Junior quarterback Taylor McHargue
(on playing Air Force) “You know what you’re going to get against them. You’re going to get four quarters of effort. This is not the kind of team where any lead is safe, and it’s also not the type of team that if they get up quick, that they’re going to easily relinquish the lead. So we know we have to come ready to play right away. We’ve had a few games this year where we’ve started slow. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen this time.”
(on the Air Force players) “There are similar guys on these teams. I was recruited by Air Force. A friend of mine who plays there, (senior wide receiver) Drew Coleman, was recruited by Rice. So it’s similar guys, which is why it’s so easy for us to hang out together and talk to them. It’s easy when you get around them to have a conversation. There was never any worry about arguing or a fight (between players). These are two teams that respect each other.”
(on Rice having more size than Air Force) “I was laughing, because I think that’s the first time we’ve ever heard that. The vast majority of the time when we line up against somebody we’re significantly smaller than they are. But that’s something that Air Force faces week in and week out. I’m sure Michigan was a lot bigger than them and Air Force almost beat them (losing 31-25). They’re used to playing undersized. They use leverage well. But we’re going to rely on our offensive line. They’ve done a great job for us all season, and we expect the same this week.
(on ball-control offense) “Both of these teams have the ball for long periods of time. This is going to be one of those games where any turnover is really going to be magnified, so we need to make sure we execute and take care of the football.
“All season we’ve been the type of offense to have long sustained drives. We usually have at least two or three drives of 12 to 15 plays. Air Force is the same way. Most offenses don’t usually operate like that. So this game might only last a couple of hours. If there are many of those drives, these quarters are going to fly by. That’s why I don’t think it’s really possible for either team to blow out the other in this game. It will come down to a time-of-possession battle and turnover battle more than any other game we’ve played this season.
“If we have to turn up the tempo, we can. We can operate in a two-minute offense pretty efficiently. So if it comes down to it in the second half, it might be one of those things where we know we have to score quick because when they get the ball again they might chew five or six minutes off the clock.”
(on the bowl experience) “We only have three guys on the team who have been to a bowl before. So by and large, this is a completely brand new experience for our team. It helps everybody’s pride just to say they’ve been in a bowl. It verifies that we are good players. We thought this was a team that was better than 6-6. And then from the standpoint of what we’ve been able to do, it’s been a lot of fun. We went to a comedy club, had an awesome dinner. Everybody has really enjoyed it. It’s been a lot of fun to be around your teammates for four or five days like this. You really don’t get to do that except for (preseason) camp, and this is a lot different than two-a-days.”
Senior defensive end Jared Williams
(on facing the Air Force option) “It’s not something you see every day. Not many people run it anymore. The first thing you have to do is focus on the basics of football. Tackling is huge. If you don’t tackle these guys well, they’re going to hit you for at least 4 or 5 yards a pop and they’ll be happy with that all day.
“And you also have to be assignment-sound. That’s where the practice time comes in. It really kind of takes away from your instincts as a defensive player. You almost have to become like a trained dog. You have one guy to focus on and you have to get to him. All the practice time helps you get that down.
“To do really well against this offense you have to find a balance between being an instinctive football player and being really assignment-sound. You have to have your assignment taken care of, but you also have to be able to make a play on somebody else if needed. The extra practice time has helped us find that balance, but we know it’s going to be much different in the game. So we’ve tried to prepare for that mentally.
(on the bowl experience) “It’s been really fun. Fort Worth is a great city. We went to Billy Bob’s. I had heard a lot about that place, and finally getting to go was a cool deal. It was a lot of fun. The comedy show we saw was great. We’re staying downtown, so being able to walk around and go to different places and spending time with the team, it’s been a lot of fun”
(on playing in his final collegiate game) “It’s hard. The first time I really thought about this being my last game as a senior was at practice (on Thursday), because it was our last true contact practice. I’ve been here five years, and I realized that this is it. You have to try to approach it like any other game and not let the emotions of the moment get you, because you still have a game to play.”