ORLANDO, Fla. (CureBowl.com) – As a part of the Duluth Trading Cure Bowl, executive director Alan Gooch awarded Troy’s Kyle Coale and UTSA’s Rashad Wisdom with Duluth Trading Cure Bowl Community Service Soldier Medallions. The bowl recognized these soldiers Tuesday at the Duluth Trading Cure Bowl Press Conference at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort Convention Center.
Game day festivities kick off Friday at 10:00 a.m. with the March 2 Cure at historic Church Street Station. A block party at local bars and restaurants and activities for college football fans and families will be ongoing.
At 1:00 p.m., the party gathers at the Historic Orlando Train Depot for a short program that includes dignitaries from the Orlando community. Then, the group marches together to the gates of Exploria Stadium in a cloud of pink smoke, featuring both team’s bands, cancer survivors, cancer supporters and college football fans.
The eighth-annual Duluth Trading Cure Bowl kicks off Friday at 3:00 p.m. on ESPN. Fans can listen to the contest on the Bowl Season Radio Network.
Partial transcription of Tuesday’s press conference: Troy head coach Jon Sumrall, Troy senior offensive tackle Austin Stidham, Troy senior linebacker Carlton Martial and senior athlete Kyle Coale, UTSA head coach Jeff Traylor, redshirt senior linebacker Dadrian Taylor, redshirt senior quarterback Frank Harris and senior safety Rashad Wisdom.
Troy Head Coach Jon Sumrall
“Appreciate you guys being here to cover our program, this bowl game. Before I get started, I’d like to offer up my condolences, thoughts and prayers to the Mississippi state community and the Leach family. I went to the University Kentucky. Coach Leach was an assistant there when I was getting recruited there. Mike Leach has meant more to college football. Brought more value to college football, not just schematically but personality-wise, he has been a very colorful person and added so much value. Our thoughts and prayers are with that program and that community and grateful for having the privilege to know him.
“Honored to be here, tremendous venue, great for our players. They’ve earned this privilege to come to Orlando, experience a bowl game. The Cure Bowl has been first class. A great matchup. A lot of respect for Texas San Antonio, they season they’ve had. Two of the premier Group of 5 college football programs right now without question. Our seasons have been very similar, and I think it’s a tremendous matchup with two very well coached teams, two very talented teams. It should be a really good football game. Excited to be here and exited for our players to experience this week.”
About there being more parity in college football:
“I think you see really a lot of talent that’s shifted and going different places. I think sometimes, too, players want to go places where they can play right away and have an immediate impact. And you can play at a high level. You don’t have to go to a logo school that everybody recognized from their childhood. You can go to a place that’s a newer program or a program that’s maybe moved up from a lower level to FBS and play big time football and have an immediate impact. And I do think good football players are everywhere. You look around at the Group of 5 right now, there are some really quality teams that I can assure you the Power 5 teams don’t want to play. This game has a matchup of two of those teams that are those kind of places.”
When he thought this could be a special season:
“When I got the job a year ago, my biggest recruiting job was not to add new players. My biggest recruiting job was to get two of the young men that are were here today that have been longtime starters, Austin Stidham and Carlton Martial, was recruiting our current roster to return. I knew when they made the decision to come back it was going to help us establish the standards in the program, the core values that we wanted to set from how we did things day in, day out. I knew that was going to give us a chance to be better faster than people anticipated. I don’t know that I would have projected that we would be 11-2, that we’re going to be conference champions, that we’re going to win 10 straight or any of those things that have happened.
“A big turning point in our season was the App State game. We lost on a Hail Mary, heartbreaking loss.
“And our kids had poured so much into their development and getting Troy back on the map and playing quality football. But I think they learned a lot through that loss. You have adversity and it reveals a lot what you’re really about from a character standpoint.
“And they also understood that in the 11th game of the 2021 season, App State had come to Troy, and the score was 45-7 or something. We went up there the third game of the season and we played really good football. We just didn’t play the last play of the game very well. And I think that gave our guys some confidence that we could play at a high level. I have more respect for our team in their ability to pick themselves up off the mat after that kind of defeat. And the next week we go play Marshall and win 16-7, and Marshall had just beaten Notre Dame a couple weeks prior. And then we beat Western Kentucky, who’s a really good team. And that started to kind of get the momentum going for our season it felt like.”
About Troy’s resilience this season:
“We have a mantra we use in our program. I say, “So what?” And our players say, “Now what?” We have a so-what, now-what mentality. I don’t care if something good happens. I don’t care if something bad happens. I say it almost every day. All that matters is what’s next. You can’t control what’s happened already. If you do (think about life like that), you’re going to live in regret and frustration maybe and disappointment. And you also can’t live in the future because it creates anxiety or worry over something you have no control over. I just try to encourage our guys to be in the moment. Be who you are. Play the next play.”
About UTSA’s offense:
“I’m a defensive-minded head coach. I usually look at, where’s the weakness of a team. And I don’t see it. Usually I can find an area where we can attack here or we can do this. And then I look at where’s the strengths? And their strengths are many. It does start with the quarterback. He is a phenomenal player. But they’re extremely explosive. They do a lot of things schematically to attack you and make you vulnerable to a lot of things from a leverage standpoint. Good scheme, good players, dynamic. It’s as good an offense as we’ve played all year. And we played some good teams. We played Ole Miss (in) Game 1. This is the best offense we’ve played this entire season.”
About playing the Cure Bowl and its cause:
“I think it’s a privilege to represent a bowl game that does stand for such a cause. To be able to play in the Cure Bowl, it does represent cancer research and developing a cure and helping to promote the awareness so how can we all come together to really attack cancer is a really cool cause and a great concept and tremendous idea”
About Troy’s offensive spark in the final three games of the season:
“I didn’t shy away when I took the job (that) we needed to create an identity on offense. We didn’t think we had one or had established one prior. The development of our offensive line has been critical. Through spring practice our offensive line didn’t allow me to sleep very good at night. That group has grown. And become more consistent. I’m proud of that growth. And offensively, sometimes things take a little longer. I don’t think you can walk in and change one or two things and all of a sudden, it’s magically improved. It takes a little bit more time. It takes some things coming together and chemistry and sync. I feel like that group’s done a nice job. . . . The last several weeks we’ve clicked a little bit better. Earlier in the year we were trying to find our way. We had some games where we couldn’t run the ball, but we threw it pretty well. Then it sort of flipped. The last few weeks we’ve played good complimentary football.”
On talking players into coming back for the 2022 season:
One thing I was fortunate about was, with Carlton and Austin, I was an assistant at Troy when we recruited them. So I had that relationship, which made that process a little bit more seamless and natural. I think your roster matters. I worry more about our players than any recruit, and I care a lot about recruiting because that’s the lifeblood of your program. But the guys that matter the most to me are the guys who wear the Troy logo every day. If they don’t know that we love them, care about them…I’ll do anything I can to help them…then we have a problem. Love in an action, not a feeling. It’s about sacrifice and service and what you do to support the men in your program. If I was allowed to, I’d give them the shirt off my back. Your team is what matters. Not prospective recruits. And when you have that kind of culture, recruits want to be a part of that. Recruits come and go. Your team doesn’t.
About the short turnaround from the C-USA Title game and the Cure Bowl:
“Anytime you have a layoff you worry about how fast you can get back in rhythm in certain parts of the tame. Or the tempo. But it’s been a bye week on steroids. We have recruiting and signing day and a week to prepare. So that’s been different. But the timeline I actually appreciate. The last three years I’ve been in really long layoffs, playing games on January 1st or December 31st. And you worry if your guys remember how to tackle or get lined up. This is like having a bye week, which isn’t all bad. It’s got a lot of positives to it.”
On what he is looking forward to this week:
“It’s a reward. We want to make this a fun experience for our team. Clearly, we’re all here to play a game. Everybody wants to be successful when you play the game. But I also want to make it a reward for the players on the team that have earned this opportunity. They’ve invested so much of their time, given so much to the program. Troy hadn’t been to a bowl since 2018. I want them to have the positive experience that comes with it. What better place to do it than Orlando, this destination, stay at Universal and getting to represent the Cure Bowl, which is for a tremendous cause.”
Troy Senior OT Austin Stidham
On the bowl week so far:
“We’re here to play the game but also here to be an example for some of these younger guys and allow them to enjoy this experience. Me and Carlton, we’ve been to a bowl game, had that pleasure. A lot of the younger guys on the team haven’t had that. We want our whole team to enjoy this, but at the same time, we have to stay focused and be ready for this top tier game we have coming up.”
About the “ah-ha” moment for the offense:
“You have to go back to this spring and the whole coaching staff we got in. We changed completely – schematically, our mindset, the way we were going about things. And our unit especially. When it comes to offensive line play and offensive play in general, it takes a lot of collaboration. In the offensive line, it takes five guys doing one job very efficiently. If one guy messes up in the slightest, it can explode the entire play. To expand on that, as an offense you have to have 11 guys running the right routes, making the right reads, blocking the right people. To get all that gelled in a perfect way, I would say we’ve come a long way.”
About coming back for another season:
“As coach said, we had a really good relationship. He recruited us forever ago in 2017. It’s crazy that we’ve been playing college football that long. Having that relationship previously, it helped a ton. Because we had confidence in him, and we knew he was going to hire a good support staff around him. Me and Carlton, we had private conversations, but we felt like we had let the university of Troy down tremendously the way we had been conducting things the past couple years. It’s a very historic university that’s used to being successful in every aspect. For us the mission was, and the responsibility was, we need to come back and get this university back to where it’s supposed to be and set the foundation where it was back when we came into the program. And that was the main mindset. That was really the final factor when we were deciding to come back. It was hey, let’s do this for Troy University. Let’s not do it for anybody else. Let’s do it for this team, let’s do it for this town, let’s do it for this university.“
About finishing the season strong:
“This is a premier opportunity for us as Group of 5 teams to bring a lot of notoriety to this whole ordeal. And we’re both teams that have been successful through the season, and we both want to finish (strong). You don’t have to mention much. We’re both in the Top 25 right now. And we’d both would really love to stay in the Top 25. So this game for both organizations is a must-win game, and we’re both really excited for the challenge.”
About the specialness of this team and this season:
“To be so successful and the fact we got everybody to buy in . . . it brings a lot of honor to us. And a lot happiness too, to see that we’re getting our focus back. The connection that this team has is unlike anything that I’ve ever been a part of. Between the staff, between each player, to have a team that’s as close-knit as this team, and to know that we’re leaving it behind in a much better place than what we found it in, it brings a lot of happiness to me. And I know that I am going to be able to leave this and be proud of where I came from. I am going to be proud to be a Troy Trojan. I’m going to look back and I’mg follow this team for the rest of my life and say hey I went to school there and was part of what this organization stands for.”
Troy Senior LB Carlton Martial
On the highlight of this bowl week:
“Honestly, Universal’s good, but we’re looking forward to this game. That’s going to be the highlight of this whole trip. I know we’re excited.”
On how Troy’s defense was able to help its offense getter better during the season:
“Basically, just competing every day at practice. They’re going to have their ups and downs just like a defense has ups and downs. But we have their back and they have our back. It’s one team, one goal.”
On playing against another Top 25 program in a bowl game:
“We know they are an amazing team. They have great players. But we go out there, 11 guys on defensive, 11 guys on offense, 11 hats to the ball on defense. Just try to go out there, execute with attitude, toughness, discipline and love – that’s what we preach. Once you do your job, you go out there and play for those other 10 guys around you.”
On when this season got kick-started:
“I would like to say it was the App State loss because I know a lot of the guys came closer after that loss. That was a game we needed. We didn’t want to lose that game. But the way we lost in dramatic fashion, that brought the team together. We saw that we could compete with the top-level contenders. Coming together in hard work and loss.”
Troy Senior Athlete Kyle Coale
On the highlight of this bowl week:
“We’re here to play a game. That’s the main focus. But having some time off to relax and recharge your batteries is good. I’ll be spending most of my time at Harry Potter World.”
On getting past Coastal Carolina to get to the Cure Bowl
“Coming into this year, there were two teams we really had our eyes out for and that was App State and Coastal Carolina. We didn’t get it done at App State, so we had our sights set on Coastal at that point to meet them in the championship game. To actually finish the job this time, it kind of left me speechless.”
On his community service for cancer awareness
“It’s really an honor to represent the city of Troy and my hometown of Palos Verdes, California. They’ve given so much to me and so to be able to give back to them really means a lot. Going with the Cure Bowl, pretty much everyone has been touched by cancer. I lost my dad three years ago to cancer. I’ve made it my mission since then. This is why I still play football. This is my seventh year. There’s no reason for me to be back here right now. I kind of made it my mission to honor my dad.”
UTSA Head Coach Jeff Traylor
“We are excited to be here. Our players are very excited. As soon as we heard the announcement about where we are going, they have been excited ever since. The destination is fantastic and the opponent we have a lot of respect for. It is a great opportunity to show a lot of people how good of football that we play UTSA against a great opponent in Troy.
“We have all been effected by cancer. There is not anybody in here that has not been, whether it is a friend or a relative. That’s what all sports are about. It is about playing for a cause larger than you. It is to get you out of the way. That is what this bowl is about. It is a larger cause.
“In saying that, it always causes those emotions because it reminds you of someone that you lost. It reminds you how quick life is and how silly the game is, but how great the game is because it brings so many people together to play for a larger cause.
“I lost my dad yesterday. It is one of those moments where you are torn, because you want to be home. You feel like you should be home. My mom is back home and my baby brother is back home taking care of her. There are a lot of things that you go through when you talk about death and cancer. It is not what my father died of, but still death is painful and cancer is painful.
On the parity in college football and two ranked teams playing on Friday:
“Kids nowadays know there are a lot of different ways to get to the National Football League. They all dream of playing there. None of us got on a team to sit on the bench. We all want to play. There are a lot opportunities right now in college football with the transfer portal, which I see as a good thing. I think that you should be recruiting your own kids everyday anyway. When did that become so – eye opening. I remember that I got hired to coach these kids three years ago almost to the day. The very first thing that I told them is that they did not pick me. I chose them, right. It is my job to win them over. Luckily, three of those guys that were in that meeting are sitting back there and have made me look real smart – almost every Saturday.”
On the thoughts about not coaching:
“Yea. Dr. [Lisa] Campos asked me as soon as she saw me if I was okay and I was not sure. My brother is on the staff. He has four children that are younger. My nephew is on the staff. My brother almost went back. He coaches the offensive line and was packed up and ready to go. I was not too far behind. My mom was like there is no way that I am letting you come home. You all are at Universal. Those four kids are going to be able to go experience that. I know my father. He would not want us to come home. He would feel terrible. My baby brother still lives back in East Texas. He is flying up Thursday. My mom – who knows – she might jump on that plane. I don’t know if she will come down here or not. I know that she will be watching this press conference because she is to get made a Frank and JJ, because they are so mean to me all the time.”
On how inspirational his father and mother are:
“Both are lifetime educators. My father was a 40-year band director – believe it or not – and a principal. I have no music skills whatsoever. My mother is a 40-year educator. She was the best teacher in the school for 40 years and got paid as the worst one, right? It has always been a pet-peeve of mine. They are powerful in my life. My dad had a larger than life personality. He loved to sing, loved to eat and loved to tell jokes. I can’t sing or tell jokes. I can eat, but I can’t sing or tell jokes. He had a stroke back in February and has not been the same since. I am relieved that he is in a much better place now. He is out of his misery and pain. For my mother as well, all that she was wanted to do is take care of my father, her entire life and that’s all she has been doing.”
On being with the team this week and that serving as a distraction:
“There is no doubt. The kids have always been the best part of my day. It is the adults that always drive me nuts. The kids are wonderful. When I am with them, things are golden. When I am at practice, we are focused and trying to get a certain blitz pick up done correctly or trying to get certain pressure done correctly. Your mind is not quite there. It kind of just distracts you. There is no doubt. Those kids are what makes me go.”
On the mission of the Duluth Trading Cure Bowl and impact Bryce Wisdom has made in San Antonio:
“Diana [Wisdom] reached out to me. I even spoke to Rashad about it. Bryce and my father were both similar in that aspect. Their smiles were the biggest in the room – their laughter. I am sure that Bryce Wisdom and Billy Traylor are just having a blast – talking about how fat Rashad is and how fat I am getting right now.”
On the challenge Troy brings:
“They are the eighth ranked team in the country [defensively]. Offensively, they have been a very complimentary offense the entire year. They have gotten hot at the right time of year. You can tell Jon [Sumrall] has instilled a sense of belief and confidence in those kids. You can tell that they love him. You can tell that he is a great grass coach on the field. His kids run great schemes. I got to meet Jon this summer. He was trying to hire one of my offensive coordinator, Joe Craddock, is a good friend of mine. He called me about Joe and we talked quite a bit – off and on, many hours – this summer. I could tell that Jon was very thorough. I could tell that he cared about his kids. It does not surprise me that he has turned that program around that quickly. We have a lot of respect for them. Very similar teams. They got off to a tough start like we did with rough losses early. Both of us got hot and have come in here. We have both squeaked through some games. We both played well and got away with some things. Two very similar opponents.”
On the emotions of some seniors playing their final game this week:
“All of us have talked about it. We have the opportunity to beat a Top-25 team in the history of our school. We have the opportunity to finish in the Top-25 for the first time in the history of our school. We have an opportunity to win a bowl game for the first time in the history of our school. That is three pretty big deals. Our seniors are extremely motivated to leave on a good note.”
On the growth of Dadrian Taylor:
“Obviously, if I brought him to the press conference, we are doing a lot better now. He is my guy. He is the heart and soul of our defense. So goes Dadrian Taylor, so goes our defense. He is a warrior. He is to little…from Shiner, Texas. Watch him play. The dude can play. He is a great, great kid – young man. I am really proud of that degree. He just made a 90 on his exam last week. That is impressive.”
UTSA Redshirt Senior LB Dadrian Taylor
On when things clicked:
“I feel like it was early on. I feel like it was after the Houston game. There was just a different feeling around the team and locker room. We were this close, but we have to start finishing these games off. Over the years, the big games like BYU. We have let slip away and have focused on finishing those big games against ranked opponents. It is going to be a big test for us.”
On supporting Coach Traylor on his loss this week:
“Love your people while you are here. Never take anything or anybody for granted, especially your family. Your never know when that time could come.”
On the defense’s confidence going into Friday:
“We know that we are a good defense. There have bene games where we have played very dominate, then there are games where sometimes the offense had to win it. There are times where we could have been ranked really high in the rankings, but just missed a couple key plays here and there. We are going to play defense like we always play defense.”
UTSA Redshirt Senior QB Frank Harris
On the general excitement level of this Top-25 matchup:
“It is a great test for us. They are very good and well coached. We are excited for this opportunity. We have never beaten a Top-25 team. It is going to be a great test for us. They are similar to us – very scrappy.”
On preparing for Troy’s defense:
“I don’t think it adds any pressure to us. We have to go out there and play our brand of football. They are a great defense. They are very scrappy on all cylinders – upfront and in the backend. They are very good. They are a top team for a reason. It is going to be a great test for us offensively. We have to go out there trust our training, trust our game plan and go out and execute. Let everything else take care of itself.”
On coming back for your seventh year:
“It was a great opportunity for me. I wasn’t ready to move on yet. The NFL wasn’t looking at me. We have a unique bond with the coaching staff and my teammates. There is something different at UTSA. I love the culture there. I love being around the guys, going out to practice every day, playing for the city of San Antonio and representing UTSA as a university. It is the best thing for me. I just love going out there and it is a privilege to represent San Antonio. It was a no brainer for me to come back for one more season while I can.”
UTSA Senior Safety Rashad Wisdom
On winning the conference and playing in the Duluth Trading Cure Bowl:
“All we have to do is go finish. I think that is the biggest thing for us. We finished with the conference championship. It would be a great thing to go finish with our first bowl win, too, especially going into a new conference. It will be great to have the momentum for next season and go in full guns a blazing.”
On the meaning of the Duluth Trading Cure Bowl and what it means to him:
“It means a lot – just being able to go in there and make history for the university. As far as my situation with my brother, it was a great loss for me, especially that early in my life. I never really dealt with anything that tragic and it really hit me hard. Kind of what Kyle [Choale] was saying from Troy. That is the big reason why I am playing the game today. All that motivation and fight that I saw from Bryce – going through what he was. How can you not keep pushing when things get hard. A win this Friday will mean a lot for sure. Honestly, win, lose or draw, it is a blessing to be out here and being able to represent a bowl with these guys and for this university. It means a lot for sure. Regardless, what happens.”
“I think that it takes a village. It is going to take all of us to come together and try to figure out this thing called cancer and fight it together. We can’t do it as individual people. Being able to be a part of this bowl is really big. I am really glad that we are able to be a part of it, especially with everything that has gone on in my life and other people being effected by it to. I feel like something eventually has to give. It is on us to do it and it is going to take one step at a time. Moving in the right direction and moving forward is what we have to do.”
On supporting Coach Traylor on his loss this week
“I feel like that is the easy thing to do. Just take the time we have with our people for granted. It is a blessing for me to be able to say that I have both my parents and grandparents in my life. For some people, that may not be the case. At times, we may take it for granted. At some times, they may get on our nerves and tell us what we don’t want to hear. There are definitely times where I could hear Bryce [Wisdom] call me fat one more time. It is just stuff like that…things that we don’t appreciate until they are gone. Cherish all the time that you have good and bad, because they are not going to be here forever.”