Mike Riley addressed the media following his team’s miraculous upset of previously unbeaten Michigan State on Saturday night.

Here’s what he had to say:

Opening Statement
“Well, I guess we found out it’s not over ’til it’s over. I’m really thrilled for these players and our coaching staff. I think that besides winning the game, which is the key to everything, I suppose, I just think the fact that everybody, the coaches, the players kept working so we could get to this point and win this game. When you go through a stretch like we have, one of the things that you fear the most is that people lose hope, stop working, kind of start losing that identity. From the minute that I started getting to be around these guys, I liked this team and our coaches have continued to work, and it’s paid off in just an effort that went right down to the wire and didn’t look good a number of times, but they never quit.” 

On the postgame celebration on the field

“I was really happy for (the players). I was really excited for them and everybody was happy, so that’s a good feeling. I had just wanted to make sure that last second had ticked off, I wasn’t sure if it had.”

On Michigan State’s final drive

“Well, we all know anything can happen, right? There was enough time in there to get a couple completions or maybe one good one and take a shot at a field goal. Of course, we didn’t make the two-point (conversion), so we opened the door for that. Our intention (on the ensuing kickoff) wasn’t quite that, but Drew (Brown) kind of just missed that area that would’ve been kind of a clean, bouncing ball in there, but the guy made a nice play on it and cut it off and that gave them a chance to have a shot, I guess.”

On whether this game proved anything to the players or fans

“You know, I’ll just take it as this, it’s just proof that if you keep working, you can do good things. I think that every week, but particularly where we’ve been, the thing we talked about is there’s no sense in playing this game unless you believe we can win. Belief, that’s OK, but then you’ve got to practice. You’ve got to have a good week of practice and you’ve just got to perform. It’s like I told them during the week, I said ‘It’s not going to take a superhuman effort to beat these guys, but it’s going to take a really good human effort.’ Everybody playing well, playing hard, making plays and then you can win games like this. Then the other thing is, whatever happens, don’t ever blink, because you’re going to have to play to the end. If you’re going to beat somebody that’s ranked in the top 10, you’ve got to play it right down to the wire. That’s the way they all end up. That’s what it says to me about this group. I think that what they’ve proven to me over time is that they have enough in them to stay with it. I’ll just keep saying it again, that part of it when you get into losing games is scary, but this team’s got character, it’s got some leadership. Our coaches are good, they just keep coaching, and so all of that eventually pays off with a win. We’ve been in a lot of games like this that we’ve lost, but the only thing that we have for the moment is right now, tonight, and the kids won the game, and that’s a good thing and then we can start again on a new game on Monday.”

On Brandon Reilly’s effort on the game-winning touchdown catch and his thoughts during the official’s review

“Well, we really thought initially it was going to be ruled out of bounds, so we were getting ready for another play from about the 30-yard line, is what we were actually preparing for and then we were actually surprised when they signaled touchdown. I think they were actually reviewing whether or not he caught the ball in bounds but that didn’t even appear to be close, so that was how it kind of came down.” 

On if the way the game ended served as justice after all the team has been through
“Was it justice? I don’t know, Tom, if you’d call it justice or not. The kids earned this win tonight. It’s just like every game and the games that we lost that came down to the wire. Those things are so haunting. I could very easily be talking to you about that drive that we just messed up on the 4-yard line. That would be the hot topic right now had we lost the game, so I don’t look at it like that. I think that we made the plays to win the game and we never quit and boy, were those big plays coming out because I really debated whether or not to kick an onside kick. But we did, but we did because I didn’t want to not give it that shot because we had enough time as we already proved that if we could kick it deep and stop them, then we’d get the ball back. But, we had plenty of time, so it worked out. But those are always the things that you think about in that scenario right there.”

On how well he thought Tommy Armstrong Jr. played

“I thought that was a gutty, gutty performance. I think it pretty much describes Tommy. He’s a battler. He never stops. A lot of it is kind of up and down, roller coaster-like, but boy he makes a bunch of plays and never stopped fighting and made some big-time throws at the end.”

On how pleased he was with the running game

“Against this defense, I was really excited about how we were running the football. I think that really gave us a chance to win the ball game, doing that. Otherwise, you don’t want to pass protect against that defensive front all day. We had a hard time as it was and a lot of our good stuff came out of getting out of the pocket and bootlegs. We did, however, at the end hold up pretty well to throw some drop-back passes down the field on that last drive, but running the ball was a key, key factor so that we didn’t have to pass protect all day. They’ve got some real good people up front.”

On how critical the first play to Jordan Westerkamp on the last drive was

“Absolutely big. You need a big chunk play. You need something to get the momentum going, and you know what that play did is it puts the other team back on their heels, because all of a sudden, boy that ball’s out by midfield and it becomes real and there’s enough time as we all know. That’s what I loved about that play.”

On what a big win like this could possibly build to in the future

“I think it’s real, real good. It’s a really good win obviously for this team, for right now. What ramifications it has, it’s certainly a sign of who we want to be and what we want to do. But for just right now, this is great for that group of kids, for this 2015 team to play like they did and beat that team. That’s just a good night for them.”

On his thoughts about the defense

“It was tough-sledding. We came up, made some plays, made some stops, thankfully made them have to punt it at the end. I tell you, in that second half, that quarterback and what they were doing, it was hard to stuff and they made a couple great catches for them. There were a couple times I think that we really blew an opportunity to make a play on the football, but Cook is a good player, made some big throws. Number 16 is a good player and the guy that made a play right over Josh Kalu down to about the four, that was good coverage, good throw, good catch, good football. That part of their game is really, really different in a good way for them.”