Head Coach Rick Neuheisel Talks in Weekly Press Conference
Sept. 17, 2001
General Remarks: 'Given the events of last week the trauma, the grief, the cataclysmic events were excited to try to get back to some level of normalcy. Watching all of the different accounts of the disasters and watching the absence of sporting events this weekend I think that it will be a necessary time for everybody involved to get back to playing. I think it is also going to be a nice way and an appropriate way to honor all those who suffered immense losses given the last week and the events therein. I am excited about playing, thankful that we get the opportunity and certainly looking forward to as I said earlier getting back on track. So with that we respect our opponent this week in Idaho. They haven't gotten off to the start that they had anticipated but I still believe they are a talented football team in watching the tapes that we have. They gave an unbelievable effort late in the game against Arizona to get themselves back into the ball game and I envision them coming in here with number one great intensity and number two great information given I coached with Tom Cable at Colorado so he knows a lot about how I do things. Tarn Sublett who is now their wide receivers coach was with us up until this summer as a graduate assistant so he is well versed on how we do things on both sides of the ball so they will have a great deal of information as a head start in preparing for this kind of ball game. I guess the overriding thing for me with regard to this Saturday's game is to be thankful that we are going to get to play and hopefully honor those who suffered so immensely last week.'
On who the team would rather be playing, Miami or Idaho: 'I think we are just thankful to be playing. I really don't think it matters much who is on the other sideline and I'm sure Idaho feels the same way. We are just excited about the chance to play and to do what we can as I said earlier to honor those who lost so much. It makes no difference who the opponent is.'
On the challenge Idaho presents: 'I consider all games pretty tough. I don't factor in won loss records or anything like that. Anytime you play and a team is trying to win then it is a tough contest. You can't ever take anything for granted.'
On Idaho this year vs. last year: 'I think that Tom has tried to get his program underway. They had some great moments a year ago, they are trying to get themselves on track and get his philosophy ingrained into the program so I don't see a lot of deviance from last years way of doing things. They have got a couple of new wrinkles defensively and certainly they are trying to feature their quarterback because he is a very talented young man. It looks like the same kind of approach.'
On Cody Pickett: 'As I've said every time I've been asked I'm very excited about where Cody is. Certainly I see lots of room for improvement but given the opponent the first week and all of the anxiety that goes along with playing your first time, I thought he handled it incredibly well. His numbers were very respectable and probably could have been better had we just caught the ball. He didn't turn the ball over, which I think is the number one glowing thing that he did for us in the game. I just think he's got a tremendous upside.'
On why Pickett is the starter: 'Well, he was familiar with our offense as we entered spring ball. He was the incumbent in the terms that he had been in our program so he got the first chance and he never ever looked back. He just played really well. He has just been a very consistent performer since he got that job and I've been impressed with Taylor Barton, I think he can certainly play at this level and if need be he will be successful. But for now Cody is the guy and Cody's doing well.'
On the last two weeks: 'This has been a strange, strange set of circumstances which is probably the understatement of all time but it has seemed like a long time has gone between the last time we played and now again get the opportunity to go focus again on another game, another opponent. But I am very proud of the way our young guys handled the adversity. The maturity with which they dealt with the grief associated and I think if anything we came a little closer as a group, and certainly are thankful for the opportunities that we are provided to play in this kind of environment.'
On improvement in the redzone offense and tackling: 'Well it is difficult to assess the improvement when you haven't played again. But we have addressed those issues and we will see the results as we get further into our season.'
On how the team is moving forward: 'We are bombarded with pictures of what took place. You can't walk past a television set without seeing again and again the horror associated with the attacks and then to compile that with the disaster in Mexico and so forth. I want us to get focused on the task that we have as a football team but I think there is also a lesson in all of this that we ought to be extremely grateful for our lot in life if you will and that we have people in our lives that we can share with not just joys of victory but also grief, anxiety and all other types of emotions associated with these types of catastrophic events. Ultimately life goes on and we as a football team and as a country will have to go on and as I said to the guys and I think they also share in this view that the best way to honor those who have dealt with such an unbelievable loss is to do our best given what goals we set out to achieve and I think our guys are anxious to do that and that is why I mentioned earlier that it doesn't matter who is on the other side. We just want to play and honor those that have given so much.'
On going to high school football games and what they were like: 'I went to a couple of high school games on Friday night, yes. I mentioned on the ESPN broadcast that I thought it was extremely therapeutic. It was just a real sense of neighborhood associated with both games. It was obvious to me that the people that were at the games watching it were feeling the pains of patriotism, wanting to do something to honor America as well as the victims and it was neat to see people enjoying and not taking for granted what comes from competition and what comes from these types of events. Friday night high school football was a big deal when I was a kid maybe the people will come to realize that it should be a big deal and it is not just because it is football. It is just the idea of a community coming together and watching their young people compete and play hard. It was a neat thing I enjoyed it a great deal.'
On not playing this weekend: 'Given the void that was left by not playing this weekend and realizing what role football, baseball, and athletic events in general has in our society I think it was exactly the right thing not to do it so that everybody realizes what kind of a wonderful place we live in. Certainly I'm on the inside so it looks as if I may be a little biased in that commentary but I just believe that it's part of who we are. To get back to some sense of normalcy if normalcy can be achieved. I'm not sure what normalcy means but to get back to some level of, you know what we've got a good thing going here and we're going to do what we can to make sure that we maintain it and not take it for granted and look for more of the good in it and not the cynical view that takes place.'
On what this program has been through: 'If you think about the last 12 months for our program certainly everybody shares in the catastrophe of last week and we also the compounded tragedy in Mexico. But if you just look and factor in the Curtis Williams thing. There have been reminder after reminder to our young people and our program and in the Washington athletic department that you can't take things for granted. It may seem like you're ten feet tall and bullet proof and I don't think anyone would say this is a totally unhealthy way to think when you are 18 to 22 but you have got to stop and smell the roses every now and then and I don't think you're ever too young to have that mentality. Most times you have to deal with some level of mortality before you get the sense of that. They talk about people who have come back from devastating illness or terminally ill where they get a second chance and how they view life differently. We've had a number of events that have happened in this program that now have given us a chance in this perspective that this is a really neat thing that we get to do. We ought to look at it from that vantage point. That certainly doesn't mean that we should diminish our competitiveness or lessen our goals or deviate from striving to be the best but it is a wakeup call that we are darn lucky. Not only to be playing this game in this place but also to be in this kind of country which fosters that kind of environment.'
On practicing after the attack: 'Well as you know we did not practice on the day of the attack. We went out the next day and tried to crack into it. On Thursday after we learned of the tragedy in Mexico we tried to honor the 16 Husky fans that lost their lives by practicing with the flowers so that they would have a great view symbolically of our practice and realize that we miss them deeply and then we practiced a little bit on Friday and Saturday morning. Not the normal length of practice but certainly enough to stay in a rhythm to stay in a routine and if nothing else to come together, to be with one another in these difficult times. We will return to practice again this afternoon. It was different than what you'd quote call a bye week no question there but we tried to give ourselves a chance to spend time with one another.'
On the effects of not playing the Miami game last week: 'Well it is another challenge to our players but the goals of our non-conference season were to prepare for our conference season and hopefully become the first team to defend a conference championship since Washington did so in the early 90's. Just because Miami is no longer on the schedule in the same place doesn't mean that the clock isn't ticking in terms of time before we play our first conference game. So we couldn't go back and just rest as if we were going to get those days back later. Those days were important in terms of improving and doing the kind of things that are necessary for us to be the team we need to be to hopefully be competitive in the conference. I have been elated with the response of our team through all of this. We are very fortunate to get to coach the kids we get to coach.'
On what high school games he went to: 'I went to the Auburn-Kentwood game and then I went to the Garfield-Eastlake game.'
On Tarn Sublet: 'Well he sits in our staff rooms. This isn't a knock on Tarn he works for Idaho now so I wouldn't label him a traitor like that he just had information about how we communicate and so we have to change our communication system a little bit so that they won't know exactly what we are doing.'
On the fans at the game this Saturday: 'I hope that we will celebrate being in a country that has these kind of events. I'm hopeful that everybody will be looking forward to seeing their friends, people that they sit with at ball games and enjoying all that is good about Husky football. As I've said many times Husky fans are absolutely awesome in the passion that they possess for this program and this university. It goes beyond just coming to watch a football game and hoping your team wins. This is part of their life part of their culture. It has been here for a long time and because this is not a real transient part of the country meaning that people are not coming and going a lot it has kind of woven into the fabric of Washingtonians life.'
On the change in the schedule of the Miami game: 'Well that has been asked and I did not feel it appropriate to answer that as though it was a real major topic on my mind. But there was a time earlier and Barbara can give you details of this where Loren Michaels from ABC wanted to schedule Miami late into the season and we agreed to do that but it didn't work with the Big East schedule so it didn't happen. But just given the maturity of our team in November as opposed to earlier in the season you would say that we would have a better chance but that is insignificant given the details and the reason for the change in schedule.'