COACH FISCH: This championship week, championship game we’re celebrating our season. Feel like we have a great opportunity to play a great football team. We’re excited about it. We’re four days away and we are continuing to prepare for what we believe will be an outstanding football game.
And we’re very thankful to the Cactus Bowl, the committee for hosting us. We believe that this is going to be a tremendous opportunity for our players.
Q. Can you discuss this situation between head coaches and (inaudible) how coaches are (inaudible)?
COACH FISCH: Five weeks, I guess, at this point in time, I became the interim head coach the day after the USC game. And we had a short week to be able to play Cal. So we played on Friday night against Cal. We had about — after the Cal game, which we won with three seconds left, we kick a field goal, they determine that or they made the final arrangements to hire Coach Kelly.
Met with Coach Kelly on that Sunday morning and he was — I’ve known Chip for a while, and he just said you take this team until the bowl game is over. And then at that point in time I’ll resume or I’ll assume the duties of being the head coach. So that’s kind of how we’ve made this thing work.
We’ve had — all the interaction that we’ve had has just been more informative in regards to where we’re going, what we’re doing, how we’re doing it. And he spent a lot of his time with the early signing period dealing with recruiting.
He’s put together a staff, and there’s some guys that will be remaining on the staff. There will be some coaches that we’ve already announced that have joined the staff. And then we’ve kind of taken this approach as the 2017 staff is leading this team, the 2017 Bruins to a championship, if we play the way we hope to play on Tuesday evening.
And then at that point in time, after the game, Coach Kelly will then take on the team and will start meeting with the team and meet after that.
COACH FISCH: I looked it up last night and he has been a head coach for 320 games, and this is my second. But I have a better win percentage. (Laughter) I noticed that. But he’s an icon. He’s an icon in this industry. He’s an icon in football. I mean, anybody — anybody that knows college football respects everything Coach Snyder has done.
I mentioned before that we’ve had the opportunity to play against him twice when I was at University of Miami. Both times we were on the losing end. One with a goal line stand down 28-24, they stopped us four times in a row from the 1 with less than a minute left. And one time when we were at Manhattan, Kansas where we got crushed.
So looking forward to this third game, this third opportunity. It’s one of those moments in football where you want to make sure you get a picture with him before the game, because when you’re coaching against the guys that are on the Mount Rushmore of college coaches you want to make sure you can celebrate all their successes.
COACH FISCH: If you look at our offense, we’re more a passing offense to begin with — we’ve probably thrown the ball 60 percent of the time this season. So I think we are a throwing football team. So we recognize that they’ve given up some yards against the pass, but I think all Big 12 teams give up yards against the pas because so many teams throw it so often.
I think they’re a really good team. I think they have an outstanding corner. I think they’ve got an outstanding linebacking corps. I worry about the front, about the pressure they can put on you. They’re extremely well coached. We’ll have to throw the ball to be able to move it like we always have. And then we’re going to have to find ways to mix the run in.
JACOB TUIOTI-MARINER: It’s a great opportunity to play another game. So thankful to the committee here at the Cactus Bowl for selecting us and everything. Our opponents, Kansas State, it’s good to meet them again. I met them freshman year at the Alamo Bowl. That was a good game, and I’m hoping it’s going to be a good game. I know it’s going to be a good game.
Q. They talked about that one earlier here —
JACOB TUIOTI-MARINER: Yeah. It was a great game. Kansas State is a good opponent. I’m happy we got with them?
Q. When you guys look at your situation, with Coach Mora getting let go and Coach Fisch now in charge, and Coach Kelly coming in, what’s that been like for the players?
JACOB TUIOTI-MARINER: It’s unfortunate for us as players that came in with Coach Mora. But with Fisch coming in and filling in that spot, all the players are still motivated to keep going on with the season. And I know Coach Fisch has done a really good job doing that, keeping our players motivated. And our teammates that’s here is and as long as the other seniors that’s been on, we always try to continue on with the season here.
Q. What’s the biggest issue now that you face against K-State on Tuesday?
JACOB TUIOTI-MARINER: They bring that physicality. We’re going to try to pair it up with them and stuff. They bring a few schemes for offenses and everything. And I know for defense they have some stuff going on for our offense and everything.
Q. How important is it for you as a leader on the defense to get these guys in place and make sure they are lined up where they should be?
JACOB TUIOTI-MARINER: Kind of the theme for this year was the defense was young, but now we don’t say that; everyone’s a veteran on this defense now. We’ve all played a game in this season. So these young guys that have been playing this season, you know, they’ve matured a lot. And I’m very proud how they have and how they’ve been doing this season.
Q. You guys came into the season you said the guys were young, a lot of young guys. What’s that like for you?
JACOB TUIOTI-MARINER: It was kind of different because stepping up as a senior leader being the veteran of the group, because I was always the young guy learning from other people like (indiscernible), Eddie Vanderdoes, Kenny Clark, Tak McKinley. I had to take a piece out of each and every single one of those defensive linemen, mold it into my own and show these young guys how UCLA defensive linemen can play.
Q. Any difference playing in Chase Field, the D-backs’ stadium, it’s indoors —
JACOB TUIOTI-MARINER: It’s funny because this is my second time playing on a baseball field because my high school championship game was played on the Angels Stadium. I’m excited to play at the Chase Field.
Q. A little different?
JACOB TUIOTI-MARINER: Yes, indoors. It’s different.
Q. Obviously it’s different seeing guys on film than on the field, but what do you expect from the K-State offense, in terms of their ground attack? That’s something —
JACOB TUIOTI-MARINER: They bring more of that physicality type of offense, more of the smash mouth football. So we’re going to match up with them and everything.
Q. Is there a Pac-12 team or any team you played this season you can compare them to at all?
JACOB TUIOTI-MARINER: My opinion their run game similar to Stanford’s and that sort of type of way.
Q. They’ve had three different quarterbacks play this season. Now they’re on to this redshirt freshman who’s shown some talent. What have you seen from him on film and what type of threat does he provide?
JACOB TUIOTI-MARINER: He’s a running guy. He’s a running guy and I know he’s been filling up well for them. So we’re just going to try our best to stop that.
Q. What would it mean for you guys, obviously you’re going through a little bit of a coaching transition, so what would it mean for you to come out on top and finish the season —
JACOB TUIOTI-MARINER: It means everything. I know for us as players but also for Coach Mora. Always been a player’s guy, a player’s coach. This will mean a lot to him as well as Coach Fisch. We played for them and they coach for us. So it’s a family here at UCLA.
Q. How difficult has the period been, between coaching staffs?
JACOB TUIOTI-MARINER: It was unfortunate. We really didn’t see it coming. But we’ve been accepting the fact that we need to continue on this season and continue to focus on what’s at task and everything. And each week is a new week. So whether it’s Coach Mora or Coach Fisch, we still have to go on the field and everything.
Q. Describe Coach. I know he’s dealt with the offense mostly —
JACOB TUIOTI-MARINER: He’s a great coach. Great coach. The defense has full trust in him. We’ve been accepting his coaching and everything. So I know he’s trying his best to be on the defensive field because it’s kind of weird at practice looking back we see Coach Fisch there because he’s always on the offense. But he’s a great coach. He’s very smart, very smart guy. I’m happy for Coach Fisch.
JOSH ROSEN: Feeling good. The flight was cool.
Q. How do you want this team to be remembered? You guys are always saying finish out this team, the 2017 UCLA Bruins and worry about —
JOSH ROSEN: Just be remembered as a team of really close-knit guys who loved each other and played as hard as we possibly could through all circumstances.
JOSH ROSEN: I mean, the last two years in general have been really, really close losses. So I mean you look at a time like an SC who is playing Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl, and we match them stride for stride and we felt we actually played better than them in many facets of the game.
And it’s frustrating to see certain teams like that doing, playing in certain bowl games against larger teams and all that stuff. And we’re sitting here. So it’s been rough the last two years losing to really, really good teams by very slim margins. But that’s why this team is full of a lot of high character guys because we can take it with a grain of salt and keep pushing on and focus on Kansas State on Tuesday.
Q. We don’t know if this is going to be the end of your college career (inaudible)?
JOSH ROSEN: I’ve asked a lot of old quarterbacks from UCLA and other schools. I’ve talked to Troy Aikman and Brett Huntley and Pat Cowen, a lot of guys. What they say, you don’t really remember the wins and losses, the on-the-field stuff; you remember the friendships and morning workouts. You remember the good the bad and the ugly.
And it’s more so the experience you’ve had here, not as much what went on in the field because you’re not going to be able to distinguish a team from 1976 to 1977. So maybe in 30 years maybe you won’t be able to distinguish a team from 2013, ’14, ’15, ’16 or ’17.
So it’s more so the memories that you made in college, the friendships that you made. And some people criticize my college decision. But I think they’re foolish because I would never have gone anywhere else if we lost every single game in college. I love the guys I’ve met and I loved my experience here.
Q. Talk about the advice (inaudible) you’re the first person to say you wish would have —
JOSH ROSEN: It’s a tough pill to swallow. But there’s not really an option to go back and change it. So you either push forwards or you regret the past and let it affect your future in a negative way.
So the only really option, the only really positive option I guess is to suck it up, move on and try to do better. And that’s what we’re doing.
Q. Who do you think has been the most instrumental (inaudible)?
JOSH ROSEN: I talk to Brett a great amount. Brett’s been very helpful. Jerry Neuheisel, too. Initially, my freshman year, Jerry helped me out a ton. He was incredibly unselfish with the difficult circumstances. Mike Fafaul helped me out a lot. He was one of my really close buddies last year.
And Brett throughout has kind of been in and out. When I was at the Steve Clarkson camp in San Diego the last two years he was there. He’s been a great mentor, someone I feel I can bounce ideas off of.
And the quarterbacks around college football are a lot more supportive than people think. It’s not all animosity. I’ll talk to Sam every now and then. Talk to Jake Browning up at UW. I’ll talk to — shoot Baker a text every now and then. Got cool with Will Grier at some camps. So a lot of us are really close and we’re all supporting each other, because it would be foolish to root against one another, because we’re all trying to chase our dreams and accomplish the same goals. So it’s all good and fun. At the end of the day, it’s just a game.
KENNY YOUNG: From that aspect, you say, okay, when he does those things, what doesn’t he do well? Does he secure the ball? Because it’s something that you always get nitpicked at, that that’s a weakness because a quarterback — a running back is more, you can trust the running back more with the ball running it.
So with the quarterback, it’s they’re always — if you hit them, the ball will come out. Something will happen. You just have to find it on film and just attack that.
But I’m confident in my guys on the defensive side of the ball that we’re going to do our job, and they were going to win. We’ve handled running quarterbacks over our years in college football. So for us it’s just another challenge and another opportunity to execute.
Q. How does it feel to be here?
KENNY YOUNG: It feels good.
Q. And so California weather, Arizona weather — did you grow up in California?
KENNY YOUNG: No, I’m a New Orleans boy.
Q. Does this even feel like Christmas? There’s no snow.
KENNY YOUNG: It doesn’t snow in New Orleans either. I’m away from my family. I’m away from — I would guess there’s not many presents I see, because we’re here in the Cactus Bowl.
But it’s just a great opportunity for us to be here away from California. I get to be away from home. So I can just focus on football and enjoy bonding time with my guys.
Q. Are you asking for anything for Christmas other than a Cactus Bowl win?
KENNY YOUNG: You hit it right on the head. Yeah, that’s the only thing I want.
Q. The only thing. No clothes —
KENNY YOUNG: Well, they’ve given us a bunch of clothes. So I already have that. Anything legally left is a win.
Q. Do you have a favorite Christmas carol?
KENNY YOUNG: No, I don’t.
Q. You’re not a Christmas guy?
KENNY YOUNG: I mean, just like the majority of my life in football is from, what, August — starting football in August to now, but late December, so I’m all football and school.
Q. Do you have any traditions? Are you superstitious?
KENNY YOUNG: No, not really. For me I think the guys, they’re the exact same way. We just want to have fun. Like last night we spent like three hours at Dave and Busters beating little kids at games. That was fun to see.
Q. Do you have to stay relaxed?
KENNY YOUNG: You have to stay relaxed. You have to pull back from football a little bit, get your mind off of football.
Tonight, I don’t know what we’re doing, I think we’re going to a steakhouse. It’s been fun. Like the ride to Dave and Busters was like 30 minutes and we had a guy on a mic acting like he’s a ’90s D.J., cracking jokes on all of us. Even that was fun. Little things like that I appreciate the most. I’m a chill person. I don’t really like to do much. I can’t sing.
Q. Do you know how to dance?
KENNY YOUNG: No, I don’t know how to dance. I feel like the bigger you are, the less chance — see, you’ve got moves. You have to teach me, maybe.
Q. Maybe. Macarena. This is a big game, obviously. What do you do before your games? What’s a pregame meal that you have?
KENNY YOUNG: I would have to say spaghetti, grilled chicken, smash, potatoes, sweet potatoes. No, no mashed sweet potatoes. Asparagus. And water with DripDrop in it.
Q. What kind of DripDrop?
KENNY YOUNG: I think it’s the berry kind. And before the game I probably listen to a few music, few artists. Or I probably just watch concerts, because sometimes I feel like we listen to music so much that you block out everything. And I like to stay loose. Chill stuff.
Q. Let’s talk a little bit about some of your teammates. Now who is the biggest momma’s boy on this team?
KENNY YOUNG: Biggest momma’s boy? Who is the biggest momma’s boy? I would have to say it is Jacob. That guy right over there.
Q. Who is the biggest pretty boy?
KENNY YOUNG: Jaelan Phillips.
Q. Who is the strongest on this team?
KENNY YOUNG: The strongest guy on the team?
Q. Bench pressing buddy?
KENNY YOUNG: I would have to say Scotty Quessenberry, our center.
Q. The fastest?
KENNY YOUNG: Me, I’m the fastest.
ADARIUS PICKETT: I think it had to be probably PlayStation or Cars.
Q. What made you want to be a football player?
ADARIUS PICKETT: I watched my older brother play. He started playing — he played first and I usually went through everything he went through.
So I used to be with his friends playing in the street, at the park, whatever, watching him play, that’s really what made me want to play.
Q. What’s your favorite book?
ADARIUS PICKETT: Monster. The playbook.
Q. You guys just came in yesterday?
ADARIUS PICKETT: We just got here.
Q. Are you excited about the game?
ADARIUS PICKETT: Really excited. Really excited.
Q. What’s it been like playing for half a staff coming in, half a staff (inaudible)?
ADARIUS PICKETT: I mean, these primarily have been our coaches all year. We miss him, Coach Mora, Coach Mete, Coach Scotty, primarily been the same staff the whole year.
Our graduate assistant Dalton has done a tremendous job studying film and delivering special notes to us what we need to know in the secondary.
I’m pretty sure Kyle Weiss has done the same thing to the linebacker room. And you have leaders like Kenny Young and myself, and J.T.M. who have really done a good job of keeping the guys together, keeping guys focused. So I think we have a good leadership, the change’s a little bit more, I wouldn’t say difficult, but a little bit easier to handle.
Q. What are your main impressions of the Kansas State offense?
ADARIUS PICKETT: Kansas State is a team that’s physical. And I think they’re going to try to establish the run to open up the pass, what I’ve seen.
And at times on film they’re going to see we struggle with the run game this year. I think that’s where they’re going to try to hit us at, even though the last three games I think we did a tremendous job, especially against USC stopping the dynamic running back, Ronald Jones. And we stopped Cal’s running back. And ASU, stopped a dynamic duo with Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard.
We’ve addressed that. I think going forward, our younger guys have understood their running gaps and stuff more which has helped inevitably our run game.
Q. What were the problems early in this year?
ADARIUS PICKETT: I think it was a lack of experience in guys, the younger guys and “D” line wanting to make every play instead of understanding to make the plays — make the plays that come to them. When you want to make every play sometimes you pop a gap. And that leaves another gap that’s wide open for a cutback lane or something like that. And when everybody fits in that gap, it’s pretty hard to run.
Q. What do you remember most about the (inaudible)?
ADARIUS PICKETT: Oh, my gosh, that was a phenomenal game. It was an exciting game. But I just remember at halftime Coach Mora in the locker room told us we were going to win by one point.
He told us we’re going to win by one point. He goes you’re going to win by one point, come back. And everybody just gotta believe. On the sideline, that was my whole thing. Coming off the field with just believe, believe you’re going to go out and stop them and get the ball back for the offense.
So my job that game was to stop the ball, stop A&M from scoring in the second half as much as we could, catch all the punt returns so Josh can do what he do. And as you guys have seen, he did what he does a number of times. That’s throw touchdown passes.
Q. Were you with the team at the Alamo Bowl?
ADARIUS PICKETT: Yes, I was.
Q. You guys really jumped out to a big lead in that one. What worked so well for you in that game?
ADARIUS PICKETT: Everybody was focused. Everybody was determined to go out there and win the Alamo Bowl. Brett Huntley did a tremendous job with the offense he had and his ability to scramble, his mobility was tremendous in that game.
It opened up some other things for Paul and for Jordan Payton and stuff like that. So that was an exciting game. I was real excited, and it seemed like a home game for Kansas State almost. Their whole fan base was there. I know they’re a really good team and they’re well coached.