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TOSTITOS FIESTA BOWL: KANSAS STATE v SYRACUSE

December 31, 1997

Michael Bishop Darren Howard Darnell McDonald Travis Ochs Bill Snyder

TEMPE, ARIZONA

COACH SNYDER: You'll have to ask the questions. I don't have a whole lot to say other than, as I said before, we do truly, and this is just not someone who won a ballgame making an idle statement, I have the greatest respect for Syracuse University, coached under Paul Pasqualoni. Paul is a tremendous football coach, obviously his success speaks for itself. He doesn't need me to applaud him because he has plenty of people that will do that. I assure you that they're really an excellent football team. Outside of that, I'll open it up for questions.

Q. Did Michael's performance tonight reflect the improvement you hoped he had made?

COACH SNYDER: I think so. There was still a little rust on Michael, but overall I thought he played very well, did a lot -- again, a lot of the physical things that only Michael can do. I thought he threw the ball well. We knew we'd have to throw the ball going into this ballgame. This is not a football team you line up and knock around all day. You have to throw the ball to have a chance. That was a concern because I think Mike was completing about 43 percent of his passes, that's not enough to beat a team like this. That wasn't the case tonight. I was awful pleased with his performance in the throwing game. Syracuse did a nice job, defending Michael most of the time in regards to the running game. They knew exactly how to defend against that. Anyway, they defended against it quite well.

Q. How would you assess McDonald's play today?

COACH SNYDER: Darnell was tremendous, I thought. I think he stepped up today. He's had some very fine ball games, but he's never put it all together like this. Then again, he had more opportunities today. He had seven opportunities to catch the football. I'm not so sure that he didn't make something pretty close to an excellent play every time he caught the football. There were some very fine catches. He made some excellent efforts after he caught the football. Darnell was a big time player today.

Q. Were they covering Peries more?

COACH SNYDER: Not necessarily, No. I think it was just part of the plan that we'd like to get the ball to Darnell a little bit more.

Q. Was the tightend screen something you put in special for this game?

COACH SNYDER: Well, we did. It wasn't necessarily anything that Syracuse did that told us we should throw that. It's just that's been part of our package. We haven't used it. We need to take a few things into a ballgame that we haven't used before.

Q. . Importance of the third quarter defense, when you're doing some mistakes on offense, special teams?

COACH SNYDER: Was it important, yes.

Q. You allowed 18 yards in that quarter.

COACH SNYDER: That was good (laughter). I'm all in favor of it. The question was, I would address that, I think that was a critical point in time in the ballgame because the ballgame got a little closer than we had hoped for in the third quarter. Defensively, we held on and really ate up some clock, gave the offense to get together and gel before they scored, whatever it was, the couple three touchdowns in there. We played good, not as well as I would have liked, but the third quarter was very significant.

Q. After five years of being perceived by the nation as a fluke, what does this win do for K State now?

COACH SNYDER: Well, I don't know. I've never thought what we've done has been a fluke. I'm the only one I have to please. Really, you have to ask yourself that question. I mean, that's a media thing, you know. That's what's in the newspaper, if it is. I mean, it's not in every newspaper. I read a lot of newspapers and see some TV things once in a while that think that K State is all right, so.

Q. Defensively, you seemed to frustrate McNabb all night. What were you doing especially concentrating on him?

COACH SNYDER: I don't know that we frustrated him all night. He frustrated me a whole portion of the night (laughter). He can tell that game, when he pulls the ball down, quarterback draw, flush with it every once in a while, he was a threat. I thought he threw the ball seriously times, was very accurate, had a couple receivers make big plays on him. I heard Paul talk about it's not good to be third and 33, but if I remember correctly they converted that and got a first down out of it. It was a great play on Don's part, whoever the wide receiver was that caught it. No, I'm not sure how much we frustrated him. I don't know what he had in the way of yardage, but I thought he played well against us. He created some problems for us, I know that.

Q. What did you say to Mike Bishop after the interceptions?

COACH SNYDER: Well, I probably wouldn't want to share that with you (laughter). Michael wouldn't want me to share that. As I said, I know Michael is going to make a mistake now and then. He does and he did. But, you know, it's a learning process for Michael. I mean, that was something that is pretty elementary, I think, in regards to how to deal with that. Michael is one of those young guys sometimes that has a feeling that he can do most anything. You have to be careful with a youngster like that. In a lot of cases, he has. But then he can jump up and get you hurt sometimes. That's part of Michael's game is coming together and quite obviously hasn't completely come together.

Q. Request can you talk about the final two minutes of the first half and the decision to put Michael in the shotgun at that point?

COACH SNYDER: It would have been a terrible decision to put Michael in the shotgun. That's part of the deal that we're talking about. He wasn't supposed to be in the shotgun. You know, I don't want anybody taking deep snatch back there when we're backed up against the goal line. That's part of learning what this is all about.

Q. So that was not the play?

COACH SNYDER: It was the play. It wasn't the formation that we wanted to be in, that I wanted to be in.

Q. Seemed like you were content in the early part of the game with running the ball, testing your running game. It wasn't until you decided to start passing more the game sort of opened up.

COACH SNYDER: Well, I wasn't content with running the ball. We were trying to get some yardage. I found out very quickly that we weren't going to run up and down the field on these guys and we needed to throw it. I knew we had to throw it going in. Also it's important I think to attempt to establish the running game. I wanted to be able to do that. That would have made it a little bit easier for us to throw and probably did make it a little easier to throw. Most of the big games we had came out of play-action passes. That was probably because we had attempted to run the ball a little bit.

Q. What was your perspective on the 76-yard touchdown pass down your sideline in the third quarter?

COACH SNYDER: Well, Michael got flushed out of the pocket. He's done that quite a few times this year and found Darnell. You know, obviously Darnell made a great play. I thought that Darnell was about ready to get knocked out of bounds. I thought Darnell did a great job because he kept himself inbounds along the boundary when he got hit right on the sideline, at least I was standing and looking at it. Just one of those things, Michael making a play. He had a chance -- they had a little stun on. Michael got flushed out of the pocket. Some guys pull it down and run, or some guys overthrow that. Mike, nice play on his part.

Q. How concerning was it the way the first half was closed and going to the dressing room like that?

COACH SNYDER: Well, if I was ahead by 40, I'd still be concerned. You know, what I was concerned about was the fact that as we were leaving the field and coming into the locker room, you know, our football team had a demeanor as if they were behind. I had to remind them as soon as we got in the locker room that we weren't behind. We still had a lead. Pretty hard trying to give it away, still had a lead, we needed to play like we had a lead and not let people get back in the ballgame on us, which they had already done. It was a matter of focus, no more, no less than that. We went into this ballgame and addressed it on a number of occasions that focus was probably the single most important thing for our preparation and our execution in this particular ballgame. I thought after we got up 21-3, then we tend to lose focus on what we're doing. Kind of think maybe it's just going to happen. Against a good football team, it doesn't just happen.

Q. Were you concerned about Martin missing those two field goals?

COACH SNYDER: Yes, I was. I still am. Nevertheless, I guess that happens. I felt badly for March teen about that as well. Here ace guy that wins the award and all these great things are being said about him. He's as humble as he can possibly be. I know it's not due to the fact that he's carrying around an extra hat size. He just didn't hit the ball well. I do, I feel badly for him. But also wasn't too happy that we missed those two. I mean, we can't be lining up 52 yards away or 42 yards is what it was, attempted a 52-yard, can't be lining up and giving field position away like that. I always had great confidence that Martin can do it. I will continue to have that confidence, but we're going to have to get it straightened out.

Q. What did you say to him?

COACH SNYDER: I asked him what was wrong and told him that I couldn't give up that field position anymore. I needed for him to make sure if he was going to go out there, if I'm going to put him on the field, they have to go through the uprights.

Q. How satisfied are you with the season?

COACH SNYDER: Well, I'm about as satisfied as you can be with a 11-1 season. I'm happy about winning 11 ballgames. I'm happy about losing one. That's behind us, nothing I can do about it. Right now I feel good (laughter).

Q. (Inaudible)?

COACH SNYDER: They are really pretty amazing aren't they. You guys need to talk about that crowd. That's part of what needs to go in the newspaper, on television. You know, you look around. I don't know how many we had there. They said we sold 23,000 tickets. If all we had here was 23,000 today, you would have had a half empty stadium. I don't know what the numbers are, but I'm guessing -- let me throw out 50, would that be all right? Can we get that in the newspaper? I'm sure it will grow to 55, like it does around Kansas (laughter). There were a whole bunch of them there. For being on the road, you guys that are from Kansas remember the Colorado ballgame this year. Our people were pretty doggone loud. That's what players tell me. I can't hear those things. But I heard them today. When Syracuse was backed up into their own end zone trying to come off of their own end zone, I don't remember which phase of the ballgame it was, it was loud here. I think our people are beginning to get the feel of things that says, "Hey, we need to go out and be a part of this." They've always tried to be a part of it. Now they're trying to be a disruptive part. They're good people. I appreciate them for it.

Q. Did this feel like a home game when you came out on the field?

COACH SNYDER: Well, it was, although we didn't have Big 12 officials.

Q. In front of us you're a pretty mellow guy. After something like in, after winning the Fiesta Bowl, will you go behind the locker room and let out a big scream? Do you stay mellow?

COACH SNYDER: This is what you get right here (laughter).

Q. Never let loose, even after a big win like this, nothing?

COACH SNYDER: There's more to come.

Q. Talk about the defense. You said that Michael Bishop showed some rust. What does he look like when he's totally lubricated?

COACH SNYDER: He hasn't been there yet. What some of you do and some of you don't understand, Michael Bishop has been in our program for four months. That's it. I mean, he's been in our football program for only four months. Nobody learns the system in four months, nobody. It takes some time. We understood that. We knew we were rolling the dice and that was a gamble at the beginning of the season. We knew we were going to have to go through some rough spots along the way. We have. We've been forced to overcome them. I knew I was going to have to take extra heart medication along the way (laughter). And I have.

Q. The defense, Travis Ochs and Jerome Evans, can you comment on them?

COACH SNYDER: Well, we get where we are because we play great defense. I mean, that's the nature of our program; that's what we do. That's our signature; that's our trademark. Every once in a while when we stub our toe on that side of the ball, the other side has to be able to pick it up. I thought we struggled a little bit. Today wasn't a perfect ballgame by any stretch of the imagination. We struggled on offense at times, struggled on defense a good portion of the time. Our kicking game was not near what it needed to be and should have been. That takes nothing away from Syracuse. I mean, we just did not play as well as we are certainly capable of playing. But by the same token, we played defense well enough to win. That's what we asked them to do.

Q. Coach, what about that Gatorade shower?

COACH SNYDER: I don't think it was Gatorade. It was water. I tell them, if they ever do Gatorade, they lose their scholarship. Nothing wrong with Gatorade, I just don't want to wear it.

Q. What are your feelings right now?

MICHAEL BISHOP: I know, I felt we had a team full of talent. Once we get everything going, everybody on the same pace, able to accomplish a lot.

Q. What would you like to say to the criticism that say K State was --

MICHAEL BISHOP: We didn't worry about that all year. We kind of felt like we didn't get the respect we deserved. Hopefully we sent a message out tonight with our victory against Syracuse.

Q. What about your performance, were you surprised how well you were able to throw the ball?

MICHAEL BISHOP: We knew we was going to have to throw the ball in order to win the game. The offensive line gave me all the time I needed. I was able to find the open receiver and get the ball down the field. Once I got the ball down the field, made great moves, found the end zone. Without the offensive line, we didn't go anywhere with it.

Q. Michael, how much of this offense do you have down now yourself?

MICHAEL BISHOP: I felt like I have somewhere close to about 75 percent right now.

Q. So what are you going to perform once you have a hundred percent, Mike?

MICHAEL BISHOP: Hopefully I'll be the best I can be.

Q. Heisman winner, maybe?

MICHAEL BISHOP: I'm not worried about that right now. I'm going to celebrate the victory and go into the spring and work hard and improve on things I need to improve on.

Q. Get back to this game next year?

MICHAEL BISHOP: Hopefully. It's a goal that we have set. We have to take care of each game one at a time.

Q. How do you compare Syracuse defense to the other teams you played throughout the season? What do you think about their defense?

MICHAEL BISHOP: They played aggressive the whole game. We was able to find their weak spots and attack it, able to score points on it.

Q. Darren, can you talk about being in Donovan McNabb's face and how you frustrated him?

DARREN HOWARD: Well, that was really our game plan going into the game. We knew we had to get pressure on him, try to make him make some mistakes, keep him contained at the same time. We just tried to get his face and push him around as much as we could. Obviously we did, so we did enough.

Q. Darnell, talk about your game tonight?

DARNELL McDONALD: I had a pretty good game, you know. Mike Bishop, I watched the films, knew exactly what coverage they were going to be in. A couple times when he threw it, I wasn't open at the time. By the time the ball got there, I was wide open. This kid is a great player. I wouldn't be surprised if he's up for a Heisman candidate next year.

Q. 77-yard passing record and --

DARNELL McDONALD: I made a release move, going down the sideline. He had a grab of my jersey. I got kind of frustrated. I gave him a little push. After I caught it, I figured they might have called it on me. I just kept running till the whistle. Luckily it was a touchdown.

Q. How did you stay in?

DARNELL McDONALD: I thought I was out. Referee called it a touchdown.

Q. Travis, did you do that somersault for style points? Could that not be helped, or was that maybe for style points?

TRAVIS OCHS: There was a little bit of style involved on that. Main thing I didn't want to lose the ball, so I put all my hands around it, both of them, I guess (laughter). I didn't know where to run, what to do. Every interception I had, I'd fallen down right after it. I saw McNabb coming off me. I figured, if I'm going down, I better take him with me. He got a little bit lower than me, I did a little flip. Worked out pretty well.

Q. Were you trying to control Don, trying to keep him in the pocket?

TRAVIS OCHS: Our plan was not to let him get outside, to make some big runs, just like Darren said. We had to go in there and get a lot of pressure on him. That's what we knew we had to do. He's a great player. Showed it today. Made some big runs, posed some problems for us. For the most part, we had to try to keep him under control. That's what we ended up doing. Great rush from our D line. The backers made the plays they needed for.

Q. Darnell, you set two Fiesta Bowl records, one for the longest reception and total yards receiving. How does that make you feel?

DARNELL McDONALD: Makes me feel real good that I'm in the record books. People might remember me for a long time, till it gets broke, which I hope it doesn't. Feels real good to set any type of record.

Q. Darnell, have you seen Coach smile that big before?

DARNELL McDONALD: No, not at me (laughter). Feels good when he smiles.

Q. What did he say to you when you were coming in to the room here?

DARNELL McDONALD: It's a stepping stone we'll build on, he had confidence in me all year.

Q. Michael, this team may have been able to blow Syracuse out a little bit earlier, just a couple things didn't go your way. Talk a little bit about that. Did this feel like a complete victory to you? Did this feel like a complete victory to you or were there a couple things you want to work on for later? Looks like you should have been beating them by a lot more.

MICHAEL BISHOP: Started out the game, kind of shut us down. We was able to bounce back. We had a lot of mental lapses, but everybody stayed focused and we stayed together and was able to bounce back and score points.

Q. Travis, can you talk about the interceptions and fumble recovery?

TRAVIS OCHS: Well, on the interceptions really, they had done something earlier in the game. I think it was maybe the first play of the game. It was definitely in the first series, did the same thing. We didn't have an adjustment for it. Went off the sidelines. The coaches made an adjustment, did their job. Put us in the best position. We played it right. I'm not even sure who was right on the tightend, I think it was Jeff or somebody. Got the ball up in the air. I just happened to luckily be there and make the catch. On the fumble, really, I had nothing to do with that actually. It was just a draw of some sort. Went up and attacked my back, tried to keep outside so he couldn't get outside of me. I was fighting off the blocker. McNabb just dropped the ball. I don't know how he dropped it. It was in the ref's feet. I tried to push the ref's feet and grab the ball.

Q. Did you see it come out?

TRAVIS OCHS: Turned around, started chasing, it was right there, couldn't believe it, right by the ref. I jumped on it.

Q. What did Coach Snyder say to you after the interceptions?

MICHAEL BISHOP: He just told me it was a bad decision on my part. I felt like I had thrown it out-of-bounds, but I didn't get it cross the field enough. Keep to it, bounce back.

Q. Did you throw to throw it out of the end zone?

MICHAEL BISHOP: Yes but unfortunately I didn't throw it far enough.

Q. What about the play where you got the high snap, ended up being a safety? Tell us about that.

MICHAEL BISHOP: Well, Kendyl, he snapped the ball high. I jumped as high as I could, still couldn't get it. I didn't know how close the defense was to me. I just kicked it out-of-bounds, took a safety instead of trying to pick it up, make me fumble, get the ball and score a touchdown. I would rather give them two points than give them six.

Q. Was there ever a point when you noticed Syracuse was getting totally frustrated with you guys without being able to stop you on defense?

MICHAEL BISHOP: We knew we was doing a lot of different things. I think it was just a matter of us focusing. A couple times Syracuse, you could tell they was down. Once we decided they were down, we attacked, made some big plays. I think the fourth quarter, we sucked it up and went after everything, just attacked them, kept going and going. Just started making big plays. Receiver started getting open, line did a good job, able to hit the receivers. That just sums it up right there.

Q. Where do you think you should be ranked after this?

DARNELL McDONALD: At least in the Top 5.

Q. Does the defense on practice work against the first time offense, and if so, how did that help you go with Bishop to prepare for McNabb, actually seeing him in the game?

DARREN HOWARD: Well, we did a little bit. Didn't do too much because you don't want to risk any injuries. We did a little bit of that. But we seen Big 12 quarterback that can run like McNabb, you have Scott Frost, Jones, you have all those runners. We seen those kind of quarterbacks all year, plus we have our own version. Helped a lot.

Q. Besides a year ago tomorrow, it's been a pretty good year for you. Do you want it to end?

TRAVIS OCHS: I'd like to keep this feeling for a while. This is something that, you know, a lot of people didn't know how we'd come out here and play. We didn't know quite what we were getting into, playing Syracuse. No idea what they'd bring to the table. Everybody worked real well together. It's what teams are all about. Something you work for all your career, just to see everybody come together like that. It's a real special feeling. Just going to enjoy it for a while.

Q. New Year's is less than two hours. What's the plan?

TRAVIS OCHS: Party.

DARREN HOWARD: Just party.

Q. What about on the pass to Swift, tightend screen, tell me what happened on that.

MICHAEL BISHOP: I told coach, maybe if I roll out, I get everybody to follow me. We decided to go with the play. Once I rolled out, pursuit, got to me so quick. I just turned around, Swift was right there. I got the ball to him. Took a hard shot, got drilled after I let the ball go. Swift made a couple moves. I think he ran over Donovin Darius in the front end zone.

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