Mangino, Jayhawks Discuss Insight Bowl

Dec. 5, 2008

LAWRENCE, Kan. —Kansas head football coach Mark Mangino held a press conference Friday afternoon to discuss the probability of playing in the Insight Bowl and to discuss the game with the media. The Jayhawks’ opponent for the Insight Bowl, which takes place Dec. 31 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., has not yet been determined. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. CST, and the game will be televised on the NFL Network.

Press Conference Quotes
Friday, Dec. 5, 2008

Kansas head coach Mark Mangino
On being selected to the Insight Bowl:
“I’m very excited to accept this bid from the Insight Bowl. On behalf of all of our players and coaching staff, we’re thankful for the opportunity. We’re looking forward to enjoying our trip to Tempe (Ariz.). The Insight Bowl has a reputation for being a great host. Some of the other teams that have participated in that bowl in previous years said it was a really enjoyable experience for their players, coaches, support staff, administrators and their families as well.

“Our players are really excited, they deserve this opportunity for postseason play; they’ve earned it. We’re going to have fun, but our players will be the first to tell you the most fun of going to a bowl game is winning it. That’s what the trip is all about. We know when it’s time to enjoy ourselves, but we won’t lose sight of the fact that we’re there to win an eighth game. That’s something that’s very important to all of us.”

On having experience of going to bowl games in the past at KU:
“It helps that members of your organization have been through this process before. The planning of the bowl trip and the preparation that’s involved with it. We have some key people in our athletic administration that have been through it, and obviously our coaches led by George Matsakis. George has done this a lot too, and is kind of an old pro at this. It’s good because our players know what to expect as well.”

On the importance of going into the bowl game coming off a win:
“It’s helpful. Lets face it, when you come off a win against your border rival, there’s a great deal of enthusiasm. The players, coaches and the fan base are energized. We’re excited and we’re ready to go and get ready to prepare for this game. I would suspect our fan base is pretty energized and I would imagine that we’ll have quite a few KU fans in Tempe for this game.”

On if the team still deserved to go to a bowl game before beating Missouri:
“Definitely. I’m not going to mince any words, but we played one of the toughest schedules in the country. We played against good football teams week-in-and-week-out. So if 6-6 says that you’re capable of going to a bowl then we would have deserved it. But 7-5 is much better and the way (the regular season) ended is much better.”

Kansas junior quarterback Todd Reesing
On the experience of last year’s bowl game:
“I think the main thing that we need to remember is, the reason we won last year was because of our preparation. The coaches didn’t let us lose sight of the reason we were there. You’re not going to a bowl game just to have fun and party, you’re going there to win a football game. There’s a lot of fun that you’re going to have at a bowl game on your own. The bowl people take care of you with activities and that sort of thing, but the main thing is you’re going there to win a game. The older guys who were around last year know how hard we worked and how hard we practiced because we really wanted it last year. We have to come out with the same approach this year.”

On the importance of winning a seventh game:
“It was huge. 7-5 just sounds a lot better than 6-6. It really solidifies you as a team that deserves to be in a bowl game and solidifies a winning season, because regardless of what happens we’re going to be above .500. From a momentum standpoint, getting a big win like that in dramatic fashion just gives you a lot of enthusiasm. You’re excited about your bowl game; you’re excited to get that eighth win. Guys are feeling good and confident and whenever you have a positive attitude and that feeling in the locker room, practice and preparation is going to go a lot smoother and a lot better.”

On the importance of going to bowl games in back-to-back years:
“This senior class is going out having been bowl-eligible for four years. The year that we didn’t go (2006), we could have been selected. This program has made a lot of improvement. I’m not going to say that we’re at the level that we want to be at yet, but to come to where we are now, I think we’ve made a lot of strides. And I think we have earned a lot more respect because we have been eligible for bowl games and have gone to them in back-to-back years. We’ve won the last two, and we’re looking to continue that streak.”

Kansas junior wide receiver Kerry Meier
On the difference of going to a bowl off a win, compared to off a loss:
“I think last year, after we lost to Missouri (to end the regular season), a lot of people didn’t think we’d be ready to play Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, and maybe didn’t deserve it. This year, we’re coming off a big win, so it’s two different stories for two different years.”

On the preparation for last year’s game, and what they do this year:
“We have to prepare like any other week. We need to focus on what we have to do and slowly learn about what our opponent does and what we have to do to attack them. Right now, it’s quite a ways off until the bowl game, but you have to keep it in the back of your mind, and keep the focus on the challenge that we have ahead of us.”

On learning their bowl fate earlier in the week:
“It’s definitely nice to find out this early. We’ve had plenty of time off, and I think guys are anxious to get back out and get started on things. I’m sure we’ll head out there today and focus on fixing some of the things we did wrong throughout the year. I think we’ll shortly turn our focus to our opponent and what we have to do against them.”

On how he got open against Missouri:
“They played a completely different coverage on that play than they did the whole drive. The entire drive leading up to that play they were sitting back in zone. Then on 4th-and 7, they basically decided to come after us. The play call we had is good against zone or man coverage, and Todd saw Briscoe backside and saw the matchup with one-on-one coverage and he liked it but Dezmon failed to get open. As soon as I saw that, I saw Todd doing his thing back there, running around the pocket, and buying a little bit more time. I caught eyes with him, and next thing you know I put a foot in the ground, planted and went deep. Next thing I saw was the ball in the air.”

Kansas senior linebacker Mike Rivera
On the senior class leading the team to back-to-back bowl games:
“It’s something I’m very thankful for. As a group of seniors it was our goal to go to a bowl game two consecutive years. To do that is something we’re really proud of. We’re thankful and we just want to go out there and win it.”

On this season marking progress for the program:
“I definitely think it shows progress. We started out the year with a lot of new faces on offense and defense, and those guys have improved throughout the year. We’ve played a lot of tough opponents, and that was great experience for the team. The way guys have progressed this year is going to carry into next year and help them out a lot. Our record doesn’t look as good as 12-1, but we gained a lot of experience, we played tough opponents and it’s a little bigger stage now in the Big 12. For us it was a great opportunity, and I thought it was a good season.”

On winning the Orange Bowl last year:
“It was a once in a lifetime experience. To go down there and win the game on that big of a stage was a huge thing for the University of Kansas. It’s something that I’m grateful to be a part of and we’re going to try and do the same thing this year. We’re coming off a big win against Missouri. We’re going to carry our momentum in, get another big win and polish off the season right. That’s what we want to do here so we can leave our legacy as a senior class. We were here to build this team and continue the tradition.”

Kansas junior safety Darrell Stuckey
On knowing what to expect in Tempe, Ariz.:
“As a team we know what to expect. Last year when we went to the Orange Bowl, the players that had never been to a bowl game with us thought Coach (Mangino) was killing us. The first day we were there we had four practices, full-contact, it was two and a half hours. We ran after practice and everything. Everyone felt like it was two-a-days. It was only 13 degrees here (in Lawrence) last year at that time, but the first day we got to Miami it was 82 degrees. People were losing weight and sweating, but we knew that coach knew what he was doing. When we got in the game, Virginia Tech was bigger than us by far, but we were more physical and more aggressive and it paid off. They were aggressive too, but you could tell in the fourth quarter that our conditioning was better.”

On practices leading up to the bowl game:
“It lightens up, but the first two days are normal practices and full-contact. The closer we get to the bowl, the less we’re going to have contact with each other. We have to make those sacrifices to play a little harder.”

On juggling time off with practicing in Tempe:
“Usually before a bowl game, practices will be as early as possible in the day and then you have the rest of the day off. You’ll probably have meetings later on that night. The closer you get to the bowl game, the more film and less actual practice we have.”

On going to two bowl games in a row:
“It means a lot to try and establish a consistent program and trying to establish a good football school instead of just a basketball school. It’s one of those barriers that people can’t hold against us anymore and people can’t say we’re not a traditional football school. I think the more we do to build our empire here at KU, to build our program up to be a better recognized program, the more people will want to be a part of it.”

Kansas senior linebacker James Holt
On back-to-back bowl games:
“Some of us have been [bowl] eligible four years here and it means a lot to be the first to do that. We’ve been the class to see the Nebraska streak fall and now we have this accomplishment. It’s a great honor to say you were a part of that.”

On having BCS Bowl experience:
“It’s going to be a lot of help for us because we’re two-for-two in bowl games. We’ll know how to prepare better for it, in getting ready for this game.”

On being selected to the All-Big 12 Second Team:
“It means a lot. It’s showed how hard I worked over these past years and how much I put into the season. It turned out to be a great deal and I’m very excited.”

Kansas junior running back Jake Sharp
On the Missouri win last week:
“Obviously, we’re very happy with how it turned out. It gives you everything. It gives you some steam and some morale for what we do.”

On Tempe, Arizona:
“It’s going to be great. It’s going to be warmer there. I’m looking forward to that. I am a Kansas boy and I’m used to the cold, but hopefully we can hang out at the pool and win a football game while we’re down there.”

On back-to-back bowl games:
“It really just showcases what we’ve been working for all along. I think for us to go to back-to-back bowl games means we’re climbing that ladder. It’s one of the stepping stones of the legacy that we want to leave here.”

Kansas senior offensive lineman Ryan Cantrell
On the Missouri game:
“It was probably one of the best games I’ve ever played in. I think it was more exciting than the Orange Bowl.”

On benefitting from the week off before Missouri:
“The Big 12 schedule is a rough conference to play in, and you’re going to get beat up throughout the year, so a week to kind of heal and get your feet back underneath you helped a lot. We have the best training staff in the nation, and they got everybody ready who was banged up. That week of extra fundamental preparation and things like that to really drive home the game plan made it that much better for us.”

On the bowl practices leading up to the game:
“Bowl practice is like having another spring session. Obviously we benefitted from it last year. I think it’s going to be pretty much the exact same schedule as last year. We’re just going to drive the game plan home, everybody will know the ins and outs of every little detail possible, and we’ll be ready to go.”

On playing in back-to-back bowl games:
“It’s awesome. I think it’s just another thing to strike out on the list of things this class has done along the way. The guys on this team are what drives KU. I couldn’t possibly be more proud of all the guys on the team and everybody that’s associated with the program.”