Press Conference Quotes
November 8, 1999
Washington vs. UCLA
Head Coach Rick Neuheisel
General Remarks: "We are excited about the position we find ourselves in. We have a big game coming up against UCLA. The win against Arizona was a big win for our program. Certainly it did a lot for the conference, and for those that follow the Huskies, given the circumstance that surrounded the game, the questionable status of some for our players in preparation for the game that we were able to go into our opponents territory, especially an opponent like Arizona and win the game. The unfortunate thing that arrives with that newfound confidence for those that know us is that it can permeate to our players and they can all of a sudden feel like so much has been accomplished when still so much has yet to be accomplished. As we talked about over the weekend, it is important that we remain focused and steadfast in our resolve to continue to do the little things to give ourselves the best chance possible to be successful against UCLA. They are coming off a bye and have been the Pac-10 Champion or co-champion the last two seasons and are full of talent. There is all kinds of talent in their program. They have a great coaching staff that has engineered some of the great offensive schemes that we have seen in recent history, so we have an extremely difficult task. One, because humans tend to relax when they have accomplished a great deal, like witnessed the last time we won three in a row and two because we are playing a team who, because of their inability to make the post-season, is going to look at this game as a bowl game in and of itself. So it is an important job that we focus on the little things and play like we are capable of and hopefully find a way to win it."
(On Maurice Shaw): "It was difficult for me to define a role for Maurice prior to the season because I had not seen Maurice play. He was unable to participate in spring drills because of a back injury and he was really unable to participate in fall camp because of a hamstring injury so it has kind of evolved as the season has gone along. He's been there in the right time and the right place when opportunity knocks and we are fortunate that he was ready because he has been a very steady performer for us the last couple of weeks and one of the many reasons we find ourselves in the position that we are in."
(On Shaw's leadership qualities): "Mo is the kind of whose verbal communication is not his forte. He is more of a leader by example. Shows up, does what he has to do, and is a very popular guy amongst his teammates. He is very unselfish. The big things about Maurice is that he is willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win."
(On Marques Tuiasosopo playing through pain): "Certainly our players have a great deal of admiration for Marques well before he played through pain. They all admire his tenacity, leadership, commitment to win and his physical skills. His attitude permeated throughout the team. Prior to Marques we had several player rise from the injury ashes and come back to the field. Jermaine Smith came off the bench at the California game when he was listed as doubtful nd gave us a lift. In that same game Gerald Harris had a hard time stretching his quad, but made some big plays. He didn't practice at all during Stanford and came up with some big plays. Chris Jurgens who had the injury against Cal and didn't practice for two weeks and had six catches against Arizona. Mac Tuiaea had a MCL sprain in his knee and made it back for the Arizona game and we will hopefully get Renard Edwards back. When you find people scratching and crawling in the training room, let alone on the field, you know you have the kind of chemistry and attitude that gives you the best possible chance to be successful.":
(On UCLA coming off a bye week): "It gives them a chance to set new goals. Any time you have time you can organize things. After the loss to Oregon, the post season was not a possibility, so they could set new goals. Everyone has a fresh outlook. I know given the talent pool and the skill of their coaches this is a tremendously important game for them. I know given the pride of that program they will play their best game. I know that in my heart and our players need to know that in preparing for them."
(On being closer to clinching a Rose Bowl berth): "I think the finish line is closer. Certainly as I said to the team prior to the Arizona game, the stakes are higher in November because there isn't time to correct ones mistakes. You have to lie in the bed you make. Given everything there is in front of us, hopefully there is a tremendous amount of urgency with regards to our practices and preparation for the game."
(On Marques Tuiasosopo being more comfortable in the pocket): "I thought he handled himself pretty well in the pocket, which I think is a great tribute to him, but also to the guys up front who have done a great job in creating the pocket. I thought our pass protection, with the exception of the sack in the first series of the game, was pretty darn good."
(On injured players wanting to get back on the field ): " It all stems from leadership and the leadership I point to is the seniors and the guys who have been here in the good times and the bad, who realize they have a chance for something special and they are going to make darn sure they don't miss it. They have this feeling of 'let me get back out there'. For Jermaine Smith, who missed a lot of time last year due to injury, to come off the bench at Cal and have that kind of an impact was a turning point in terms of 'we're going to find a way back'. You can see it across the board. Everyone wants back on the field and when you have that it's the best of all possible positions for the coaches."
(On when the team started believing they could win the Pac-10): "It started back in August when we began. We sat down as a team and talked about our goals. And in our mind they weren't hollow goals. I'm sure there are some that doubted it, but the bottom line was we were going to try to win the conference championship and we said it even when we were 0-2. 0-2 has nothing to do with the conference. But we had to practice better and in practicing better I think we've gotten better."
(On whether or not the celebration after the game was premature): "Well, the roses you have to know, were brought by the fans. Certainly fans who are following the Huskies are excited in the possibilities that lie ahead, and no one can blame them for that. They don't do this on a daily basis, they get to enjoy it on a weekend basis. By all means, they are great fans and we love them. The idea with the celebration was to celebrate with them. We got into the lockerroom, in normal situations, and celebrate inside. The emotional cost of playing a game is immense. When you are fortunate enough to get a victory, you need to enjoy it and live it up. The idea of being there with the fans was a spontaneous idea because we have a single file place to get in the lockerroom, which happened to be right where are fans were. The band was playing and it was fun, so rather than go inside I told my players to go back out and we will have some fun with our faithful. The roses were something that were given, certainly that is very premature. I was very thankful that Jabari Issa grabbed them and promptly threw them in the trash can. He didn't do that to deface the Rose Bowl, but to make sure the players understand that there is a lot of work left to be accomplished. I know that everybody is excited in what lies ahead, but this weekend is all that we can focus on."
(On the close scores): "As I told the team, we are averaging just under 30 points and giving up just over 26 points. So it is not like we are walking into stadiums and wowing anybody. What we are doing is playing well when we have to play well. We have got to keep practicing the little things to make sure we continue to do that. We can't ever think that we can just show up and beat somebody because that would be the biggest mistake we could make."
(On Anthony Vontoure): "Anthony is a tremendous athlete. Anthony can get better at playing corner. Anthony will get better at playing corner if he will keep working at it and practicing at it as if it were his craft. He is a magnificently skilled athlete. He needs to learn the nuances of playing corner, when to take chances and when not to, when he has help and when he doesn't. The play where he got burned, he guessed. Frankly, how many times has that guessing made us the benefactor of him making a play? But he has got to learn when to do that and when not to. He needs to understand what is going on up in the front and how much pressure is on that quarterback. Anthony would be the first to admit he could improve his tackling. But we are excited for his ability to break on the ball, and his ability to hang on to the ball if he catches it. We are thrilled that he is playing and playing well, but like all of us, he continues to improve, and must continue to improve if we are going to reach our goals."
(On utilizing the tight end): "It's kind of that mid-point area of the novice and an expert in football. I think you go from being a novice to an expert when you bring up getting the ball to the tight end. Somewhere in there, you become a guy who really studies the game. Jerramy Stevens is a tremendous athlete, who has a tremendous future. We are working ways to find different schemes to get him the ball downfield. To create mis-matches, which was the case on Saturday, given his height advantage over their cornerback. We will continue to do that, but always within the scheme of the offense. You can't force those things and put square pegs in round holes, otherwise you deviate from the rhythm of what you are trying to create."
(On the running back position): "Our thought is that Willie Hurst will be ready to go and hopeful that Braxton Cleman will also be ready to go. It gives us an interesting, and actually pleasant dilemma, in terms of a foursome of tailbacks that have contributed in a big way. The good news is that Wayne Moses has a great handle on his personnel and has great relationships with all of the kids. I think all of them understand that the most important thing is that the team does well, not their individual goals or aspirations. We will find a way to make it all work and hopefully have the right guy out there at the right time."
(On stressing the importance of the 4th quarter): "Certainly, by the game's end it is pretty evident what the game plan is. It's pretty evident in what the defense's game plan is. We made a big pitch in the outset of the season that the fourth quarter was going to be very important to us, not just because it is the deciding quarter, but because it speaks to the other teams of our conditioning, and our willingness to keep slugging it out in crunch time. Also, I don't have the numbers in front of me, but because it was such a disparity a year ago. I think the Huskies only scored 31 points in all of the fourth quarters of last season. The opponents had somewhere around 90. I asked my team, how are we going to take ourselves from where we were to where we want to be? And I said if we just flipped the fourth quarters. If we just made it the exact inverse of what is on this paper we will have a chance to do just that. If nothing else, we can do that. In practice we have a portion called the 'fourth quarter.' Who knows what works, but the bottom line is that the kids are excited to play in the fourth quarter."
(On returning to his alma mater): "The Rose Bowl is an extremely special place for me. I had some of my greatest moments in that stadium, it is not going to be lost upon me where we are going to play. But Rick Neuheisel going back to Pasadena is way, way down on what is important for this particular week. There is too much at stake for the University of Washington and our focus should remain there."
(On outside linebacker position): "Jafar is knicked up a little bit, but we are hopeful that he will play in the game, but he certainly won't participate in much contact this week. But Anthony Kelley rose to the occasion, he is an exciting player and will get nothing but better. I'm not concerned about who is starting, I know both will play if Jafar is well."
(On improved play of receivers): "They are doing a great job of catching the ball. If you remember in spring ball, that was a concern. We did not catch the ball and that was a real big focus over the summer months. Their work is paying off because we are getting some very timely catching of passes. Gerald Harris let one get away, but responded after that by making great plays. Dane Looker had a great catch in the game. Todd Elstrom had a great catch on that nine minute drive on third down and six. Jerramy Stevens has been pretty sure handed. When you are catching the ball you can be a good receiver. The other thing that has been happening, is that Marques's ability to run creates a little bit more air in opponent secondary."