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BELL HELICOPTER ARMED FORCES BOWL MEDIA CONFERENCE
December 1, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to our teleconference as we finalize the pairings for the 10th annual game to be played at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth on December 29, a 10:45 PM kickoff Central time, game will be televised by ESPN, along with being on ESPN radio.
With us is Brant Ringler. Brant, if you can just give us some opening comments about the pairing and what you have planned for the 10th anniversary of the bell Bell.
BRANT RINGLER: Well, thank you, we are very excited about the pairing that we have. But first I want to say, congratulations to Coach Bill Blankenship of Tulsa and the victory they had today and the conference championship of Conference USA, quite a win. It was kind of a twist and turn the whole game, and we didn't know until the last second what team we would have.
I'm actually down here in Houston and we are decided to have the Rice Owls in our Bowl game just as much as we are excited to have the Air Force Falcons.
Talking to Air Force, it's like coming home for them. It's their fourth Bowl game with us in the last six years and then on the Rice side they come into this game winning four in a row, they are on a hot streak, they are playing good ball, so I think it's going to be a fantastic matchup between these schools.
I would challenge any other Bowl, too, with SAT scores, I think we probably have the smartest Bowl teams in the BCS standings.
So we look forward to having a great match‑up. Coach Calhoun I know he'll have his team ready and Coach Bailiff, he's very excited to come back. And when I say "come back," he was actually in the original Fort Worth Bowl when he was on the TCU coaching staff. So he's had a little taste of Fort Worth with our Bowl game, and for our 10th anniversary, couldn't be better to have him coming and have Air Force, as well.
For the tenth anniversary, we have a lot of stuff planned for the teams. We also have a lot of stuff planned to honor the Armed Forces throughout the week. In addition, we will be playing in Amon G. Carter Stadium, the newly‑renovated stadium. We think the teams will really enjoy that and being a part of that, the alums and fans will definitely enjoy it.
Q. We are going to kind of have a military tradition going forward in the years coming.
BRANT RINGLER: No doubt about it. We have Navy scheduled for next year and we have Army scheduled the following year and in 2016, 2017, the same matchups, Navy and Army. We are still waiting to find out what we will do on the other side as Bowl alignments will occur in 2014.
Q. And then the scenario coming down to the last weekend with Tulsa and Rice, just mentioned or alluded to‑‑ you were sitting on pins and needles and didn't know who you had.
BRANT RINGLER: Yeah, throughout the game, it was back and forth. And UCF took the lead, the blocked extra point, it was being run back and the kicker chased the guy down and they took the lead by six, UCF did and Tulsa kept getting stopped on fourth down. And the crazy punt return that was out of nowhere that occurred, and then the guy misses the extra point.
Then, you know, the final play, you think it's the final play, Tulsa scores, but they are a down short and they have to do another play and they eventually win it. It was just one of those maddening games; exciting, but we are like, okay, are we having Rice or are we having Tulsa and we are going back and forth. It was eventually decided, the Rice Owls.
BRANT RINGLER: How are you today?
DR. HANS MUEH: I'm fine. I enjoyed watching that game just like you did, nip and tuck all the way.
BRANT RINGLER: No doubt about it. We are decided to have you guys back, as I told you a couple of weeks ago, it's always a special time when we have Air Force Falcons in our game. You and your staff are phenomenal people and we really enjoy working with you and look forward to hosting you down in Fort Worth soon.
DR. HANS MUEH: Well, we couldn't be happier going back to for the worth. As you know, you've treated us so well down there that we love to come back every year.
But let me add my own congratulations to Coach Bailiff for an incredible end run, winning five of the last six games and just a close loss to Tulsa in amongst those games. So we know we are going to have our hands full.
I want to also take the opportunity to thank Rice, and particularly Rice football for their support of the military, particularly the deployed troops. That has been very evident and we thank you for that.
Rick Greenspan and I have known each other since he was at Army, so we are no strangers. It will be sort of a homecoming. Rice has always been one of my special schools, and for us to be able to play them in the Armed Forces Bowl is to me the perfect match up.
Q. Dr.Mueh, obviously this week is kind of a special one for Air Force coming up with Scott Thomas going into The National Football Foundation Hall of Fame. And I talked to Scott yesterday and he's up in Wichita Falls flying for American Airlines, so it's kind of a special time for you folks there.
DR. HANS MUEH: It is, absolutely. And a bunch of us are flying out Monday to go to New York for the dinner on Tuesday. It is, it's an honor for Scott, certainly, but it's a big honor for us, too, because Scott is such an incredible representative of the Air Force Academy and the Air Force and we are excited to do that.
Yeah, December has turned out to be an incredible month. To cap it off with a game down there in Fort Worth, it just doesn't get any better.
Q. Well, it's special, too, Rice will have somebody going into the Hall of Fame, their all‑time quarterback, Tommy Kramer. So I guess it's in the cards.
DR. HANS MUEH: Yeah, absolutely.
Q. What will be the ticket allotment and that sort of thing that Air Force will have here?
DR. HANS MUEH: I think it's probably the same as it's always been.
Brant, you can probably jump in here.
BRANT RINGLER: Yeah, it's 10,000, and the last three times we've had Air Force, they were able to full those 10,000. I think one year they were even up over 12,000, nearly 13,000.
So I don't have the exact numbers in front of me but they always bring a great crowd and we are excited.
Q. Is there anything that you are going to be doing special as far as tickets or something as compared to the previous few years? It looks like you were selling out your ticket allotment.
DR. HANS MUEH: We started early on when we started going to the Armed Forces Bowl, we started the Tickets for Troops Program with our great corporate sponsors pitching in to help with that, and we have already got a head start on that.
So we are excited to offer some tickets to troops within‑‑ there are many, many military bases, Army, Navy and Air Force within a couple hundred mile radius of Fort Worth, so we are trying to make sure that they have an opportunity to go see this great game.
So we are well on the way with that. Our ticket sales at our place are going great guns. Our fans are excited about going back to Fort Worth. They have always had great experience there. So I anticipate we'll do very well in filling seats.
BRANT RINGLER: How long have you known Rick Greenspan?
DR. HANS MUEH: Really got to know each other when he was the AD at Army. So how long has that been? I've sort of lost track; five, six, seven years ago, at least.
BRANT RINGLER: Approximately.
DR. HANS MUEH: Somewhere in that time frame. I'm excited that Rick has the job down there at Rice.
Like I said, it's always been one of my favorite schools. They are very much like us and Army. So I think Rick fit right in there with the quality of kids that they get into that institution and quality of kids they have on their football program and their all athletic programs. It will be nice to see Rick again.
BRANT RINGLER: There's definitely an appreciation for the Armed Forces from the top down with Rick Greenspan; and Coach Bailiff, he went over to Afghanistan and spoke about it recently how touching it was for him and the respect he has for the Armed Forces. We always love seeing that as part of our game.
DR. HANS MUEH: Absolutely.
THE MODERATOR: Brant, do you want to introduce Coach Greenspan?
BRANT RINGLER: First of all, thank you, Rick, for your time today, and really enjoyed watching the game with you.
I'm glad it broke our way and we are so fortunate to have the Rice Owls and have you and Coach Bailiff and the wonderful job he's done with the team, we are excited.
We think this is a fantastic matchup and we know the Rice Owls will represent themselves well at our Bowl game.
RICK GREENSPAN: Thank you, Brant.
We are absolutely delighted to be selected to play in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. As some of you know, we are a Texas‑centric football team, all but a handful of our student athletes come from the State of Texas. A great number of them from the Dallas/Fort Worth area. And so for them to be able to play an outstanding opponent in a first‑class facility in a nationally‑televised Bowl game is absolutely very, very special for us, and so we are honored to have this opportunity.
And as was mentioned earlier, I have tremendous, tremendous respect for the academy. I spent a little over five years as the athletic director at West Point, and while all three of the large academies are bitter, competitive rivals, they have a tremendous amount of respect for each other, because there are few institutions where young men and women are expected to perform at the level of academic and physical and military capabilities.
So we look forward to competing, as they say at West Point, on the fields of friendly strife, with our friends and colleagues at the Air Force Academy.
I just am so proud of the job that Dave Bailiff did with his team. At one point we were 1‑5 and then 2‑6, and then for that young team, or one of the youngest teams in America, to essentially play every game as an elimination tournament, become Bowl eligible and win a number of games in the fourth quarter was very, very gratifying.
I know our president has great respect for the job Dave bail live and his team does, and so do I.
Q. Rick, since the former Rice AD is up here at TCU, Chris Del Conte, is there anything special that you are working on with him?
RICK GREENSPAN: Well, I haven't talked to Chris about it. It would be a little ironic, I think‑‑ I sit on the Texas Bowl Board, and I know that TCU is a program that's been in strong consideration to come to Houston.
So it might be ironic. It might be that we can both save some money and I can stay at Chris's house in Fort Worth, and he can have my house if we switch cities.
But I've been to the facility and the phenomenal job they have done revitalizing that stadium; and I think it will be very, very positive for our fans to have a chance to play in that, not just the town, but in that facility.
So I'll ask Chris for the best places to take our team and the best places to eat and I'm sure he knows most of them.
Q. Just in terms of your fan support, anything you can say in terms of the game being here in Texas and the alumni and your supporters; the ability to have a pretty easy drive to get to the game from all points just in terms of fan support.
RICK GREENSPAN: The Dallas/Fort Worth area is certainly one of the most attractive places to get to, literally from all over the country.
Anybody that's familiar with the two airports; and then the easy drives from San Antonio and Austin and Houston and Corpus Christi. We really will push very hard for our fans and our subway alums to take part in this game, because playing in front of a large crowd against a quality opponent on national television is I think one of the dreams that a young man has regardless of what college.
The other thing I guess I would like to pass on is a compliment to the Air Force Academy. I don't think either of our teams would probably like this description, but this football season, and particularly this post‑season, I think we can classify as a revenge of the nerds, because I think it might be the only time in history that Navy, Air Force, Rice, Duke, Stanford, Northwestern and Vanderbilt will all be playing post‑season football.
I have great respect for all those institutions and the quality of their academic programs and for them to continue to play after the regular season, I think is a very, very good story and one we are proud to be a part of.
THE MODERATOR: Coach Calhoun, we are tickled to death to have you back in Fort Worth. Could you just make an opening comment about Air Force advancing to the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, along with some comments about your opponent now that you know, the Rice Owls.
COACH TROY CALHOUN: Well, first of all, we are delighted to be part of a fantastic Bowl. We have been fortunate to be a participant in this Bowl in the past. I think they do a super, super job of, one, making sure it's a terrific experience for the young men that are part of both institutions. Great city. I think it's a credit to the organization, first of all, headed up by Brant, and then just the supporters throughout the Metroplex and specifically within the Fort Worth community.
For us, I'll tell you, back in August, we only had five starters coming back this season, two on defense and three on offense. And back in August, we were very, very far from being a Bowl team and yet there's an awful lot that you just really, really enjoy about this group.
We have certainly had teams that are more experienced or have been more experienced, and yet I think kind of the neat part about this crew, don't know if we have ever had a group that's been more spirited, more persistent. And it's neat, especially for these seniors, that they have a chance to play in another Bowl game and for them it's their fourth straight Bowl game which is quite an achievement, especially for the schedule that we've played, not only this year but over the last four years.
Q. A little bit about the Rice Owls, do you know much?
COACH TROY CALHOUN: I do. I've had a chance to watch them about four different times this season. You know, first of all, great, great institution. My wife's from Pearland, right outside of Houston; and before coming back to the academy, had a chance to work with the Houston Texans and spent a good bit of time around Rice. We would go to baseball games and had a chance to follow them on the football, too.
It's neat to see a school of that quality that also has a very fine athletic program, and they have good players. You know, that's one thing, I think with us being out and about here in the high schools over recent years, they have done a super job recruiting and identifying kids. I think each school is unique in their own way and certainly they have found ones that fit at Rice and yet they are talented football players, too.
Q. Since you've been to three of these games, will this be like a home game for you in Fort Worth?
COACH TROY CALHOUN: I tell you, one of the fabulous things, we went three years in a row in our first year here, following 2007, then 2008 and 2009; each year, like I said earlier, they do such a super job of creating different opportunities and experiences for your guys that it actually seems like quite a while since we have been there.
So we are excited. Great food; great, great hospitality and I look forward to playing in a terrific venue with the upgrades that have been made there, too.
Q. Obviously you have not played since the 24th I guess, will the long layoff affect you or will it benefit you since you ended the season playing a tough opponent, San Diego State and Fresno State.
COACH TROY CALHOUN: I think it's really going to help us here. Here is what we have done: Our guys have the longest semesters out of any school in the country, and our freshmen have been here since June 25th when they began basic training and then all of our upper classmen have been here since July 10 on the grounds of the Academy, and they virtually have had no break at all. It will be really, really good for us to go home.
Whenever you get to go home and even if it's only three nights rest, those are three good soldiers nights rest and it tends to really revive your guys.
So I think it's a plus, a huge, huge plus, and then I think the other part, just some of the experiences, when you have guys that have not played a whole lot of football, I think this year we were second in the country with the number of first‑year starters; it gives you a little time to reflect and so I don't think it's unfair at all to ask us to be a pretty veteran football team and play well in the Bowl game, which our guys want to do, too.
Q. You also had a new quarterback, I think you had Tim Jefferson three or four years leading your team, and now you have a different quarterback. Talk about your offense and was it a big change this year for you?
COACH TROY CALHOUN: You know, I think it had to be. From year‑to‑year, always felt that at the Air Force Academy, one of the things, we change our system every single season based upon the strengths of our personnel. We had to do that this year.
I think probably about the last six games of the season, he played through some good bit of bumps and bruises, which most guys are always going to have, that's part of playing football, and Connor has done a fine job, terrific leader. I think one of the neat things to follow. He graduates on December 19 from the academy, which means we'll have an Officer, a Second Lieutenant playing for us down there at quarterback down there at Fort Worth.
Q. With the time between now and the Bowl game, what's the schedule? When will you arrive in Fort Worth and do you have any special planned?
COACH TROY CALHOUN: What we are going to do is this. We have finals, they start in two weeks, two weeks from today. And so we are going to make sure here over the next 12 days or so, our guys have an awful lot of time allocated for the preparation, just the tutoring to get ready for their exams.
Our guys are all taking at least 18 semester hours, and taking some classes that are pretty challenging in terms of the curriculum. So make sure we take care of our schoolwork and what we are going to do is have them all go home on the 19th of December. And then what we will do is convene down there in Fort Worth on the afternoon of the 24th.
You would love for your guys to be home on the 24th and 25th, but I think one of the great things about being located there near DFW makes it pretty easy for family members and friends to be able to see these guys play in a Bowl game.
Q. We talked earlier today but we didn't know who the opponent was going to be. We find out that Air Force has some history with Rice. I think Air Force has won five of the six games that have been played. Is that an advantage at all?
COACH TROY CALHOUN: I don't think so. None of these guys were ever even in first grade when those games were played. You know, you think back to '85, I know we played them here in '86, and we jumped out to a pretty good lead. And I believe they came back and won that game 21‑17. You know, our guys, '85 and '86, they don't show up on any of their birth certificates.
I will say this, there's pretty neat history there at Rice. And I think a good number of our guys will kind of know one another. I think their quarterback went to the same high school as Drew Coleman. Especially our guys that are from Texas.
It will be a fun football game. They have played, especially here over the last five weeks of the season, have played exceptional football.
Q. You've always talked about playing your best football in November. They have; maybe your team didn't do that this year. Does that give them an advantage?
COACH TROY CALHOUN: Well, they have. They have played quite well here down the stretch of the season.
We are going to play well I think in the Bowl game. Just get some of our guys revived a little bit and being able to get some of those guys like Josh who was a starting inside linebacker, Anthony, Connor, our best special teams players, Austin Hayes, who started at center for us through most of‑‑ at least the first half of the season, getting those guys back, for us, I think will be a big boost, too.
Q. A former Air Force coach also coached at Rice, Ken Hatfield; a little connection that way?
COACH TROY CALHOUN: You know, I think so. Just an absolutely‑‑ you're not going to meet a classier human being. Great, great football coach, you look at every stop, he had tremendous success.
When he was at Air Force, he did an awful lot to rejuvenate this program with Bowl games in '82 and '83, went to a Bowl game every year at Arkansas, including his last two years when they were Southwest Conference champs and played in the Cotton Bowl each of those two years. Terrific teams at Clemson and really did a heck of a job at Rice, too. Good number of winning seasons. You know, tide for first, I think in the final year, the old southwest conference.
He's a guy that should be in the college football Hall of Fame as a coach. And just when it comes to integrity and a guy that's a great, great leader, and somebody that's certainly done an awful lot, especially with these two institutions. There's definitely a link there.
Q. Could you expand on the connection and how special it might be that you are facing Rice, considering your time just a few miles down the road with the Texans? And will you talk to Gary at any point since his son is on the team?
COACH TROY CALHOUN: Ironically two days ago I got a text from him.
I can remember when Klein was just a little guy, running around the facility there in Denver when we were with the Broncos. It's neat to see all three of those boys how much they have grown up.
I can remember Gary, because his brother‑in‑law, David Pierce, who was assistant baseball coach there for a long time who is now at Sam Houston State, just how strongly he always felt about Rice, too. So I imagine at some point that we will.
Q. Anything initially jump out?
COACH TROY CALHOUN: I think defensively, they have really made some progress throughout the year, and it looks like for the most part they have been able to stay healthy when you watch; being able to play the same guys week to week.
And then offensively, I think they have exceptional balance. I think they run the ball well. I think they have a quarterback that has good feet. So they make plays both on the ground and yet also through the air. Just really a well prepared football team.
I think one of the pluses, when you have pretty sharp kids, is they can be or are capable of being extremely responsive to coaching, and clearly those guys have been getting good direction from that staff.
Q. Do you think it gives you an advantage knowing the area, the stadium, having played here?
COACH TROY CALHOUN: You know, I don't think so. I would just say that from the standpoint that I'm sure they have had a good number of guys from around that area, too, because most of those guys are Texas kids.
I will say this: We very much look forward to seeing the way that place has been modernized. I look at the job they have done there at TCU with their administration, with Coach Patterson and just their vision; the energy, the direction and the support that's been engendered amongst their alumni and the t c you community and within Fort Worth, I can't wait to play in their stadium on December 29.
Q. Any of the renovations you've seen or heard that you're interested in seeing?
COACH TROY CALHOUN: You know, you just think back to those few times that we were able to play there in the past, and you know‑‑ I know the decks have changed. To see some of the significant upgrades that they made, probably you think your families that go to the game in terms of the simple amenities, whether it's the concessions or the restrooms; and certainly the modern seating that's been done, probably primarily for revenue generation; and to also be able to draw some of the corporate backing, too.
Q. Connor takes over this year, his first year behind the helm. You touched on it, but can you explain how much of a different player he is from August to now going into this Bowl game?
COACH TROY CALHOUN: I think Brent, the first half of the year, he's one of those guys, probably we knew it back in the summer, we thought, how long can he hold up.
Connor is not a guy that when he's near the sideline, and he sees a coalition coming, that I'll get as much as I can and step out of bounds. He's one of those guys that always has his shoulder loaded, pretty spirited and fiery competitor.
You know, just probably as natural of a leader that you're going to be around, just because he's sharp, passionate. He compares immensely. He's unselfish and is a pretty tough kid.
But one of those with good poise, and I think what we are going to find, he's going to play really, really well in the Bowl game and we'll need him to play really, really well, too.
Q. Are you going to tell him maybe start going out‑of‑bounds once in awhile?
COACH TROY CALHOUN: I learned sometimes about these academy kids, they have got a little something to them that I think naturally when you gravitate and you go to the Air Force Academy, you yearn a little bit for some collisions. I don't think you're going to change him, especially when he's only got four quarters of football left.
Q. Coach Bailiff was joking when asked what he needed to do, stop the pass, but obviously you're a running team‑‑ looking at the stats, Cody, his first five games of the year, have you seen anything like that before, almost 900 yards during that stretch?
COACH TROY CALHOUN: For us, you mention that, but the truth is, we play our best football when we do throw the ball extremely efficiently.
We are one of those teams that every single year, I tell our guys, and probably say, guys, if we want to have a chance to have a winning season, I think especially this year, or here in recent years, we felt like we had to be as good as there is in terms of limited penalties, and yet the other thing we really mentioned, has been very efficient throwing the football.
Cody is a great, great story. A guy that has not played a whole lot, at least here at the academy until his senior year. He's only 162 pounds and probably the tiniest back in the country. But has good feet and he cuts well, loves to play, and he'll be one of those guys I think that will be a lot of fun to watch on December 29.
Q. Coach Bailiff, talk about coming back to Fort Worth.
COACH DAVID BAILIFF: You know what, that was an exciting time for us when we went to the Fort Worth Bowl. I was part of that TCU staff that went with Gary Patterson. But I'm going to tell you, we are so fired up to be heading to the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl this year. Our team is excited. That's where we wanted to go.
When Brant made that invitation to us, there was a bunch of thrilled young men, coaches; our president was there for the announcement. We are really looking forward to December 29.
Q. Your team obviously finished the season strong. Was that a benefit to have your conference play, you were 1‑5 and then turned it around and won five out of six.
COACH DAVID BAILIFF: Yeah, I tell you what, we were a good football team. We were competitive in every game.
And I think early, you know, we had some life lessons that we had to learn on how to prepare and focus and play for 60 minutes, and I think we applied those lessons as the season went on and we continued to improve from really the starting two‑a‑days to our last game against the University of Texas, ElPaso.
Very resilient group of young men that showed up, even when we backed ourselves into the corner and knew we had to win out to become Bowl eligible. They just did not have any bad days, they came over here willing to be coached, willing to go to work and willing to be led.
Along the way we had some great senior leadership and a lot of young men started leading from the middle, and just it was great to see these guys, you know today, where your goals and your dreams are coming together and there's just a sense of enthusiasm, excitement and we are ready to go to work and play Air Force Academy; what a storied program and we just look forward to competing against them. And at the same time, we honor them for what they do for our country.
Q. With Coach Hatfield coaching at both institutions, who is going to win the battle to have him as the honorary coach?
COACH DAVID BAILIFF: I promise you this: He's going to get a phone call from us, and we want him to be there and it wouldn't even matter really what sideline he's on. He's just one of the greatest guys that's ever been in the business, and you know, we are just hopeful that he can come to the game.
Q. Can you describe a little bit about your preparation leading up to the Bowl game and when will you arrive in Fort Worth, have you got all those plans worked out?
COACH DAVID BAILIFF: We are going to arrive the night of the 25th. We have taken this week off so they can prepare for finals. We are going to have some light practices next week. We are not going to work on Air Force, just going to get together and play seven‑on‑seven, throw the ball, stay sharp and try to stay somewhat in shape.
We are the same way, the finals‑‑ so much of this football team is pre medicine or going to law school where GPAs are important so, we have to be sensitive to their finals schedule. Once those are through, we will really begin to prepare for the Air Force Academy.
Q. You play SMU every other year and with Rice having a history in the southwest conference with TCU, any comment on that?
COACH DAVID BAILIFF: Well, you know, I can tell you that's one of the things that's exciting for us geographically is just to go to Fort Worth. I got to walk the fill ties this summer with Gary Patterson and looked at their new end zone and weight room and locker rooms and what they were doing to that stadium, unbelievable fill ties. It will be an exciting venue for this football team. I think it's one our fans will enjoy and it will really enhance the fan experience.
Q. How much help will it be in the Bowl game, Rice had the long drought, 40 years of not being there and now the second time in there; what's the benefit of Rice playing in the Bowl game?
COACH DAVID BAILIFF: First off, we have so many young men from the Metroplex area, it's going to be great. We met some coaches from that area, and it's going to be great for the fans and friends and families that won't have to drive very far to watch.
That helps you from a recruiting standpoint is, that we are keeping this Bowl game in the State of Texas because 98 percent of the young men in the game are Texans and it's an easy drive from Houston and San Antonio, so a great fan experience.
I'm honored that we are playing the Air Force Academy and just really excited to play. Coach Calhoun, too, has just kept the consistency in that program from Coach DeBerry. He's done an amazing job and we look forward to trying to figure out how to stop that option.
Q. With the extra practices, how much will that help you moving forward to get that additional work out in?
COACH DAVID BAILIFF: You know, the Air Force offense‑‑ option is non‑traditional but it will help us out there just with the reps offensively, defensively and also it will really help the younger players that have been on scout teams most of the season will really be able to introduce what we do offensively and defensively do them, because they have not seen it since August. There's some tremendous benefits when you move into spring training; they will already have the basic understanding.
Q. The history Air Force and Rice has, the history in football, does that play any factor into this game?
COACH DAVID BAILIFF: You know, I don't believe so. We were in high school back when they were playing and there's been such a gap, I don't think it will go one way or the other. I think it will be two really competitive football teams that are going to put on a great football game for our fans and the citizens of Fort Worth.
Q. Everybody talks about the fact that this game might have as far as personnel is concerned, the smartest bunch of players of any of the Bowl games.
COACH DAVID BAILIFF: Well, I know what we‑‑ at Rice, the academic profile we are looking for, really duplicates that, what the can a academies are looking for.
I was talking to our sports information director and we were laughing that I could talk to Coach Calhoun, and if it went into overtime, we could have a spelling bee or a debate to decide the winner.
These are the greatest kids, young men to coach, because they are so highly motivated academically and they are highly motivated athletically and I know he's got the same type of young men that I do.
But his are going on to serve our country, and that's what really make this is a special football game.
Q. You have a special pride with your trip overseas a few years ago. Can you talk about that a little bit more, what you got out of it and the meaning of it, to go over there and visit the troops?
COACH DAVID BAILIFF: Yeah, it was‑‑ I had to go to Afghanistan and I was in the country for nine days, and just when you meet the men and women in the Armed Forces and you got to meet them from all of the different branches, you just see such pride in their mission. The morale was just incredible, the way they serve our country and protect our freedoms here, which enable us to go play this Bowl game.
But when you are amongst them and you hear them talk passionately about what we are doing in Afghanistan and why we have to be there, really just makes you so proud to be an American and it just has increased my patriotism; just where when you see somebody in uniform, you have to stop and thank them for the job they are doing to keep us free and to protect our children and it just gives you a renewed sense of how proud you are to be an American and how great this country is.
Q. I know it's still a couple weeks off but what will be the biggest challenge in trying to either solve the Air Force team, especially the offense?
COACH DAVID BAILIFF: It is challenging because of what they do offensively. You know, that's tough and it takes such great discipline to get somebody on the dime to quarterback to pitch and you can't get distracted. And if you don't use all the clues that are available, all of a sudden they launch one over your head on a playaction post.
So it makes you stay focused every snap, and you have to‑‑ at the same time, you can't just blitz it, because if you do, usually they hit their head on a goal post going the other way.
So it's one where we'll have to work on some different techniques in what we are doing in our defensive line and change our reads with our linebackers and safeties. It presents a challenge.
Q. Is there any one player that has really stood out for you that will kind of be featured in the game, or is it just a team of 11 on each side just going after it?
COACH DAVID BAILIFF: You know, the amazing thing, we only have seven seniors. We are a very young football team, and we have got four seniors on offense and three on defense, and you know, it's just a tribute to those seven seniors because they would not let anybody give up.
You know, I tell what you else is going to be fun about this game is a lot of our players know each other, because they have got some‑‑ like Drew Coleman, I know went to high school with our quarterback, Taylor has already mentioned that he and Drew have talked. So there will be some bragging rights from each other's teams.
Q. Since your last Bowl game, I guess that was 2008, do you have any players of those seniors that played in that Bowl game or is it a brand new team?
COACH DAVID BAILIFF: Well, we don't have anybody that played. We have a couple that were here that red‑shirted, Luke Wilson, our big tight end, Vance McDonald, Jared William. None of them played in it so they are really excited about this opportunity.
Q. Do you think that works to your benefit or disadvantage? Air Force has been to four straight Bowls; is that an advantage or disadvantage?
COACH DAVID BAILIFF: I don't know, we are just excited to be going to our first Bowl game since 2008. We have our quarterback, Bryce Callahan, he will be back for this game; our tight ends will all be healthy. So I'm glad we are getting this great and we'll be able to go to Fort Worth with a very healthy football team.
THE MODERATOR: We appreciate everybody being a part of this.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports