Coach Neuheisel's Press Conference Quotes
Sept. 2, 2002
On Michigan Game:
'We are certainly disappointed with the outcome of the weekend's contest with Michigan. Everybody I'm sure is aware of the facts that took place and the bizarre circumstances that unfolded during the end of the games that kept us from having our optimum chance to win the game. As I said, after the conclusion of the game, we congratulated Michigan.
'I think they're going to have a great football team, I know Coach Carr is excited about his squad, as well he should be. As demoralizing as it is to have lost in such a way, I'm also mindful that there were a lot of great things that happened in the ball game too. Despite the outcome, despite the final score, despite the mix-up which allowed for too many men to be on the field, there were a number of great things that were exhibited on the field that I think we can use to build on, that I think we can use to continue to improve upon and why I'm still very optimistic that we can achieve many if not all of our goals for the season.'
On the season's goals:
'There're sometimes people, especially in the world of college football, who jump to the conclusion that just because you start with a setback that you're no longer playing for the big prize, nothing could be further from the truth. We found out a great deal about ourselves on Saturday, much of it good. We also discovered that there is a glitch and we have to get that fixed as quickly as is possible so that it never haunts us again. But there are things that I'm very excited about. We came from behind on the road. We were down 14-0 in one of the more difficult places to play in the country, and found a way all the way back a couple of times and came back and took the lead. If not for a 15-yard penalty at the end of the ballgame, I'm fairly confident that our defense would have held. In years past we'd given up scores in that same situation, and this time we did hold. As a matter of fact, there's still some controversy as to whether or not we did already hold and it was in respect to the completion on fourth down and two. So I think we can build on that, I think our kids can gain some confidence from that.'
On the positives from the game:
'I thought that even though it was not consistent and not by any stretch of the imagination a finished project, I thought that our offensive line and our running game showed promise. It's (Michigan) a very, very talented run defense and we kept banging and banging and I think we learned a great deal from that contest about who we are as a running team and how we can go about improving. Even though the numbers may not indicate, you have to remember that in college football you always factor in sacks to the rushing yardage, that takes away. So I understand that in comparative terms, you're probably scratching your heads, how can you say that there were any positives in the running game. I just believe we're on the verge of having a good running football team. I thought Rich Alexis for the most part played really well and really strong, stayed in the entire game.'
On improvements that need to be made? :
'There are certainly some things that we need to improve upon. Our snappers -- we did not perform well either punt snapping or extra point snapping. We have to do better there and we'll work to get that done. Some pursuit angles were poor defensively that I think we can get that fixed quickly. There were certainly a number of young players playing their first time in that kind of environment that blinked at times with respect to forgetting exactly what they were to do. Hopefully they'll learn from that experience and I think also we had some players who missed a portion or a lot of camp who need desperately to get in shape. Given the heat and the humidity in Michigan, it was certainly an evident thing that we had some guys who still lack conditioning, so we've got a ways to go to get that done.'
On this week's game vs. San Jose State:
'We have another big game this weekend against San Jose State. Watching the film against Arkansas State I think they're a very talented team. They've got a neat offensive scheme that will require a lot of discipline on the part of our defense. They can do a lot of things with the ball. Their quarterback is a very multiple threat; he's obviously talented. You've heard Coach Hill talk about how bright he is. He also runs with the ball. They've got a number of talented wide receivers, some very good looking tight ends, and an offensive line that knows exactly what they need to do to be effective. Defensively they, I think, caused five turnovers in their opening game, and two of them for scores, so they are obviously very opportunistic.'
On moving ahead after Michigan loss:
'You know, on the one hand, we're absolutely mortified with the way things turned out, but on the other hand there are 11 games to play, and we have to put that one away. We'll go to being mortified at another time when we can have the inclination and the time to do so. It goes without saying, it was a nightmare of epic proportions, but as I said there were some great things that came from the game and things that I'm excited about going forward with.'
On improving third-down conversion rate, defensively:
'We want to be really good on third down. We gave up, I think, right at fifty percent on Saturday. That's well above what we can to give up, but I'm also mindful the quality of the opponent, and when you do it over the course of a year, we'll see where we are. It was a first game, but we've got to improve in that department.'
After two days, does what happened on Saturday sting any less?
'It stings more because all you can do is think of things that you could have done differently. We have a mechanism in place for how we substitute, it just broke and so we are fixing it. We're addressing it this afternoon. We'll address it every Friday before every game from now on and we'll do our very, very best to not let that happen again.'
Any injury update?
'Jimmy Newell had dislocated two fingers. I think they've been repaired. The concern now is for infection. I guess it's commonplace. When that takes place there is a great opportunity for infection, so we're going to have to check to see that that doesn't happen. If we can keep that from happening, then he could be back as soon as the Wyoming game, if infection becomes a part, then it becomes probably a longer injury.'
On the team's road performance compared to last season:
'We talked long and hard about what we needed to do on the road and we did everything but remember some substitution policies at the end of the ballgame. It's demoralizing that everybody needs to suffer because we make a mistake at the most critical time of a ballgame, but and this is always the action you use with a team, you win as a team, you lose as a team. There were a number of mistakes throughout the ballgame that could have kept that from even being a factor; a number of things could have taken place and you can beat yourself up and kill yourself over the what ifs. What you do in life is you go forward and you focus on the positives as you build the attitude of your team and you focus on the mistakes as you build the corrections into the coaching plan and hopefully you'll end up with a final result that you've very proud of.'
On Charles Frederick's performance:
'I think Charles performed like that all fall camp. I would have been surprised had he not had a good game because he played so well in fall camp. But with respect for him being a big-time member of this team as it is with everybody it's a day-to-day thing. You have to continue to do that. You have to continue to do the right things and I'm hopeful that he will.'
On the offensive line's performance:
'The offensive line, I thought, did a nice job. There were some things certainly in pass blocking I thought they held up well. There were some things in the running game where they gave us some new looks. When you're playing a first game, it's almost like a bowl game in some respects because defenses can line up and do some different stuff to you that you haven't seen and they did that to us a couple times and confused us. I think it's important to note that Dan Dicks and Aaron Butler, really Aaron had started against Washington State, but this was really their first big, big-time start, so I thought we made a good showing. We can certainly get better, but given the effort level, given the toughness that they exhibited, we have what it takes to become better and I'm excited about that.'
On changes before the SJSU game:
'We're going to make some personnel changes on some of the coverage units just because we need to get guys who run well down the field and there were a couple of spots where that wasn't the case. Most of the effort was really, really good. Then we have to get our snappers to get the ball where it needs to be. We had misfortune when Elliott Zajac went down. He'd been our snapper for the last two years, so Tim Galloway was thrown into the fire for his first game and he practiced well and in the game he wasn't terrible, but we were out of sync. So we have to spend some more time on our field goal and extra point team, so that Tim and Cody [Pickett] and John [Anderson] get quicker with their stuff. Really the blocks came up the middle. There was one blocking error. The first block, the guy penetrated a yard and got his arm that high, but we didn't spot the ball exactly where it's supposed to be spotted and Cody and John have been doing that for two years now and they got it up a half yard further than they're supposed to. It was a needless mistake. It's one of the things where if you don't drill them on it, and drill them on it, and drill them on it, you're going to suffer the consequences, so we're going to spend more time and obviously have to. Ben Mahdavi has to do a better job long-snapping if he's going to be our long-snapper. We can't put the ball on the ground and expect to survive against a very, very quality opponent. As for the rollout punt, sometimes you don't want to tell everybody that you're going to do a rollout punt and when you don't tell them the think you've muffed something and so everybody who's not aware that that's a called play thinks that something's broken down. Now your punter's on the run and it looks disorganized and the fact of the matter is that we had a punt blocked last year against Michigan and a lot of it is that their blitzes are A-gap blitzes, meaning right on either side of the center, so we had a chance for Derek to rollout and kick the ball. He'd practiced it a number of times, had done really well. This time he kicked it and he just kicked it too far outside, if he kicked it right down the numbers like he had, you would have loved the results, you would have all been saying what a brilliant call. Instead it didn't turn out that way, but the reason was for that and it should help us throughout the year because we have that weapon now.'
Did you think you had Reggie Williams on the field when you need to:
'Reggie Williams isn't in the shape he'll be in soon, and Wilbur Hooks in my mind played really well. We're all aware that Reggie is a terrific player and we'd love him to be in the game a lot. But he graded out as low as he's ever graded out in a ball game just because he was dying. The problem is that he was not able to participate in the summer because of that foot injury. I think he competed well, but he's just not in great shape we have to keep working with him until he is.'
On getting up for the next game:
'In college football, I always marvel at how many times can you get up for games and talk like that because the fact of the matter is that this is a year-round business. Kids work out almost non-stop in anticipation of a college football season, and programs have schedules for off-seasons and summer workouts and so forth. Although it's voluntary, every kid is on campus and is working out and getting ready for another great season. To think that you'd waste an opportunity where you'd actually get to play in front of people and keep score and all that kind of stuff, it boggles my mind. I think that really is a self-fulfilling process that occurs because they read about it in the newspaper or they see it on TV, or from the fans that this isn't a big win, and there are tickets available and all that kind of stuff. The bottom line is we have to have the mental discipline as a program to know that when we have a chance to play we better play with everything we've got. We need to win. We need to taste victory, and we get another chance this Saturday. We have to play with everything we've got.
On Marquis Cooper's play vs. Michigan:
'Marquis Cooper has been an outstanding linebacker for us. I think he played well much of the time in the ballgame. I think he has a tremendous career ahead of him. We just need to get everybody else playing and we're going to like our defense I believe.'
On Kai Ellis' condition after the game:
'He feels great, which is great news for us because he is one of our better defensive players and really a force on the field. I'm looking forward to him having a great senior year and hopefully getting the chance to play on Sundays.'
On Michigan's big offensive plays:
'The first big play, we had a young player not execute the defense -- a zone blitz on and he didn't get to his gap and all of a sudden there was a big gaping hole and now we're down 7-0. The second touchdown was kind of a coverage error where we left the corner kind of on an island with no post help. He's supposed to have post help when we call quarters coverage. Good scheme by Michigan, but we practiced the scheme. I'm hopeful we'll get better. Bottom line is, in five plays we gave up 190 yards of offense. Five big plays and in the other seventy-two plays, we gave up right at 200 yards. So a vast majority of the time we played really well on defense. We have to get rid of that big play stuff. And in three of those five plays or four of those five plays we busted, someone didn't get done what we needed to get done. So we have to ask ourselves three questions: are we coaching it thoroughly enough that we're not going to bust when it matters most and two is, is there too much volume [of schemes] and three is do we have the right people in the game, who can execute the things that we're asking them to execute? Those are the things that have to be asked. Again, it was a first game, every college coach across the country, whether you played Michigan or Tiny University -- as many of the top schools chose to play early -- you're going to make mistakes in that first game. In your scrimmages and preparation for a game you don't get to play enough snaps to expose everything that can happen. I wish we would have had survived it and still had a victory. Unfortunately we didn't and maybe that will make it even that much easier to impress upon our players the importance of doing things exactly right.'
On the play of Derrick Johnson and Roc Alexander:
'It's nice to have Derrick and Roc back and I thought both of them played well. They'll both get better. I mean there were times where both of them aren't grading out well because they're not up to midseason form. Roc missed part of fall camp because of the shoulder and Derrick was only practicing one-a-day because of a foot. So they weren't getting every snap like most kids in the country get. But I thought that they both played well and it's exciting to have them both well and healthy and looking forward to the rest of the year.'
On coming back from 14-0 behind vs. Michigan:
'That's a competitive spirit. You have to understand that in the game of football because of the physical nature, you have to have a competitive spirit. You have to be willing to rebound from adversity and you're not going to get to turn off the noise. It's not like you're driving around in your car and you get lost, you get to turn down the radio to figure out exactly where you are. You have to be able to do all that and have that urge to compete with bedlam around you and hopefully we practiced it enough to feel like we know what we're doing. Certainly the experience of coming back will be beneficial down the road.'