Rick Neuheisel Press Conference Quotes

Nov. 25, 2002

General Comments: 'We are elated with the victory. It was a hard fought game with a number of plays that could have gone either way, and a number of plays both coaching staffs are shaking their heads at. That is not an unusual occurrence when you have such an emotional game, which is the usual happening in inter-state rivalries. I was pleased with the grit our team showed, not just in this particular game, but in the last month of the season given where we were entering the month of November. I'm excited we are going to get to continue to practice and continue to build ourselves into the team that we want to be. I'm very thankful to our seniors for not giving up the ship, hanging in there, dealing with adversity in the proper way and they will now get one more ballgame to go out and feel very proud of what they have accomplished in the last month of the season. We wish Washington State well and they've had a terrific season. Hopefully Jason Gesser will be well to play, but if not, whether with Matt Kegel or another quarterback, I think they will play a terrific game down at Los Angeles and have a chance to earn the conference title.'

On his feelings as a coach about this season: 'I approach every season kind of the same and that is do the best you can. It is about getting up on every Monday morning regardless of whether it was a loss or win, and trying to improve into the next week. It just becomes more difficult when you have been unsuccessful. Everybody has reasons why and if you don't internalize the reasons why, you are not going to improve at the same rate that you can if you look at it as your fault. I am not patting myself on the back. I am a coach of a 7-5 team that was picked to be second in the conference. I've got a ways to go.'

On what the underclassmen can take with them into next season: 'Life is a continuum of lessons and if you pay attention, you can hopefully keep from repeating too many of your mistakes. Hopefully our young players were paying attention as to how we dealt with adversity, maybe more important as a football team how we started to play better as a football team and play field position and win the battle of turnovers. We weren't error free at the end of the season, but we certainly played with a lot of grit and we certainly did some things better than we had in the portion of the season when we were struggling. If we can keep that as a lesson in terms of how to play football, hopefully we can get off to a better start and finish higher than we did this year, next year.'

On how Washington started winning towards the end of the season: 'We played better in regard to field position. The statistics right now that we were first in the conference in offense, first in the conference in first downs, second inof the conference in time of possession. The bottom line is we were doing a lot of things you do to win. We were first in terms of fewest penalties, but we were seventh in scoring. We've got to fix that. We've got to learn how to play a field position game. Every guy on the team can impact field position in a positive way, whether it is offense or defense. We played a much better field position style in the last few weeks of the season. We played a really good game against UCLA, but we threw four interceptions. We learned how to keep from beating ourselves and at least got better in terms of beating ourselves and it looks like we were going in the right direction.'

On how the team realized how important field position was in regard to winning: 'We kept emphasizing it in practice, in how we call plays and in special teams. Every play has a win and a loss, regardless of where it is on the field. Every guy on the team had to realize how important they were. I cringe when we get penalties in special teams, because it is such a needless mistake. It's an effort mistake; I don't fault effort. But that is a field position blunder. Those are the kind of things we had to really start to hone in on. We aren't error free. We concentrated on the things we needed to concentrate on.'

On choosing to use wide receiver Reggie Williams as a cornerback: 'That isn't exactly rocket science. Mike Bush is 6-6. If you look at our roster and try to find a guy that will match up with him, there are about two guys that come to mind and one them is Reggie Williams, so we stuck him in there.'

On the last play of the game in the Apple Cup: 'The Cougars have had a wonderful season. To be No. 3 in the country and to be that close at a shot at the national title, it's difficult to see it go down the drain on a play that you are not sure if it was the correct call. I can't tell you if I'm absolutely sure. The ball was tipped too quickly out of his hands to know if it was backwards or forwards. That makes it a difficult call unless you are standing on the line of scrimmage. The guy that they are paying to make that decision said it was a backward pass. It's difficult even with the slow motion of the television replay to determine if that was the case. Kai Ellis will have you think that he caught the ball and that it was stripped from him and that it was a fumble. Why else would he try to recover it? It probably is a difficult pill to swallow given how the game had gone and that is how the game ends, as it was a difficult pill for me to swallow after I saw the replay of when Cody Picket fumbled the ball and they called it a double pass. His arm hadn't even gotten to the shoulder when the ball came out of his hands and there was no motion at all to go forward. It just came out, just as it did on the goal line play when he fumbled the ball on third down and goal at the two. That is the way it goes. College football is remarkable game and one of the great things about it, and it is not great when you on the short end of the stick, is that there is human error involved. There were two teams out there fighting their guts out and I am glad that we won the game.'

On the performance of Kai Ellis during the Apple Cup: 'It was freak show. He played seventy plays and had over ninety production points. Just playing the position and getting in the right place gets you zero. He was sensational. Without question it was the best performance of a defensive lineman [this season]. He had 12 tackles, five tackles for loss, three fumbles caused, two fumbles recovered and two sacks. Then his part in the defining moment at the end of the game; he was sensational.'

On being proud as a coach with Saturday's accomplishments: 'I'm not proud for me. Obviously I try hard. I am happy for our players. I am happy for them now having that for the rest of their lives in how to deal with adversity. It is a lesson, whether in football or life. They kept working and I am happy for them.'

On what it takes for a wide receiver, mainly Reggie Williams, to dominate a game: 'You have to have a little bit of moxie to you. You have to want the ball. You have to have technique. You have to have the god-given ability to get open against great players like Marcus Trufant and he did. He just loves to play and it is evident every time he takes the field. You also have to have a play-caller and a quarterback who is trying to feature you and there was no question in the last month of the season we were trying to feature Reggie.'

On his perspective of the crowd reaction after the game: 'I don't want to say anything against Washington State. I think Washington State is magnificent school. I hope they finish strong. This is an emotional game for players, coaches and fans. Given what was riding on the game for Washington State, it was a difficult pill to swallow. A week ago we were harassed publicly and privately for our post-game celebration. Our kids winning an emotional game like that wanted to enjoy the moment. There were a number of fans that raced down on the field to enjoy that with us. Some fans were disappointed and they were also on the field. That always leads to conflict when you've got people who are at opposite ends of the spectrum emotionally. No one could ever condone people throwing things, which unfortunately took place. A number of people were hit with flying objects. It really is a logistical problem there because of where you have to exit the stadium and where you have to get to their locker room. There are a number of people who could get to you and give you what they are thinking. It just becomes a nightmare from the standpoint of where you can't control it because there is no way to keep people from getting there. I think we have enough intelligence in our society to figure out that there is going to be emotion, let's deal with it properly. It was wild, but I don't think we need to overreact.'

On the possibility of playing in a bowl game: 'I'm just excited we get to play. I am looking forward to the opportunity and we will be gracious guests. I am looking forward to getting to play and practice.'

On John Anderson's performance in the Apple Cup: 'It was kind of a microcosm of our season. The bottom line is he came through when we needed him. If you think about his career, he came through for us every time when he absolutely had to. He is a great kid and I am excited he's had such a nice career.'

On if Jason Gesser's injury was the turning point in the Apple Cup: 'No. I didn't see that as a huge deal. I know they think they would have won the game had he stayed in. We'll never know.'

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