Cal Player Quotes, December 28 at Omni Fort Worth Hotel

No. 16, Jared Goff, 6-4 Junior, Quarterback, Novato, Calif.

About growing up watching Cal Football (his father played at Cal was well)

“It was fun, through a lot of great players and seasons. When I got to Cal we were 3-9 and then 1-11 and I felt a little responsible to bring them back to prominence. To get them back in the national eye and I think we have done that. My teammates and I have worked very hard to turn things around. Last year was a stepping stone at 5-7, this year at 7-5 so far was another one and it’s that moving forward progress where you want to be.”

About his imprint on the program

“Going from where we were to where we are now is definitely a hallmark for me and this team. It is something I am very proud of. We have gone from being very bad at 1-11 to reaching a bowl game and competing to win eight games are all great accomplishments for us. It is exciting. This has been our objective and hopefully we have built something that will continue in the future of Cal football.

About feeling pressure after opening the season with five wins followed by four straight losses

“I think my dad helped me a lot through this process, keeping me relaxed and reminding me to just go out there and have fun. It is the same game I was playing when I was seven years old and just keep that focus.

About close losses and what ifs

“Every bowl game is a great reward and we haven’t been to win since 2011 and it is the first one for me and the entire team. You want to win close games and we lost some this year but was also won some. It just seems to balance out every year. We could have easily won nine or 10 games the way we have played this season but the ball bounces different ways during a long season and we are just happy to be here at the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl. We have a good opponent in Air Force (8-5). We are ready for the challenge and it should be a fun game.”

About being in Texas again this year (Cal defeated Texas, 45-44 in Austin on Sept. 19)

“It gives you a bit more confidence and you feel a little more comfortable entering the bowl game. We are a little more comfortable with the weather changes as well.”

About playing against Air Force

“You just can’t look at numbers and just break them down individually. You look at films without any preconceived ideas. Air Force is good, there is no doubt about it. Good secondary, good linebackers and good rush from the defensive line, what you would expect playing in a bowl game. It should just be a great opportunity for both teams to go out and have some more fun playing football.”

About battling back after starting the season with five straight wins and then losing four straight before winning again

“I think we just tried not to freak out. I think everything that could go wrong did go wrong during that stretch of the season. We knew what was going on and we just didn’t catch a break. In the first five games that we won, we caught a lot of breaks but in the next four we didn’t and that just happens. We realy just tried to stay calm and not freak out or anything. Then the Oregon State game came and we played well, won and we felt like we had our ‘mojo’ back and became bowl eligible for the first time since 2011 as well.

Then we played well against Stanford but didn’t win and then beat Arizona State and hopefully we will win this game and finish winning three out of our last four games and get our eighth victory.”

No. 47, Hardy Nickerson, 6-0 Senior, Oakland, Calif.

About early life with his dad who starred at Cal and played 18 seasons in the NFL

“I lived all around and moved back to the Bay Area during my sophomore season in high school at Bishop O’Dowd and finished my high school career in Oakland. I grew up kind of all over. I was born in Florida, and went wherever my dad went in the NFL but we always called the Bay Area home. So, off-season we would spend in the Bay Area and in season we were wherever my dad was playing.

How much does it mean for you to have a dad who went to Cal (1983-1986) and was a star with the Golden Bears on defense before you

“It’s awesome. We compare out experiences all the time. My dad never went to a bowl game during his four years at Cal so this bowl game is even more special for our family. I am excited that I am the first Nickerson to make it to a bowl game and it has been a great deal for us and we are all so proud as family.

“I have learned the highs and lows of playing here just like my dad did. I think my dad’s best season the Bears went 5-5-1. My worst season was 1-11 which was very hard for me and he helped me get through that. You know last year we were 5-7 which meant there was no bowl game and that was tough. But I talk to my dad every day about what’s going on and he always has some great advice for me. He has helped me tremendous throughout my entire career.

About influence on this team to finally get to a bowl game

“It means the world to me.  You talk about all the seniors that are on this team and the juniors that have been here and gone through 1-11 and hit the bottom.  To finally get to this place to be playing in a bowl game and to win some respectable games and go 7-5 in the Pac 12 in one of the league’s best seasons are big accomplishments and being here is just huge.  We just can’t wait to play tomorrow.  There is an excitement about Cal football that we haven’t had for many years with recruits and even on campus at Cal. Students are very excited about Cal rising up and taking the next step.”

Speculation regarding the possible departure of Coach Sykes

“I wouldn’t say it was a distraction, but we wanted him back.  He has helped us out a lot these three seasons. To get us to a bowl game this season shows how much we have improved and how much he means to the program. There is great stability right now at Cal and we can only grow more for this place where we are now.”

“He has meant a lot to our program. Besides our record, we were having some academic difficulties and he changed the culture. Guys love going to class now where they weren’t always like that. We love working hard and we have really bought into his ideology about the game and life in general. Working hard and making sure we prepare the best. It has shown on game days.”

Memories of playing at Cal

“Wow. My first game and my first start in my redshirt freshman season we played against Northwestern. I ran through the tunnel with goose bumps, nervous. It was a night game on ESPN and on the first play, I was on kickoff coverage I ran over someone and I said to myself ‘we’re here now, let’s go’ it was so amazing. My dad was there, it was a memorable experience. Strawberry Canyon is just a beautiful place to play football.”

About playing against an option attack like Air Force.

“We have practiced against it a lot this week and this month. I think the biggest thing is ‘slow until you know.’ Once you see it, attack it. They are trying to get yardage fast. They run this offense near perfectly. It is going to be a lot for us to stop but I am excited for the opportunity.”

“Linebackers have the read run/pass responsibility, but this game we have definitely got to stop the run. They average over 300 yards rushing per game. Triple option is something we haven’t seen. We have seen some zone option teams like Oregon, but Air Force runs stuff we haven’t played against but we have a solid defense and should hold our own on the field.”

“They will lull you to sleep and then throw a surprise pass. We have to be alert. The big thing in this game is down and distance. They can run the triple option at any time. It could be third and eight and they can run it. You can expect run at any time. The play-action can get a lot of people and I think we are ready to challenge it.”

About ever having a doubt where he would go to college

“You know, we traveled so much and lived so many different places, I went through the recruiting process in high school. Didn’t always have my mind set on Cal but after my junior year at Bishop O’Dowd, I committed early to Cal and never second-guessed my decision. I never looked back. I love Cal, what it stands for academically and playing in one of the best conferences in the country in the Pac 12. Just couldn’t pass this opportunity up.  My major is legal studies, I will graduate and I will walk in the spring.”

Sonny Dykes, Cal Head Coach

Talking about the above players

“I can talk a lot about both of those guys. You know, as I alluded to earlier, they're both kids that really love Cal. I think it means a lot to them to play and have an opportunity to, you know, put on the blue and gold every Saturday and go out and compete and represent the university. You know, they're both incredibly unselfish. They're both guys that played a lot of football. I think this is Jared's 37th consecutive start, hasn't missed a start at quarterback, played a lot of football.”

“Hardy's been the same way, kind of been an Ironman for us defensively.  They're both team captains. “

“You know, they're just really good football players, and they're kids that have continued to get better and better and better and have provided leadership for us that's got us where we are right now and will, hopefully, continue to propel us in the future. So, you know they're special kids to work with. They love the game. They play with passion. They're both serious about their academics and, you know, guys that you're really proud of. And the things they are going to do off the field will be really incredible as well. “

“So, you know, excited to see them play tomorrow and looking forward to it. And, again, they've been a big part of our turnaround in our program, just their work ethic and dedication and unselfish nature and just really, really great kids.”