THE MODERATOR: Coach Snyder will start with an opening remark about bowl week and tomorrow’s game?
COACH SNYDER: Well, as most of the players on both teams would probably tell you, they’re anxious to play and it’s time to play. It’s been a long time since the last ballgame for both of our programs. We’re just honored to be here, pleased to be here. It’s a wonderful opportunity to play against what I think is a tremendously talented football team in UCLA and extremely well coached. I think our players, our practices themselves have gone reasonably well. As I said, I think our guys are just anxious to play and hope they get some rest and make sure that they get their minds right, and that’s our job as coaches, I guess.
THE MODERATOR: Coach Mora?
COACH MORA: First of all, I want to thank the city of San Antonio for welcoming the UCLA Bruin Nation. We’ve had a great time here, very welcoming, very warm. I’d also like to thank Valero and the Alamo Bowl Committee for inviting us, and congratulate Coach Snyder on a great year. It’s truly an honor for us to play such a great program as Kansas State and measure ourselves against one of the top teams in the country, and we’re anxious to do that.
We’ve had a good week of practice. The young men are focused. They’re anxious to play. I look forward to an exciting game, a well played game, two teams that I think play with a lot of integrity and class. It will be a tooth and nail battle, and as I said, I think a great measuring stick for where we are as a program playing against such an established program as Kansas State. So look forward to tomorrow night and all of the excitement that it brings. Just want to say thanks, again, to the city of San Antonio.
Q. You talked about great admiration with Coach Snyder. Have I learned anything coaching takeaways from your interaction this bowl week?
COACH MORA: We’ve had a couple of chances to interact. We haven’t necessarily spoken about X’s and O’s or philosophy, but just in general, observing a legend gives me a chance to learn. I’ve been very fortunate in my career to be around some tremendous coaches and tremendous administrators, and I’m sitting next to one of the finest that college football has ever known. I’ve enjoyed watching him deal with the media, deal with his players, listening to him speak to the crowds, and I think that I’m always in a position to learn and I try to do so.
Q. Coaches Snyder and Mora, thank you for being with us here on New Year’s Day. Happy New Year. Wanted to ask you all, we’ve seen a lot of great games here in the history of this game. Some tremendous offensive shows in particular come to mind. RG3 a few years ago put up 67 points or something, and it was a fantastic game that way offensively. You two guys have some pretty good offenses. What do you think what type of game do you think is in store for fans this year?
COACH SNYDER: Well, I have no idea. Sometimes our offense has been pretty good. Maybe they’re not as consistent as you would like all the time. I probably would imagine Jim feels the same way. If we have two good offenses, then we better play some defense on both sides of the ball. I think all of it is the same thing that you would say, ballgame in and ballgame out, you’ve got to do the things that give you a chance to win. We can’t afford to turn the ball over. I’m sure UCLA feels exactly the same way. I think we have to be good on our special teams. I’m sure they feel the same way. Defensively you can’t give up those big plays.
Same things you hear week in and week out. But they’re all true. They all manifest themselves in winning or losing, I think.
COACH MORA: I think it’s hard to predict what kind of game you’re going to see, but I know you’ll see two disciplined, well coached, hard playing teams. I know this. When you look at Kansas State on defense, they’re extremely sound. They play very well. It’s going to be tough to get yards and points on them. We’ve done some things well offensively this year, but they’re searching for a little consistency throughout an entire game, so that will be one of our goals. As coach said, one of the keys is protecting the football, blocking people up, getting the tough yards, and there will be tough yards against this defense.
Q. Coach Mora, now your third bowl game, talk about what your experience was and how you changed from year one to year three and how you created bowl week?
COACH MORA: Yeah, I don’t have near the experience as the man to my right has in anything, but particularly bowls. So it’s a chance for me to learn how to handle the week more efficiently, prepare our players better to be ready to go at kickoff. We’ve tried to mirror as much as possible what we thought was successful for us in the last two bowls through the week, most particularly last year at the Sun Bowl. Really what you try to do is create as much normalcy as you can in an environment that’s not normal.
At this point in time, after the luncheon, things then settle into the typical routine that you have created through the season leading up to kickoff. So that’s our objective.
Q. How many more years do you plan on being head coach at Kansas State?
COACH SNYDER: I have no idea, and how did I know you were going to ask that question? For those of you that are not local in Manhattan, this is the master of the question down here. He’s always got one that I never want to deal with.
Q. In that case, I was just curious, what keeps you young in this game? What keeps you going?
COACH SNYDER: Trust me, I’m not young. Jim said certain things that he didn’t have that I have. He’s got everything that I have with the exception of a hundred years. He does everything extremely well, so he’s not lacking for anything there.
Q. Kind of along the same lines, when the 49ers job opened up earlier this week, there was immediate speculation that they might contact you. Have you been contacted? If so, would that interest you to listen to them about what they might offer?
COACH MORA: I prefer to concentrate on this game tomorrow night at 5:50 against Kansas State University. I think you do everyone a disservice that’s put so much into this season and gotten to this point if you think about anything other than the task at hand, and the task at hand is kicking off and playing well against a great Kansas State team tomorrow.
Q. So it doesn’t become a distraction, can you just say now that I’m going to be staying at UCLA?
COACH MORA: I have no plans to coach anywhere but UCLA at this time.
Q. I remember you taking questions about that at a Holiday Bowl about UCLA a long time ago. That’s interesting. It strikes me that every program has to build their roster their own way. But over the last couple days we’ve had ten players in here, five were former walk ons and five or six from Kansas. Can you talk about how you’ve gone about building this roster and the unique script you’ve had to follow to get to this point?
COACH SNYDER: I can’t tell you that that segment of it is scripted. They’re young guys all over, and we’re kind of isolated in the midwest. An awful lot of people, I think, get overlooked because of that. When I say overlooked, it’s not necessarily the ability to run 4.3, 40s, and bench press 350 pounds and all that goes along with it. There are just character traits that are significant. You’ve heard me say this so many times that really are significant. I mean, you can put a young guy in a weight room and he can go from 220 to 300 if that’s what you want. I mean, you can do all those things. You remember a young guy, Jason Johnson came in a long time ago. Jason’s 215 pound tight end and spent we moved him to center, and pretty soon he’s a 305 pound center and he’s got a seven or eight year NFL career with it. It’s just being able to identify young people that have those character traits with value system in place that you know you can develop over a period of time. That’s true no matter whether they’re 4.3, 40 guys or 5 flat 40 guys. The character assessment is really a value to us.
Now that doesn’t mean that they don’t have some athletic ability. You take any of the guys that you’re talking about, whether it’s Jonathan Truman, B.J. Finney or Ryan Newman or any of those guys and so many more, I could go on and on. Those are the guys that came and are in the category that you’re talking about. But that doesn’t mean that they were without talent. I mean, they had the ability to play the game. What we’re interested in is how far can you go with it and what your value system will allow you to do. Is it going to temper your improvement or is it going to give you the opportunity to continually improve? And those guys have done exactly that.
Q. You know as much about dual threat quarterbacks as anyone around. Can you just talk about Hundley and what special problems he presents if your defense?
COACH SNYDER: Well, there’s always talk about how well he throws the ball, how well he runs with the ball. I think he manages the offense extremely well which is vital for a quality young quarterback. But those guys that can do it all and can bring it down and bring it out at any time, whether it’s on the perimeter or whether it’s inside, and that’s a threat that neutralizes your defense a great deal, and he’s good at it and makes good decisions with it, I think. So he’s got good eyes and plays the game with them quite well. He’s a very talented young guy.
From what I hear, I haven’t met him yet. But from what I understand, Jim could tell you, I certainly couldn’t, but he certainly seems like a quality young man and seems like a quality leader in the program as well. All of those things fit into that category. I think you have to have it all to be the kind of quarterback that he is.
Q. Coach Mora, having coached in both the NFL and college, I was curious how you think Coach Snyder’s schemes and philosophies would translate to the NFL if he ever did try it? Coach Snyder, what was it was there ever anything about the NFL, coaching there, that did intrigue you in some way?
COACH SNYDER: Well, I think the people from Manhattan, our area, could tell you that way back when there were all those opportunities. I’ve just never been interested in it. That doesn’t make it bad by any stretch of the imagination. It always concerned me when you’ve got players that make more money than their coaches. You kind of wonder who is the authority figure and that alignment. Jim can tell you more about it than I can. I remember a story.
We had a young player, I won’t mention his name, that was a quarterback in the NFL. He was a starting quarterback and the back up quarterback they brought in and paid him a substantial amount of money more so than the quarterback that we had, and the night before one of their ballgames, I don’t remember which one, the back up quarterback went to the general manager of the program or whoever was in charge, and they had some dialogue and the quarterback that I was familiar with got a call in the middle of the night and said you’re not starting anymore.
You know, it’s who has the control whether you can really coach or not. You see the same thing. There is talk right now in the NBA with a player and a coach and who has control over the program. That’s something that I’m not a control freak, but I think it’s important that you have control over your program, and I don’t know how much that exists. Certainly there’s most programs perhaps do have total control as a coach. I don’t know. But it didn’t seem like that, and that was my thinking why I didn’t venture into any of that.
COACH MORA: Football at every level in my humble opinion is about fundamentals, it’s about effort, it’s about discipline, it’s about technique, it’s about talent, it’s about having standards. I don’t think it’s about formations and plays. I think it’s about coaching. We used to say players and not formations and plays are going to win games for you. So I think you can take any style of offense and defense, and if you execute it properly with good players who have bought into the system, then you can have success.
Q. I can’t imagine you not being back because you’d miss the witty banter back and forth between us each week, so I’ll start off with that. But I’m curious over the years how successful have you been engaging the readiness of your football team, which seems like a silly question to ask, but I’m wondering how much capacity for surprise is there even at this stage of your career as it relates to the readiness of your football team to play a game?
COACH SNYDER: You know, it really isn’t a silly question. It’s one that I think Jim would ask himself the same question as I do. Is how well, how mentally ready is each member of your football team. And it’s different for each and every one of them. It’s not always something that you gauge correctly. I certainly haven’t always gauged it correctly. I’ve been surprised both ways, I think. Try not to, you know, try not to impose the impression that I totally have the answer. I mean you have a way that you approach each day of the week, and night before the game, and throughout the game you have a routine and you have certain things that you know are important. That you feel, at least, that are important in your program. We do, Jim does, and those are the things that you address. More often than not, those really are just experience over a period of time allows you to find that those things are appropriate for the preparation of your football team. But guessing exactly how they internalize it all is a very difficult task. It’s an impossible task, as much as anything. If you guess right, you’re fortunate.
Q. Coach Mora, Coach Snyder has had to answer this question weekly about Tyler Lockett. As someone who has coached on both sides of the college and NFL barrier, when you see someone like Tyler Lockett who doesn’t have the maybe prototypical size, how do you evaluate him as a receiver and his potential to move on to the next level?
COACH SNYDER: I think he’s a tremendous player. I think he’s got a lot of the same qualities as a young man like Marvin Harrison has. A guy that’s a precise route runner that is good after the catch, that’s not afraid to go over the middle. That knows how to read coverage and get himself open. You add in his returnability particularly as a punt returner, and this is a dangerous young man. In my opinion, he’s the best receiver we’ve played all year, and I think his statistics would prove that, and it’s going to be a great challenge for us.
But I think the skill set that he has translates well at any level. And I would imagine, and Coach can answer this, he’s probably one of the hardest working players on your team. So at least he plays that way.
Q. Coach, how do you address your team about a situation that happened in the BYU postseason game?
COACH SNYDER: Well, if you’re referencing the altercation, is that what we’re talking about? Again, that’s not something that you go in the night before a ballgame or during the course of the ballgame and say this is the way we have to manage these situations. That is engrained in your program from the very beginning. From day one, there is a code of conduct, if you will, for virtually any program in the country. I’ve certainly been watching as much tape as we do of Jim’s team, you’ll see that they handle themselves in an appropriate way.
It’s selfishness that creates those situations more than anything else. I think our young people have been good, spur of the moment reactions sometimes is hard to come by and difficult to assess. But I think you can’t wait. It’s just something that’s engrained in your players that these things do not happen. We are not going to allow them to happen, and it has to be a mindset, and you have to understand the value of it, and you have to have enough poise, I think, in order to walk away from those things. I’m proud of our young guys because they certainly do that and have done that.
COACH MORA: I think it’s engrained in the culture of your program from day one. You impress upon your student athletes that they’re going to play hard, they’re going to play tough, they’re going to play physical, but at the same time it’s mandatory that they respect their opponent and honor this great game.
Q. Coach Snyder, for those of us in a certain age group, Coach, has AARP asked you to be a spokesperson?
COACH SNYDER: No, but I have a card (laughing).
Q. Coach, this time last year you were talking about the preparation for the bowl game against Michigan and said it was one of the best preparations you’ve been a part of for a bowl game. How would you evaluate the preparedness of your team entering this one and what parallels have you noticed between this team’s preparation for this bowl game and last year’s?
COACH SNYDER: There were some similar situations. Again, that goes back a year ago, and what I can remember a year ago you can put in the palm of your hand. But there was that period of time prior to that preparation where, and you know the story, where we just weren’t into what we were doing. From practice standpoints collectively as a team we kind of had one of those get togethers and things changed. They only changed because players choose to change, and they made those changes and our preparation was very good from that point on.
I think it wasn’t to the same degree this year. But I think we went through a similar process, and I think our players have responded quite well. So I think we’ve practiced reasonably well. Up and down, of course, but reasonably well.
Q. You’re certainly deserving of the honor, but I was curious if it’s at all odd to be coaching and also be on the Hall of Fame ballot, and what your reaction was when you saw your name on it?
COACH SNYDER: Well, as any coach would be, you’re honored and pleased, but it makes you think back about all the people that have invested so much to allow something like that to take place. First and foremost really we talk so much about family and that means a lot of people. But my immediate family has gone through, as all coaches families do, they go through some trials and tribulations over a period of time to give you an opportunity to do the things that you do because it’s very demanding.
Sean’s here with me today, and his investment in all of that has been so very, very significant. Then you take all the wonderful young people that you have in our program and take all the very talented and wonderful coaches and support staff and administration, and all of the people that have been invested in it, it means so much. Hopefully it’s meaningful to them. I think for the most part, it truly is. And that really is, in all honesty, what transpired in my mind. So anyway, it was very humbling event.
Q. You took your offensive unit over to see Wounded Warriors at the Center For Intrepid. Could you talk about that experience?
COACH SNYDER: You know, it was really important for us to do those kinds of things. We have so many community service things in place. I know Jim does as well and that’s so valuable to young people and their development and their growth. When we went over I was really looking forward to our young guys having an opportunity to spend time with the Wounded Warrior aspect of Intrepid. It just happened to be a day that there weren’t a significant number of those individuals available. But we did have the opportunity to visit with a number of young guys that were, I thought I say young, young and not so young who had been wounded severely in the line of duty. It was a remarkable experience for our players to have the opportunity to share with them. It’s meaningful too. It certainly was meaningful to the people that they visited with.
But they walk away with a tremendous appreciation for what others do on their behalf. That’s the value of it and that’s what I look forward to in our visit over there. They were very gracious to us as well.