SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Defensive lineman Vita Vea was one of five Washington players to take part in a Fiesta Bowl press conference Wednesday morning at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn. Here’s some of what he had to say:
Q. Dante said that he thought guys were maybe having a little too much fun and weren’t concentrating as much on the game, and maybe Pete wasn’t as strict as maybe he would be nowadays maybe — and I don’t know if it’s just because it’s Fiesta Bowl and his experience here, but have you noticed any difference?
VITA VEA: Yeah. You know, maybe different for Dante just because he was playing in that game. It was different for me because I was still redshirt. So all I had to worry about was workouts and keeping the NG up on the sideline, swinging my towel around and around.
Coach P is definitely a lot more honest about getting right and getting out there and staying focused throughout this week, and also letting us know that this is a bowl game but we aren’t on vacation. So we came here for one job and basically trying to get it done.
Q. Penn State has an explosive offense — they can run with Barkley, they can throw with a couple of different receivers. How important is your defensive line going up against their offensive line in the matchup?
VITA VEA: It will be very important. It would be very important including the linebackers as well to fit that run game. Saquon, he’s a hell of a back. He can go side to side and create space with just a couple of inches. And that will be — still working on the game plan, (indiscernible) the O-line is ready to get out there this Saturday.
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Q. You had some problems with Bryce Love. How does he compare to Bryce Love would you say?
VITA VEA: They’re both up there, the top tier backs. Obviously Saquon, I think Saquon might be better. It’s a better team than we’ve played all year. So we’ll see when we get out there Saturday how everything works out.
Q. Both teams have really good seasons and a couple of losses have tarnished what could be a perfect season for you guys to put the cap on a good season. What would it mean to have a signature win against Penn State?
VITA VEA: It will mean a lot to all of us, especially to the seniors. And this is their last game. Gotta send the seniors out right and win our last home game and our rivalry game. So just the cherry on top for them, as they step on the field for the last game in college.
Q. Myles talked a little bit about Coach changing the culture, and how maybe that’s the biggest thing for him being part of the program and what Pete’s brought to it. How has the culture changed from when you first got here to now?
VITA VEA: It changes in a lot of different ways for everybody else. I say when I first came in, I’d have to say that the team aspect, all of us, I feel like we’re all closer, but it may be different for me because I was only redshirt that year so I only knew better.
Q. But you did experience Sarkisian — you were there the first year?
VITA VEA: I was there — no, I came in after. I wasn’t here yet. But, you know, just the energy is way different every day. You see everyone all in, including the coaching staff, to the trainers, to our nutritionist, to our managers, to the people who give us water.
That as well, but I’d have to say just the team aspect of everything. Everyone’s closer. Coach Pete’s done a good job of teaching us. We have a little saying called “team, unit, me.” Worry about your team first, then your unit, then yourself and make sure you get that order right and not be selfish and worry about yourself and you forget about the team. So just trying to stick together as a team and working together.
Q. Speaking about the individual thing, talking to Saquon yesterday he said the first thing that jumped out on film from his standpoint was just that you’re huge. He just said you’re a big guy. Do you get the sense sometimes from the outside looking in that maybe people do immediately, you stand out initially as being the guy that’s the main disrupter and everything kind of changes from there?
VITA VEA: It’s weird. I step on the field and sometimes I feel, I still feel kind of small. I don’t really feel until after the game, especially after the Wazzu game, shaking hands, I’m looking, wow, these guys are big. And there’s a few O-linemen that are taller than me.
And like size-wise, they look bigger, but I always know I’m the heaviest man on the field. So I guess that helps me.
Q. What is the first thing that stands out about Penn State to you and their offense?
VITA VEA: Their O-line. Basically their offense, their O-line. Also their special teams. They do a tremendous job of getting great returns on special teams. Their offense does a great job. The O-line, especially their quarterback. He’s one person you have to contain to stay in the game on top of Saquon.
So it’s both of them. It’s a very rare combo to have a running quarterback and a great running back that can really hurt you in the game.
Q. Is there a particular matchup on Penn State’s O-line that you’re most looking forward to?
VITA VEA: Not really, no. I know they’re a great O-linemen overall. So I guess just to see how it works out, you know. They’ve got a lot of the spotlight this season. So just seeing, how it is going against one of the top tier O-lines in college football. So just that.
A lot of people will say the East Coast linemen, they’re tougher and they’re more better at football. So it will be fun to see how this all plans out, heads out.
Q. What’s your sense of disappointment not going back to the playoffs this year?
VITA VEA: I think everyone in the country, their goal is to win the national championship and do that, you know, run off last year. Last year, it was a great experience to go there. But that’s past us now. We have to get over it.
We’re in the Fiesta Bowl, so we focus on this and trying to get this win so we can’t worry about that. We can’t control it anymore.