THE MODERATOR: Coach Dimel, if you could introduce your players and make a brief opening statement.
DANA DIMEL: Sure. Want to introduce starting off right here with Cody Whitehair, our offensive tackle; Curry Sexton, one of our wide receivers; Jake Waters, our quarterback; BJ Finney, our center; and Tyler Lockett, our wide receiver.
Obviously we’re very excited to be here in the Alamo Bowl. We feel like any time you have a nine win season, there’s a lot of positive things that go into it, and we know that we have a great challenge against UCLA. They have a really talented ballclub.
As I talk about them defensively, they’re very sound in what they do. They’re very good at not giving up big plays. They keep everything in front of them. Personnel wise, up front, they’re very solid. They have three a nose guard and two defensive ends that are very stout and do a very good job of stopping the run. They have some good edge rushers in their two outside linebacker positions, and then their inside linebacker, obviously Kendricks being the Butkus Award winner and Young being another good player there, so we feel like the second level of their defense is very good and has some real good athleticism. Myles Jack coming off the edge is an outstanding pass rusher and so is Hollins, No. 58. Those guys really create some issues in the passing game.
And then their secondary is very, very athletic and talented, and like I mentioned before, do a really nice job of making sure they keep everything in front of them.
As you look at them, their numbers might be a little bit misleading. They’re very similar to us as far as they don’t throw up those huge numbers, but they’re very, very efficient in what they do. When you start looking at 3rd down numbers, you start looking at red zone numbers, you start looking at even their passing defense, you know, you look at them and they’re ranked a little bit higher in the country, but when you look at their efficiency against the pass, they only give up about six yards per attempt, which is really, really good. They don’t give up many touchdowns in the red zone. They keep you out of the end zone, and they also have you kick field goals a lot down there, as well.
I think they’re going to be a real test for us as we go into the game Friday. Any time you’re playing a top 14 football team, you know you’ve got challenges ahead of you. We’ll open it up to questions after that.
Q. Talk about your offense. It’s kind of viewed as methodical yet always viewed as ranked high in yards per play.
DANA DIMEL: Yeah, that’s the thing we try to do more than anything is really look at the big picture of things and how can we most of all keep the defense off the field, number one, and number two, we’re very similar to UCLA when you start looking at efficiency stats and what we do in yards per attempt in the passing game. We’re really one of the most prolific passing teams in the country when you really start studying the efficiency of what we do throwing the football, and we’re really proud of that, and then we’re also the leading team in the country. We don’t punt and we don’t turn the ball over, so if you don’t punt and turn the ball over you’re doing something else, and that’s scoring, so I believe we’re No. 1 in the country in scoring efficiency. Those are things we pride ourselves in the most, being very efficient in what we do.
Q. Coach Miller, can you talk about the progression from Jake Waters from the time you recruited him until now?
DEL MILLER: Well, we were very fortunate in getting Jake to start with. Jake came off of a National Championship junior college team and led his team to a very high honor, and he also was completing a very high percentage of his passes out of junior college. We were able to inherit that to start with.
Jake also, he’s a very bright young man, very much a winner, very passionate about what he does, and he picked up our offense very well. I kept always talking to him about adding tools to his toolbox, and he probably knows as much as any of our coaches right now and getting us into the proper plays at the proper time. Just an outstanding young man, an outstanding quarterback.
Q. Jake, why did you choose K State and how has it turned out for you?
JAKE WATERS: It was probably the best decision I’ve ever made football wise in my life. I just kind of wanted to go to a spot that I felt comfortable and I felt part of the family, and on my visit Tyler was my host, and I met all the guys, met the coaches and it felt at home for me. Once I made that decision to come, I never looked back. I’ve been accepted into the family, and I respect these guys. I love these guys, love the coaches, and I wouldn’t trade my decision for anything.
Q. Tyler, your dad seems so happy on the sidelines when you’re breaking all of his records. What did he tell you in private?
TYLER LOCKETT: I mean, in private he was proud of me. I’m pretty sure it’s a great accomplishment for him to see his seed grow up and do great things just like he did in his time. So I think that for the most part, my dad just calls me and he tells me he’s proud of me. He appreciates everything that I’ve been doing on the field and off the field, and that’s one of the things that he’s been trying to instill in me growing up.
Q. The bowl record is 240 all purpose yards. Can you break it Friday?
TYLER LOCKETT: I’m not worried about that. Honestly the main thing that’s on my mind is winning the game.
Q. Curry, when you look at this defense, what do you see from UCLA?
CURRY SEXTON: Like Coach Dimel said, they’re very talented all across the board. Like he said, I don’t really focus much on their front four, but their linebackers are really talented, really athletic, guys who fly to the ball, and their secondary, they can all run very well. They’ve got great ball skills. Like Coach said, they don’t really let you over the top. We’re going to have to fight for everything we’re going to get against these guys. It’s going to be a real tough challenge. They’re a really talented, well coached group, and they’re going to make us bring our “A” game in order to do some good things.
Q. Del, I’d ask you to comment a little bit further on Jake and just the way he has played this year, the consistency with which he’s gone about it. I know you’ve coached a lot of good ones. Where would you put him in that grouping?
DEL MILLER: Well, he would certainly be among the very top. You know, I would never put them in ranked order because I’ve been very, very fortunate, very blessed to have some awfully good ones, and Jake certainly would be one of those.
You know, one of the things I haven’t said anything about, but he’s also a tremendous leader for our football team and a great mentor for our younger players, as well. He’s the heart and soul of his football team in my opinion.
Q. Question for BJ: How do you like the tempo of your practices so far since you’ve arrived in San Antonio, just the tempo of your practices and the attention to detail and that kind of thing? How is everything going out there?
BJ FINNEY: These past couple weeks with practices our tempo has been higher than it usually is. Our attention to detail is always there, especially with the coaches fine tuning things, getting different looks, making sure we get the right plays for the right looks, and right now these last three or four practices we’ve just been we have our entire game plan in, it’s just been fine tuning. We’ve had some good practices through this last week, so I’m pretty happy with it.
Q. Jake, just the group here has a rare opportunity of winning back to back bowl games. What would that mean to you to finish things out with back to back bowl wins?
JAKE WATERS: Well, it would be huge just to get a win against a great team. I’m not really worried about winning back to back, I’m just worried about winning this game for these guys because we’ve worked so hard and the coaches worked so hard to get us prepared. For us it’s like our last go around kind of with these seniors, but we don’t really focus on that too much, we focus on executing our stuff, preparing the right way and getting ready to play our best game possible.
Q. Dana and Del, just the season that Curry has had, close to 1,000 yards receiving, were you guys anticipating that kind of production from him, and how much has he meant to the offense?
DANA DIMEL: We really felt like losing Tramaine Thompson last year was going to be a tough person to replace in the system. Curry has always throughout his career been that playmaker type of guy, but he’s stepped up and really filled that big void we were concerned about with the loss of Tramaine. He’s been a pleasant surprise, but when you study his whole career he’s been playmaker the whole way, but he’s had obviously an outstanding season this year and seems to make every play when we need it.
DEL MILLER: Yeah, Curry can make plays for sure. When you combine Curry and Tyler, now you have a real problem. I think Curry has provided some awfully good leadership, too, for our football team, and yeah, it would be nice to get him over that thousand. I think we’ve got a great opportunity to do that.
Q. BJ, obviously this group has been huge for K State. You’ve been with Coach Snyder the entire way. What would it mean to get a big win for your last game in a K State uniform?
BJ FINNEY: Well, as you say, we’ve been here a long time. We’re not really focusing on it being our last time. We’re working towards a 10 win season, something truly special to have. Just one more win is what this group is really after against a great opponent. UCLA is a great team, and we’re going to have our hands full, but for this senior class, it’s about leaving a legacy, and we know that if we want to leave a truly special legacy, then we can’t get lost in all of our emotions and everything quite yet. We’ve done a really good job of staying focused and trying to accomplish the task at hand.
Q. Dana, yesterday I noted that there was four former walk ons up there out of the five players. Today you’ve got three Kansas kids, an Iowa kid and a Oklahoma kid. Can you talk about the unique way you guys as coaches, and Del, you’ve put together this team and kind of followed your own script that nobody else really follows?
DANA DIMEL: Yeah, when we’ve been asked in the past how you build a program at K State, there’s been a lot of people that have asked us those questions through the years how the program has been built. For me it’s evaluation, number one, and what we try to do through the recruiting process is evaluate talent and certain things that we think are a great fit at Kansas State, number one, and then number two, our player development. We really try to stress a great deal of player development in our system, and so these guys are all proteges of that. They’ve really come through the systems and developed themselves as players each and every day, so they’ve done it the K State way.
Q. Jake, UCLA has had some trouble stopping running quarterbacks this season. I know Eric Kendricks was kind of describing your running style as one of the more physical that they’ve gone up against. Is that kind of how you’ve seen yourself, you don’t really shy away from contact when you’re running like that?
JAKE WATERS: I don’t know about that. I’m not the biggest guy, but I’m just going to do whatever it takes for my team to get that extra yard, if it’s a 3rd down, selling yourself, laying your body on the line for your team to get the win, and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. I wouldn’t describe myself as a real, real tough runner, I just do whatever it takes.
Q. Cody and BJ, the running game has struggled somewhat in some games this year. I’m wondering if that’s been a disappointment, one, and also, if you still kind of keep plugging away for this bowl game because UCLA has had some trouble stopping the run.
CODY WHITEHAIR: Got to give it to UCLA. They’re a tough front seven, front six, whatever you would say. They’re pretty stout. But our guys have been working hard through the bowl prep, and we’ve seen some improvement both on the offensive line and in our running backs, so we’re looking forward to this challenge.
BJ FINNEY: Along the same lines, you can’t really stop working towards something you’re trying to correct and improve, the running game. We haven’t done as well as we wanted to this season, but the other thing you’ve got to look at, too, is we’re still building for next season, as well, so we always have to keep working on the run game, we always have to keep improving because we know if we can run the ball successfully we have an opportunity to win.
Q. Curry, you’re 45 yards short of 1,000 receiving yards. What do you attribute your breakout season to?
CURRY SEXTON: Tyler, Jake. (Laughter.) No, I’m just kidding. Yes, that is true.
I think just the system. You know, there’s a lot of things you can attribute it to. I think obviously being alongside Tyler is huge. Having a quarterback like Jake who constantly works to get on the same page as us is huge. The offensive line up front obviously with the protection, the system, the play calling, everything, has allowed me to be in spots where I’ve been able to make some plays, and I’ve been fortunate for all the people that have been surrounding me, so I can’t really attribute it to one thing, but those are some of the things that stick out in my mind.
Q. Jake, Coach Snyder took a bunch of the offensive players over to Center for the Intrepid to see some wounded warriors. Can you talk about that experience yesterday?
JAKE WATERS: It was a humbling experience. You know, you go over there, and we didn’t see too many of the patients or the wounded warriors or anything, we saw a couple, and hear some of their stories, it was kind of crazy because when you think you have it tough going through an injury in football or you don’t want to practice one day, and these guys are losing legs and can’t see, and it was truly humbling. I’m so glad I got the chance to go, and then seeing all the technology and the type of facility they have there is truly outstanding. I can’t give enough respect to those guys that do those things for us.
Q. Jake, can you talk about the fan turnout? What do you expect from the fans, 25,000 expected to be here? What can you say about that?
JAKE WATERS: Our fans are great. I expect them to be out in full force, loud, because that’s what they’ve done every single game, no matter how we’re playing or anything. Last year they still came out to every game, packed the Bill Snyder Family Stadium. I expect them to come out because we have some of the most loyal fans in the country and I really expect them to be out there just like a normal home game for us.
Q. Dana, can you talk about the senior class, kind of what they’ve meant to K State? Obviously they’ve been around for a while, but what have they meant for the K State goals?
DANA DIMEL: They had the challenge of coming in and rebuilding the program. They came back, and we got involved in it. We obviously had to take some big steps in rebuilding, and so they started from the ground up, just taking the principles that are part of our program and growing with them each and every day, and then they’ve accomplished some really special things, obviously having a chance to win a Big 12 Championship and then having a chance to challenge for wins again heavily this year, but the big thing they’ve done is provided great leadership and now they’re teaching the young guys, and the young guys are going to learn from what they’ve left as a legacy. They’ve really shown these young guys how to work hard and do things the right way, so we’re obviously very, very proud of them.