Nov 24, 2020 10:23 PM

🎥 🏈 K-State Holds Weekly Football Press Conference Before Trip to Baylor

Posted Nov 24, 2020 10:23 PM

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman and select players met with members of the media via Zoom on Tuesday prior to the Wildcats’ contest this Saturday at Baylor. A complete transcript of Klieman’s press conference – which was also streamed live on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ – and players are posted below. K-State and Baylor kick off at 6 p.m. on Saturday inside McLane Stadium, and the game will be shown on ESPN2

Watch: Chris Klieman  |  Briley Moore  |  Christian Duffie  |  Kiondre Thomas  Listen: Wildcats Uncut


CHRIS KLIEMAN, HEAD COACH

Opening Statement...

“Good afternoon everybody. I hope everyone is having a good Thanksgiving week. It’s a different week for us with not any students on campus and school not in session. We flipped our week a little bit. We will go a little bit earlier on Wednesday and pretty early on Thursday. Even though it doesn’t feel like a short week, it is a short week to prepare for a really good Baylor team that I feel has played really well at times and played really well on both sides of the ball and have had opportunities to win just like we have in the fourth quarter and haven’t gotten that done similar to ourselves. It’s a game that our kids know the importance of. I was pleased with practice yesterday. We had a really good team meeting and talked about a lot of things. Our kids bounced back and had a really good day on Monday. Now we just have to sustain that and make sure we are playing at as high of a level as we can. We have to do a great job as coaches of putting them in positions to be successful on Saturday. It was a humbling day on Saturday for all of us, players and coaches included. Sometimes that happens to you in this profession. Nobody wants to have that happen ever to them, but sometimes it does and you have to learn from it and grow from it and you have to hit it head on and attack the next day.”

On the importance of fast starts to the team...

“It gives life to a young team. When you have a new offensive line, a freshman quarterback, a freshman running back, and some newer kids in the secondary – those are areas where we don’t have a ton of experience – I think it is important to have some confidence built early. You saw what it did here at home against Oklahoma to have a lead and to play with energy and emotion. Then, you see what it does when we don’t have that, whether it is West Virginia or this past weekend at Iowa State. I would flip it and say we were down against Oklahoma and found a way to continue to have great resolve. Part of that is the fact that we didn’t finish some drives early offensively and we didn’t prevent some touchdowns defensively. We had a couple opportunities to get off the field on third down on defense on the first drive, and they took it down and scored. That was pretty demoralizing for both players and defensive staff. Then, obviously, when you get first and goal at the four or five, you have to find a way to punch that in there.”

On the team bouncing back since Saturday...

“They’ve done a nice job. Granted, we are only getting into Tuesday’s practice. These kids have really great resolve and great pride in their craft, and I know that we have unbelievable leaders with high character and high integrity. I told them they need to step up and take some ownership. We as coaches need to take ownership and they need to take ownership as players and challenge each other to be better and challenge each other to reach the standard that we all expect, not only on the field, but off the field as well and doing things right. I thought they adhered to the message well yesterday.”

On if Malik Knowles, Elijah Sullivan and Justin Hughes will be back...

“Malik (Knowles) should be back. I don’t know on Elijah (Sullivan) and Justin (Hughes). I would have to get with Mindy (Hoffman) to see where they are at. Malik and Jaylen Pickle should be back.”

On if there is more clarity on the quarterback position entering Saturday...

“We are going to keep working both of them. I thought Nick (Ast) did some nice things. I think it was a great learning experience for Will (Howard), especially after he got hit really good the one time and then had a couple frustrating plays for him. I thought it was a good opportunity for him to learn from the sideline and watch. I didn’t want to get him any more shots taken, especially when the game was in the balance that it was where it was going in Iowa State’s favor. I didn’t think that was going to help his growth either by having him take more shots. Both practiced yesterday, and obviously it was a limited day on Monday, but we will keep working both of them, and we are excited about the opportunity for Will to bounce back and the opportunity for Nick to build on what he had on the field.”

On considering playing Jaren Lewis on Saturday...

“I didn’t think at that time we did because of where the game was at. You also have to realize we had 46 or 48 plays. That’s not enough for me to say, ‘Hey Jaren, go take two snaps and hand it off.’ We need to play more plays on offense and not as many on defense.”

On issues about holding each other accountable...

“I think some of this is about the fact that it is 2020 and we are in a global pandemic and life is tough. There is nothing that’s normal, there is nothing that’s easy. We told the guys from the start of this thing in June when they first arrived on campus and got sent home, and then in July when they came back to campus, ‘Guys this is going to be a tough year and a tough year to handle all this stuff, but, guys, life is going to be tough. Life is going to throw you a bunch of curveballs over the next 20, 30, 50 years of your life. You have to be able to fight through the adversity and you have to be able to survive when adversity strikes.’ We continue to preach the same messaging throughout our coaching staff. Once again, I have a tremendous amount of confidence in the leaders on this football team to continue that brand of messaging going out to the younger guys.”

On actively recruiting in the transfer portal...

“Well, it’s a lot of names to comb through. We always look at it. Maybe, I don’t, but someone in our recruiting office does maybe every two weeks. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in January when I believe it goes through that anyone can transfer one time without penalty. I think that is when you are really going to see, unfortunately, some flood gates opening. That’s not at Power 5 only, that’s Group of 5, that’s FCS, that’s whatever you want to say because kids are going to have the opportunity. There are voices outside your own football office and your football community that are telling some of these young men, ‘Hey, go jump into this, go try this.’ Unfortunately, as people are finding out that a lot of them are leaving that portal and a lot of them are staying in that portal or dropping down to a level that is different to what they’ve played at, all those things. Let’s take it all back to 2020. It’s a tough year for any young man to fight through whether it’s an opt-out, a transfer, or sticking with your team, which I’m so excited for the guys who have. It would be pretty easy to come in and say, ‘Hey, let me get out of this season and opt-out in game 6, 8, or 9.’ The kids that are with us, I couldn’t be more pleased with. This is not an easy battle. Forget about what is going on a football field, all the other things, and it shows the true character and integrity of the kids who have stuck by their teammates.”

On what complications are added with recruiting this year...

“Well, the fact that right now, this is how you and I would recruit. If I was recruiting you, we’d be on a Zoom call and that’s how I’m getting to know you. I’m not going into your home and visiting with your parents. I’m not going to your school and visiting with your head coach. I’m on a phone call with a parent. I’m on a phone call with a head coach. I’m on a phone call with somebody. It’s the only way we know how right now. That’s the only way that’s available to us. That connection is not there of any of us coaches sitting in a living room with somebody, sitting with a young man in his coach’s office or whatever it may be. That’s everyone across the country that are going through these same challenges. That’s my fear moving forward, especially what this year has done. Kids are going to choose schools all over the country without ever being on that campus and never being that far away from home. They’ve never taken an official visit. Some have never taken an unofficial visit. And all of the sudden, we throw that carrot out there that if you don’t like it, you can just leave. That’s sometimes in the best interest of some kids. Oftentimes, and most times, it’s not because just like life, you have to be able to fight through the adverse times that you have. That’s my concern for all of college athletics as we move into the open market for transfers, as well as not getting the opportunity to build those relationships.”

On Baylor’s record not telling the whole story...

“Without question. I watched just a little bit of that game (Baylor at Iowa State), and they really rattled (Brock) Purdy in the first half. Then Brock, like he does, came back and played really well in the second half, but they had an opportunity to win that game. During our open week, I watched the entire Baylor vs. Texas Tech game. Baylor was up two scores in the second half and had an opportunity to close the game out. Credit Texas Tech. They found a way to come back, and so that was another game they had an opportunity. We watched, before we played West Virginia, a really talented Baylor team that took West Virginia at West Virginia to overtime. We said boy, this is a pretty physical and good football team. Those are three losses right there that I’m sure if you asked Dave (Aranda), he’d say they had a chance to win and should’ve lost those three games. Then there’s TCU and Texas, but they’re a team that could probably have four wins right now. Football is so strange. We’re not playing at the best level for us right now, but we played at a high enough level against Oklahoma. We played at a high enough level to beat TCU. We played at a high enough level to beat Texas Tech. The latter two were with Will (Howard) at the helm. We just have to focus on what we can control. That’s our play, our effort, our attitude, our energy and our ability to execute.”

On what Baylor has gone through with COVID this season...

“Yeah, and they had the open week before they played us. I’m assuming they were able to get a number of practices in, whether with their young guys or continuing to develop everybody and I’m sure that’s what Dave (Aranda) wanted to do was develop everybody because he’s still putting in his system. You can flip on the film and watch a very fast, physical defense. Similar to what I say about Skylar (Thompson), I kind of feel the same way when watching Charlie Brewer play. If he’s in the game, they have an opportunity to win. I’ve said this: every time Skylar steps on the field, I think we have an opportunity to win. I think that same thing with Brewer. I think he’s a really, really good competitor. I think he’s an excellent football player. He gives those guys a chance to win.”

On the performance of Cody Fletcher and Daniel Green at Iowa State...

“I thought both of them played really well. I did. It wasn’t perfect. Both of them missed some plays that they would tell you, as well. I thought both of them played really hard. I thought both of them played physical. I thought both of them hit their fits. The issue we had is that they had to play every snap for the most part. When you’re playing every other series like they were with Eli (Sullivan) and Justin (Hughes) in, you see the game at a different perspective and you’re able to stay fresh. Then you throw in the fact that Cody is a starter on every special teams, and we were going to keep him on a number of those special teams until we lost Austin Moore – who was a backup to both of those guys – on Thursday of the Iowa State week. Austin Moore was going to play a significant role in that game at Iowa State. I feel awful for Austin because he had his opportunity taken away, and so we had to flip the script on Thursday and Friday and take Cody off of all those special teams and put another guy in there that hadn’t taken those reps. We felt like we could keep him on special teams because Austin was going to be able to sub him out. It didn’t happen that way. We have this week to decide what Cody is going to be on from a special-teams standpoint and what he needs to be off of. Cody and Daniel need to play the majority of the snaps at linebacker.”

On if he knows what the team will do on Thanksgiving...

“Well we better know. It’s Tuesday, and Thursday is coming fast. We’ll practice late morning on Thursday. We’ll have a Thanksgiving meal for the entire team up in our stadium club because it’s a big enough space that we can have guys up there and socially distance them. Per Big 12 rules, everybody has to test on Friday morning. They can’t go home, plus I don’t think it’s a safe environment for them to go home. Everybody will come in. Our young guys will lift Friday morning, then they’ll get their test. We’re still working through it with our administration and our operations people. We’re trying to take as many kids as possible to Baylor because I don’t want somebody from out of region to have to sit in his dorm room on Thanksgiving. That’s not fair. It’s been a hard-enough semester that we’re trying to take as many guys as we can. If we can’t dress them all, we can’t dress them all. I’ll have them on the sideline. I’ll have them be a part of it. You’re right: normally people would be coming to see them or they’d be able to run home, and that’s just not the case this year.”

On using last week’s loss as motivation and a chance to bounce back...

“Great question, and we’ll see on Saturday. What I saw at practice yesterday was really positive. The right guys were out in front of the group. It’s something we have talked about as coaches. We have to keep those right guys out in front of the group that are not afraid to hold somebody accountable, hold themselves accountable and lead by example. I’m excited to see how we respond.”

On if he expected things to get to this point with COVID...

“When conferences started cancelling, I was afraid we would be in this situation and would get to Thanksgiving and had played four games. Let’s credit Bob Bowlsby. Let’s credit the Big 12 and the athletic directors in the Big 12. We’ve done it better than any other conference. The fact that we’ve played eight games and you have some schools stuck on one and two. It’s crazy, and that’s a credit to the amount of time and effort every institution and the conference office and Bob Bowlsby have put in to make sure that we have the right protocols and play as many games as we have. I also look at it as we were close on Saturday to play or not play. I know we have a number of seniors that I don’t know if they’re coming back. Some of them maybe have jobs. Some of them are ready to move on. I think we owe it to those guys as coaches to play as many games as we can so that those kids can continue to get an opportunity to tee it up and play because this is going to be the last time some of those guys ever play football.”

On the future of Austin Moore at linebacker...

“I’m excited for Austin because he’s had a terrific fall through all of the turbulence we’ve had. He’s one that when we do our old players vs. young players, he shows up and does a great job learning our system. The special-teams stuff, he’s continuing to improve in all phases of special teams. The thing I love about Austin, he’s a coachable kid that knows he needs to improve, that knows he hasn’t arrived and doesn’t have all the answers, that just wants the opportunity to show that he’s capable of playing in the Big 12. I firmly believe that he is. I was hopeful that he would’ve had an opportunity. He didn’t get that opportunity, and I visited with Austin. ‘Don’t let it define you. You’re going to have that opportunity. Just keep doing what you’re doing,’ because if we have more kids like Austin Moore, we’re going to be really successful.”

BRILEY MOORE, SENIOR TIGHT END

On what was discussed during the team meeting on Monday…

“We talked about, and he (Chris Klieman) talked about it after the game, accountability. The biggest thing I think that we took from it was, yeah, we have a lot to learn from that game, but we’re into Baylor prep now. It’s time to move on, take what we learned and continue to just pound the stone one day at a time and get better and just flush it at this point.”

On moving on after a difficult offensive performance…

“You would like to just move on as far away as you can and not look at it but you have to. We watched it as a full offense together, which I think was really good. You hear the different coaches talking to their players. Coaches making sure they point out everything whether we were to win a game or lose the way that we did. So, I think it was really productive, which I think led to one of our best Monday practices that we’ve had in the past few weeks for sure, energy wise and how locked in and focused we were. So, you never want that to happen, but I think we took it, learned from it and grew in just 48 hours.”

On how close he was to 100% Saturday…

“Yeah, I was out there, I felt great, didn’t have any problems with the back. It felt good. I was 100% out there, which was a good feeling. The coaches did a great job through the week of starting low and then just building the amount of reps I got throughout the week, and I was able to go 100%.”

On how long he has seen the accountability issues within the team…

“I don’t know, there’s always going to be those issues. I think the biggest thing with it is that Coach gives us the reins to take control. He gives the leaders all of the accountability in the program. He always says that this isn't his team, it’s our team, which is a beautiful thing. But, with that being said, we have to step up and make sure we don’t take advantage of that and let things slide. It’s been getting better, but we’ve just got to continue, whether it’s a fifth-year senior like myself or a freshman like Deuce Vaughn. We just have to continue to make sure we hold everybody accountable on and off the field.”

On how Will Howard has handled Saturday’s performance…

“He’s a great guy, he’s a great teammate. You would have never noticed on the sideline. He wasn’t pouting. He was doing everything that he could to help his teammates. He was keeping our spirits up. He was helping us in the huddle. Whenever you have a guy like that, that’s that young in that situation, I would say it’s pretty rare for somebody to handle it the way he did. He came and had a great practice yesterday. He came and attacked the day as well as Nick (Ast) did. When you have guys like that, especially at the quarterback position, your team is going to be successful because of the people that are in it.”

On the pain from his injury…

“Oh, it was bad. At first, I wasn’t sure how serious it was and then it kind of calmed down. Then they tried to get me to stand up, then it just completely locked up again. I was trying to move around and work with the doctor and come back into the game; wasn’t able to. We ended up finding out the next day that it was probably better I didn’t go in. It’s football and a guy made a good play. He put his shoulder pad right into my lower back. It is what it is, it’s a physical sport.”

On if leading is more difficult after a big loss…

“No, I think it’s more important. I’m one of the older guys on the team. I have a lot of experience. I think it’s important whether I’m new or whether I’ve been here my entire career. It happens and it’s over with. We have to learn from it, and we can’t let it affect us this week. Guys like Noah Johnson, one of the best leaders I’ve been around. Even Skylar (Thompson), who’s not playing right now, an amazing leader. So, we just have to continue to push that message like we’ve talked about many times, hold each other accountable and just keep on going.”

On the sense of urgency to get back on the winning track…

“It’s high. Football is like that. You can go 4-0 and think you’re on top of the world and all of the sudden three weeks later you’re 0-3. That’s just the type of sport that it is. I think we’ve done a great job in the past 24 hour, but it’s going to continue to be more important to how we attack today, and then tomorrow, and then Saturday ultimately is what will show what type of sense of urgency we have to get that back going. I think everybody is doing the right things as best as you can after a loss like that to get back on that track.”

On the importance of getting an early lead…

“Very, very important. To start that game we were moving, we had a great drive going, and we just simply didn’t execute once we got into the low red zone there on Saturday. That’s something we have to take pride in and scoring preferably touchdowns. We just have to execute. We had the right plays called, but it’s just a couple missed assignments here, a couple of missed assignments there and then all of the sudden you go four and out down there. So, we have to have a sense of urgency to convert once we get in those situations, especially when the coaches put us in great situations like they did. We just have to continue to get better and take advantage of those opportunities.”

On the impact of missing out on team functions due to COVID…

“Yeah, early I would say that, especially being a new guy. I wasn’t able to get around everybody which wasn’t great, but once we were able to get things rolling, we were essentially our own bubble, so we’re around each other every day and the majority of the interactions that we have are with each other. The team has great comradery and great relationships, so I don’t think that there’s any problems like that. I would say that it’s pretty exceptional, honestly, for how things are going on in the country right now, especially around college football. This coaching staff is amazing. Like you said, they are putting together a Thanksgiving dinner for us all whenever we can’t go home and see our families. That just shows the kind of leadership we have from the top, starting with Coach Klieman and on down and the type of culture that we have at this program. It’s just exceptional.”

On if the coaching staff has a different edge after a rare blowout loss…

“Yeah no doubt. I’m not surprised to hear that that’s the biggest margin. They were obviously upset, but they didn’t just come in there and just start yelling at us. We had a great meeting and a great practice. I think that the way that they handled it was the reason that we had such a productive day yesterday, because it starts at the top and they showed great leadership by obviously pointing out the things that we have to do better. It wasn’t in a way that they’re yelling at us and pointing fingers. They started off by putting the blame first on them. So, I think they are doing a great job of handling it. We’ve obviously only had one day together with having Sunday off, but now it’s on us to make sure that we answer the call and continue to get better each day this week.”

CHRISTIAN DUFFIE, SOPHOMORE OFFENSIVE LINE

On transitioning from right to left tackle …

“Starting out, it was pretty difficult. It sounds like an easy task but just kind of talking to Coach (Conor) Riley and knowing the belief he had in me was easy for me to just relax and take the time and put in the extra work. Just working on getting used to playing that left side.”

On how the offensive line has progressed this season…

“I think that, you look at the Arkansas State game and some of those early games, you see a lack in physicality. As you slowly look at the continued progress of the season, I’d say you see a big increase in our physicality. With that being said, we have a lot more work to do when it comes to physicality and just getting that push off the line.”

On how much responsibility he holds after a difficult offensive performance…

“I feel really responsible. I know a lot of guys do and the whole o-line as a unit, I know they definitely do feel like a lot of that weight is on their shoulder. We just have to look forward to next week and think about how we can get better. Take that game for what it was and learn from it, and just continue to push onto next week.”

On handling the emotional swings of following a winning streak with a losing streak…

“It’s definitely easy to let yourself get into those emotional swings but playing football, you can’t let that happen. You have to attack each day, each week with a full head of steam like you’re ready to go. You can’t let those emotional highs get to you.”

On his confidence in junior quarterback Nick Ast…

“I have 100% confidence in Nick. He does really well on and off the field in the film room, and I see him at practice. He’s just a really good player. I know we have a 100% confidence in him, and I know he can get the job done.”

On watching film together as a whole offensive unit…

“That’s not normal. Normally we just do it as a position group. I know, personally, it helped me. When you’re just with your position group, you look at it as I’m letting my group down on a little assignment bust or technique bust. But with the whole team, I know I definitely felt even more weight on my shoulders that I’m actually letting this whole position group down. You get to hear it from everybody else and other position groups, just how we need to work on smaller details moving forward.”

On if he would like to continue watching film with the whole offense...

“I did enjoy it. I think it really opened my eyes to some stuff.”

KIONDRE THOMAS, SENIOR DEFENSIVE BACK

On what went wrong for the defense against Iowa State…

“I kind of feel like we weren’t being ourselves. We were missing some tackles. We were missing assignments. Last week is behind us. We just have to keep pushing forward now, fight through adversity and get ready for Baylor.”

On the current sense of urgency of the team…

“We know we can’t perform like we did last week, so we’re itching to get back out there and prove that. That’s not the type of team that we are.”

On the benefits of having an early lead…

“It’s extremely helpful because it builds momentum. It makes things easier for the offense, but it also makes things easier for us knowing we have a lead. We just have to get back to being disciplined and making the plays that come to us.”

On what catches his eye with Baylor…

“Yeah, we have an early scouting report. Baylor has an experienced quarterback, and they have some speed at wide receiver. We are up to the task for that.”

On the mood of the team after the loss to Iowa State…

“We knew that that wasn’t us, and that was a pretty embarrassing loss. That is just something that we have to put behind us. What happened, happened, and we have to keep pushing forward through next week. Playing football, you will reach the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and we’ll just have to get through it. We have proven that we can beat anybody, but we can lose to anybody. So, we just have to remain focused.”

On the team's current motivation…

“We’re pretty motivated because we know we can play way better than what we did last week. What we put on film wasn’t good, but we are motivated to change that. We’re really ready to get back out there. Extremely ready.”

On if the defense has re-watched the game as an entire unit…

“Yeah, we do that every week. We’ll go over what we did wrong and what we did well and just learn from the experience. We’ll break off into position groups and watch it, but as a unit we’ll watch a couple plays together.”

On how helpful watching film with teammates is…

“It’s extremely helpful because you can learn from what you did wrong. You can see what you are doing well and just build off that week to week.”

On how he feels he has done personally…

“At the beginning of the season I missed some time due to COVID, but I came back and worked my way back into playing. I think that this year has been extremely up and down, but I still feel like I have a lot of meat left on the bone.”

On being a graduate transfer in a COVID year…

“We were dealing with some injuries, and in that case, it’s just the next man up. Whenever you come in, you just have to either keep the level of play the same or improve it. I know that my job is just to go out there and do it.”

On the difference in not having Justin Hughes and Elijah Sullivan at linebacker…

“Defensively, those two guys are kind of like our Energizer bunnies. They’re talking a lot, pregame, during the game, postgame. You kind of feel that when they’re presence isn’t there. It’s not an excuse, but you would love to have those guys out there.”