Air Force post-game quotes

COACH CALHOUN:  First of all, just really extend our gratitude to the City of Fort Worth and the great, great job that the people do here with this bowl game.  And, I mean, just class in every way, the activities they have for the participants, just all the organization, the communication, and the way ‑‑ really what they're all about. I don't think you'd ever be a part of a bowl game that represents more of something that's a little bit like the slogan they use. It's so much more than football. And that warms your heart to be associated with such a group and such a purpose, too. So that would be ‑‑ that's the way we feel.

Q. What explanation were you given on the tie recall?

COACH CALHOUN:  I didn't see the replay. Did you see the replay?

Q. Yes.

COACH CALHOUN:  What did it look like?

Q. Two steps after he went by. He hit him. Did they explain to you why the call was made?

COACH CALHOUN:  No. I'm not going to get ‑‑ if that's the call, that's the call.

Q. How did that change bringing Tyler Weaver in? And then you went with the other two safeties. How did that change what you do?

COACH CALHOUN:  You do. There's some alterations you make and certainly some things that you've got to ‑‑ there's some changes that you do have to make for what's involved there. But that can happen in football, you know, whether it's a call or whether it's ‑‑ or somebody getting nicked.

Q. Has Linn ever played strong safety?

COACH CALHOUN:  That's what we ended up moving to there late in the second quarter or at least later in the second quarter that's what we did.

Q. Is there enough carry‑over on the positions?

COACH CALHOUN:  Some. It was something certainly we had planned for, not necessarily we had wished for. That's the only way we could wish for.

Q. What did you think of his performance?

COACH CALHOUN:  He's a good player. Really, really good player. You can certainly see why there are franchises and organizations that you know will find him.

Q. Was there ever a thought of going away from man coverage?

COACH CALHOUN:  We did a little bit of everything. We played zone. We played man. We brought ‑‑ you know, you're allowed to bring anywhere from zero to 11.  We used a good number of the numbers in there.

Q. I see A.J. Ruechel started.  (Question about his injury.)

COACH CALHOUN:  He did on Monday, December 7th, meniscus, yes, sir.

Q. Have you ever seen someone recover that quick from that?

COACH CALHOUN:  It's pretty sudden. I mean, he's everything you want in a future leader and a future officer. He's mentally determined and tough and unselfish. Just really a high‑quality young man.

Q. (Question about a play in the end zone.)

COACH CALHOUN:  There's a little space in there that's required by NCAA rules.  You know, I think probably the part that's going to be very difficult, really, for us to grasp is this senior class is unlike any you've ever been alongside. I mean, just super, super remarkable young men. They got to earn it. They've got a ton of work that they still have to pursue and complete.

But in five months, you hope a good number of these guys are graduates of the Air Force Academy and do an exceptional job on active duty as officers. There are some guys you'll never have another one like them.  I mean, you can go down through pretty much that whole group. Just the offensive linemen that were able to ‑‑ I mean, they ‑‑ I don't know if it's ever possible to overachieve.

I don't know if there's such a thing, but they came pretty close to tapping their physical abilities. You go through Karson Roberts. Really, I mean, just a neat, neat, amazing young man.

Probably what makes these guys the most special is they don't think they're special. They're driven. But they have the ability passion‑wise to do something and to help others, and it's a little bit more than just solely about me.

Q. A couple of the touchdown passes, they were already in the end zone. Can you talk to me about the difficulty of keeping them from going deep and scoring in less than a minute?

COACH CALHOUN:  They did that. I think probably the other part, too, is there was some stretches throughout the game where I thought they ran the ball well also. And you look ‑‑ we felt one of the keys was at least try to disrupt somewhat some timing and some rhythm.

They did an excellent job in protection. And just ‑‑ there's some precision that's involved in terms of when the ball is released and a receiver coming out of his break. And some really, really fine throws and terrific catches, too.

Q. As a former member of the rules committee, were you part of making the targeting rule?

COACH CALHOUN:  Yeah, I mean, the spirit is things that are blatant that need to be removed. I think any time you launch and you go through the skull, that has no part in football of a guy that's defenseless.

Q. From what you saw, did that qualify today?

COACH CALHOUN:  Like I say, I have not seen the ‑‑ you saw the replay. What did you think?

Q. What I think doesn't matter.

COACH CALHOUN:  No, I want to know what you think.

Q. I didn't think it was.

COACH CALHOUN:  Just help me. Who in here thought it was? Who thought it was not?

COACH CALHOUN:  So got a few on the fence here. Who thought it was?

Q. I think by the letter of the rule, it is judging by the play. It wasn't blatant. Depends on the play.

COACH CALHOUN:  I wonder by the letter of the rule if you can ever call a grasp or ‑‑ I don't know. I mean, that's not for...

Q. Just wanted to know, Coach, this season ‑‑ every season is different. But if there was something that you could pinpoint, what is that ‑‑ what did this year's group of seniors teach you?

COACH CALHOUN:  Persistence, incredible grit, unselfishness, self‑discipline, sacrifice, humility, industry, respect. These guys ‑‑ some of those character traits that what you want.

That's not easy to do. We're 22 years old, honestly. When you're 22 years old to really be a part of something that's just more than just only the initial person, that's ‑‑ there's a pretty good understanding of that amongst this group.

And that's why whether somebody goes to med school, guys go to pilot training, guys working logistics, guys going Special Forces, guys go in systems acquisitions, just an amazing group of young men and women, too, that are at this school. I mean, they're the young men and young women that, frankly, when you're around just kind of daily, you think, You know what?  Where's the nearest recruiting office? I want to go enlist.

Or just to kind of see them, everything that's on their plate. And they try so hard to pursue at least in terms of the standards and their maturity ‑‑ that doesn't mean they don't have stumbles. But, by and large, the he's and the she's that are there are neat, neat people.

Q. Coach, going back to Goff, with your NFL background, is the sky the limit for him if he decides to go pro this year, next year?

COACH CALHOUN:  And the sky might be low in terms of description. I mean, he's ‑‑ he is one heck of a player.

I tell you what, they do an awful lot with him, too. The amount of amount of protection changes, route changes. He sees leverage of defenders. And then after the ball is snapped, a good number of the run/pass options that they have. Pretty unique skill set.

Q. For the two defensive players, tell me what it means in terms of scheme, in terms of how you play and in terms of mental aspect when you lose a big part of your defense as early as you did with the targeting call.

BRODIE HICKS:  Scheme‑wise, we didn't really change anything. We knew what we wanted to do coming into the game. As far as losing Wes (Weston Steelhammer), that really hurt us, but we figured that everyone else we needed to step up. But to lose such a key role.

Q. How different are the two safety positions, to see Hayes Linn come in and play that? Or did you play some strong ‑‑ how did that break down, and how different are those spots?

BRODIE HICKS:  The two safety spots, we all know where we are as far as strong safety. I know that as a free safety he's going to be here on this coverage. I'm going to be here on this coverage.

Hayes is one of the smartest guys on our team. He knows ‑‑ I swear he knows where the D‑line is going to be on any given call. So when he was asked to step in to play strong safety, it was just second nature for him.

Q. Karson, what did you think of the offensive performance overall?

KARSON ROBERTS:  Overall, it wasn't that good. I think we needed to capitalize more on the possessions we had, block a little better, better pitches and keep the ball in our hands, not theirs. We turned the ball over a couple times.

The big one was down the goal line where in scoring position that kind of ‑‑ it hurts a little bit. But I think we have a lot to kind of learn from and move on for the younger guys for next year.

Q. The first fumble, was ‑‑ did it get kind of caught when you were faking the handoff to Jacobi?  Is that what happened there?

KARSON ROBERTS:  Yeah, it was an exchange issue. I tried to pull it out and didn't get it clean.  So I need to be stronger with my hands. The rekey kind of attacked pretty fast so it got kind of a collision there. That's on me. I need to be stronger with the ball on that one.

COACH CALHOUN:  What did you guys think he was going to say? It's somebody else's fault? I mean, no.


Q. If you could just give your MOS, your occupational specialty, what you're looking into and just talk a little bit about the camaraderie that you built this season and what the future holds for you guys.

KARSON ROBERTS:  Well, I don't know if the juniors or sophomores have their jobs yet. They kind of put in preferences later on. I'll be doing developmental engineering in the Air Force and mostly doing mechanical engineering stuff. And I think in terms of camaraderie as a team, we're very, very close. We have kind of our brotherhood. And just the type of guys we have on the team are very special, and they're just all‑around people.

And then also just in terms of how close each position group is as well as the offensive unit and defensive unit, we're a close‑knit group. So I think that's something that will carry through for many, many years here.

GRANT ROSS:  Yeah, I think we're close‑knit. We go through a lot on the hill and just being teammates. We find it to pull it together and to prepare for the opponent. And I think we're ‑‑ we're close in that aspect as well.

 BRODIE HICKS:  Yeah, as far as the camaraderie goes, I'm in the same alcove as Karson. You're never going to replace any of the seniors that we lost this year. They're all great guys. As far as who we are as a team, bulk brotherhood is what stands with us and that will stand for life. Any time any of us need something, we know we have a whole other family that we can count on.

Q. What are your thoughts on the Cal offensive side today?

GRANT ROSS:  They were a good team, I mean, a good offense. They ran a lot of plays. And the quarterback was pretty good. But, I mean, their scheme worked it today. And we got to prepare and get ready for next year for offenses like that.

BRODIE HICKS:  We knew coming in how dynamic of a quarterback Goff was. We knew that they had really good receiving talent. We knew they were fast, strong. And it turned out our scheme just wasn't as strong. There's a lot of stuff that we are going to break down, we're going to learn from this. So that way we can come back and be twice as better next year.

 Q. Karson, you were on the other side. What did you think about the other quarterback?

KARSON ROBERTS:  He's a special player. Just the amount of ‑‑ the way he can get the ball out, the spots he can put it in. He's very accurate. He can put the ball in places where only his receiver can get it and it's really hard to defend.

In terms of from the offensive side, they had a lot of very quick possessions to where they moved the ball down the field very fast. They weren't on the field a whole lot and when they were, they made the most of it. They're very talented. We have to be better at least offensively and making the most of possessions going forward.

Q. Is there a point defensively where you know they're going deep down the field because they ‑‑ that seemed to be almost their offense. Second, third quarter, they just said we're going to go deep and beat you. Did you know that was coming? And is there anything you can do about that given the receivers and the quarterback that you're talking about there?

GRANT ROSS:  Yeah, we knew they were an explosive offense. But as a defense, I think we should take this game as a learning point and being better in the future honestly.

Q. Karson, can you speak to the season that you have had this year and to step up and fill that starting role. And you led your team to a bowl game, but now it's all finished. Can you speak to the season?

KARSON ROBERTS:  Yeah, it's been kind of a crazy season. We've lost some people at the front half and also kind of midway through. Team captain Connor Healy, we lost him for a little bit, but he bounced back and played pretty well today.

It's one of those things where you never know when your time is going to come. So it's just a matter of being prepared to go when your name is called. And I was ready to do that.

So in terms of just whoever the other guys are, you never really know, like I said, when your time is going to get called. So it's not the turn of events you really want just because you don't want to really see anyone injured. But it's part of the game, and it happens.

So I stepped in there and played my part. It's been a fun season. Not the outcome we wanted today, but I think overall we have a lot to move forward on as a program.

Q. Maybe not the outcome but you're still considering it a successful season?

KARSON ROBERTS:  I think so. In terms of getting to the Mountain West Conference championship, that's something we haven't done in a long, long time. It's a matter of just we have to go out there next year and for years to come and be able to finish it and play all four quarters and just be more assignment sound overall, I think. It's something we can learn from and move forward with.

Q. Karson, coming in the door and going out the door, what was one of the biggest lessons you learned when you first joined the Academy in that first off‑season until now? Can you talk about that. Now that you look back in on it and you remember that first game, can you talk about that.

KARSON ROBERTS:  It's tough. I mean, it's hard. It's a lot of work. You're down there a lot, a lot of hours, off‑season workouts, summer workouts, seven‑on‑seven stuff.

So I think kind of overall ‑‑ shoot ‑‑ what did I learn over this whole time? I don't know if I learned really one thing. There's a lot of things you kind of learn. I think one big thing is just competition. The amount of competition that's in college football is pretty awesome. Just a matter of you never know in spring ball everything is kind of wiped clean. Everyone has kind of a fresh start and you have a chance to prove yourself a little bit and get some playing time. So that's a big thing. It's just always be competitive.

Know who your good friends are. Going through the school, you know, you go through a lot of tough things with really good people so it brings us closer as a team and just as a unit and a squadron up at the Hill, whoever. And I guess it goes by really fast. So just take every moment and make the most of it.

Q. Brodie and Grant, we talked a lot about the senior class. But four of the five touchdowns were scored by guys who will be back. Top four tackles were made by guys who will be back. How much momentum goes forward now for those of you who will be back next year?

COACH CALHOUN:  Like we said, these guys, they mentioned it. They're irreplaceable, going forward, these seniors.

And how many guys ‑‑ there will never be another Karson Roberts at the Air Force Academy. There won't be. You look at those guys you have up front, Alex Hansen and Connor Healy and just going all the way through that group. Just an amazing group.

And so to have to hit reset, oh, baby. I won't say it's impossible, but there are probably 99% of the teams in the country wouldn't be able to do that.

Q. But for those of you who will be back, how much do you take from this season going forward?

BRODIE HICKS:  All the seniors that are heading out, they're guys that I've been with for three years. Just watching them, how they work, their attitude towards the game, towards the coach, towards the players, you learn a lot of just small lessons. And those are all things that personally I want to take on and try to be a better leader for the younger guys coming in.

And I know me and Grant here, we're coming back. But we got a lot of stuff that we need to improve on. And just watching film, looking at the seniors going out now, we're going to learn a lot from them. And we're going to translate that into our own game.

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