Weekly Press Conference

Nov. 20, 2000

Weekly Press Conference
Nov. 20, 2000
Coach Rick Neuheisel Quotes

(General Remarks): 'We are ecstatic, as I am sure you would expect. It is wonderful to be walking around preparing for a wonderful opportunity like playing in the Granddaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl. I know there is still an outside chance that we could play in the Orange Bowl for the National Championship. While we would certainly relish that opportunity, we are moving along with the idea that we will be playing Purdue in the Rose Bowl and are thrilled at the prospect of such a game. We are looking forward to our banquet this evening, you can imagine it will be a lot of fun for everybody. And maybe the best news I have for you is that I talked to Curtis Williams' brother, David, this morning and Curtis is thrilled. He is the one saying `we could still go to the Orange Bowl.' Curtis wants the big prize. Curtis is able to move his shoulders. He is able to flex them and that is progress. We are elated that this moving along in the right direction. So, lots of great things are happening in the University of Washington football program and we are just going to enjoy the moment for the time being. We will begin practice Friday, December 1. The likelihood is that we will practice Friday and Saturday of each of the December weekends until the weekend of December 15 and 16. We'll have to discuss when we will leave and all those details that have yet to be determined. The players will have this particular week off and we will get into an off-season program where they will be running and lifting in preparation for the weekend practices.'

(On the significance of head-to-head competition in the rankings): 'I don't think there is a more viable way of determining who the better team is. I don't think we've come up with one. That is the whole idea of playoffs, you let them play it out on the field. If they've already played it out on the field, I'd say you've already got that accomplished. I know the coaches poll, the ESPN poll, doesn't have the opportunity to take anyone, other than from the one-and-two game, as the number one team. It is predetermined that the winner of that game is number one. The writer's poll, the AP poll, is not so set in their ways. If the scenario was to play out, and this is the cart way before the horse, we could argue, yes, we beat Miami. We've got a big task in front of us in just beating a very fine Purdue Boilermaker team. I would rather just not talk about that until such a time became necessary to talk about that.'

(On getting to the Rose Bowl in his second year at Washington): 'It is a thrill. And maybe more so than for my family and myself personally, it is a thrill knowing what lies ahead for these kids. Having participated in this game, as both a junior and senior, knowing what that feeling is to run out of the tunnel before the game, there is no better feeling in the world. I can't wait to just watch it all unfold, I am going to enjoy every minute of it.'

(On the 51-3 victory over Washington State): 'Considering the way we played all year, it did surprise me. But, I knew it was inside of us. I knew we had the ability to be a good team for all four quarters, we just hadn't done it. I think we picked a good time to get that accomplished.'

(On what he might have done differently): 'I don't know if I did anything differently. Tuesday's practice was not a great practice. We talked at the end of that practice and what the human psyche wants to do when they are looking forward to something, is to want it to be here right now. People do not want to have to wait for things they look forward to. That was basically how we practiced on Tuesday, we practiced as though we couldn't wait to get to Saturday. I said we can just prepare and make sure that we stay in our routines and play the very best possible and play to our capabilities so that we can make sure we can finish the job. On Friday night we talked not what lies after a victory, which again is wanting to open the present early, we talked about more importantly, finishing the job. What has been remarkable about this group of kids and this group of coaches is that they have been resilient in finishing the job. There is nobody that said, `we will wait until next week or do something else.' We just found a way to finish things and that was really important. So, I thought they handled it really well, pre-game warm-up was as sharp as it's been all year. I knew we were right to play.'

(On any doubt at the start of the season): 'I don't know if doubt is the correct word, there are certainly always questions that coaches have. In the race car business you are always tinkering, always trying to figure out how you can make that thing go a little faster. To say doubt, would be misleading because I knew these kids would always compete having been with them the year previous. We had questions about depth, about injuries. This was not a team that went through the season unscathed with the injury bug. We lost Maurice Shaw before the season began. We had all kinds of injuries along the way, the most significant being the Curtis Williams injury. So, we had to do some tinkering, just as I think most staffs around the country. You (the media) picked us to be number one in the Pac-10 (preseason). We believed that we could. We had been on the threshold the year previous. We knew we had to play more consistently and not have weeks off like we had in the year previous. We didn't have to go through that transitionary time where we were just trying to figure out who we were, as we did last year. We were optimistic, although the schedule was a little foreboding, we wanted to play. I don't think we ever made any bones about our goal, which was to be the Pac-10 Champions.'

(On the trust among the team upon his arrival in early 1999): 'I believe that for the majority of the players that the trust kicked in immediately. I think it was important for them to be a part of a winning team and be a part of the Washington tradition that depicts winning and consistency and so forth. When we spoke about how important it was that we trust each other, maybe even before we've earned each other's trust, so that we could go and not wait until that trust had been earned. Most of them bought in, that's when I talked about the core, being in the core as opposed to just putting your foot in the water and seeing if this works. Everybody didn't do it, there were some casualties along the way and I don't say that as though they let us down. They made choices that this wasn't exactly what they were looking for and so making them, they weren't bad people, this just wasn't going to work. They were going to go in that one direction and they weren't going to come along, no sweat. For the majority and for the guys that are being written about now, they believed right away. Trust is integral in any organizations success, it has to be part of it.'

(On the success of the option offense this season): 'We talked about it a year ago, if you don't have a legitimate deep threat, how are you going to back up and make them, as we say, `behave' on defense? One of the ways to do that is to make the option a part of your arsenal. We were very fortunate in that we had a gifted quarterback in handling option and not just one type of option, he was adept at handling any and all types of options, which we as a staff grew to understand. None of the guys on this staff had come from an option background and certainly we had been in the football business long enough to know the principles of the option. But, in terms of the intricacies of the blocking schemes and all that kind of stuff, we had to call around and ask questions. One of the guys who was really helpful himself was Marques (Tuiasosopo) because he had played in an option offense in high school. I take my hat off to the coaching staff in their ability to move from their comfort zones on offense and create an offense that really became difficult to stop, even without the benefit of great speed at wide receiver. And then I also believe, that our wide receivers found ways to make plays and played over and above what their experience dictated they might have.'

(On the team's tenacity): 'When you are playing competitive endeavors, you have to like the contest, you have to like the competition. If you are going to be in competitive endeavors, you've got to have people that enjoy the fight. You could probably pick a lot of different words, but `fight' seems to me characterize your willingness to put yourself into uncomfortable situations. Our guys have been unbelievable in doing that even when the odds looked as though it may not be our day. We have a collection of guys that keep pushing and keep pushing and pushing. We were certainly the benefactors of good fortune, I'm not going to say that we were just clearly superior. But, we were there to capitalize on the breaks. We kept in the fight so that when the break happened, we able to capitalize and that is the definition of good fortune in my mind.'

(On the possibility of the Orange Bowl): 'Based on what I am hearing, Miami would have to lose to Boston College, which while I think Boston College is a fine program, I don't see that happening. And then Oklahoma would have to lose to Kansas State, which is a more realistic thing because I think Kansas State is a very fine program. Having played them once and knowing the kind of coaching staff Bill Snyder has there, I think they would have some good ideas. The likelihood of Miami falling down against Boston College is not great.'

(On Pac-10 football this season): 'I think a year ago after an overtime loss to UCLA, we had put ourselves in situation where nothing was guaranteed. Let me say this about Oregon and while we're on the topic, Oregon State: I think both of those programs had outstanding years. I tip my hat to both of their coaching staffs. We played them both and it was a dogfight both times. We'd like to have a chance to play better against Oregon, the one game we lost. But, I know Oregon State would like another shot at us in how that game came down to the finish. I think that Northwest football was outstanding this year and Mike Price (Washington State head coach), I know he's not excited about how it went down in the final weekend, but that was a team that could have easily been bowl eligible had it not been for overtime. I think that it was an outstanding job by all parties involved. I think Oregon State definitely deserves to be in a BCS game. They are fifth in the BCS poll. If Florida State doesn't get themselves into the national championship game and Florida were to win the SEC, they won't pit Florida State and Florida again. The likelihood is that the team that would go to the Sugar Bowl would probably play Virginia Tech, the Sugar Bowl thinking that they could get fans from Virginia than from Oregon into New Orleans. Hopefully, the Oregon fans will say that they like Jambalaya and get the news out. I think they deserve it, Dennis Erickson (Oregon State head coach) has done an unbelievable job. He'll be my pick for coach of the year in this league. And Mike Bellotti (Oregon head coach). It's hard to be the frontrunner the entire year, it's hard to carry that flag and get it to the finish line. They came within an eyelash of getting it done and they did a great job too.'

(On the BCS system): 'I don't think you are going to find a perfect system, so I am fine with it. While there are people that are waving their Washington banners saying that we are not getting our fair due because of the game against Miami and so forth. Certainly you could make the argument and not stoop your shoulders in making it because we did play them on the field. But, there is no perfect system. College football has a unique characteristic and that being the bowl games. They aren't just the one-day wonders where you stay in a hotel, play the game and then go back to your campus. It is an experience, an experience of a lifetime. To go to playoffs, where you may be able to settle this on the field of play, I think would take away from that experience. If we were going to have a change, the only one I would advocate would be to go to a system where you play the bowl games and then take four teams out of it. Arbitrary, yes, but at least you'd have your bowl experiences and then everybody can fight, and scratch and claw. It would create more revenue and revenue is important to fund all of intercollegiate athletics. So, that would be the only thing I would do differently.'

(On playing difficult schedules): 'I think you play whoever is on your schedule. I think you should be wise in building your team and in building your team you don't put too much on your plate, especially when you are not rewarded, at least not to the extent of the challenge on that particular gameday. I am not advocating not to play Miami. I am advocating not playing Miami and Miami again. I don't think you need to do all of it, every year. The fans love the non-conference games, the intersectional games. I think it is great for the game, great for television, and so forth. How much of that you put on your plate is the question Colorado would argue that they had maybe a little too much of non-conference this year.'

(On Marques Tuiasosopo and post-season awards): 'He doesn't have the Heisman type numbers. It's a shame because he certainly gave a memorable performance this season. I can't imagine a more valuable player to his team than Marques. I can't imagine a more fierce competitor. And yet I admire (Oklahoma quarterback Josh) Heupel, I admire (Florida State quarterback Chris) Weinke, I admire (Purdue quarterback) Drew Brees. Those guys are all great players, and I am only mentioning great quarterbacks in this conversation. I am just fortunate that number 11 played for the Huskies.

(On team unity): 'It's really important that team be the most important thing we talk about when we are building a culture and that we talk about what we mean to each other. Long after the trophies have gained dust on the shelf what really matters is the relationships you have formed when you play. I talked about that a year ago. Reunions are not so much to come back and talk about what you won and the watches you garnered. Reunions are to rekindle the relationships that were so important to you and the climb that was so important. I remember talking to the team, I think it was before the Oregon State game, about what they would do if there was a button we could push right there and it would say we were going to the Rose Bowl and we don't have to play any of the next six games, but we get to go. We asked `how many of you would push it?' And the bottom line is, while you might think about it, the real reward is earning it and playing it one at a time. You go out there and find out if you are good enough. Find out if you can get this accomplished. And while the pain of not making it is excruciating, we experienced it a year ago and Oregon is experiencing right now, that is what sports is all about, that climb.'

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