Holiday Bowl Press Conference
Dec. 14, 2001
General Remarks: 'We are elated to be going to the Culligan Holiday Bowl. We have had a great experience there in the past. Just two years ago we went and played Kansas State, and although we ended up a little short on the scoreboard we felt we played well. We felt we were improving as a football team as we went into the game and were disappointed that we didn't win, but had a great experience in San Diego. The hospitality group there at the Culligan Holiday Bowl, the Red Coats, they do a fabulous job at making sure they extend themselves and the city to all those that are visiting from the teams. Both the people from Texas and from Washington, I guarante, will have a first-class experience down in San Diego. We are also excited as a football team to have been given a chance to play a program of the caliber of Texas. They were within an eyelash of playing for a national championship. They have an unbelievable quality of student athletes across the board in their program and it gives us a chance to hopefully line up against one of the premier programs, to prove that we belong. We have accomplished a lot in the last three years. A second-place finish three years ago, a first-place finish last year and a Rose Bowl championship, and now a second-place finish again.
'I don't want the disappointment in Miami to be what we focus on. It certainly is going to provide motivation for all of us in the program in that we certainly don't want that to happen again. We want to fix the things that let us down on that particular evening as we move forward. I am looking forward to playing this game for reasons other than just getting back up off the mat. I am looking forward to playing this game because the University of Washington belongs among the elite programs in the United States, and when you get a chance to play on Friday night on national television, on ESPN, against the University of Texas, you can showcase your university. We understand the opponent is tough, we understand that the challenge is large, but we are excited about endeavoring to get it done. We are going to go down there with the same thoughts in mind in regards to bowl games: reward the players, reward all the people involved in our program for a job well done getting to this point. Also, do everything you can to put your best foot forward when it comes time to play the game. We are anxious to do it and hopefully everyone will come along and it should be a wild affair on the 28th of December.'
On Willie Hurst: 'I did move him out of the running back position and into wide receiver. I did it two springs ago during practice because I felt we had some tailbacks that were going go ahead of him in our depth chart. I thought he was a great, competitive guy and I was trying to find another place for him to impact our team. We moved him to wide receiver because he has great hands. He tried it and did it with a great attitude as he could muster up and it didn't work. So he came back into my office and normally in those situations kids say they want to go some place else. Instead of that, Willie just said he wanted to go back to tailback, I don't care where you put me on the depth chart, I'll prove to you that I belong. I think I am open-minded enough to keep looking at different kids on our roster and try to continue to play the kids who deserve the playing time. Willie went back to tailback. He proved just that - he did belong on the field and when he got a chance he took advantage. He was a huge catalyst to our Rose Bowl win last year and had great season this year. I am a big fan of Willie Hurst.'
On the impact of Cedric Benson:'Obviously, when you are at the University of Texas you are going to be able to attract the very best that Texas and the other surrounding states produce in the way of high school talent. Cedric Benson is certainly that. He is a magnificent player, he is destined for great things if he's able to stay healthy. Listening to Coach Brown at the Directors' Dinner on Wednesday, it sounds like this kid has all the work ethic that you envision for the great ones. Obviously he has had a great freshman year. When you come in as a freshman and play at the University of Texas it's saying a great deal in terms of what kind of talent you have. We are very aware that we'll be playing a great one in Cedric Benson.'
On pressure situations and Coach Mack Brown: ' We are in a high-stakes poker game at the Division-I level, especially at a program of the magnitude of Texas or magnitude of Washington. Expectations are high. When the expectations are high you have to deliver and you have to deliver on a consistent basis. In the world of competition the ball doesn't always bounce your way and that 's a rationalization. I have come to realize in that relatively short time that I have been a head coach that it doesn't make any sense to point fingers and explain that to others. We understand the occupation we find ourselves in, we understand the stakes. We get rewarded for working at it and what I do when things don't go well is try to figure out what I can do better rather than say that's just the way it goes. I think we all have to internalize the blame, and by doing that we arrive at a solution, at least an attempt at a solution.'
On playing on the road: 'I think playing football is playing football. It's easier to play when you hear people behind you and you feel good. The bottom line is playing consistently, and when you do that you can neutralize a crowd. Ultimately, it is about maturing and realizing that the crowd doesn't make any tackles, the crowd doesn't make any catches, the crowd isn't a part of it. The only effect the crowd has on a game is when it keeps the opponent from hearing their snap counts. That really is it, other than the emotional response that is triggered in all of us because we have been conditioned for so many years about having the home crowd behind us. Certainly that's true with us, we love our crowd here. We have to mature to the point where it becomes inconsequential on the road, other than hearing the counts. It is a balance.'
On Texas' quarterback decisions: 'Coach Mack has two great quarterbacks. When you have two great quarterbacks and one is playing poorly you put the other in. If he goes crazy and he's hot than it's hard to say that you are going back to other one. It's Major Applewhite's last game, I think it's a common sense move, it doesn't mean he has less confidence in Chris Simms. I have too much respect for Mack Brown to second-guess decisions on quarterback. I don't like having a two quarterback deal because you constantly talk about it over and over again.'
On Jerramy Stevens' status: 'I have not had a chance to sit down and talk to him because I have been out recruiting. I plan on sitting down and talking with him this week and get some idea of where he's at. No pressure, if he's not ready, he's not ready. If he is, I would like to have some sort of idea. What happens is, there will be an onslaught of attention when we go down to San Diego, especially by those who are looking to represent him. I prefer to have that done before we get there so he can play a good football game. He has almost missed an entire season and he's pressed in those two games he's played and tried to force a whole season into it. If it's a finality to his career, than have a great finality. The facts of the matter are, we would love to have him back. He is a great football player and he can help us, but it's his decision and I'll support him either way. He could really help himself by being here another year and that's not something I haven't shared with him.'
On Curtis Williams: 'He is a remarkable person and as difficult as this has been, we can only imagine how difficult it really is. He never lets on. He is clearly one of my heroes in the way he's handled this. In similar circumstances, I'm not sure I could be up to the task. I would like to think so, but I'm not sure.'
On Texas offense and quarterbacks: 'Their offense will be very similar. They don't tailor it too one quarterback or the other. Given that its Applewhite's last game, they may throw the ball more, but given their wide receivers and tight ends, they might throw it a lot anyways. It's just who they are. It doesn't schematically change the way we approach the game. We know we are going to be facing a great football team, regardless.'
On Pickett's recovery: 'Hopefully he will respond in a positive way. He played from the Arizona game on with a separated shoulder. A couple of weeks will hopefully allow him to feel stronger. He attempted to get back in the weight room, the first attempt didn't go well. We will see how this week went. My hope is that it will be a favorable thing given that he's had the rest.'
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