K-State holds weekly football press conference prior to Senior Day

Posted Nov 27, 2019 8:26 PM


MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman and players met with members of the media on Tuesday at the Vanier Family Football Complex in preparation for the Wildcats’ regular-season finale and Senior Day contest against Iowa State. A complete transcript of Klieman’s press conference (also streamed live on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ and archived here) are posted below, in addition to select comments from players.

 

The Wildcats and Cyclones kick at 6 p.m., Saturday night inside Bill Snyder Family Stadium in a game shown on FS1. Wildcats fans can bring their friends and family to the game for just $20 per ticket with the Wildcat 4 Pack. Premium bench lower bowl tickets are $55 and bench tickets are $35. Arrive early to celebrate the seniors as we recognize them and their families pregame. Tickets can be purchased online at www.kstatesports.com/tickets, by phone at 1-800-221-CATS or at the main ticket office inside Bramlage Coliseum.


CHRIS KLIEMAN, HEAD COACH

Opening statement…

“Obviously (we’re) excited about our win on Saturday. The guys played their tails off. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but just how hard they played - they were able to make some plays in critical situations that enabled us to always keep the lead. I think, as a coaching staff, we talked about keeping that lead, even though it started with two scores, then went down to one score, we were able to keep that lead, (which) was significant from a confidence standpoint for the guys. Then, we were able to finish the game - that was probably the thing that I was excited about for our offense, was with four-plus minutes left, to be able to grind that clock out and not give the ball back to a really high-powered offense was really good. Obviously excited about that and coming back here, no school this week with the holiday. So, the guys are able to take care of their bodies, probably, a little bit better. They’re not in and out of classes - they’ve still got some classwork I’m sure they have to catch up on - but they’re able to get a few more treatments, cold tubs, warm tubs, those things to try to get their body back for Saturday, for Senior Day. We’re really excited because we’re going to honor 27 great seniors that have had a huge impact on Kansas State football, a huge impact on my life and our coaches, as far as allowing us into their lives for this last year. That’s never easy for a senior to have a coaching change and these guys have embraced us. I’m so excited for those guys to have a special week.”

 

On defensive back Lance Robinson’s increased role…

“I thought he played exceptionally well. Lance has been a very good special teams player for us and was behind AJ (Parker) and Walt (Walter Neil Jr.) on the depth chart, and even Kevi (Kevion McGee) a little bit. So, he was right around our fourth corner. When we lost AJ, we put a little bit more pressure on Lance to perform better at practice to have an opportunity to get on the field. We were going to play him a significant amount of snaps regardless of what happened in the game on Saturday, and, sure enough, we lose Walt early on in the game. So, Lance has to play every snap, basically. He was in really good shape, hadn’t missed any practices, hadn’t been dinged up. (He was) probably fresher than most guys are. I thought he had an exceptionally good game. (It was) great for him from a confidence boost because he’s just a redshirt freshman. For us, moving forward, it helps us to know there’s another guy we can count on for the future.”

 

On the importance of getting a reward for the work done in the process…

“It’s part of that process, that you don’t want to just put so much pressure on the guys and say, ‘Man, you have to win.’ Then they’re never going to play great. I’ve seen that before where somebody says, ‘You have to win this game.’ Typically you don’t because you’re putting all the undue pressure on themselves. I think reassuring those guys of what we’re seeing as coaches and what I’m seeing overall because I got to both ends at practice - offensive and defensive - and I do see really good progress, and we are getting better that, ‘Guys, it’s going to come out and show itself some Saturday. I just know it is,’ and it has. You guys have seen that as well as I have when we won a few of them in a row there. Stay the course and continue to believe. I think when you have adversity and you lose a game, or lose a game or two in a row like we did, I think the first thing that goes is your confidence and belief like, ‘Come on, can we really do this?’ (It’s) us as coaches continuing to harp on, ‘Yeah guys, we’re not that far away. Continue to believe.’ I just really enjoyed the long weekend we had with those guys. Probably the best thing that we had was a six o’clock game because it allowed us more time with those guys to go through walkthrough, to go through notes and stuff at the hotel on Saturday and get them truly believing that, ‘Hey, we’re going to find a way.’

 

On how good Iowa State is…

“They’ve lost a couple of close games that I know of. I remember watching the end of the Baylor game. They had a chance to win. We got home in time to see the end of the Oklahoma game. So, they’re always in games. It’s an extremely well-coached football team. Matt Campbell does a phenomenal job with the players, and his staff does a great job. (I have) so much respect for Matt. The players believe and buy into what they’re being taught. Defensively, they’re just so sound. They don’t miss fits. They run to the football extremely well. They’re physical. Offensively, I’m just so impressed with Brock Purdy. I think he’s a phenomenal football player that I love watching as we watch tape. I’m not probably going to like watching him live as much, but he’s a fun guy to watch because he just makes plays all over the field.” 

 

On similarities between Iowa State’s identity and what he wants K-State’s identity to be...

“Yeah, Matt (Campbell) has just done it for a longer period at this level than what we have here. Just the fact that they’re disciplined, they’re really physical, the guys believe in what they’re doing, all the things that we’re trying to. But you could say myself, or any coach, if you get a team that’s really physical, really disciplined and believes in what the coaches are preaching, you’re going to have success. So, it’s fun because we’ve been on crossover tape with these guys all year, so we’ve seen them against everybody, and against everybody they look like they better team. They really do. The Oklahoma and Texas game, I know they beat Texas, they look like a team that belongs and should win the game. So, (I have) just a tremendous amount of respect for what they’ve done there.”

 

On being the winningest first-year head coach in the Big 12…

“You said that, I didn’t know it. It’s pretty cool, I guess, for our staff. Once again, it’s about all of us together that are doing this. (I’m) happy for the results. We talked about the process, (but I’m) happy for some of those results to show out for our coaching staff. And, I think it helps from a recruiting standpoint. It helps for our younger players, all those things. We wanted growth in this first year. If you asked, I never told you how many games we were going to win this first year. We wanted growth, guys believing and getting better. That’s what I have seen from week one through week 11 and now. So, I’m excited for the future.”

 

On K-State’s third-down defensive success…

“We work at it an awful lot. We emphasize it. Every team emphasizes it, but we emphasize it against our offense in a number of situations in practice. It’s bitten us a few times, too. There are some games where we haven’t been as good on third down, and it’s cost us. With the style of offense we play, we have to get off the field on third down to give our offense a couple of more possessions. To be able to methodically move the ball on offense is a direct result of what we do on third-down defense, just to give those guys a couple extra possessions. I think Coach Haze (Scottie Hazelton) and the defensive staff spend a lot of time on third down to see what the kids feel confident and comfortable in playing and also the things that will work against this scheme. We have a lot of third-down defense. Our ability to pick the right things, and Scottie’s ability to pick the right things that will be efficient on Saturdays is a big part of that.” 

 

On how important third-down defense with be against Iowa State…

“We watched a huge cut-up today of third and short. It was a passing cut-up, and they were completing at a high, high rate and having some success with some crossing routes, some under routes. This is, by far, the best group of tight ends that we’ve seen. They have great players at tight end that block exceptionally well, that run really good routes, that catch the ball in traffic. They are really talented guys, and (Brock) Purdy feels comfortable putting it in there in their framework and them going up and making plays. So, we have to do a great job, obviously, on third down this week.”

 

On running back James Gilbert’s final season…

“James is a super kid, as you guys have gotten to know him. He has a smile on his face all the time. He’s an energetic guy. People in his life that have impacted him I know really well, and that’s how James and I got hooked up. So, I’m excited for all the people that have impacted James’ life. James has been a great, great addition to our team in his one year. I think the players, especially our seniors, have really embraced him. So, I’m excited for what he’s done and for him to continue on this year.”

 

On defensive tackle Jordan Mittie’s contributions…

“He’s been a mainstay there. He’s a phenomenal football player, a great, great kid to be around. Obviously, I’ve gotten to know his parents really well. Jordan has just had a senior a kid wants to have where he’s playing a ton, playing at a high level, being really productive. The other senior defensive linemen love having him around because he always has energy. His motor doesn’t stop. He’s made impact play after impact play in every game. His consistent play has allowed us to be really good on defense.”

 

On the team being excited for a rivalry game with Iowa State…

“They will be. There’s still a lead up to each of these rivalry games. Coming off an emotional win over Texas Tech on the road and getting back late, it’s going to be a gradual climb. They know how good of a football team Iowa State is and the great matchups, in talking with the seniors, that they’ve had with Iowa State in their time here. I’m learning about a lot of those as well as I go back and watch tape from previous games. It’s been a tremendous game between the two institutions. I think both teams are playing well. It’s still going to come down to execution, not turning the football over, red zone success and all those things.”

 

On dealing with the Thanksgiving holiday…

“We’re going to eat still, I promise you that. We’ll have a Thanksgiving meal with the guys on Wednesday night, then we’ll practice earlier on Thursday. A number of kids will have the opportunity to go home on Thursday afternoon. It’s neat because we have so many Kansas kids that will take some of the out-of-staters with him and spend some time with families. The rest of them that can’t, we’ll take them as coaches. Then they’ll be back here on Friday afternoon and we’ll start late Friday afternoon our normal routine for a six o’clock game. We have a ton to be thankful for, obviously, just being around these guys. It’s cool because one of the things that I like to do - (I) don’t know if it’s been done in the past, it doesn’t matter - I have senior talks the last couple weeks of practices. The seniors get to come up in front of the team and just give a message to their teammates and the younger guys about their time here. It’s pretty impactful for me just to listen to them because I hear some stories about what their path and journey has been to get here as well as the great message they give to the freshmen about, ‘It’s never as bad as you think it is. It’s pretty fortunate that you’re a part of Kansas State football. Embrace the time because it does go really fast.’”

 

On Cody Fletcher’s increased role at Texas Tech…

“We knew we were going to play him an awful lot because of the tempo and the amount of plays we were going to play. I think this is as healthy as Cody has been since before he got hurt in mid-August. Cody is a really good football player. I’m sad that he didn’t have a chance to get his full junior year. He made a number of tackles on kickoff, as well, on Saturday, which tells me he is healthier because he was able to run down on kickoff and make some plays. Then, he made some plays on defense. It’s helped us because there’s no way that DQ (Da’Quan Patton) was going to play that many plays with that kind of a tempo offense. So, I’m excited for Cody and know that he just needs those snaps to get more and more confidence.”

 

On playing with emotion…

“The fine line is celebrating with your teammates and not making it about yourself. We talk about that, but let’s be honest, you watch football on Sunday and that’s what the game has become at that level. We know that kids watch that, and we know that kids are excitable. We want the energy. We want the emotion. Whether it’s a player making a great sack - and Wyatt shows great emotion too, or Josh on the long kick return - we just have to do it more with the team. It’s an emotional game, let’s let them have some fun too. There’s a line in the sand we can’t pass.”

 

On Iowa State freshman running back and Wichita native Breece Hall…

“(He has) great balance, tremendous physical toughness, running through arm tackles and stuff. Obviously, (he) wasn’t playing a bunch early in the season and all of the sudden, the more reps he’s gotten, the better he has become. (He’s) a really talented player. We’ll have our hands full trying to corral him, especially because of all the weapons they have throwing the football. He’s been a big benefit to that, and he’s made the most of it. We, obviously, have to try to control and limit some of his explosive plays. (He’s a) great player.”

 

On the status of wide receiver Malik Knowles and defensive back Walter Neil Jr.…

“There’s a good chance all those guys will be able to play. Nobody practiced yesterday, but they were all out there moving around with our training staff. I’m confident the two - Malik and Walt - that came out of the game, a couple other guys got nicked up, but should be able to play as well. I’ll probably know more Wednesday. We’ll limit some guys today, but I’m more encouraged by it than I was probably on Saturday evening.”

 

On Wyatt Hubert’s continued emergence on the defensive line…

“He’s been tremendous. He’s been a guy that’s had an impact on every game. He’s made great strides as the season has gone on. His technique is so good, he’s so physical and he’s got a motor that just doesn’t stop. We’ve made a lot of mistakes on defense, and Wyatt’s a great example of our entire defense, of making mistakes, but playing so hard you’re able to overcome them. Wyatt was huge in critical situations in the fourth quarter. That’s still a credit to us revolving that door at the defensive line through four quarters so a kid like Wyatt can stay fresh enough in the fourth to make a couple big plays.”

 

On Josh Youngblood’s special teams contributions…

“Shoot, he’s an electric kid. He can flat fly. He’s got a knack. Kickoff returns are a knack of being slow to it, then hitting it at the right time and understanding where your blocks are at. Then, he’s just got that second gear. Let’s give Ross Elder a ton of credit because, man did Ross do a great job of setting up the block, maintaining the block and never giving up on the play. A lot of people made great blocks on that, but the one that sticks out to me is Ross allowing him to get in the end zone.”

 

On projecting Josh Youngblood’s future…

“Josh needs to get bigger and stronger, and he knows it. He needs to put some weight on. He’s missing out on what a lot of the freshmen aren’t, which is a year of development with Coach (Chris) Dawson. This will be a really big offseason for Josh to put on some weight, to put on some strength so that he can hold a much higher weight so that he can stay durable. It’s not that he’ not been durable, but I just think he’ll be better with 10 or 15 pounds onto him. He’s learning so much from Dalton Schoen. He’s learning so much from Malik (Knowles) and Wykeen (Gill) about how to run routes and how to be precise on that. I’m really excited about his future. Obviously, for a true freshman to do the things that he’s done, is pretty cool to have. (I’m) excited for his next three years with us.”

 

On Iowa State sophomore tight end Charlie Kolar…

“He is the prototype tight end that you want in the style of offense that they run, as well as we run. Somebody that can be at the point of attack and block a defensive end, whether it’s in the run game or pass game. He can flex out and be a single receiver on his side, or he can be in the slot and create match-up problems with safeties. Obviously, he does it with corners on the outside. He has really good speed, and his catch radius is so big. Then he’s in the backfield too. He’s a move guy that can kick out a split zone or do a little bit of everything. They use him in so many different ways that you can count him as a wide receiver, but if you do that you’re going to be short in the box. They’re playing three guys, they’re in some 13 personnel with three tight ends lining up in all sorts of formations. That’s something that our defense luckily sees during fall camp and during spring ball, so we at least have an idea and a plan because it’s something we have to face ourselves.”

 

On what the seniors have meant to him personally coming in as a new coach...

“It’s meant everything to me because a lot of those kids have already graduated, and you’re allowed to grad transfer. They didn’t not grad transfer because of Coach (Snyder) leaving or because of me coming in. I think they all stuck together for each other, and that’s the neatest thing to me. Those guys have such a special bond, and I see it every day in the locker room, out on the practice field. They weren’t going to leave their brothers. That’s why I have such a special place for those guys. Yeah, it will be our first team and they were the first group that had this coaching staff, but I look at it as those guys stuck together. Whether there were difficult times, great times, it doesn’t matter, those guys said, ‘We’re going to go out together,’ and that’s pretty cool. You don’t see that in college football, as many fifth year seniors as we have here. Let’s credit those kids because they’re the ones that stuck together.”

 

On the trend of lowering shoulder to tackle…

“That’s an awful habit that we’re trying to break on a daily basis. We’ve gotten tons better at it from early in the year. It’s something we’re working on, but you also have to understand the NCAA rules. How much can we really tackle in practice? Today, you can’t go out and tackle those kids. They’re so beat up and you really have that about the last five or six weeks, especially since we were on this run for seven weeks. It’s something that we’ve put in the back of our minds that we’re going to adapt and adjust to this winter and this spring to re-teach it because some of it is a habit. Maybe they’ve done it since high school or maybe they did it last year. I don’t know, but it’s something we have to move forward from and get away from because the players too good in this league. They’re going to bounce off people. It’s something we’ll spend a bunch of time on making sure we get it corrected.”

 

On Wyatt Hubert being an all-conference level player…

“I don’t have the crystal ball in front of me to say I get to select it, but I think he’s an all-conference-type player, without question. We’ll find that out in the next couple weeks. He’s a tremendous football player that’s really productive, and there’s a lot of really good football players that, for whatever reason, don’t have the production. It seems like every week he has great production. When I flip the film on, I look at certain guys in the league and say, ‘How are we going to block that guy? Whether it’s in the run game or the pass game, how in the heck are we going to block that guy?’ I’ll go to Mess (Courtney Messingham) or Conor (Riley) and say, ‘How are we going to handle that kid? Because we just can’t go one-on-one against this kid all day.’ I see that in Wyatt. Without question. ‘How are they going to handle Wyatt?’ If they don’t chip him or don’t put a tight end to his side, he’ll make some plays.”

 

On whether he prefers ham or turkey…

“Turkey.”

 

WYATT HUBERT, SOPHOMORE DEFENSIVE END

On the team’s and his own success defending on third downs…

“I try to contribute as much as I can. A lot of things we do on those third downs are blitz packages, which gives the defensive end the freedom to do what they want, come off the edge, be aggressive and make plays. Coach Haze (Scottie Hazelton) definitely puts us in a good position to do that.”

 

On the mentality of third down situations…

“Third down, playing against any team, is definitely a great feeling. It’s part of the game that’s really the most fun, the most enjoyable. That’s when the fans are standing up screaming - it’s a big play for the offense and the defense. I’m just glad we’ve been able to go out there and execute it at such a high level.”

 

On the importance of winning third down against Iowa State…

“It’s definitely going to be a challenge playing against Iowa State. Every pass they do is off a run-pass option. It’s definitely going to be tough for us to get good pressure, get good pass rush, but it’s obviously something we need to do and go out and execute.”

 

On Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy’s movement in the pocket…

“I would say he’s definitely a top-three quarterback in the Big 12, just with his pocket awareness and his elusiveness. When it comes to having an awareness with defensive linemen surrounding him, with all his extra head pump fakes and head fakes, it’s definitely going to be challenging for us. It’s something that we’re not used to because no quarterback usually does that. The main key to that is just don’t leave your feet and run through the tackle.”

 

On if he considers himself among the best defensive ends in the league…

“I’ve definitely made strides, made improvements, but nothing to where I want to be. Obviously, like you said, second in the Big 12 in sacks, I strive to be first and lead the way. I take it day-by-day and week-by-week and improve bit-by-bit.”

 

BLAISE GAMMON, SENIOR TIGHT END

On what makes this group of seniors special…

“The thing that’s so special about our group is really the number. We have so many guys that have stuck together and wanted to be here. It’s really special for all of us to have one more shot out here.”

 

On the importance of getting a win Saturday...

“It’s important on a lot of aspects. Just from another game, finishing the season, ending on a positive note, but then obviously there’s extra importance with it being Senior Day, the last time for our group of seniors to play here at home. We’re really excited. We’re going to come out ready to play, that’s for sure.”

 

On Wyatt Hubert’s progression…

“I think he’s been incredible. The jump that Wyatt has even made from last year to this year, the motor that he has on him, the explosiveness, the power. I really think he has the full package, even during this last game he was causing havoc - it’s really unbelievable. He really has a chance to do some special things the next couple years as well.”

 

On the season going by quickly…

“It’s crazy. It really does. I told Coach Klieman the other week that I can literally remember our first meeting of training camp and it feels like that was not that long ago at all. I think, especially this season, the way our schedule is set up, once we got through the second bye, it feels like it has just flown by. It’s kind of crazy to look back. You try to be in the moment as much as possible, but it gets moving so fast.”

 

On the ability to go out a winner…

“We have a great opportunity that we’ve created for ourselves. We’ve already created the opportunity to get back to a bowl, which is a huge step forward after last year not reaching that. This game is extremely important - getting to 8-4, finishing in a tie for third in the Big 12 would be huge for us and a great start to build on what we’ve already done this season to finish it off.”

 

ADAM HOLTORF, SENIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMAN

On whether the realization of his last game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium has hit…

“It’s started to, but I don’t think the full weight of it all has hit me yet. It’s crazy how fast the season is going.”

 

On his journey to becoming a regular starter…

“It’s been a ton of fun and I’ve been extremely blessed to be in the position I am. It’s a great group of guys on the O-line that I can truly call brothers, guys that I’ve known for years and been roommates with for years. It’s been truly special.”

 

On being able to finish his career with a winning season…

“It’s been a lot of fun to have the success (we’ve had). We all put in a lot of hard work, so to be able to have a season like this as seniors, all 27 of us, it’s truly special.”

 

DEVIN ANCTIL, SENIOR PUNTER

On bouncing back with a solid performance on Saturday…

“It was really nice to get my groove back and get my confidence back after a good week of practice.”

 

On what he felt his struggles had been the previous few weeks…

“I was over thinking a lot of things, stuff I can’t control. I did a lot of faith diving, and it really helped. God has a plan for me, and I just need to take it one step at a time and control everything I can control. That’s what I did this week.”

 

On if it’s hit home that this weekend is the final go around in Manhattan…

“Yeah, the only thing I won’t miss about this place is the wind in the stadium.”

 

On what it would mean to win eight games this year…

“It would be huge. It would show everyone not to judge things based on last season. It’s a new season. Anything can happen. We went to work hard this offseason, and the results are showing.”

 

 

 

——————

RYAN LACKEY

Director of Football Communications

K-State Athletics

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