Head Coach Rick Neuheisel Talks In Weekly Press Conference
Oct. 16, 2000
(General Remarks): 'We are very excited to be at least in the conference race. A victory over Arizona State was a necessity to keep that going. We found a way to get that done, albeit not beautiful from an offensive standpoint and certainly anytime you have six turnovers you are going to be hardpressed to find a way to win, but that's what we did. It is a testimony to a great group of kids for sticking with each other and not pointing any fingers, and not getting upset. The week before was the exact opposite as the offense was in sync and the defense was having its difficulties. Hopefully we can find ways to get both sides of the ball to play well, along with the kicking game and put a full game together. That is the goal against California. They are a high-riding team right now that is coming off a great win over UCLA in triple overtime. They were very impressive in that win, they probably played their best all year. They have lots to celebrate and will probably bring that celebration right in here to Husky Stadium. We have got to understand that we have another top opponent and we better be ready to play. There are probably two guys on their defensive front that are all-American candidates in Jacob Waasdorp and Andre Carter, who are both excellent football players and gave us fits a year ago. Their defensive tenacity has been well documented over the last several years. Offensively, Kyle Boller is reaping the benefits of having so much experience playing as a true freshman last year. We know we are in for another dogfight. Hopefully we will play our best and find a way to get another conference victory.'
(On playing in triple overtime): 'Well, triple overtime takes a lot out of you emotionally, but I'm not sure it taxes you very physically. It will be interesting to see how UCLA responds to that, as well as Cal. I think Cal will feel real good about themselves. I played against some Big 12 teams who had won in overtime the previous week and played very well the next week.'
(On whether or not Cal's win over UCLA helps prepare the team): 'I don't know that I worry so much about helping us psychologically. I think we have to be mature enough to understand that this is a very talented team. It wouldn't shock anyone if Andre Carter were the first person selected in next year's draft. Waasdorp is as high an effort guy as there is in our conference, maybe even in the country. So you have got reasons to be getting ready for a big-time game anyway. But certainly they are coming off that type of win, that type of emotional win, it should get your attention.'
On talking as the season as a whole): 'We talk about the season as though we are half way through. While there is much to be proud of in the first half of our season, the second half will be much more difficult in that any weaknesses we might have, have been exposed. The deficiencies in our play can and will cost us. We have to go about improving from both a coaching and a playing standpoint so we don't beat ourselves. If we can do that, we can line up and play with any of our opponents. But we can't be our own worst enemy.'
(On the offensive struggles): 'The credibility to make a big play in the throwing game is something we have to make sure we can do.'
(On tailback Joe Igber): 'He is a lot like Ken Simonton from Oregon State. They both have great vision, great quickness, and great explosiveness. They are both very dangerous players. Igber had 180-some odd yards against Oregon State and some huge plays in the game.'
(On Jafar Williams): 'Jafar is banged up. The bad news is that he is unlikely to play this week. The good news is that he is going to get a chance to rest his shoulder, which has been nagging him. We are hopeful that he will be ready for the Stanford game. It is probably unlikely that he will play this week. He has got a sprained ankle, a slightly sprained knee, and a very sore shoulder, so he needs to heal.'
(On the running back position): 'Both Rich Alexis and Paul Arnold will play. I am hopeful that Paul will be up to speed this week. But I don't know if it matters who starts, maybe to the kids it does, but they both know that they will get in the game. We will have to see how practice goes this week.'
(On opponent defenses shutting down the option game): 'What happens is that the safety plays way down so that they are making it difficult to get our option game started, making it difficult to run between the tackles, although when they miss, certainly big plays can erupt from it and we have hit some of those. But we have got to be able to win in one-on-one coverage. We have got to be able to throw and catch it and that is a going to be a major emphasis this week and the rest of the season. Once we get those safeties back we will look like a darn-good offense again.'
(On the fullback position): 'Pat Conniff might return this week. We will know more as we watch practice, but all indications are that he can return to practice. We will have to see how good he feels. Both Braxton Cleman and Ken Walker did a nice job playing against a very good player in Adam Archuleta, who almost came underneath their blocks every time. We have got to improve at the fullback position in order for us to be a successful offense.'
(On the discipline handed to Anthony Vontoure): 'I haven't spoken to Anthony yet, but I would like to keep that situation between Anthony and myself. I will have a comment on any further discipline if and when that happens.'
(On the turnovers against Arizona State): 'Well, I look at it this way: we dropped two punts. We shouldn't be dropping punts. We had Derrick Johnson playing in an every down situation because of the discipline to Vontoure. In being tired, he misjudged the punts. Toure Butler's fumble, he should've caught the ball, but I think the guy was in the two-yard halo. It was clear he was inside the halo, but we didn't get the call. Paul Arnold fumbling twice, I take responsibility for because I don't think Paul practiced that well last week, because he is hurt. But I had him go and I probably shouldn't have had him out there, which is my fault and no blame handed to Paul. Willie Hurst's fumble was his first of the year, and it was one of those fluke things. A guy reached out and stripped the ball. We have to work on ball security, it is going to be a major point of emphasis this week. And the interception on the screen pass, they called the perfect defense and the wide receiver didn't block the play correctly. It was a bad thing to happen at a bad time. And as the football coach, I take responsibility. Those are things I mean when I say we can't beat ourselves.'
(On Rich Alexis): 'Rich has tremendous upside because he is a great combination of size, speed, power, and vision. He has got all those things that you look for when you go out and try to recruit tailbacks. He just lacks experience. When you add experience to that hopefully that means he is even better than he is currently. Coach Moses has done a good job with Rich, as he does with all our backs. When you start with a low level of experience the learning curve at the outset is very high and obviously Rich is gaining by leaps and bounds.'
(On Alexis as a blocker): 'It's hard for some people to understand running backs have to do more than just tote the mail. It is certainly part of the job for them to get in on the pass protection and Rich is still learning that part of the game. He is certainly physical enough to handle it, but knowing who to block and how to interact with the offensive line gets a little sophisticated. After you are comfortable in who you have to block, now you have to strike the blow and that doesn't always happen overnight.'
(On Washington's 17-game win streak over Cal): 'I think Tom Holmoe said it pretty well, you just try to get your team to play their best. We won't talk about the streak this week. These two teams are going against each other in the year 2000, and the streak really has nothing to do with this team.'
(On opponent defenses keying on Marques Tuiasosopo): 'I think if you read all the articles that you guys print all week, that the opponents know they need to stop No. 11. That is just where you begin and we have got to give Marques more support, schematically as well as individually, so that he can play within himself and not force himself to be successful.'
(On the passing game of Tuiasosopo): 'I think he has developed into a nice pocket passer. It wasn't as though he was unskilled a year ago but he is making good decisions and for the most part the ball is being thrown accurately. We need to be more accurate in our route running so that we can separate from the man-to-man coverage. We can't get so freelance that we aren't helping each other get open. That is all due to inexperience, and our players have got to mature and mature quickly.'
(On whether or not Andre Carter is the best defensive lineman in the league): 'I haven't seen any better. Certainly we love Larry Tripplett and believe that he is playing very well, but Carter and Waasdorp are high, high effort guys with unusual ability.'
(On Arizona State containing Jerramy Stevens): 'Yeah, they did some things to Jerramy. I'm not sure all of them were legal, but they did some things. I don't mean to imply that they were cheating. When you have a great tight end with notoriety, as Stevens does as well as Todd Heap, they get covered. They get covered aggressively. Sometimes you can look at a play and say, 'gosh, he is getting held.' I don't mean to fault the officials at all, because I don't think they can see everything. But it is aggressive coverage and Jerramy receives a lot of that.'
(On Kevin Ware's status): 'Our hope was that he would be ready to go by Stanford, but we have outside hope that he will be ready to go this week.'
(On the play of Derrick Johnson): 'I thought Derrick played really well. We have a tremendously talented freshman class who are performing beyond expectations. I am pleased as I can be, but we have to remember that they will make freshman mistakes. As coaches, we have to remember that if we want them to be front-line players we have to go overboard coaching them and not expect them to have the savvy that an experienced player would. They really are quality people as well as quality athletes. I am very proud of Derrick. I am proud of Rich Alexis. Marquis Cooper made a tremendous play in the game. Justin Robbins has been a godsend for us. We hope to have more great performances from these kids.'
(On the improvement of Marcus Roberson): 'He got thrown in the fire and he has had to learn, but his effort level has always been exemplary. He has a much better understanding of our schemes and has been Johnny-on-the-spot for us. We needed him and he came through for us.'
(On the play of the defensive backs): 'I don't know that you could be any more pleased with the play of Curtis Williams and Hakim Akbar. We ask a lot of them. We ask them to be involved in the run support. We ask them to be involved in coverage. We blitz them. They have to play almost every position on the field and both have racked up a lot of tackles. They are both competitive, young guys, and they are part of the heart and soul of our defense. I am also pleased with the play of Jimmy Newell and Greg Carrothers backing them up. Those kids are going to inherit the position and we will feel good about that.'
(On whether or not he will reassess the punt return situation): 'If I thought we had the guy who had the 'deer-in-the-headlight' look we might reassess it. But I just think that all we can do is continue to practice it. It is not like we have left the same guy in there, the fumbles have been a problem for both of our kids. We have got a third ready to go in Sean Sweat, another true freshman, if necessary. But I think that calmer heads should prevail here and we keep practicing it. Most of the time the fumbles come because we are not fair-catching the ball. We are trying to make a play and people are close to you and it results in not handling the ball cleanly.'
(On the two-yard halo rule on punt returns): 'It is a ridiculous rule. It is coached everywhere to be violated because it is only a five yard penalty. You get inside that and tackle the guy and you say 'he would've had five yards anyway if I would have stayed outside that limit, so why don't I make sure he doesn't get anymore?' I know what the rulemakers intended to get done, and I think it is the right intent, but right now 90% of the coaches in America coach their kids to break that rule and are not afraid to say so.'
(On whether or not his staff coaches to break the halo rule): 'I would never admit to that.'
(On Cal punter Nick Harris): 'He has done a great job of pinning people down in their own end of the field. I am a little bit leery of the field position thing after the experience down in Eugene. But we have got to a better job on offense. And I mentioned this to the team the other night that everyone participates in field position. We have to make sure we play intelligently and make good decisions. But certainly Nick Harris is a weapon.'