The final day of 2012 marked the official Tostitos Fiesta Bowl media day for both teams with all players and coaches in attendance. Select quotes from the morning’s interviews are below.
Q: Fourth consecutive BCS bowl. How far has this program come?
A: I don’t think we’re judged by wins and losses. As a coaching staff, we don’t do that. We’re proud of that obviously, but the results aren’t the end part for us. It’s about their growth every day both on the field and off the field. When you see where Dion Jordan was five years ago to where Dion Jordan is now, and Kenjon Barner. It was interesting, I showed our freshmen this year, because seems I think they see a Dion or Kenjon and look at a finished product. I brought them in a room and showed them what they looked like their freshman year. And Dion was playing wide receiver and Kenjon was playing defensive back and they were covering each other on one?on?one drills and falling all over each other. When you watch them grow to where they are now to Dion being just one of the best defensive players in the country, Kenjon being an All?American at runningback, it’s been a great run. That’s what we measure it as. The maturity and growth of the kids, four years ago and now what they’re like as they’re leaving.
Q: What does it mean for the players to be here?
A: I don’t really care about the critics, what they care or say. I know the feelings our players have. When you get to where we are, get a chance to play one more time, if you’ve been around this group like I have, it’s special. We kind of made a pact as a group. They’ve lived up to their end of the bargain, is that every Thanksgiving we’ll spend together as a team, every Christmas they’re going to spend together with their families, and every New Year’s we’re going to spend together as a football team.The experience we’ve had since our last game, which I think was on the 24th of November, to get to spend six more weeks with these guys, I don’t think you can put a price tag on that. That’s the fun part for a coaching staff. We look at this as an opportunity to go out one more time as a team and show the country what we’re all about and we’re excited about that challenge.
Q: How challenging was it to have that gap in time?
A: We don’t look at it as challenging. You know the landscape before you go in. If you look at it as a challenge, you’re probably going to make more out of it than what it is. It’s been the same since we’ve been there. First year, Rose Bowl, second year back here, third year, Rose Bowl, now back here. If you want to play in a big game, you’re going to have more time off. We use our time off wisely. We never practice more than four days in a row. We have a bunch of guys that love playing and practicing football and are excited about it. We don’t look at it as a challenge. This is our schedule. We map it out every summer. Depending on what bowl game we’re going to go to, this is what we’re going to practice, this is what we’re going to do. We have to maximize our time that’s been made available to us.
Q: Your first week coming in, finally here in the limelight. I want to talk to you about the expectations.
A: To be able to feel comfortable and feel confidence will push us to new heights. I think confidence, being able to be comfortable really involves everybody. It’s been fun to be able to go through all these experiences, find myself, find this comfort level.
Q: Looking back on the season, Coach Kelly says you fix things quickly and take the wins and losses to hearts. In what ways have you seen yourself grow?
A: From I think specifically after the Stanford loss, how that all happened, handling that with the team, it’s really helped me grow, not only as an athlete, but as a person. Adversity always comes. To stand up and say that didn’t kill me, it’s been able to make me better as a human.
Q: How are you balancing the sense of urgency and being here?
A: Some of the older guys have been here. Watch what they’re doing. Still business, but sometimes you want to enjoy it. These older guys have done a good job of making sure we’re prepared and enjoy what’s going on.
Q: Kenjon, four BCS bowls, you’ve been here before, you know the routine. Back to the season, the way Chip runs the season. When you get to a bowl week, some teams get big eyed excited.
A: It’s having been in four BCS games, you have an understanding of all the lights, the media, the craziness that goes on with a bowl week. You have an understanding of that. You don’t really get distracted by it.
Q: Preparation, it’s the Fiesta Bowl, but it’s just another opponent. I see you approaching this game, breaking down Kansas State the way you would any season long.
A: That’s exactly it. I feel you can’t make any game bigger than the other. Everybody knows the importance of this game, but this is just another opponent. You prepare the same way you prepare all season.
Q: You and LaMichael were very close. Did you have a chance to talk with him before the game?
A: I was actually talking to him yesterday night after the game. He’s trying to make it out here. Hopefully he can.
Q: You broke out this season, turned into a turnover machine. What clicked for you?
A: I think I was just able to get myself to the ball a lot more often this year. I was able to read plays a second faster.
Q: How do you go about preparing for an offense led by a Heisman finalist?
A: They’re a great offensive team and have a great scheme and program. With this team, it’s more of containing their offense rather than completely shutting them down. With an offense like this, you have to contain them and make them play at your pace rather than playing at their pace.
Q: How do you prepare for facing Collin Klein specifically?
A: You can’t necessarily prepare for it with the scout team, but with this quarterback we just have to make sure we gang tackle. If one person gets to the ball, we all have to swarm to the ball, because he’s able to break tackles often.
Q: Big task ahead of you with Collin Klein, how do you prepare?
A: Being fundamentally sound, staying in your gaps when tackling. Like I said, a lot of bowl games we see a lot of missed tackles. We haven’t really tackled anyone for a month or so, so it’s going to be a huge deal in this game making sure he doesn’t get any yards after contact.
Q: Does any of the normal game planning change when it comes to Chris Harper, being familiar with him?
A: No, we’re just going to do what we do best and that’s running to the ball, play hard. We’ve got great corners out there who have done a tremendous job this year. They’ll be just fine on the outside guarding Chris.
Q: This is your 4th BCS bowl. Do you feel like that senior leadership helps out here?
A: Definitely. The seniors that play on this team have a huge impact on the rest of the team. We have enough seniors out there where everyone will follow us into battle. They see how hard we practice and how hard we play, so it just rubs off on them.