Left to right are Bell Helicopter's Robert Hastings, BYU's Bronco Mendenhall, Tulsa's Bill Blankenship and BHAFB executive director Brant Ringler (Photo by Armed Forces Bowl)
FORT WORTH, Texas – Included below are selected quotes from Tuesday's news conference for the ninth annual Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. The game will be played at SMU’s Gerald J. Ford Stadium on Friday, Dec. 30, with a 11 a.m. (CST) airtime for the ESPN national telecast between BYU (9-3) and Tulsa (8-4).
Armed Forces Bell Helicopter Executive Director Brant Ringler:
“This is a fantastic matchup, and we are fortunate to honor these two great schools as well as the men and women who serve our country in the armed forces. We want to thank Bell Helicopter for six great years as a corporate sponsor, and we’re extremely excited about he possibilities of this game. We also have a chance to greet many families of service personnel at the game. The two head coaches did a phenomenal job with their teams and actually won 15 of their last 17 games while averaging over 400 yards of total offense per game. Even better is the teams reflect the character of their coaches and universities. It’s about the way you play the games and about the way you carry yourself in life. That’s the essence of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.”
Bell Helicopter Senior Vice President Bob Hastings:
“Welcome to the Fort Worth area on behalf of Bell Helicopter. We are just delighted to have these two teams and their head coaches and fans here for the bowl. The last seven times these teams played, they have averaged 81 points and 924 yards of total offense. We do this in honor of our armed forces and our service people in 130 countries throughout the world. We are very excited about our forces being withdrawn from Iraq, and we are praying for the safe return of all our troops. We have a strong commitment to our armed services, and 25 percent of our employees are veterans. We also are hosting 750 family members at the Bell Helicopter Armed Bowl, and we have some special plans for them. It is an exciting time for everyone involved, and we are so pleased to have the teams and fans coming to the DFW area, and we should have a very great time with the bowl and festivities.”
Coach Bronco Mendenhall of BYU:
“We have ‘Band of Brothers’ affixed to our helmets, and this theme fits in well with the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. There is a great tie-in with our team and university values and those serving in the armed forces. We’re very thankful for everything they do to protect our freedom, and this is a successful tribute to our military and what these service men and women mean to our country.
“This is a fantastic matchup of two teams with similar records and a similar hunger for a postseason win. We have a chance to have five 10-win seasons over six years, and this would be a great boost for our program and could take us to that next level we would like to reach.
“Texas produces some of the best high school football recruits in the country, and we have five youngsters from the state this season. Every year we have unique process when we recruit players. This year we pinpointed 34 from all areas of the country, and we do look quite a bit to the west because of the larger number of LDS (Latter-day Saint) families.
“I remember being the defensive coordinator when we played Tulsa in 2007 (Golden Hurricane prevailed 55-47). We had no idea how to stop Tulsa, and we gained a lot of respect for their program. I told the coaches that was my fault we couldn’t defend them. They were that good.
“This will be our third trip to Texas after we played Texas and TCU, and they had great football teams. We really want to play well in the bowl. We will have a good following, and we hope to continue to attract players like the ones we currently have from Texas.
“Being an independent this year was unique. The major difference is that when you play a good team, you’re not competing for a conference championship. In past years our games with TCU, Wyoming, Colorado State, and New Mexico meant the conference title was on the line. This year we played each game just to get a little better with the experience and to remain in national contention.
“We are playing a very good, quality opponent in Tulsa. Our goal during the holidays is to have good, steady practices, and we’ll assemble down here on Dec. 26 after giving the players a few days off to spend time with their families.
“We had a BYU quarterback reunion on campus last year with Steve Young, Ty Detmer, Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, and all the greats. It was really impactful for our program and our current players. What it meant was so good for our program and our players to see that tradition. Our players responded to the great quarterbacks but especially Jim McMahon. He had not been back to campus for any length of time until the quarterback reunion, and the players saw him for his honesty and class.
“We see (retired) coach LaVell Edwards on a regular basis, and he is like a grandfather to our coaches and players. When there is a big decision to be made, we usually consult his guidance. His wife Patty has been a big help to my wife Holly and our kids on the sacrifices a coach’s wife has to make when her husband is a head coach at a major program. Coach is slowing down just a little and sometimes has to walk with a cane, but he looks well and is such a great resource for us. He represents the great tradition of BYU football.”
Coach Bill Blankenship of Tulsa:
“In the nine days since we found out we were going to play BYU. We have learned they are a very good football team. They play really good defense. They are physical up front, and they fly to the football. You don’t get any easy plays on BYU.
“They have an outstanding quarterback. Their offense is very balanced. They can attack all over the field. They are similar to us in that way. This is very exciting but certainly a huge challenge. There is a definite reason they won nine games.
“Today’s helicopter ride from Bell Helicopter was exciting. I need to get me one of those. That’s pretty sweet. I would love to have one of those things to take me around, and that’s my first helicopter ride. It was incredibly smooth, and that’s the way to fly.
“The big thing for us now is to finish finals. Our guys have exams through the rest of the week. We’ll start this weekend and kind of polish it up a little bit, and then starting on Monday (Dec. 19), we’ll go to work on BYU and really try to get our game plan and game preparation in by next week.
“It’s almost as if we have a two-week window of preparation as opposed to one by our players. That will be really good. Our three keys to win right now would be limiting big plays by BYU, making sure we take care of the football – that’s always a big deal – and playing sound, disciplined football. You come off a layover and get back to a bowl game, and you’ll see a lot of sloppy play. The teams that are sharp and playing disciplined football are going to be successful.
“Our leaders without a doubt this year are our quarterback G.J. Kinne, who’s finishing up his third year as a starter and was our MVP of last year’s team and all-conference. He has had a tremendous season and continues to lead us on offense. Defensively, Cornelius Arnick, our inside linebacker, is one of the leaders in the country in tackles. He’s like the quarterback on defense. Those two guys without a doubt are our most valuable players.
“We’re hearing great conversations and great enthusiasm every place we go – certainly in the city but also in the outer regions of Oklahoma. People who are excited about Tulsa are already making plans to be there. It’s a great place for us because there are a lot of the Tulsa family in this area – not just alums but people that are affiliated with the University of Tulsa in the Metroplex, in the northern regions of Texas, and I think we’ll have a good group drive up from the Houston area as well.
“We have 27 players from Texas in the DFW Metroplex and going over to various parts of East Texas. This is a key recruiting area for us, and this bowl gives us a great postseason presence in this area.
“We had a tough row of games in September against Top 10 teams nationally, and then this team regrouped and played some of its best football in the last nine games. We ran into a very fine Houston team and lost late in the season, but we had a shot at the Conference USA West Division championship until the final game, and this was a great credit to our players and coaching staff. I was proud of the way we bounced back from adversity.”
CLICK HERE to go to BYU Bowl Central for more information about the bowl, including tickets, activities and events.