December 28 Media Conference quotes with Ringler, Dykes and Calhoun

A media conference featuring Brant Ringler (executive director of the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, Sonny Dykes (Cal coach) and Troy Calhoun (Air Force coach) was held Monday at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel.  Here is the transcript by Captions Northwest.  Here is the youtube video -

TIM SIMMONS:  My name is Tim Simmons. I handle media operations for the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.  Welcome, everybody.  

Without further ado, Brant Ringler, executive director. And what year is this for the Armed Forces Bowl for you?

BRANT RINGLER:  As executive director this will be my seventh game.

TIM SIMMONS:  Twelveth overall?

BRANT RINGLER:  Thank you, Tim. Thank you for being here today, and taking the time to cover our event. I'm excited about the matchup we have. We've been looking at Air Force all year long, And so, when we were able to finally acquire them to be in our game, it just adds so much to what we're trying to do here in paying tribute to the armed forces. And then, on the other side, when we were not able to have a Big Ten squad, to be able to go out and get the University of California Golden Bears just propelled this game even further, in my opinion.

The matchup is phenomenal. You have an NFL‑style quarterback for the University of California that we'll see tomorrow. I think, Tim, you already know of all the pro scouts that are here to see him perform tomorrow. And then, on the other side of the ball, with Air Force and their running game, third in the nation with over 333 yards per game, a stout defense as well in the top 20. I think it's going to be a great matchup that we'll have. 

So, hopefully, everything on the field rings true. But, as most of you know, the Armed Forces Bowl is more than a bowl game. And what we try to do here is pay full tribute to all our armed forces that will be at the game tomorrow through our ticket program, through our corporate sponsors that underwrite tickets. We already have over 12,000 tickets accounted for by military people that have gone online and signed up to be at our game. So we're excited to pay tribute to them. 

We have a lot of new events around the game as well.  Outside the stadium, we have our beautiful tailgate outpost which has within it both alumni groups will be in there. We have our VIP tents. We have I think an area called Veteran's Village with over 40 different organizations that are nonprofits mainly that are there to help veterans.  All the military hardware will be on display from all the branches as well. And, following the game, we'll have a post‑game concert with country artist Kevin Fowler. He's done numerous shows overseas with the USO, so he's excited to come here as well. 

And then inside the stadium, we have, again, numerous things occurring, starting with our pre‑game Wings of Blue jump team, and a beautiful flyover that's being planned right now.  A little bit of a delay with the weather, but they're coming in today.  We have four F‑35 planes that will be flying over in a four‑ship formation. It's never been done in a college football game. It's only been done once before at a sporting event, and that was the NFL Pro Bowl last year. So we're excited about seeing that.

And, throughout the game, we have various activities to pay tribute to our armed forces.  We will be reuniting a family from overseas. We're going to be doing a home giveaway to a wounded warrior. We have our Great American Patriot award at halftime that will be given to Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Mark Welsh.  We're excited.  We look forward to tomorrow and having a great game.

TIM SIMMONS:  The flyover is coming from the south to the north?

BRANT RINGLER:  As of right now, with the wind conditions and everything, that's what it looks like.

TIM SIMMONS:  How did Cal get selected when you had two Pac‑12 teams down here? What went into the process of determining who was going to be the opponent? Did you flip a coin?

BRANT RINGLER:  Well, as you know, ESPN Events oversees two bowls in the Metroplex, the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl and Lockheed Martin Bowl. We have contracts with the Big Ten and Big 12 to play every other year in those two games. So this year we were slotted for the Big Ten and the Armed Forces Bowl. And, when they didn't qualify enough people, we saw that kind of coming. And so we started our conversations behind the scenes with the Pac‑12 to make sure we were in a position to have a team that had at least a 6‑6 record or better. And, fortunately, we have Cal, which is 7‑5.

TIM SIMMONS:  Talk a little bit about the trophy. Air Force, obviously, fifth time here but first time playing for this trophy.

BRANT RINGLER:  Yeah. Both schools have an Armed Forces Bowl trophy in their trophy case, but they do not have one like this.  In 2010 we redesigned the trophy. We worked with the various military branches to donate decommissioned parts from the battlefield. And then we melted down those parts into this trophy. 

In addition, the USS Fort. Worth was being built. And we took a piece of that and put that in the trophy as well. There's pieces from all the branches in there, and we think it's very deserving for what our game is all about. 

And this trophy right here actually went around the nation. It has over 13,000 miles logged during the college football season as it went to over a dozen Lockheed Martin facilities across the country as they wanted to make sure their employees had the ability to see it because about 40% of their employees are veterans.

TIM SIMMONS:  One question we forgot to ask you last year was about the weather, and it turned out to be an awful day with a great game.  What about this year?  52 and sunny?  Any other causes of concern?

BRANT RINGLER:  Well, I think we've had the full Texas weather this past week, you know, with our game in Dallas ending with the funnel clouds to rain right now and had snow last night.  It's great to see tomorrow's forecast is, like you said, 52, 53 degrees, sunny to partly cloudy.  We want our flyover to occur.  We want our jump teams to occur.  So we're excited about that tomorrow with a 1:00 kickoff. In the past, we've had an 11:00 kickoff, so I think that will add 10 degrees difference there for us, too. So the fans have no excuse not to come out.

TIM SIMMONS:  Of course, ESPN will do it nationally. And then we have a national radio network headed by Brian Estridge.  It will be both in Spanish and English.  Talk about the future of the bowl game. What's the matchup next year, and how does it look for future years?

BRANT RINGLER:  Well, Lockheed Martin is in the second year of a three‑year partnership, so we were confident that they will be coming back for us in the future. So it's great to have the great support from Lockheed Martin. 

Next year, we have already confirmed that Navy, as long as they win their six games, will be in our game as the Academy representative versus, hopefully, a Big 12 school. In 2017, we have an agreement with Army in place.  So our future's bright.

TIM SIMMONS:  Any other answers you want to give? 

BRANT RINGLER:  I'll give answers to any questions.  How about that?

TIM SIMMONS:  Any questions?

Q. You mentioned matchups style‑wise, with passing offense and rushing offense.  Did that play into your decision to have these teams here, or were there enough candidates, basically, from the Pac-12 you were able to make the choice?

BRANT RINGLER:  Well, there were three Pac-12 teams out there to discuss. And, fortunately, we looked back at when we had Cal and Air Force last time, highest scoring game that we have had ever, beautiful weather day, great attendance. That all came into play. The schools have their needs as well, and we want to try to accommodate them as best as possible. 

I think Washington had a desire to be over in Dallas early on. They wanted to play sooner than later.  And Cal was hopeful to be in this game as well, because they're aware of what we do here and they want to be a part of it.

TIM SIMMONS:  Any other questions?

Q. A lot of flights canceled and things like that. Have you heard from fan bases that are struggling to get here?

BRANT RINGLER:  No. I've heard flights have been rescheduled. And I think a lot of people are going through that today, I think. But, by the end of the day, they should be fine.  So it looks good overall.

TIM SIMMONS:  Okay. Any other questions for Brant?  After the luncheon, we have a luncheon at 12:00 noon. Any media member will want to stay around for a ticket. And I forgot to mention, we have a parking thing. We have a coupon to get out of the garage.

BRANT RINGLER:  Charles Haley is our luncheon speaker. He will be available after the luncheon as well.

TIM SIMMONS:  Anything? If not, Cal's about two minutes away. I would like to introduce Jim Melton, new athletic director at the Air Force Academy.  Any questions for him?

BRANT RINGLER:  Put him on the spot.

TIM SIMMONS:  You can come up here. And, once he gets here, we'll get Brant up here to get a picture. And Brant's available if you want to talk to him one‑on‑one.

Again, we'll have transcription of Brant's and the coaches within an hour after we're done.  

TIM SIMMONS:  Welcome, everybody. First of all, let me introduce the two athletic directors who are up here, Michael Williams from Cal.  Jim Knowlton from Air Force.  My name is Tim Simmons. I handle media operations for the game. And, during the game, I'll be down on the field with Dominic Park. We have Drew Harris. Drew, if you will step forward. He will be handling the press box operations during the game. 

I would like to introduce the two SIDs right now. First time out from California, visiting, Kyle, can you introduce your two players. 

KYLE McRAE:   Quarterback Jared Goff and linebacker Hardy Nickerson, Jr.

TIM SIMMONS:  Both of their fathers played in the league.  So spent time in Amarillo, so I think he's part Texan. 

Troy, if you could introduce your players.

TROY GARNHART:  We have starting quarterback Karson Roberts and starting defensive lineman Alex Hansen.

TIM SIMMONS:  We'll open it up with the visiting coach. Sonny, welcome, and talk about your team.

COACH SONNY DYKES:  First of all, I want to thank Brant and the Bowl Committee for the hospitality. We have had a great time.  I know the players have enjoyed the experience. We only have one player currently on our team that's ever participated in a bowl game and played in a bowl game.  Mustafa Jalil is the only player that's played in a game. So it's a new experience for most of our players. They've had a great time. Everybody's been incredibly nice. You know, you talk about Texas hospitality and everybody just shakes their head a bit and says, yeah, yeah, yeah. And then people get here and, again, people have been so nice and hospitable. And I think our guys have really had a good time, and we're real appreciative of everything. 

We are excited about this group of young men.  It's been a fun football team to coach.  I really have enjoyed the opportunity to work with them.  We have a great senior class.  These guys have been through a lot and have provided a ton of leadership for us.  Really kind of unique football team when two of your leaders, Jared and Hardy, both of their fathers played at Cal. And so this experience and this football team, this program means a lot to those guys. And that makes it more fun for them to have an opportunity to kind of get the program back where it needs to be. 

So we know we have our work cut out for us. Air Force is a really good football team, very experienced. They've been through this many times in the past. They play incredibly hard, execute.  And that's really what football is all about, about execution and playing hard and tough football. And those guys do that as well as anybody in the country. We'll have our hands full. We're excited about it, and it's been a really fun football team to coach. And, you know, our guys are excited to play tomorrow.  Looking forward to it.

TIM SIMMONS:  Coach Calhoun?

COACH TROY CALHOUN:  Yeah. I would like to echo what Sonny had to say. It's been a great, great, stay. We've been fortunate to be a part of this bowl in the past. And Brant and all the crew there with the Armed Forces Bowl do a sensational job. And then, certainly, to have such a fine sponsor in Lockheed Martin, I made reference to it when we came down a couple weeks ago.  I think some of our guys are going to be maybe employees at Lockheed Martin. Certainly some of the guys that are part of our team will have to go out and carry forth or operate an F‑35 or an F‑16, a C‑130, whatever that may be. That's part of the commitment our guys made following playing, not just football, but concluding there at the Air Force Academy.

So our squad, we came into the year with very few returning starters. And we had a good bit of turnover during the season with various players that had to emerge into roles. And I thought we did a good job of that. Really good job of it. And yet, even more so, certainly look forward to what our guys do once they're done there at the Air Force Academy while they're on active duty and some of their other endeavors that go after. So really a quality group of young men. And it's neat. 

We know we're extremely fortunate. Anytime you're in an opportunity to play in a bowl game, the degree of difficulty that's involved in that, to be able to get here. And we're here. And we've been fortunate to make the most of this trip. And we look forward to playing against an outstanding opponent in Cal.

TIM SIMMONS:  Starting with you, Sonny, weather hurt preparation?

COACH DYKES:  You know, not really. We came in on Christmas Day, had a really good practice. A lot of guys started ‑‑ we started on the West Coast. And some of them started at 2:30 a.m. And so they got together, they did a great job of being mentally focused and practiced pretty well. We had good weather. 

And then the next day, day after Christmas, we had some West Texas winds that I think they blew in straight from Lubbock. So we had 40, 45‑mile‑an‑hour winds. But the guys ground through it. I think we got some work done. 

Yesterday, we were fortunate where we're practicing has an indoor facility, so we had a good walk‑through. And we're a team that does a walk‑through two days prior to the game and does a full‑speed practice the day before. So we will be over at TCU today. I think we're going to be in their indoor this afternoon and look forward to having a good practice and getting some work done today and getting our timing down. 

Anytime you have a bit of a break, I think that's what you worry about probably as much as anything else, is making sure that, you know, your timing is down. And we have to get a lot of those little details worked out in practice and need to go into tomorrow's game with a lot of confidence. And what football comes down to is execution and, you know, we need to execute at a very high level tomorrow. Air Force will do a great job of limiting our possessions. And we have to be really precise with those possessions when we have the ball. 

We've had good preparation. The guys have been mentally focused. They've been sharp and into it, but we have got to continue to do that.

TIM SIMMONS:  Troy, problems with the weather?

COACH CALHOUN:  No, sir. I mean, obviously, we're all aware ‑‑ you go through the last 48 hours, we were able to practice down at Kennedale. They were fantastic. And being able to go outside, being able to get quality work, being able to have good film, which I think is important to teach and be able to derive some of the things that occur, and then to be able to rehearse all the necessary situations that you have to cover here over the last few days. So not at all. We've been very fortunate that way.

TIM SIMMONS:  Talk a bit about the matchup with Air Force. What are the keys?

COACH DYKES:  Well, as I alluded to earlier, just, you know, they do such a good job of keeping the football away from you. I think that's ‑‑ when you sit down and put the tape on, you know, they just ‑‑ they keep the ball away from people. They grind it out. They make first downs. And then all of a sudden, you look up and they're making big plays as well. 

So, defensively, we have got to play assignment football. It's a little bit different for us, a unique offense, something we don't see really at all. And so there's going to be an adjustment associated with that.

We've tried to replicate the look the best that we could, but we're certainly not going to be able to do it with the precision and speed that Air Force does it. So there will be an adjustment going on.

Troy and his staff do a good job of staying a step ahead. As you adjust, they adjust. And you're just trying to catch up the whole time. They are so good at what they do and well‑versed. You have just got to figure out a way to get off the field. That's the important thing defensively. And, when you have the football, you have to execute at a high level, cannot afford to turn the ball over. Have to play penalty free. Can't get into third‑and‑long situations. They do a really nice job of pressuring the quarterback and contesting throws and long yardage situations. So we have to stay out of those the best we can. And, you know, it's going to be important for us to maximize every possession.

TIM SIMMONS:  Talk about Cal. Have you learned anything more about them?

COACH CALHOUN:  Oh, I think you're always learning. We'll find something, a few more discoveries. A tremendous football team. Excellent defensively. I think we have significant concerns, as we should, especially going up against their front. And then, offensively, they're splendid. You see it repeatedly how well they get the ball down field, how well they get it out in space, how well they throw screens, and how well they'll sting you when they run the football, too. 

You know, Sonny mentioned this a few weeks ago. This is a squad that, you look at the wins they've had, they've had some great, great wins. I don't think anybody in college football has played a tougher schedule than Cal has. When you look at it, at the full entirety of their season. And so heck of a team.

TIM SIMMONS:  Talk about the two players you brought today.

COACH DYKES:  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.

TIM SIMMONS:  Troy, about your two players.

COACH CALHOUN:  Yeah. The two we have here are Karson Roberts, our quarterback, and Alex Hansen, our defensive end. And both remarkable young men, everything that you would ever want in a future Air Force officer. And they completely get the service part of it. 

During the recruiting process, we're looking for guys that are at least two parts: 1200 SAT or 25 ACT across the board. And both of them were easily able to earn those board scores in order to come to the Academy. And just character‑wise, when it comes to humility, work ethic, a sense of service, and guys that lead by example. They're every bit of that and more.

TIM SIMMONS:  Sonny, any distractions this week with all your family around being back in Texas?

COACH DYKES:  No, it's been great. I have two little girls, a 7‑ and 4‑year‑old. So we came in on the 23rd. And my wife's family is from Wichita Falls, so they had a Christmas tree waiting and presents under the tree. So we did Christmas Christmas morning and had a great time, kids running around, and a lot of American Girl stuff. That seems to be the big gift this year.  So I've figured that whole thing out. It's a whole new thing for me, but they had a great time.

As I said, we've really enjoyed being back here, have had a chance to see a lot of friends and family. And, you know, my family's still trying to figure out how they're going to get here from Lubbock. I don't know if they will be able to figure that out before the game tomorrow or not. They've had weather there, and so it's a little bit challenging. But, you know, it's been great. My family's enjoyed it. Again, we had an opportunity to see friends and family that we haven't seen in a long time, so it's been a lot of fun.

TIM SIMMONS:  Troy, you're back here the fifth time with your team. And anything different outside the trophy?

COACH CALHOUN:  I think each trip's unique. Like I mentioned a little bit earlier, it's just so difficult for us to even get to a bowl game. And I think we realize, if you get to do it once over the four years

you're a part of our program, you're extraordinarily fortunate. And these guys have done it more than once. And especially as they get 25, 30 years down the road, whether they're a colonel, a general, working at Lockheed Martin, whatever they're doing, they will look back and, hopefully, those are good memories. And I think still ‑‑ my wife's from Houston, so we've still been able to go to Pappadeauxs over here off 20 and Pappasita's. So that makes for a good trip, too.

TIM SIMMONS:  Any questions from the floor. Mics on both side. Give your questions.

Q. For both coaches, I'm just curious, as fans of football, how intriguing do you find this matchup where you have the disparity of the passing offense on one side and the rushing offense on the other side?

COACH DYKES:  That's what makes college football unique.  I'm not a big fan of pro football because it's the same offense and defense Sunday after Sunday. And the great thing about college football, it's a game of extremes. You get to see a run‑and‑shoot team play against a triple‑option team or you get to see a spread‑run team play against a spread‑pass team. So you have two schools that go about doing things in different ways, but it's really the same thing.

Air Force is a team that's built on, you know, having answers. So, for example, if your guy does this, we do this; if your guys does this, we do this. And a lot of those answers take place on the first level, on the defensive front where they leave a D lineman unblocked and greet him. They do it running the football. 

We do it a little bit differently. We do it second level by throwing the ball.  It's the same concept, the same idea. If your guy does this, we do this. So they're really similar schools of thought, just go about doing it differently.

I think the thing that makes us unique is, obviously, Air Force has ‑‑ the student‑athletes are truly student‑athletes. These guys are guys that are going to go on and do great things when they're done playing football. You know, they're going to serve in the military. They made a huge sacrifice for all of us, and you certainly have to respect that and acknowledge that. And I have a lot of respect for that institution and what it stands for and the young men and women that attend that institution.

We feel that way about Cal. It's a unique university. It's been the #1 rated public university 24 consecutive years in the world. So, you know, these guys, every day, they have to grind in the classroom. And, you know, just like the kids at Air Force have to do as well. So I think that gives it more of a unique flavor just because you have serious students as well as very good athletes playing in the game tomorrow. So it's an interesting matchup in a lot of different ways.


COACH CALHOUN:  Yeah. The intrigue, I think everything that's involved. I think they're

completely ‑‑ in some spots maybe pretty drastic in terms of the body types that are going to be on the field. But, as Sonny mentioned, I mean, just initially, I think probably the common part of it, you'd say the contrasting styles. However, both squads, the commitment that's involved to what you teach fundamentally on the field and then being able to bring it all together, that's a real challenge as a coach, being able to take a philosophy or being able to take a scheme and, yet, more importantly, being able to get to the point where you can execute it quite well. And California does that. And, certainly, that's what we aspire to do, too.