That's where I really enjoy watching him and guys play. On the offensive side, you can see him show up when you just give the guy the ball. The one position he's played a few snaps at is safety. I'm not sure if that's not his best position. I think he's very unique. I haven't seen a guy like that in a long time."
Q. How have you seen him evolve this last year as a linebacker technically?
COACH PETERSEN: I think those things technically and fundamentally, they're little detail things, hard for the average fan to see, but as a coach you can see, OK, that was pretty good. When guys play with true fundamentals, Bob Gregory has done a really good job with him in terms of those types of things. I think that's why you saw him show up, not only as linebacker, but on our special teams as well. That's linebacker in space is all that is.
Q. If he were to play safety, how do you think he would play?
COACH PETERSEN: I think he would be that hybrid guy. He was so new to the college game, all that. A lot of times those safeties, they double as linebackers, they drop down out of the secondary. They end up being like that outside linebacker right there. He's got the speed and agility to play in the secondary. He already plays linebacker. That may be his best position in the long run.
Q. Shaq said he came up to you pretty soon after you became coach and asked to switch to running back.
COACH PETERSEN: Yeah, those guys like to talk a lot and say a lot of things (smiling). Shaq to me, his best position might be running back. I don't know. I think in his heart, he sees himself as a defensive player. He's got the skills to really play whatever side he wants to. I learned long ago you have to put guys where their heart is. When we did move him over there, we got in injury trouble. He did a great job for us those two games, but I think he was itching to get back on the other side.
Q. When you put him there, do you think he was nervous?
COACH PETERSEN: I don't think he was nervous. I think he ran hard, it was explosive. After doing it for a couple weeks, he's so ingrained on that defensive side, that's his comfort level. I think he was anxious to get back over there when the guys got healthy.
Q. You gave him 61 carries.
COACH PETERSEN: Right.
Q. Have you had a player that you've used more than that in the past?
COACH PETERSEN: You know, probably not like we use Shaq now, no. I will say this. We switched John Ross over, our wide receiver. He played the last four or five games as a starting corner for us. Done that a little bit with him. If guys have the skills, we use them all over.
RUNNING BACK DEONTAE COOPER
Q. Coach Pete talked about it about November, changing the culture. Was it a gradual change?
DEONTAE COOPER: It felt like things just came together because we just kept working. We kept working. Things just fell into place. I don't want to say necessarily anyone did anything different. We just continued working. That's kind of what happened. People came to work. That's the motto.
Q. He has a bit of a poker face. Are there some highlights or anything that jumps out from the past year?
DEONTAE COOPER: You think he has a poker face? I always see Coach P smiling. He doesn't hide his emotions when I'm out there around him. It's good when the head coach is always smiling at you, so...
Q. How long do you think it was before the offense felt comfortable with the system?
DEONTAE COOPER: I wouldn't say that we didn't feel comfortable. I felt like there was a time where we just weren't making those plays, the ball wasn't bouncing our way. But when you start to make those plays, it carries over to everybody else. Everybody else has an impact. That creates momentum for the next couple weeks. You build off the momentum that you have.
Q. How fun is the factor of special plays? He's considered a master of trick plays. Sometimes you'll practice one and never run it, but at least you practice it, and that's the fun of it.
DEONTAE COOPER: It's fun just because when you grow up as a kid, make those trick plays in the backyard, it brings back the memory of we played this back in the day, and now we're doing it at a high level.
Q. What do you see in Oklahoma State's defense?
DEONTAE COOPER: We see a team that's going to blitz you. Kind of similar to a lot of teams we play in the PAC. It's going to be exciting to play a team out of conference, really kind of get both teams to put their best foot forward.
Q. You played as many games as anybody because of the trip to Hawaii. Does it feel that way?
DEONTAE COOPER: It really doesn't. I remember the first day of camp. This season has really flown by. We have one more game, then offseason. We can rest up later. The season has kind of gone by so fast, I can't even remember 14 games that we played, so...
DEFENSIVE END HAU'OLI KIKAHA
Q. What do you see from Oklahoma State on tape?
HAU'OLI KIKAHA: Solid offense. Running the ball effectively, converting on third downs. Pretty good offense, man. Solid. They can really throw the ball. They have some strong arms, some good receivers. All around a good challenge for us.
Q. Not very often three guys on a defense, much less three guys that play in front of a defense, all gather All‑American honors. It looks like the three of you guys worked so much in concert, like Danny's success feeds your success, so on.
HAU'OLI KIKAHA: It will be like that on any kind of team. Any offenses will focus on certain individuals of whom they choose, and it frees up other guys to get one‑on‑ones or plays to make in space. The better guys you have on the team, the more opportunities you'll have as an individual.
Q. Oklahoma State, they have about six, seven, Polynesian players on their team. Is it good to see Polynesian players getting that respect and now starting to be recruited outside of the West Coast and Utah?
HAU'OLI KIKAHA: It's really cool. I'm always happy for our people, I guess you could say. As long as they're doing things right and dominating on the field, it's really cool to see.
Q. They have a quarterback with two starts under his belt. How difficult is it to scout a quarterback like that?
HAU'OLI KIKAHA: You have to look at the plays he's been in, analyze what he does well, analyze what he doesn't. Obviously our job is to get after quarterbacks, get into their heads as much as possible. That will be the case Friday night.
Q. What have you seen on film from the offense and who do they compare to?
HAU'OLI KIKAHA: Gosh, I don't know if I can make any comparisons because they've been doing things better than a few guys in our conference that are comparable. Yeah, man, they have a solid offense that can run the ball and throw as effectively. They have really good protection lately. Obviously they won their last couple games. Those were dogfights. I'm excited for the challenge.
Q. Do you feel like this team has a lot of momentum and you have to play your best to win a game like this, that just had a dogfight to get into a bowl game?
HAU'OLI KIKAHA: Well, I mean, you always have to play your best game, especially in our conference, then against guys that are lined up against you that are seen as equal. Of course, we have to play our best game on Friday, try not to have any errors, just attack.
Q. How do you feel you're playing as a defense right now?
HAU'OLI KIKAHA: We haven't played for a month and a half, so I don't know (laughter). Well, it hasn't been a month and a half, but it feels like that long. In conference play, we did pretty good, but not good enough, to be honest. We had a lot of bend‑but‑don't‑break moments. We need to play better smash‑mouth football.
Q. What was it like when Shaq came back?
HAU'OLI KIKAHA: It was good to have him back. Love seeing him play, regardless of where he's at. But, yeah, having him next to me was pretty cool, watching him hit people. It's awesome. He's a vicious player, a good tackler. I was always glad to have him there.