Tostitos Bowl Press Conference - Oregon Defense

Dec. 29, 2001

Fiesta Bowl News Conference
Oregon University Defensive Coordinator and Players
Phoenix Airport Marriott - Friday, December 28, 2001

Defensive Coordinator Nick Aliotti

On how has practice gone to date:

'There's a fine line between getting ready for a game and having fun. We understand that this is an important game, and our focus has been good. But I think our players should also have fun.'

On whether he thinks his defense has been underrated:

'We obviously have more marquee players on offense. But we play well as a team, and all our players understand the team concept. We've held our opponents to an average of under 22 points per game. We're undersized, but we battle hard. Our corners are probably our marquee players on defense. We have had more passes thrown against us because we are usually ahead. We may not look good statistically, but we get the job done.'

On stopping Colorado's running game:

'Colorado has an outstanding running game with a good blocking fullback and three powerful north-south runners. I'd call them the best offensive team I've seen since the 1994 Penn State team. They are very sound and well balanced, averaging 228 yards per game rushing and 206 yards passing. Their bread-and-butter is running the ball, and they don't ask their quarterbacks to win games all by themselves. We will play eight men up front and challenge them to throw the ball. We have to stop the run in order to win the game. We have faced some good teams that run the ball well -- Stanford, for example. So structurally, we're geared to stop the run.'

Cornerback Rashad Bauman

On his role against a strong Colorado rushing team:

'(My role) doesn't change much for action, because I still have to come up for run support. At the same time we can't lull ourselves asleep trying to stop the run, stop the run, stop the run and then get beat with a long pass. That's what CU does. They sleep you, sleep you, sleep you and then hit you long. That's something that our secondary definitely has to be aware of. When it comes down to it, they'll have to beat us in the air.'

On being back home:

'It's definitely been different this week, being down here in this warm weather. I don't think it's harder being at home. It's definitely been fun, but at the same time we're down here to take care of business and play a football game. I've got all year to celebrate with my family and everybody. I'm just down here to take care of business in this game against Colorado and hope we go home with a victory.'

On whether playing at home in the Fiesta Bowl is an ideal ending to his career:

'My ideal ending was play on the third (of January). But we're definitely happy to be here. I'm glad we're in this situation. It's not often that two teams that aren't playing in the national championship could possibly get a share of it.'

On his growth since leaving the Valley:

'I'm a lot different as far as I'm more humble. I know the game better. I enjoy the game a lot more just due to the fact that the knowledge has grown and I've had the opportunity to play with and against some good players. I'm smarter. Coach (Mike) Gillhamer has put me in positions and gave me the knowledge to make better decisions on the field and that's one of the reasons for our success.

On his lack of size:

'I just play football. I've been doing this since I was eight years old. I've just been doing it for so long it's just something that's natural.'

Defensive Tackle Zack Freiter

On small Oregon defensive front:

'We really have to make sure we have our discipline, our technique down. Even though we go against people who are bigger than us we can get off the ball faster. Our skills, our hand placement and our feet and all of the work we've been doing, we're able to contend with these larger people. We've gone against big offensive linemen and they haven't been able to do anything against us.'

'We make sure that we don't give up points. It sucks giving up yards. We've been pretty good at keeping people out of the end zone and that's the most important thing for us.'

On the Colorado offensive front:

'They look pretty good. They're rushing for a lot of yards right now and they're doing good stuff over there. You have to respect them and go out there and be ready to play against one of the best lines in the nation.'

On the senior class:

'Our class has always believed that we could win a game no matter what, no matter how far we're behind. No matter what happened we believe that we can win against anybody.'

Outside Linebacker Wesly Mallard

On Oregon's style of defense:

'We are a defense that may bend, but we will not brake. The focus is to stop the run by taking away the inside and forcing the opposing offense to run outside. As a result, we may give up a lot of passing yards. Our goal is to stop the run and force the pass. So, the matchup between our defense and Colorado's offense should be a good challenge.'

On Colorado's running game:

'The running game is a big part of Colorado's offensive threat. They have a good running game and a great offensive line that blocks well. The running backs are also talented and have depth. They play tough, head-on football.'

On Oregon's defensive game plan:Colorado has a strong running game and we are focused on stopping their running game. This game is a perfect challenge for our defense, especially the linebackers. The linebackers need to do their job and we will. We have critics that have doubted our defense throughout the season. As we have during the season, we will step up and accept the challenge of stopping Colorado's running game. I believe the defense is underrated. This game is an opportunity to prove our critics are wrong.

On Wesly Mallard's performance throughout the season:

'My ability to read plays has improved my performance to play smart football. I feel comfortable and confident at my position and this allows me to use my speed to make tackles. Playing in the Fiesta Bowl is a great way to end my memorable college football career.'

Cornerback Steve Smith

On Colorado's running game:

They have a solid offensive line and that is why their running game is so effective. The offensive line keeps the cutback lanes wide open. So, we need to hold our gaps and make the backs run outside and let Rashad Bauman and myself make those tackles - I believe this is the key to the game.

On playing for head coach Mike Bellotti:

'He is a great guy with a positive and motivating attitude. He always gets us ready to play great football. Practices are tough, but that gets us ready to play on game day. He has a lot of love for us players and at has helped in motivating the team. I credit Mike's instinct and talent for the game.'

On the mentality required playing cornerback at Oregon:

You need to always be in the game, since you play one-on-one defense. This is a great opportunity to showcase my ability to play one-on-one football. This is a challenge I enjoy and main reason why I chose to play at Oregon.

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