Rick Neuheisel Weekly Press Conference Quotes
Sept. 30, 2002
Seatt;e - General Comments:
'We are excited about the opening of Pac-10 play. Every year this conference begins as a big time horse race and I think this year is an exclamation point on that because I believe every team has a chance to make a lot of noise in this conference race. Certainly our opening opponent California is indicative of that. I think prognosticators have them as a bottom tier team and I think they have shocked every body. Though I don't think they have shocked other coaching staffs in the league because we all know what a fine coach Jeff Tedford is and all the great things he did while he was at Oregon as a coordinator. It is not a surprise to us that they are off to such a good start. They could very easily be 5-0. They're not, but you don't have to stretch your imagination very far to see how they could have won the game against Air Force and certainly had a number of good things going for them before Jason Gesser caught fire this last week. It is going to be a very competitive game. Our kids are anxious for a Pac-10 tilt. We've had very close games with Cal over the last three years. We better get ready to play. Some of the things that stand out when you look at their team are how quickly they get out of the shoots. I think they have outscored opponents some outlandish number in the first half. 121-22 in the first half is their number, which is a remarkable statistic. So this is a fast starting team. It means that they are well prepared and hopefully we will be well prepared as well. I'm looking forward to a great game. Hopefully we'll get off to a good start in Pac-10 play.'
Will how well California matched up with Washington State's wide receivers affect Washington's game plan?:
'I think the field was so spread; that really isn't how we play. I think we have the personnel to play that way, but it really wouldn't be us and you want to be careful about being somebody that you're not. It was definitely a shootout, two great offenses going at one another and Cal's defense was playing pretty well, but as I mentioned, Gesser caught fire.'
Do the players of today take into account close games between California and Washington in the past?:
'It's always talked about because it's such a popular subject for newsprint. People write about it and go back and over the different things that have happened. What we have to do is prepare to play this particular Cal team. We don't get any of the points from the year previous. We don't pretend to know how or why all that happened. We are just anxious to play this Saturday at Husky Stadium and I know Jeff will have his team ready to play.'
What differences do you see between this Cal team and the Cal teams you have faced in the last couple years?:
'Well I see a quarterback playing with a lot of confidence. I've always been a big fan of Kyle Boller. I tried to recruit him myself, had a number of telephone conversations with him when he was a high school senior. I've talked to him after each of the games we have played against him and I am happy that he is having so much success because he is a wonderful young man. I just hope that he doesn't go crazy against us. He's playing with great confidence and you can see that coach Tedford and whom ever else has been involved with his coaching have done a good job with him and I think he is playing like everyone has envisioned him to play for a number of years. They've got a good scheme. It's very much like Oregon over the last couple years. It's difficult to sac the quarterback so you have to cover them and in covering them you've got your hands full because they've got accruements to the offense and it makes it difficult to be in all places at all times.'
How can you account for the low number of penalties against Washington so far this year?:
'The bottom line is that you try to instill a discipline in your team that you hope will have a carry over affect when you get to Saturdays. That is, if you're an offensive player you're listening to the snap count. Listening is concentration oriented. The same for the defense. A lot of our conditioning is that we are watching the ball and not jumping off sides. You just try to make that part of your culture and then we try to eliminate the selfish penalties. I think when you take things into your own and do something late or do something foolish where you make the game an individual battle aside from what else is going on in a respective scheme or so forth. Hopefully that transcends playing cleaner football; hopefully it will help us.'
Do you feel that since Cal is similar to Oregon, it is old homework playing against them this year?:
'Well we didn't play Oregon last year, so I don't feel like it's old home week. I've only played against Oregon twice since I've been at Washington. Certainly we all exchange tapes and you see others countless times over the course of the season so we all know what Jeff has done as an offensive coordinator so it's no surprise that you see a lot of the same things you see implemented at Oregon. There is a number of teams now that have that identity and it's obviously proven to be pretty effective.'
Do you think that this year's team will always come through for you in the fourth quarter?:
'We certainly hope so. As you mentioned, we had an opportunity to win one in our opener against Michigan. I think the kids did a great job, I screwed it up. We hopefully will continue to possess that as part of who we are, the ability to play well when the game is in the balance and we know we will need to be successful in this conference because the pairings are unlike any other.'
What are the biggest adjustments in terms of speed and strength you are making for Cal this week?:
'I think we have to understand that this is a fast starting team. I have been relatively pleased with how we have played coming out of the box each of the last two weeks. We fumbled in our opening drive last week against Idaho, but other than that I thought we played a decent first half. I thought we did a nice job managing the clock at the end of the first half, though they ended up coming back, but we needed to take more time off. We left them with thirty seconds and they found a way to make that longer than any thirty seconds I've ever seen. The bottom line is we need to start fast and we need to play four quarters now. I don't think we have done this yet this season, play complete four quarters of football without any let downs. We've got to really play smart football for the remainder of our season and I'm excited that we get the opportunity to start that this weekend.'
What excites you the most for the game this week?:
'I think any time you play a team that has a lot of confidence, that is a nervous assignment. They have put out numbers, they don't turn the ball over, I think they are fifth the country in turn over ratio. So we got to get them off the field. We are improving in that regard. I don't think Idaho had a third down conversion until the middle of the third quarter. So we are improving in that regard. On the flip side we are able to stay on the field. We had some long drives. We've just go to do a better job at getting into the end zone. I see we are first in offense and seventh in scoring offense, so we've squandered lots of opportunities. Those are things we are going to continue to address. But in facing a depth offense, you've got to pick your spot because you're not going to get home very often when you blitz. Really I think it comes down to stopping the running game. Joe Igber has had a lot of good games against the Huskies. We did a better job on him a year ago, but that was a difficult year for the entire program. If we can get him slowed down not just as a runner, but as a screen receiver, then cover him because they are throwing the ball with a high level of efficiency right now.'
What is Cal's best scheme?:
'Their production schemes are good. They've got kind of a half roll that makes it very difficult to get home. Downfield plays, the big arm quarterbacks Oregon has had over the years, Kyle Boller fits into that system. So you've got to pick your spot as to when you're going to try and get there.'
'We've got a couple guys nicked up, but I don't think it will keep anyone from the game. There's a lot of concern over Reggie Williams and his leg and Aaron Butler and his thigh. Both look to be okay. I think both will be practicing tomorrow. At what speed we'll have to wait and see, but I think it will definitely be full speed. We'll just have to wait and see how Elliot Zajac does. I wasn't clear on Aaron's condition this morning when made the depth chart. Ideally when Elliot is fine, we'll have Elliot back at the strong guard and Dan Dicks and Aaron Butler competing at the weak. This is all predicated on restedness and availability the week of.'
On the quarterbacks in the Pac-10 this year:
'Not to take anything away from Cody, but it's been a throwing extravaganza across the country and particularly on our side of the country. Numbers have been staggering. Gesser throws for over 400 and they wondered if he was going to play. Kyle Boller throws of like 380 in the same game. We've thrown for 400 two weeks in a row. It's a bizarre conference. I think it's a phenomenon and people are catching up to the zone blitzes. I think some of the things people are doing, people are catching up to. People have stacked the boxes to stop the run and made safeties really glorified linebackers, which was how Idaho tried to play us. You're left with the option of throwing it. People have coached it well and recruited well to be able to take advantage of the opportunity presented.'
On what Pickett did well and what he needs to improve upon:
'I like the way he's letting the game come to him. There was a comment after the ball game on Saturday that we didn't throw the ball down field, deep throws and so forth. We called a few; we just didn't need to necessarily take them, when they're not presented. You know, he's finding his guys. I always like to throw the ball about 50% on first down, and our ratio was a little bit more than 50% on first down, again that being because they stacked the box. On first down we were only 50%, but our second and third downs when you're kind of more having to throw, I think he was 21 for 26, which is great discipline in a throwing offense of taking what they give you. You see again, where the tailback is catching 6 or 7 balls in the last two games, and those are almost always in the check down variety, a couple predetermined screens, but I'm enjoying watching him going through his progression and obviously to do that you got to be protecting well, so it's going well. Things I'd like to see him do better, as a former quarterback you want perfection. There is sometimes when I think he forces the ball, sometimes where I don't think his feet are exactly how he'd like them to be. There was one time when he scrambled, he should have obviously got out of bounds and he didn't. He took a hit where he didn't have to. I still want to get better at option; he kept the ball on one, where if he had pitched it, we were in the end zone. There's a lot of things. We won't waste two hours of practice time; he won't be wondering what were doing next because this is getting boring. I promise you, there is more to improve upon.'
On his feelings with class finally starting:
'We are a university of higher education, it's important we fulfill the student part of the student-athlete assignment. It's just amazing that the quarter schools can sit around and play for so long without getting involved in the other side of it. Hopefully our guys can understand that there's a reason they have to get to bed at night. They've been on their feet a little bit more than the norm over the last couple of weeks. I think there are only 12 division one quarter schools, and five of them are in the Pac-10. There are some advantages, especially for the freshman, but it's along time before classes begin. We've got to keep talking about it. It's hard if you fall prey to all the distractions.'
On Charles Fredericks:
'It's wonderful to see all kids flourish. We recruit kids with the thought in mind that they are going to have their day in the sun, and Charles came here with much aplomb. It's always important to remember that people develop at different rates, not everybody just is a ready-made person or player. It's nice that he's been able to grow up and mature, and that process will continue, he's not a finished product by any steps of the imagination. He's on a nice course, and the main thing is how he has evolved back into the main stream of the team culture. That's the thing that's hard to right about for an outsider looking in, but you talk about team chemistry, well, that's what it is. It's the glue, how kids get along with other kids. They leave here they're still teammates, and that's been what's nice to watch unfold.'
On nicknaming Fredericks, the receiving core, and comments on their overall play:
'I didn't get a chance to coach him, but Keith Gilbertson always talks about Mario Bailey. The great 'Super Mario' who made the highlight real almost every time he played out here. Charles has the same kind of body control. Keith says, having being on the same practice field as both of them, that he's fun to have on our team and this last week was his week. A week ago Arnold had a big day and two weeks ago it was Reggie. We've got a nice group of guys who don't seem to mind who's getting the spotlight as long as we're playing well. The thing that that group needs to be better at is blocking. We missed a lot of blocking assignments as wide receivers this past week and before we start figuring out a nickname, lets figure out who to block, and see if we can't become a heck of a squad in that regard.'
On Kai Ellis:
'There are a lot of teams that will run away from him and with his edge position, he's got a lot of naked bootleg responsibilities, so he can't just chase and get into the traffic as much as he would maybe like. We are very pleased with Kai Ellis, we have not played a team since the opening game that has really come at us with the running game, and it will be interesting to see how Cal attacks us. Michigan got two backs in there, rolled up their sleeves and said 'lets dance'. That's Kai Ellis' cup of tea. He wants that kind of ballgame. What we got to get more out of our edge guys is more pressure. You saw USC have a great week of four man pressure, and that's ultimately going to be the key to who's going to win this conference, is who can create that and still play good defense.'