Sept. 25, 2000
Rick Neuheisel Press Conference September 25, 2000
General Remarks: "We are extremely excited about the contest this weekend. Oregon is a very talented football team that proved itself without any question against UCLA this weekend. It showed, number one, that it is talented on both sides of the ball, they are extremely well coached and they also proved that they have a big homefield advantage at Autzen Stadium. We understand the challenge that lies ahead and we are excited about it. . It is our Pac-10 opener and although it is early in the Pac-10 race it certainly has implications down the road and we need to take care of business if we expect to be a team that is in the race in November. We also need to win on the road especially in the conference. We had that experience in Colorado. I think it will provide good experience for our team but I think this is that and then some given the rivalry that exists between the two schools. I am excited but weary about what lies ahead."
(On what to expect from Oregon's defense): "We expect to see at least nine men in the box, maybe more. Oregon is definitely an aggressive defense. They are a defense that is definitely going to take advantage of the fact that it is difficult to communicate in their stadium. They are a defense that is going to make you hurt them before they come out of that aggressiveness.
(On Oregon's cornerbacks): "I think they are very talented. Rashad Bauman couldn't play a year ago because of a knee injury and he looks like he has recovered fully. UCLA has great wide receivers and they weren't exactly all alone. The one play they did muster up was off an option fake that kind of lulled the Oregon secondary to sleep. But it wasn't just going down there and beating one-on-one coverage. I think the Oregon corners did a good job. It will take a real great effort on our part to find some ways to execute the throwing game. I think ultimately it will come down to being able to run the ball."
(On Jerramy Stevens' role in the passing game): "Jerramy is certainly a big target for us being six foot seven, 250pounds. He's got great hands. He an Marques have worked out a lot together and know each other so it goes without saying that he is a vital weapon in our offense. We can't rely solely on him if we expect to have success."
(On how Marques Tuiasosopo stacks up with the top quarterbacks in the country): "I think he is certainly among the best in the country. I don't know that he has had his best game yet this year. I think that he has been certainly pivotal in our success but by his standards I would say that he has played well but not great and I know that he is excited about improving on that. A year ago against Oregon he played what might have been his best game. I know everyone talks about the Stanford game and the numbers he put together but against Oregon he was 17 for 21, threw for over 200 yards and 3 touchdowns. He just played really efficient football. He may not have had the total offense numbers but there were very few mistakes and we are going to need that same kind of performance from him again if we are going to win."
(On bye weeks): "I don't recall my record at Colorado after bye weeks but the bottom line is bye weeks are usually evaluated after the game has been played. If you are successful you say it was a great week but if you lose you say you lost your momentum. They are like anything else, they happen on your schedule and you do what you can to make them productive. We went back to the drawing board and worked on some fundamentals and shored up some mistakes that have been plaguing us in the early going and hopefully we are a little better than we were a week ago. Another thing is you are able to freshen up and get healthy although we weren't that dinged up to speak of so it remains to be seen if we lost momentum or gained it by having a by e week."
(On the Oregon match-up): "It certainly is a great match-up, any time you play a team the caliber of Oregon. They have been one of the top teams in the country the last couple years. Much has been made about the rivalry between Washington and Oregon and now that I am at Washington it takes on a more significant meaning because these are two top programs that happen to neighbor each other. It is a big game just as you look around the country and see a bunch of other border-war type match-ups."
(On the Autzen Stadium crowd): "Well I saw there were six illegal procedure calls against UCLA in that game last weekend so it looked like there was some trouble communicating. I don't know what you do to combat it other than try to practice in it. We'll try to put some crowd noise in our stadium this week. We'll try to invite 70,000 of our closest friends and see if they can scream for us. We're just going to try to get ready. We understand what it will take. Fortunately we had a little experience with that against Colorado which was a pretty noisy place as well."
(On the impact of crowd noise on the offense): "It's purely communication. People go up to the line of scrimmage and there is all kinds of communication that goes on in the whether it's offensive linemen talking about blocking assignment or if it's the quarterback telling the entire offense the play, which route to run and certainly the cadence. One advantage the offense has is the ability to change the cadence. If you can't hear the cadence then you lose that advantage. When you actually have to watch the ball, you are much less able to watch what the defense is doing which isn't bound to staying still like the offense is. It creates a lot of complications."
(On whether the crowd noise in Colorado will help the team prepare for Oregon's crowd): "It certainly was a great tune-up for a game like this but we certainly are not a finished product as far as playing in noise. It will take the entire week of practice to get ready for it and even then I am not sure we'll be ready for the power saw or jet engine that they say is created there."
(On the running back rotation): "I think that our rotation is one that is predicated on performance. Paul had a great first couple of series and then we gave it to the next guy and when Paul got up again the productivity was not the same in the second half. I leave that to Coach Moses, our running backs coach. He is has the best vantage point to assess how they are doing and I trust him and I think all the kids are productive players and we are trying to keep them going and if someone takes it over and becomes the dominant player then he will assume the lion share of playing time and until that happens I don't see any reason to deviate from where we are although that is maybe something we would like to get to."
(On the status of wide receiver Wilbur Hooks): "The tests he took today were good which means that they were normal but there is still question and when there is question you can't take any risk so it is unlikely that Wilbur will play this weekend."
(On shutting down Oregon running back Maurice Morris): "He is an exceptional tailback. I think he proved that to everyone who watched the UCLA game. He broke a lot of tackles and showed great speed. He has the full compliment of weapons if you are evaluating tailbacks. Just like I am not sure we stopped Marcus Houston, I am not sure we can stop Maurice Morris, we just try to make sure he doesn't go crazy on us. If we can hold him to around 80-100 yards and keep from giving up the big plays to their receivers then we will be in good shape. The bottom line against Oregon is you cannot give up big plays. They are very well coached and they will have schemes that we have not seen and they'll have new things. They had receivers in the backfield and they were running options so they will have those kinds of wrinkles. It is important that we play good solid defense and fix mistakes when they happen and make sure they aren't the reason we are disappointed at the end of the game. We need to make sure that they earn their points rather than just finding ways to quick strike."
(On the team's health): "I think everyone is pretty healthy. Ben Mahdavi practiced yesterday and he is not 100 percent but hopefully he will be able to go and play for us this weekend. Owen Biddle may be back to play in a special teams capacity. There is even a chance that Ossim Hatem will play some this weekend. He practiced yesterday and did okay so we will evaluate that as the week continues to unfold."
(On Oregon being able to hold UCLA to -9 yards rushing): "They didn't run him that often He only had twelve carries, for I think 49 yards. So he averaged four yards a carry but they got a little behind the eight ball and felt the need to throw the ball and I think a lot of their minus yards were on sacks. I don't think you can get impatient against this team. Last year we were able to control the ball and that doesn't necessarily mean that we had more yards we just controlled the ball. If we can do that again and control the ball and understand that they'll gang up so we'll take some mis-directions and naked bootlegs and get the quarterback out, then we'll have a chance to neutralize that."
(On what he saw from Washington during the bye week): "I saw effort so I assume that translates into improvement. Its hard to measure improvement until you play somebody. The kids practiced hard though so I am pleased from that standpoint."
(On the difference between Oregon quarterbacks A.J. Feeley and Joe Harrington): "I remember talking to Oregon coach Mike Belotti before the game last year and looking over at his quarterback line and saying `those guys all look like giants'. Feeley and Harrington and the third guy that was there, they are all 6'3" or 6'4" and their shoulder pads make them look like they're about 240 pounds. They just looked immense to me. That is just the style they play. They are going to stand in there and throw the ball downfield and Feeley is a very talented kid but they made the decision that Harrington is the better choice and you have to trust their evaluation that Harrington gives them a little more and if he does then we will have to find a way to contain him, they have won a lot of games with him. I don't know that there is a lot of structural change in the way they play offense with Harrington in, they may have a few more options with him but they seemed to find ways to scheme against the teams they play."
(On the offensive line's performance thus far): "I think that our offensive line is playing well but I think there is still more that can be achieved. We have made a big emphasis this weekend on finishing your assignments, getting things accomplished and not just practicing in anticipation of the next game but practicing to improve. Hopefully we will get that from our guys because it is really important that we do."
(On Chad Ward's switch from guard to tackle): "I don't think that is a huge deal for Chad. He is a bright kid, he knows his assignments and I don't think that athletically it puts him in a position of one being more difficult than the other."
(On what kind of fundamentals the team worked on in the bye week): "We worked on route running, the ability and synchronization of the option game and we'll try to work misdirection. On the defensive side we want to continue to tackle well so you have to continue to practice that. We want to get a little better it terms of our line stunts, we want to be more gap-sound and also the communication if our defense so we are not mis calling things and having one person think it's one coverage and another one thinks it's another."
(On how the defense will stop running back Maurice Morris) "Defense is much like offense, everyone has a job to do. For you to be successful you have to have everyone trusting each other that they are going to do their job instead of trying to go in overlap because you are nervous because he's not going to be where he needs to be and by overlapping you create a void where you were supposed to be. Basically its how you play great team defense, you have to trust each other. If you have that gap then you hold that gap. Don't get out of the gap and try to make a play outside of you, trust that guy who has that gap to make that play. When you are playing a runner lie Morris that is really important. Those are the things we are talking about, we are athletic enough to make plays if we are where we are supposed to be."
(On the emotional element of having the crowd against you): "I think that if you are not prepared for that you get surprised and it can have an effect. I think we are clearly aware of what kind of home crowd Oregon possesses. I think we faced a similar situation at Colorado this weekend but the point is that you have a job to do and it is important that or those sixty minutes you focus on the job and not on the extra curricular and the things that will not help us get it done between the lines. I it's been said many times that the fans have never made a tackle. We have to find a way to stay within ourselves and play good football."
(On the importance of this game in regards to recruiting in Oregon): "We want to attract the best student-athletes possible and certainly Oregon has their share. Just as Oregon would like to recruit some kids from Washington we would like to recruit some kids there. The bottom line is we want to make our school as attractive as possible. I feel like we have a good school to recruit to."