Bill Snyder, Jedd Fisch Press Conference
SCOTT LEIGHTMAN: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the 2017 Cactus Bowl media teleconference call with our coaches for the big game this year, which is December 26th at 7:00 p.m. Mountain Time at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix, which will provide a unique experience for all in turning a Major League ballpark into a football field.
We’re excited about the matchup between Kansas State from the Big 12 and UCLA from the Pac-12. An ironic fact that this is only the third time that these two teams will face each other. One of the neat things about Bowl season is being able to match up teams that normally don’t play one another and having a unique experience.
First we’re going to have Coach Fisch give an opening statement, then Coach Snyder, and we’ll open it up for questions with directions from operator. Without further ado, we’ll turn it over to Coach Fisch to talk about UCLA’s first ever Cactus Bowl appearance.
JEDD FISCH: Thank you very much. Good afternoon. Just wanted to say how excited we are at UCLA and how excited I am to lead this football team to the Cactus Bowl.
We have great respect for Coach Snyder, for Kansas State football, for the Big 12 conference, and we’re really excited about representing the Pac-12 in this situation. Know it will be an exciting game for our players, for our fan base.
What we’re really excited about here is our coaches and players have been through a lot the last few weeks, and to be able to unite one last time in 2017 as the Bruin football team and go compete on ESPN in this football game is just really exciting for all of us.
So I think we’ve got a team that’s really excited for the challenge, and we know it’s going to be a challenge. And we have a team that’s really looking forward to spending Christmas in the desert and an opportunity to go out there and compete with Kansas State.
SCOTT LEIGHTMAN: Coach Snyder really needs no introduction for his historic career at Kansas State. He’s a great friend and advocate of both the Fiesta Bowl and the Cactus Bowl. This is the seventh time Kansas State will come to the Valley of the Sun with three appearances in the Fiesta Bowl and three appearances in the Cactus Bowl.
Coach, I believe you have 18 Bowl appearances overall. Quite impressive. Welcome to number 19, and we’re happy to have you. Please go ahead and take the line.
BILL SNYDER: Thank you very, very much. The opportunity to be, once again, in the desert is something that our players and the people that travel with us and our staff and their families have always enjoyed and certainly will enjoy the time there again. The opportunities that are provided through the Bowl are very special to all of our program. People have been very gracious to us, and we look forward to returning.
Certainly, the opponent, UCLA is a very, very fine football team that went through some difficult times during the course of the season and a number of injuries, but I think they’ll be healthy for the ball game. They’re more than a formidable opponent.
Our players, as Jedd indicated with UCLA, are very excited for the opportunity to be in another Bowl game. They take none of them lightly. I remember playing in — I think it may have been the first Copper Bowl (predecessor to Cactus Bowl), or pretty close to it, back in ’93, and we had 22,500 people at the Bowl. First one that I went to in my career here. And the people were overjoyed. It was a wonderful experience, and each one thereafter has become very, very special.
Anyway, our people are looking forward to it. I’m grateful and thankful that we have the opportunity.
SCOTT LEIGHTMAN: Thank you, Coach. That was 1993. Kansas State 52, Wyoming 17. Another neat fact about Kansas State, is that the second highest attended Cactus Bowl game ever was the 2013 matchup between Kansas State and Michigan with 53,284 fans at that game.
Hi, Coach Fisch. Two questions for you, if I could. First, could we get a Josh Rosen update. Obviously, he went down against Cal and didn’t play in the second half. Then also wondering just philosophically how you go into this game coaching-wise? Do you coach the same way you did against Cal, or do you blend in anything new as a nod to the direction of the team next season under Coach Kelly?
JEDD FISCH: First thing regarding Josh, we’ve had two practices so far, and Josh has participated in both of those practices. Fully participated in both of those practices. So very fortunate in that regard that he has been able to do that and has thrown the ball very well and has moved well.
In regards to preparation, we are playing this game as the 2017 Bruins, not the 2018 Bruins. So all of our focus will be on what we have done, what we’ve built, what we’ve established, and what we’ve done schematically and what we’ve done defensively over the last six years.
In terms of that aspect of it, we are fully on board as the staff that is coaching the 2017 team.
Q. This is for Coach Snyder. Coach, sometimes seasons don’t particularly start out the way you might have intended or hoped, but what’s it say about this team that you were able to finish strong down the stretch like you guys have done through the years? And what kind of momentum does this team carry in through the final Bowl game?
BILL SNYDER: I’m certainly pleased with the progress our program made during the course of the latter part of the season. There was kind of the lull in between, which has happened to us for two years in succession and really needs a great deal of attention. It’s a very disappointing time in that stretch in the middle.
But as you would hope for and expect and ask of your players, I thought they responded quite well, obviously played well in the last several ballgames of the year. And hopefully — last year when we came back and finished the season quite well — I think we won 6 of 7 last year at the end, and that propelled us into the Bowl game, I thought with a very positive approach. And hopefully the finish this year will do the same for our game with UCLA.
Q. Question for Coach Snyder, two actually. First off, just do you have any first impressions on UCLA? Do you know anything about them yet? I know it’s a little bit different quirk this year to have the week off before you start Bowl prep. How did you use that? Did you practice last week? And what did you do?
BILL SNYDER: Well, I’ll answer the last question first. We did not practice this past week. They’re getting prepared for final exams, and they certainly needed a rest. Our open date, now that we’re down to just one open date within the season in conference play, came after the second ball game. So consequently, they’ve been at it full go for 10, 11 weeks in a row and needed some time off. So we afforded them that.
We will start up again this coming week. I think the players relish the time off, and it was, I think, beneficial for them in a lot of different ways, particularly academics. But also just to get freshened up, so to speak.
And the other part of the question was?
Q. UCLA, just what are your initial thoughts on the Bruins and what kind of matchup problems they pose for you.BILL SNYDER: Well, I just remember UCLA from a couple of years ago. They were a very fine football team at the time. I haven’t had a chance to look at the roster nor see any tape of them this year. I would imagine that a number of those players that made the trip last time we played are still in the program. I think they’ve had — and, again, I don’t know a great deal outside of Kansas State, but appears like they’ve had kind of a rough season, kind of like we did in terms of some of the football players injured and a lot of the turmoil that comes with a staff change.
So I commend them for finishing the season well and earning the opportunity to play in a Bowl game.
SCOTT LEIGHTMAN: Just wanted to remind everybody about our website, which is cactusbowl.com. And for social media it’s @cactus_bowl would be the way to find us. Credential applications are open through the sportsystems.com system if you’re looking to go ahead and secure your credentials.
Q. Coach Snyder, I know your team received some sad news this weekend with the passing of Kaiden Schroeder, the young boy who became very close to your program throughout the years. Could you describe the impact you saw him have on your players and maybe what you admired about him.
BILL SNYDER: Well, Kaiden was well ingrained into our system. Ryan Mueller, who played for us a few years back, adopted him, so to speak, for our team and would bring him from Kansas City into Manhattan, always attended ball games. We’d bring him to practices. We let him run the ball in the spring game one year. He was excited about that. It was an exciting time for him and certainly for the vast majority of our players, who really have embraced he and his family over these years.
His passing meant a great deal to so many of the Kansas State people, and our players in particular. He was just — you’d never know that he was ill when we had him around the program. He handled himself so very well. But it’s been a sad time, and I’ve had calls from a number of players who have since graduated and gone on who want to try to build a group of people to go to the funeral and to try to help him out in some other ways, to help his family out in some other ways. He was very meaningful to so many players in our program and coaches as well.
Q. Coach Snyder, I did not cover the Alamo Bowl when you faced UCLA, but in reading about that, it seemed there may have been some hard feelings at the end of that game over something that happened at the end of the game. Can you comment on that? Some players said they didn’t want to — some other players didn’t want to shake hands, and there were some perfunctory handshakes at the end of the game. Can you comment on that and what happened?
BILL SNYDER: I don’t know about handshakes and whether that’s an accurate statement or not, but the — and I understand UCLA was ahead and were running the clock out, and one of our players jumped — when the ball was snapped, jumped between two of the offensive players in an attempt to force a fumble perhaps and give us at least one last shot. It wasn’t received well, but I understand why. If it would have caused any injury, that was certainly something we wouldn’t condone. But it was just a young man that didn’t want to give up and was making a last-ditch effort, which failed, and then it caused some ill feelings, I think.