K-State Holds Pre-Bowl Press Conference

Head Coach Ron Prince

Opening Statement...

“I’m really excited about this match-up. We think this is a terrific opportunity for us to be in the post season. These seniors, many of them were involved in the 2003 Big 12 Championship game and they have a collective resolve that they wanted to have a good season, wanted to be in the post-season. To have the opportunity to do those things is terrific. We’re excited about where it’s being played - the fourth largest city in the country, to be able to play in an NFL stadium against the team that has been the story of college football this year, the national coach of the year with a lot of very fine players for sure and a fine university. We’re excited about the match-up, we think it’s terrific.

 

“When we first started talking about this game in particular and all the things that it means, where it’s located, the kind of match-up the only word that I could use is perfect. It’s exactly the kind of venue, exactly the kind of opponent that will challenge our team and challenge the style of play that we like to play in.

 

“We’ve had good preparation. There’s been a lot of things going on since our last game. We’ve been able to go back and evaluate 12 games and where we are, things that we think we can improve on, things that we can build on. There’s been the work of making sure that our players finish up their semester academically in the appropriate way. There’s been the transition of trying to prepare for the future with recruiting and being able to prepare some of our youngest players in the middle of our roster to make sure that they’re ready to go in this game and games in the future. (We have also been) trying to get some of our players back who haven’t participated in a while. There’s been a lot of things going on and I’ve been very pleased with how our organization has handled this.”

 

On Rutgers...

“This opponent has the No. 2 rusher in the nation, 1600 yards on the ground, and a quarterback who is a winner. I’m very familiar with this team. Probably more familiar with the personnel on this team, not their more recent development, but their high school standing and what kind of players they were just because of the proximity. As Texas is for many of the teams in the Big 12, New Jersey is to teams in the ACC. New Jersey is a very fertile recruiting ground and most of the teams in that part of the world go there and recruit many of the same players. Ray Rice is a terrific runner, (Mike) Teel is obviously a winner, but there are many, many players on the roster that we’re very familiar with. It does not surprise me one bit that the team is having the success its having. This coach has been steadfast in his recruitment of tough players. He’s a tough guy, he wants a tough team and they want that to be their mantra. They are surprisingly, to some people, fast and explosive, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. They have too many players defensively with gaudy statistics to try and pin one down as the key player on defense. On offense they have a player in (Brian) Leonard who is a pre-season All-American, Heisman Trophy candidate that should tell you exactly how special Ray Rice is to unseat him as the starting runner. They have a left side of their offensive line that is fabulous. Both are NFL players, Michael Fladell and Pedro Sosa. With right tackle Jeremy Zuttah, this is probably going to be the best offensive line that we have faced this season, not only with athleticism but with size. I would compare it very favorably with the Texas and Louisville offensive lines and with having the second-fewest sacks in the country and the number they put up you can see why I feel that way.”

 

“The thing that I think is different about this team, special about this team, and made them a legitimate candidate for the National Championship hunt, is that they are fantastic in the kicking game. They block kicks. They do a terrific job in every aspect, they have no weaknesses. Their punter is phenomenal. He hasn’t had a punt blocked this year, he’s averaging 44 yards, he’s had 20 punts downed inside the 20, he’s forced 11 fair catches, he’s only had five touchbacks. He is an unbelievable weapon for their organization and we haven’t faced anyone with this kind of talent at that position since the Baylor game. He’s a major factor in the game. Anytime the ball has been kicked this year, they’ve had an advantage all year long. That’s been the story of our season, to try to compete in that same area and it will be quite a tussle. They’ve blocked quite a few punts and field goals so they are going to challenge the ball every time it is kicked. They also have tremendous schemes in the return game and do a terrific job there. All the things that we think are important defense and the kicking game, being sound on offense this team is excellent at all those things so we think it will be a tremendous challenge.”  

 

On the bowl game being an end to 2006 or a beginning for 2007...

“This is the last time the 2006 team will ever be together. A lot of people say that if the team could just pick up from where it left off the previous season that’s a great thing, but that’s impossible. There’s just too many players that leave the roster, come on to the roster, talents will ascend and descend in the off-season. This is the last time that the 2006 team will be together on the field and that’s how we’ve approached it. The recruiting, weight room, preparation of the young players, is always going forward but the obligation to go play well and win the game is the overriding sentiment and feel about this bowl game.” 

 

On Josh Freeman’s progession...

“I think Josh, just even yesterday, I thought there were three plays that I would consider tremendous growth plays. Three times yesterday, and there’s been more than that, that I thought he really got it and was growing, didn’t have to be told, didn’t have to be reminded, didn’t have to think about it it just happened. Many of the coaching points, a lot of the things that have been articulated to him, you could see that he had internalized it and it was becoming part of who he is becoming. He’s still a very young player, got a bright future ahead of him. He still has plenty of things to work on and become more comfortable with, but I’ve seen that growth and on a couple situations yesterday I thought it was really terrific the way he was able to internalize those things and then display them.”

 

On the lack of experience in bowl games and the excitement level...

“One of the things we did, we had everyone stand up who had been in a bowl game. The fellas who played in junior college bowl games I gave a thumbs up and told them that counts but we’ll just stick to BCS level, Division I, and a number of guys sat down. We looked around and it was a number less than the coaching staff, guys who have really played in bowl games. I think there’s a lot of excitement. I think they’re jazzed to know that they’ve got a chance to play in a big NFL stadium, in a NFL town against a lot of (future) NFL players. I think they’re excited about that.”

 

On any pre-bowl jitters...

“Before every game you have those, otherwise you’re not human. This time of year, in this type of setting, they’re all pretty confident. They’re all pretty confident, generally. These kids have been through a lot this year, a lot of challenging circumstances. I think they’re looking at this as a positive, show what they can do after 12 games and after the number of practices that we’ll have. I think they’re anxious to go do that. I noticed that they were very excited when we announced the opponent. I had the phone when the call came and we had the team up after practice. It just happened to coincide when the phone call came we had just finished up and I told them who we were going to play, they were really excited about that. (Rutgers) has been the story of college football. This is the 2006 season as people perceive it in college football and Rutgers is a tremendous program.”

 

Defensive Coordinator Raheem Morris

On giving his defensive unit a grade this season...

“I don’t know if I could put a grade on this team because they kind of set the standard right now. I call them the bus drivers. They drove the bus, they’ll be the group that’s going to bring this thing back. The grades probably won’t be given out until we see a couple more years of this deal and see what it develops into. If it develops into what we want it to be, we’re going to be pretty good and these guys will have something to look back on and say they did something positive here at K-State.”

 

On bright spots this season...

“The whole unit is a bright spot, those guys really give effort. These guys all play together, they play with a passion. They love to do it and they come out and do it all the time.”

 

On what statistic he looks for...

“I’m not a statistics guy at all, I’m a hustle and hit guy. I let Coach Prince determine what he thinks is important. Like we always say, our job is to get the ball back on defense. That’s all we care about, how many times we can do that for our offense to give them an opportunity to score. That’s all we look at and if we win.”

 

Offensive Coordinator James Franklin

On the offensive improving this season...

“More than anything we just wanted to try to get better every week. We still have a long ways to go but if you look from game one to going into game 13, obviously there’s been some changes, some improvements. We’re not where we want to be yet, we’ve got a long way to go but we’re doing some positive things. It’s nice to watch the film and see that guys are starting to understand footwork and can trust in their training. Guys are making plays, they’re starting to play fast and that’s been a steady evolution the entire year. We’ve had some ups and downs, it's not perfect, but I’ve been proud of how we’ve evolved throughout the year.”

 

Freshman Quarterback Josh Freeman

On playing in his first bowl...

“I’m excited. I just want to go up there and play. It’s just around the corner. Time has gone by really fast, though. I have no complaints. I’m just ready to get out there.”

 

On playing Rutgers...

“This has been Rutgers’ break-out year. They really turned some heads this year and the whole country was watching them. They were ranked in the top 10 for part of the season. It’s always good to go against good competition like that. I’m just trying to get K-State’s name out there more for next year.”

 

On how he has improved throughout the year...

“I’ve gotten better at just calming down, controlling the game, and just running what coach wants me to run. Everything has just slowed down. I still have a lot of stuff to improve on, but I’m still working.”

 

On Rutgers’ defense...

“They are a good defense. You don’t get ranked that high in the country without having a good defense and a good offense. They make plays. They may not be the biggest or the strongest group, but they fly around and make plays.”

 

Junior Safety Marcus Watts

On coming back from his injury...

“After coming back from my hip injury and then coming back from this injury, it shows the strength of my family and the training staff and everybody that has helped me get through this. I’m glad to be back and be able to play in this game.”

 

On Rutgers’ offense...

“It’s a lot like Nebraska. Nebraska came in here and ran the ball right at us. In that game, we had some problems and we are going to get that corrected and we should be fine as long as we fit right. It’s going to be a challenge for us.”

 

On if he watched Rutgers play this year...

“I watched them play against Louisville and West Virginia. They are a good team, and West Virginia and Louisville are also good teams we played Louisville this year so we know that for a fact. They are good team and they are going to pose a challenge for us, but we accept the challenge. We will come out ready to play.”

 

Junior Offensive Lineman Logan Robinson

On the extra bowl events...

“It’s going to be interesting when we’re down there. They have a lot of things planned for us. I’m looking forward to the Texas Bowl Rodeo that they are going to have. They are going to have different rodeo-type competitions and VIP barbeque cookouts so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

 

On Rutgers’ defensive line...

“They pose a lot of challenges for us. They are a little smaller on the defensive line, but they are extremely quick. They do a lot of movement and different twists that we have to be very focused for and watch out for.”

 

On what the bowl means for the senior class...

“All the older guys are so focused about this and they are ready to do this. They want to end their careers here on a positive note, so they are extremely focused. All the younger guys want to do that for the older guys. They have helped us out so much this year and throughout the last couple years, so we want to send them out the right way.”

 

Senior Linebacker Brandon Archer

On Rutgers’ offense...

“They are a good offensive team with, obviously, a strong running game and two good running backs. It will definitely be a challenge. It will just come down to having good fits and playing aggressive defense.”

 

On playing Rutgers...

“It’s a great opponent. I never thought it would be this highly of a ranked opponent. It’s going to be a good challenge and a good game. It’s one of those games where you have to go out there and play a heck of a game. We know that we have the edge on the special teams and we are going to try to play that to our strength. We are just going to go out there and play a really good team, which is nice for the Big 12 Conference, and try to come out with a win.”

 

On playing a highly-ranked opponent in the bowl game...

“It’s definitely a fun thing to try to go out there and play a team that has been one of the premier teams this season. We are going to try to go out there and give them an end that they might not want and have a positive finish to our season that would be a nice thing.”