Washington Football Coach Rick Neuheisel Press Conference Quotes

Sept. 16, 2002

Seattle - Rick Neuheisel:
'After taking a weekend off and being on the sidelines, we're eager to get back in the arena and play. This week, we have the Wyoming Cowboys coming to town. I remember Vic Koenning from my USFL days, he is a very competitive guy and I know his team will be ready to play. They'll look at this as a great opportunity to right their ship and they'll throw caution to the wind. I don't think there's any question that we'll get their best shot. It's important for us as a football team to come out and really be eager to play. Hopefully everyone on our football team did what I did this weekend and watched football. Got excited about getting back in and playing and fixing the things that have plagued us in our first two weeks. I don't think that list is inordinately long. It's all very, very doable, but we're excited to play. It looks as if our conference is going to be very, very competitive judging by the teams that I got a chance to watch over the weekend. It's going to be a gunfight to the bitter end in this conference. In order to get ready for it, we need to really play good football over the next couple of weeks, starting with Wyoming. We're looking very much forward to playing again this Saturday night.'

On bye week productivity:
'I made the comment to someone on Thursday, that I don't recall a bye week where I felt better about the practice and the work ethic. With maybe a couple of exceptions, I thought every kid on our football team really worked to improve. I am excited about that, we had a young player scrimmage on Thursday to culminate the week that was very competitive. It showed that we have a lot of young players in our program that are hopefully going to be very, very good players in the future. I like where we are, it was hard to be on the sidelines this weekend. I found myself pacing the living room rather than the sideline when watching all the action, so I'm anxious and eager to play again.'

On overlooking Wyoming:
'I think we're going to be anxious to play. We had a very, very heartbreaking loss in our opener. We struggled in the first half of our second game. And we really haven't played a full game of football and proved to ourselves that we're the kind of team that we all want to be, so I think everyone is going to be eager to do that. Obviously, we have a great deal of respect for Wyoming, but we are not going to overlook this opponent.'

On other Pac-10 teams:
'Certainly Cal's win was impressive. In my own mind, I kind of predicted that Cal would play really well, not necessarily as one sided as it was. It's obvious that they have a new enthusiasm. And a little swagger about them, scoring as many points as they have, there's a lot of confidence in that program right now. They have Air Force this week, and then they open the conference schedule against Washington State at Cal. That'll be a really interesting game before we open our Pac-10 season with them here. If you're asking me, we've played Cal three times since I've been here and every one has gone down to the last minute. I've always thought Cal was a good football team, they just haven't been able to turn that into a lot of victories over the last three years. Certainly, they're finding the formula for that now. And then watching USC dismantle Colorado, that was as impressive a victory as there has been in the Pac-10 in memory. I thought that was a real eye-opener, but I also thought they were pretty good after watching them beat Auburn in their opener. We say it all the time, I'm not sure the country will get the message that the Pac-10 has as good a football as is played in the country, especially when you consider from top to bottom. I don't think that there's a team in our conference that can't play with any team from any other conference. Miami is riding high right now and deserves to be number one, but I have a hard time believing that a Miami, and/or Texas, and/or Oklahoma would come into the Pac-10 and go unscathed, I don't think that would happen. I think you can get away with being a great team and taking a weekend off in some other conferences, I don't think that'd be true in this one.'

On psyche for Wyoming:
'Whenever you're playing a team that's on the ropes, you always worry about their devilmaker strategy to a game that can just be wide open and cause you all sorts of fits if they're doing things that might not be the norm in a contest. The outcome of a game is a risk-reward deal, there looks to be very little risk for them right now in terms of what they can do and what they can try. So you get nervous about that. I'm absolutely not concerned about overlooking Wyoming, but I have to convey that to the 18, 19, and 20 year olds on our team. To make sure that we all understand that we haven't played good enough football to be where we want to be if we really want to compete for a conference championship. We have to do that, we have to start it right now and continue it on until the Pac-10 conference. Hopefully they're as eager as I am, I'm pretty sure they are.'

Injury report:
'I think our health is improving, I don't know that we'll have any real breakthroughs for this particular ballgame although Braxton Cleman may be available. It would be fun to get him into the action and get his senior season underway. I think Tui Alailefaleula will be ready for some limited action. And then we will wait on Elliott Zajac, wait on Jimmy Newell, and continue to wait on Justin Robbins.'

On Pat Reddick:
'Pat has had a good start to a season. He's a valuable guy from a leadership sense. He's been here a number of years, this being his sixth year of eligibility as granted by the NCAA because of some hardships that he endured early in his career. We're blessed that he's the capable player that he is, but he also lends a little maturity to the squad. I think he's off to a good start. I hope, like our football team, he can continue to improve and can have a real impact on our season.'

On giving guarantee to score in 1st quarter:
'Guarantees don't wash very well, but we're going to play good in the first quarter. We're going to find a way to come out of the box and get the game started rather than wait around. We need to learn how to do that. As competitive as our league is, we can't waste fifteen minutes of action and think that we can come back from it.'

On past experience with Wyoming:
'My only game against Wyoming was one of the more improbably victories in my career. We were down 19-10 in the fourth quarter with about four minutes left in the game. So I am weary of the Cowboys. I know that they're capable of being very, very good. I know they've played very well at times. And it wouldn't shock me to see them come in and play very well this weekend. It's up to us to make sure that we play very well to counteract that.'

On playing night games:
'I like night games from a fan's standpoint. It seems that our fans are more into the action early on. This time of year it's beautiful in Seattle. I think it'll be a fun night for the spectators and hopefully we can add to that by playing well.'

On Greg Carothers:
'Greg is a very physical player that has had a lot of success here. He's bigger than most kids who play his position. We'd like to get him closer to the line of scrimmage rather than have to play in a lot of space in the back end, but he is what he is. He's very cerebral, meaning he understands how the game's played, knows where to be, and nine times out of ten you're going to find him where you want him to be. He's been pivotal for us and will need to continue to be so. We don't have a great deal of depth at the safety position.'

On Reggie Williams endurance:
'I think he'll be fine. We've had some fun going back and forth on that. The truth of the matter is that that was never a knock on him, he wasn't able to participate for the last couple weeks of summer as well as early and fall camp. It's impossible to be in game shape missing that kind of practice time. We've been jousting at one another I guess. But I'm very satisfied that he's working to get himself in great shape. I would say by this weekend, especially being in the evening and the temperature, I'm very, very comfortable that he'll be fine. And I would say that that'll be the case the rest of the season.'

On adding Luther Carr to coaching staff:
'I guess it's helpful in that he's certainly a valued member of the community. Word of mouth plays a lot into the recruiting world and so forth. He's a bright young coach that has a lot of ties to the University and seemed like a natural fit. I was looking for a graduated assistant. I'm very pleased that he's been here. He's done a nice job so far. This is just his first year, so we'll get to keep him for at least two and I think he's going to make somebody a great coach someday.'

On Husky zone defense:
'That'll be a work in progress all year long. One of the things in watching all of the football over the weekend was just watching how people played. It isn't a mystery. It isn't like people are lining up for some bizarre thing. Everybody's kind of playing the same stuff, it's just who's playing it well.'

On connection with Wyoming coach:
'I'm not sure exactly which team Vic played for. I want to say the Arizona Outlaws. I remember seeing him on some depth charts. He probably was one of the 762 players in the league who cracked me. He was a good football player.'

On why zone is hard:
'Understanding how you relate to the guy next to you. Kids are eager to please. So when a receiver goes inside, you want to go close down that receiver, but if you go too far, you're overlapping with the next zone defender and we're voiding a zone. Offenses are designed to spread you out and create two on ones and so forth. You can't jump at the bait, it's like they're fish and you can't jump at that thing and then give them something behind you. We're going to continue to work on it until we're proficient at it. On our third down defense we have to be able to mix in some zone with our man. I think our man's been fine, but we have to get some answers so we don't always have to put ourselves in that situation.'

On why zone defense is important to master:
'Because you can get schemed if all you're doing is man. You can get picked off, you can get rubbed off, last week we got rubbed off by the official, the umpire. If you give an offensive coordinator the chalk last, they're going to have ways of beating those kinds of schemes.'

On schedule strategy:
'I certainly see the strategic advantages to scheduling if you have to go and draw it all up. It would have been advantageous to play a game before the Michigan game. It would have been advantageous to get some more time under your belt before you have a bye, so that you can have a chance to rest up maybe for a bigger game or a conference opener or something like that. I also understand that it's very difficult to get games, especially when teams are allowed to break contracts and walk away from games. On this particular schedule, we had games with Colorado State and Minnesota this year and they both walked away with, I don't think any penalty. And next year, Navy walked away because of something going on with their deal. You deal the hand that you're dealt and you do the best you can. I'm not trying to pick on those teams. I realize there's a lot of things that go on in the world of scheduling. People moving into new jobs and trying to adjust schedules. There's certainly a portion of the country that's buying into the notion of Kansas State, where they made sure of early success and it's worked, so other schools are buying into that.'

On Eddie Jackson:
'We were concerned a year ago, given, we didn't know that Pat was going to be able to come back. Given the knee injury to Justin Robbins. With our depth at wide receiver and the future of Charles Frederick was kind of uncertain. To cover ourselves, we went out late in the game and started looking for a quality junior college wide receiver. Coach Axman had worked with a guy by the name of Coach Spurlock at Coffeyville and called to see if there was anyone in those Kansas leagues in junior college who would be worth our investigating. On the tape that we saw, there was enough to see that he was a good player. We're fortunate to have him I think. He's doing everything we had hoped he would do. And obviously is a nice addition to our receiving corp. He's a wonderful young man, he's very, very well liked by the kids on our team.'

On how Alexis and Cleman will play together:
'I haven't sat down and figured out what I'm going to do, I'm waiting until he 100 percent to decide how we'll divvy up the responsibility. I'm eager to see Rich continue to get better and become a major player at tailback. Braxton can certainly provide some great things, not only as a tailback, but also his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Rich has done a nice job doing that too.'

On team's image:
'We want to establish who we are. The job is to win the game and to play well. If we're fortunate to get that done, then we want to establish ourselves, both from a running standpoint and from a throwing standpoint as an offense that can generate more from itself. As soon as you try to take something away, we have an answer to take advantage of that. We need to counter ourselves so that we have our answers within our offense and become efficient at it. On the same page on defense, we need to have looks that don't tell people what we're in. We need to pressure the quarterback, but be also able to drop and still play great defense. And see if we can't get that third down conversion ratio way down. If we can do that, then we're going to have a lot of success. Washington State last year, I think was the best in our conference at third down defense. That was one of their keys, was they were able to get people off the field. If we can do that and give our offense more chances and develop, I think we can be a very, very successful offense, we're going to like the direction that games go.'

On being happy for Cal or afraid of them:
'I'm happy for Jeff, because he's a good guy and obviously getting his first job and getting off to that kind of start is a neat thing, but this is a dog eat dog conference. It's not like I'm going to be more weary of Cal now, maybe in some ways, it's a wakeup call to everybody. You'd better get ready to play.'

On watching football:
'I don't tell them to watch the games, I think if you're into football, you like football, then you should be a football fan and watch as much of it as you can. I watch it on Sundays, I watch it on Saturdays, that's what I do. I got to go to both of my sons games over the weekend, football's a part of our life.'

On Taylor Barton and Casey Paus playing time:
'Coaches that make those kind of decisions before they happen are hurting themselves. We'll take it as it comes. If we get an opportunity to play our reserve players, that would be outstanding. First and foremost, I want our team to be playing well. If the game gets into a situation where we can afford to play others, then that's great. I don't plan that in advance. For them to be effective, they both need to have opportunities to play.'

On difference in night game for players:
'Just a long day on Saturday, but we usually come over to the stadium during the morning, just to get off our feet and break up the day a little bit so you're not just laying on your hotel bed watching ballgames. You get a little lethargic doing that, so we try to get them over here. For the most part, we've been a pretty good team playing at night.'

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