COACH JIM MORA
JIM MORA: Well, first of all, it’s an honor to be sitting up here with these five young men. Tremendous representatives of all that’s good about college football, great student athletes, leaders, great football players, men of integrity. The ones that are leaving, and those are the three right in the middle, we’re certainly going to miss them and they’re going to have long and productive careers. We’re going to get to watch them on a lot of Sundays. But Eric, Owa and Brett have met so much to this program, and I don’t think it can be overstated the impact that they’ve had on UCLA football and the UCLA football program. We’re going to miss them tremendously. We wish them the best of luck. I want to just tip my hat to Kansas State University and their football program. They’re fun to play because they play the right way. They play hard, they play physical, they play tough, they’re disciplined. They’ve got a lot of class. They travel very well.
We came to a bowl came and it was pretty much a hostile environment. But these guys have excelled in hostile environments all year, were undefeated on the road, and then to our fans that made the trek from California, we heard them and we appreciate them being here. It means a lot that they would come all this distance to support their football team, and we certainly do appreciate it.
It was a heck of a football game. You know, they’re always going to be like that. You get out to a lead, and you get in an environment where you’re playing the No. 11 team in the country, coached be a future Hall of Famer, and you know that they’re going to fight back. We hung in there, and I think that’s been a symbol of our team, the grit, the toughness, the character, all year. We won 10 games this year with the toughest schedule in college football. We played 10 bowl teams. There was a few teams that played 11, but we played 10 teams that are playing in bowls, including Kansas State. Depending on what happens with the Washington game, I believe going into today the teams that we’d play that are playing in bowl games are 6 2, and so to win 10 games two consecutive years I think is a tremendous accomplishment, especially for such a young team.
Besides Brett and Owa and EK, we’re going to lose AJ, Hof, Jordon James, some other contributors, but we’re really a young football team. You look at Myles here. Myles is a sophomore. You look at Perk and Perk is a sophomore, and so I think the future looks bright for UCLA football. That’s probably enough, huh? I’ll turn it over to these guys.
Q. Jim, can you talk about what the biggest difference between the first half and the second half was for you guys?
JIM MORA: Well, we didn’t have the ball much in the second. In the third quarter I think we only had five or six plays. They had that time consuming seven minute and 32 second drive for a touchdown there where they converted the fourth downs and we had trouble getting off the field, and then we had the fumble and then they scored. And then we Brett made the nice run, went down and kicked a field goal, but we didn’t have a lot of plays in the third quarter. Any time you play a quality opponent let’s remember now, this is the 11th ranked team in the country. It’s not going to be easy. And you know what? It’s more fun when it’s not easy, man. These guys love to compete, don’t you? They love to compete. They love it when it gets tight and gritty. Yeah, we like to blow people out, but you find out who you are as a man when it’s tough like that, and we won, and that’s the objective. We won.
Q. Jim, I know penalties have kind of been an issue all season. Specifically today, was that one of those things that were just kind of standing in your way, especially in the second half?
JIM MORA: Well, I felt like in the first half we hurt ourselves with a couple of penalties, and certainly in the second half. Yeah, they started to pile up on us. We got a little emotional. It got tense. Like I said, some of those penalties were by young guys. They’re going to learn from those things. They’re going to learn how to relax in those situations and just execute. Every opportunity that you have to go out and compete is an opportunity to learn and grow and get better from, and I think that as we are this year from last year, next year we’ll be a much improved team in terms of penalties because we’ll be more mature. We’ll understand our system better. We’ll be more relaxed in pressure situations.
Q. Granted, the No. 11 team, you guys have been resilient, but what still needs to be learned to close out games when you have that kind of lead?
JIM MORA: Well, we won the game, so that’s closing the game out, pal. It’s not easy. It’s not easy. When you’re playing the 11th ranked team in the country, if they don’t fight back, then they don’t deserve to be 11th, and they deserve to be the 11th. Anyone that has a question about us closing out a game, walk right out onto that field and look up at the scoreboard and tell me who won the damn game. Goodness sakes. We just won 10 games for the second year in a row, in case you don’t know that.
Q. What was it about your defense that was able to get to Jake Waters so many times?
JIM MORA: Guys like Owa and Deon and Kenny and Eddie and those guys being tenacious, and Eric, tenacious in their pass rush, excellent coverage on the back end. You know, any time that you can rush the passer and have success, it’s a team proposition. It’s guys executing great in coverage and it’s guys being relentless in their pass rush.
Q. Jim, what did you see in Deon Hollins this year and his growth?
JIM MORA: He was our most improved defensive player this year.
Q. Paul, on that onside kick, that was you out there; did you recover the ball? It came to you. Did you end up with it?
PAUL PERKINS: Yeah.
Q. Tell me about it. Did you fumble it and get it back or hold on to it the whole time?
PAUL PERKINS: Yeah, we just go through a routine every day on Friday, picking our blocks and picking our assignments.
Q. You kept the ball, you didn’t fumble it?
PAUL PERKINS: Yep.
Q. What was going through your mind? Are you normally out there on the all hands team?
PAUL PERKINS: Usually we don’t get in that situation, but yeah, I’m on the hands team.
Q. What was going through your mind when the ball came to you?
PAUL PERKINS: I need to secure it, get this game over with.
Q. Brett, how does it feel to have played in your last game, and what was going through your mind as you were kind of going down the sidelines shaking hands with fans and your family?
BRETT HUNDLEY: I think speaking on behalf of all the seniors, it’s just a good way to go out on top I think for all of us. We really wanted this game everybody wanted the game, and we came in ready to get the 10th win of the season.
Q. Myles, your role as kind of a DB seemed to expand as the season went along. What did it feel like to get that pick?
MYLES JACK: It felt great to finally get an interception. Yeah, it’s been a while since I had one. I just remember just getting the guy and turning around and I knew the ball was going to be there because he kind of beat me over the top, but I just had a good release on him when I was with him and the ball just came to me. I tried to score, but I didn’t.
Q. Brett, can you just talk a little bit about Paul and what his development has meant to you and the offense this year?
BRETT HUNDLEY: Huge. Huge. Paul has always been to me the best back in the country. He showed that today. And I think this offense, having Johnathan Franklin, and then everybody is wondering who was going to replace him, Paul stepped in and did an amazing job, and has done that consistently this year every time he plays.
Q. Eric, can you talk about your emotion, getting that defensive player of the game trophy and kind of standing up there for the final time?
ERIC KENDRICKS: It’s pretty cool to end my Bruin career on the podium like that. I mean, obviously a dream come true. I put the work in this week in practice with my teammates. We all did, and that’s why we won.
Q. Owa, it seemed like you guys were a lot more aggressive on defense, especially to start the game. Is this kind of the style that you guys maybe wanted to play all season?
OWAMAGBE ODIGHIZUWA: I think we did definitely play with an aggressive style this game, something that Coach Mora and Coach Ulbrich has been preaching to us all season, and I think it’s just our commitment at practice to executing our assignment, listening to what our coaches’ game plan is, and just today’s game was a testament to that. I think we’ve been really developing and meshing as a team all season, and I think what we did today is just a display of going forward what the defense is going to be like.
Q. Paul, describe your touchdown run and how that hole just opened up.
PAUL PERKINS: Yeah, the offensive line, like they’ve been doing all year, has been doing a great job. Couldn’t ask for a better group of guys up there. They keep improving every game, and man, anybody could have ran through that hole.
Q. Also, when they were making their comeback, there’s been so many late comebacks this year in other bowl games, Baylor, Michigan State came back, Houston came back on Pitt. Did any of that go through your mind at all?
PAUL PERKINS: Oh, no, I had confidence in our defense and our offense that we were going to get the job done, and obviously we did.
Q. I was going to ask Myles the same thing. Did you have any thoughts of losing that lead like some of the other teams in bowl games have done?
MYLES JACK: No, not at all. I had confidence in what we were doing and just what our offense was doing and what our defense was doing, and I just knew they just caught momentum for a second, and I knew we’d weather the storm, which we did, and gave the ball to Perk and he took it to the house. I knew eventually it would all even out.
Q. Coach, I was wondering if you could address your postgame exchange with Coach Snyder.
JIM MORA: With regards to what?
Q. As far as the handshake at the end.
JIM MORA: I’m not sure what you’re talking about, I’m sorry. Just a normal handshake, congratulate him and we go on our way.
Q. It looked like there were two hand shakes, one quick one
JIM MORA: Well, I ran into him again as I was working back to the podium. Good coach, man, he’s a great man, tremendous man. Honor to be able to compete against him.
Q. Myles, you’ve known Deon pretty good for a couple years now. What has he shown you this year that’s marked improvement?
MYLES JACK: I think just his level of determination, like Coach said. He’s our most improved player, and I think this year he really put it all together. He’s my roommate when we travel and everything, and just how hungry he is to help this team out and contribute. I think he was not frustrated last year, but he was just eager to get on the field, and he knew this year was his chance. I remember specifically playing the game, this game where he jumped offsides, and then the next play he made the sack. He apologized to us like 100 times. He was like, I swear I’m going to make it up. And the next play he made the sack. That shows you what type of guy he is. He’s eager to contribute, and he’s just improved.
Q. On the onside kick what did you see?
MYLES JACK: Coach Mora grabbed me, but I just wanted to protect my guys. It’s a dog pile, and it’s not a safe place to be, so I was just trying to protect my guys. Perk was on the bottom there, and Lord knows what’s going on underneath that pile, so I was trying to help him out.
Q. Eric or Myles, what was it like trying to contain guys like Sexton and Lockett?
ERIC KENDRICKS: I mean, he’s crafty. There’s a reason they won so many games and he was so successful this year. He definitely has a thing to him that you can’t really guard. That’s what makes him unique and that’s what makes him such a good competitor. But it was fun playing against him and we did our best to contain him, and I think we did a pretty good job getting some pass rush on him.
MYLES JACK: Me personally, I was guarding Sexton and I had to bring my “A” game the whole game. He was a great receiver. He was a great challenge. I just brought my best, and in regards to Lockett, you guys saw what he can do, punt return, kick return. He’s definitely a challenge, and he deserves all the credit he gets. He’s a talented player.
Q. Owa, what did you guys do defensively to get to their quarterback, especially in the first half, get all those sacks and hurries, quarterback hurries?
OWAMAGBE ODIGHIZUWA: Honestly, we just were very aware of their situation, and we exploited it. We did a good job of watching film, the way they kind of like we knew they were a team that liked to do different splits. They liked to kind of keep things keep defenses on their toes, and I think what we did a great job of is picking up on it, understanding passing situations, how their splits were, their protections, how everything broke down, and I think guys like Deon and other guys on the D line did a great job of just attacking it and putting pressure on the quarterback.