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Rick Neuheisel Press Conference Quotes
Release: 11/01/1999
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Press Conference Quotes
November 1, 1999
Washington Vs. Arizona
Washington Head Coach Rick Neuheisel

General Remarks: "I told our football team yesterday that we had accomplished one half of our goal at the onset of the season which was to try to win the conference championship and the half that we have accomplished is to be in the hunt for it. We are in a position now where the games that we play matter. The games that are left in November are critical if we are to attain the second half of that goal which is to actually capture the title. I say capture because in all my experiences with the Pac-10, nothing is given to you. You have to go earn it. Too many times in my memory have I recalled teams that seemingly had it and then gave it away at the end. "So it is important that our team bears down now, understands the stakes are higher and with higher stakes we have to have higher intensity and play with a greater level of intelligence, meaning we don't make a lot of foolish mistakes, and set the bar higher for everything we're doing. That doesn't mean we don't enjoy it anymore, it means that those who are risk-adverse need not apply. This is high stakes poker and it's important that we play with everything we've got.

(On Arizona): "We're excited about playing Arizona, they are a great football team. They have weapons that every coach in the country gets really excited about. When you have a great quarterback, a great tailback and great wide receivers you feel great about yourself, as well as a very talented tight end. Their skill positions are well-stocked. Defensively, they come at you with everything but the kitchen sink, they've got - I don't know how you define the defense- they've called it Desert Swarm and all sorts of different names. But I know this - they've got 11 guys that are after you and are playing with great intensity and, given the nature of the Arizona crowd, it will be a hostile environment we'll find ourselves in on Saturday. We're excited about the game. We're excited that we're playing for the stakes that are out there, but like I said a week ago, there are a lot of coaches still telling their teams that we're in this thing and we happen to be one of them and we'll do our very best to remain so at the conclusion of this weekend."

(On Arizona's Defense): "They've been playing this defense for some time now. Rich Ellerson and the different coaches there have majored in this style of play for some time and they've done a great job of recruiting and getting the different talented athletes to go in and implement it. Certainly Karl Dorrell, that coached at Arizona State, Keith Gilbertson, who coached at Cal and Washington, Wayne Moses, who's been at UCLA, Cal and Washington, and Steve Axman, who's been around a great deal of time and has been at Northern Arizona and spent a great deal of time studying Arizona - all those guys and their wisdom as to how to attack it will be helpful."

(About Marques Tuiasosopo's game vs. Stanford): "We play an exciting game and individuals rise to the occasions, and I've been around some great individuals in my life. I've been very fortunate to coach guys like Troy Aikman, J.J. Stokes and Shaun LaChappel who have had some great games. But I don't know that I've seen a game where a guy just put a team on his shoulders and just carried them like Marques Tuiasosopo did last Saturday. Certainly he didn't do it alone. He had a great effort from his offensive line. His freshman tight end made big plays - I don't think that he dropped a ball all day - and I know Marques pointed to some mistakes he made that he wishes he could have back. But just in terms of guts and desire, and sheer athletic ability, he was marvelous."

(On Trung Candidate):"I know Trung pretty well, I recruited him. I tried to get him to come to Colorado from Central High School in Phoenix and I'm excited for his success. I just wish he'd take a week off but I know that's not possible. I can tell you he's a very talented player and what's more, having got to know him personally, he's a very neat young man, so congratulations to him for all his success."

(On being taken out of the spotlight personally): "I have tried to make sure that everybody understands that this is about the University of Washington and these kids have come together and fought, scratched, kicked and clawed their way into a position where the games in November now matter. I'm fortunate that I've got great coaches and certainly great character within the program, which is a tribute to the former staff, who recruited them. So we're anxious to keep playing, and hopefully keep playing for the big prizes."

(On UW controlling its own Rose Bowl destiny): "There's a lot of time left. As is normally the case, people that make their living writing about these games and talking about these games want to talk about this being the end-all result. You ought to hear coaches - they walk into the office and say, "This is the biggest game of the year," and it is, because it's the next game of the year. There are a lot of things that are going to happen between now and the end of the season, when Arizona and Arizona State play, that will determine who goes to the Rose Bowl. I just know that it's been a dang exciting time for a lot of teams. And for all of those people who are down on the Pac-10, I guarantee you this - there's not a more exciting conference out there."

(On naming Steve Axman quarterbacks coach, and whether he considered coaching the quarterbacks himself): "Certainly, I had coached the quarterbacks for the first three years of my head coaching tenure. Frank Kush gave me that advice when I got the job, that most coaches when they get a head coaching job stop doing what got them the job, so I decided to maintain my role as the quarterbacks coach. When I got to year four, after going 5-6 in year three, I felt like in trying to do a great job with the quarterback responsibilities, I was forgoing some of the responsibilities in other areas. It's difficult to wear all of the hats and wear them to the levels that you'd like to see them done. So I decided that Karl Dorrell should be the quarterbacks coach in 1998 at Colorado, and then when we moved here, Karl and I talked about it, and agreed that there is no better guy out there than Steve Axman, who had worked with both of us. In fact, he was both of our bosses, and we were anxious to get him back so that we could be his boss, and do the same mean and cruel things to him that he did to us in a past life. It's a little different, and I find myself every now and then wanting to go over a coach a guy, but I'm very fortunate to have a very gifted coach coaching the quarterbacks."

(On whether he is surprised at the team's success): "I don't know that surprise is the right thing to say. I'm not going to tell you that I envisioned us being on the ABC game of the week three games in a row, with the UCLA game being on ABC, but I will tell you that I expected us to play hard every week, and I expected us to have a chance to win. I also knew that we had a gifted quarterback, and when you have those three things ... Remember that we're at the University of Washington, and these kids all came here because they wanted to be champions. They all watched those great teams of the early 90s and saw what Washington football looked like and personified, and so to come in here and say that we're going to rebuild wouldn't have been fair to the kids who were going to be seniors this year. So better than hide behind that 'rebuilding' cloak, I think the right thing is to say that we're at the Unviersity of Washington, we're going to play for the conference championship, and if we don't make it, we'll see why we didn't and keep moving on. To say that I'm surprised now would be to say that I didn't mean all of those things, and that's not the case."

(On Marques Tuiasosopo's gifts as a quarterback): "If you start listing the things that you look for in a quarterback - first of all, from a physical stand point, you look for arm strength, he's got it, you look for ability to move in the pocket, he's capable of that, certainly at th college level you look for the ability to run with the ball, he's got that, you look for touch, he's got that, you look for intelligence, he's got that. You go to some of the other things which are not so easily identified - leadership, he's got that, tenacity, he's got that, killer instinct, he's got that, although sometime some of the turnovers he commits would lend you to believe that he just likes close games. The bottom line is, he's a wonderful, wonderful athlete that is capable of great things, and because of that capability, we allow him to carry us, and we feature him in what we do. When defenses have to stop him, then other guys have to make the plays, and everybody is doing that right now. That is why we're enjoying a little bit of success."

(On Neuheisel recruiting Marques to Colorado as a defensive back, not a qb): (chuckling)"I knew that was going to be brought back to light. He was playing at Woodinville High School, playing in an option offense, and you just didn't see him throw very often. You also saw him playing on defense, where he was making every play. I knew his father - Manu graduated for UCLA the year before I got there, but when I became in charge of Coach Donahoe's camp, Manu came and was a guest coach for us, so I had a relationship there. I did not want to recruit Marques until the auspices of quarterbacking, which looked like the way you were going to get him to come to your place. I told him that I think we'll give you a shot a quarterback, but the likelihood is that you'll be a great defensive player, and I just didn't see enough of the throwing - not having traveled out here myself to see it, which is why I made a vow to myself never to recruit a quarterback off tape ever again, I'm going to make sure I go and see him live. I'm very fortunate for having made that mistake."

(On what Marques told him in the recruiting process): "'Thanks very much coach, but I believe I can play quarterback,' and you know what, he was right."

(On the injuries): "We're hoping that Mac Tuiaea can return. We'd like to see Chris Juergens return - I think both of those guys have a legitimate chance to make it back. I don't say that it's a foregone conclusion - we'll have to see them practice and so forth, but we're hoping that those guys can return. We're also hoping that Renard Edwardscan come back, but the likelihood is that he'll be out at least another week, maybe two. We've got to get Marques well - Marques has one of the ugliest bruises that I've ever seen, and how much he'll be able to practice this week is unknown. We all think of Marques and say, 'well, he'll make the game,' but I think we have to be prepared should he not be able to, because he's hobbled right now. "Kurth Connell, we'll have to wait and see. He had an ankle sprain. Again, knowing Kurth Connell's personality, I'd say he's a good bet to make the game, but his effectiveness is something we're going to have to watch carefully. I think most of the other guys are going to be OK. (On Braxton Cleman): Tolerance. He's been cleared by the doctors, the question is his tolerance. The lung is fine, it's the cartilage around the ribs that was damaged and makes it difficult to breathe and so forth. My guess is that we're probably at least another week away with Braxton, although I know that he wants to come back and participate."

(On the lack of carries last week for tailback Willie Hurst): "Willie tweaked his midsection, a 'contorted midsection' injury. I think that Mo Shaw being able to slam it up in there and move the pile also contributed to the playing time. I don't think Willie asked out of the game, I think we just made the determination that Mo was the back of choice at that time."

(On having a back like Maurice Shaw to pound away at the defense late in the game): "Certainly, he brings more punch with his frame. That's not to say we're down on Willie. The media has ahd too many funerals for Willie already, and he keeps rising and making the plays. We're glad number eight is going to be getting on the plane this weekend, too."

(On Marques forcing the ball into coverage): "I think he'll get better at that. It's experience. You can teach it and teach it and teach it, but until you've gone through it, it's difficult ot learn how to take a sack, it's difficult to learn how to throw the ball away. It doesn't come natural for guys who have made their living in the backyard or in high school, or now in the college arena or even in the NFL arena, to throw the ball away and give up on the play, they just don't do that, because they've made so many plays by not giving up. So, it's just one of those things that he's got to keep going through. Cade McNown, who was so valuable to UCLA over the years, his first two years, I think they went 6-5 and lost in a bowl game and then 5-6. He was the victim of a lot of mistakes. "For Marques, this is truly his first year of playing full-time. He was certainly a role player his first two years, but we're going through a couple of those experiences, and we're also benefiting from some of those brilliant plays he makes that are not diagrammed on any chalkboard in our staff room. I'm not going to worry about it, I'm not going to make such a huge deal. Now certainly fumbling and fair-catching and those kinds of things are things that we can correct, and will correct, but with Marques, we're going to keep trying to teach him, and keep trying to make him better, but I'm not going to dwell on it to the point where I take out of him what makes him so special."

(On the defense vs Stanford): "In the second half, they were huge. They did a much better job of tackling. At one point we scored 23 unanswered points. We got after the quarterback. We didn't necessarily get it in terms of sacks, but certainly the pressure on the quarterback made him throw early and not nearly as accurately as he had earlier in the game. Anthony Vontoure made two beautiful plays that were both critical turning points in the game, given the fact that we had just turned the ball over on both occasions. I was very, very proud of the defense. I told them at the end of the game that they were playing with one arm tied behind their back because we couldn't allow them to come after the quarterback on the last drive and give up a big play where they would have a chance to come back with a second possession. We needed to take the clock off, and we were able to accommodate that. I know none of them liked giving up a touchdown on the last play of the game, but certainly that 's better than giving up a big play, and having them have a chance at an onside kick and another possession. I was thrilled with the way our defense responded. And yet, I know our defense when watching the tapes will say that they could play much better. The tackling was not at the level that it has been in previous weeks, and it needs to get there given the ammunition that Arizona presents on offense."

(On Lester Towns): "Lester played really well in the Oregon and Oregon State games. He has not played well, to his level, in the last two weeks, but that has really been the injury to his foot. My hope is that he'll get ready and play the Lester Towns-style defense this week because we're going to need him to."

(On the possibility of the Arizona defense focusing on Marques): "If you study our game film against Stanford, you're going to say, 'this guy was responsible for 509 yards,' and that he is the key to our offense. Therefore, it would not be a reach that there would be a bulls-eye on him, given the state of his injury, given the state of what he means to our offense. But, I also know that Marques Tuiasosopo is a warrior and I know that our offensive line will take care of the challenges to try to keep people away from him, and I know the rest of our offense will be excited to complement him in any way that they can. This is a very unselfish team. When you have unselfish teams, you have a chance to do a lot of different things and not have people worry about who gets the credit."

(On the chance that J.K. Scott may play vs. Arizona, and his mental state throughout the season): "Part of quarterbacking is wanting to compete, so the fact that he would be upset about losing the second-string position is not only natural, but is something that a coach wants. You don't want people to accept their relegation to a lesser role, so that's OK. Certainly you have to accept those things, deal with them, and continue to compete - you can't pout - but J.K. never did that. He was upset, he wanted to know what he could do to improve, how he could win it back. The fact of the matter is that J.K. is probably better suited in the option game than Cody Pickett, so I think J.K. is excited about preparing for this week. Given Marques' health, he'll probably get a lot of reps this week, and hopefully he'll take great advantage of it. I know this, our team believes it can win with J.K. Scott in the game."

(On adjustments to the return game): "The reason I was angry at Joe Jarzynka is that there is a time to fair-catch. Joe caught the ball, and in trying to run with the ball, he fumbled it. We were trying to block the punt, so there was nobody blocking for Joe, and that's a time to fair catch. That's what I was trying to impart to him, and I imparted it well, I have been told on television. But I also put Joe back in, and was quick to shake his hand when he did fair-catch. Everybody has to understand what their role is on the team, everybody has to understand that it isn't about you or me, it's about us. If we all subscribe to that theory and that philosophy, we can go places. In terms of the schematics of our return game, we've had some good returns this year. It wasn't a great day for our return game, but we get another week. Both Paul Arnold and Terry Tharps have given us big returns, we just haven't had the consistency we would like in that department. Remember that Bobby Hauck was the special teams coach at Colorado, that had I think the number-two kickoff return team in the country a year ago with Ben Kelly, so we'll get it fixed. We just need to make sure that all of the personnel know what their roles are and get their job accomplished."

(On the impact of the crowd against Stanford): "The Husky crowd has been fantastic. I'll say this, as I've said all along - I'm ecstatic about the Husky crowd. I think the Husky crowd is one of the best in the United States, not just this conference. I think it's clearly the best in the conference. We need to give them something to get behind. When we do, they're there. They were there in the Colorado game in a big-time fashion, and they were wild the night we played Oregon, and certainly in the second half of the Stanford game, they were the 12th man for our defense, discombobulating Todd Husak and the Stanford offense."

(On a importance of a disciplined pass rush both for and against Arizona): "There is no question that pass rushes are like defenses in general in that they have their lanes, and they have their gap responsibilities. What happens is when defenses go helter-skelter up the field, they create lanes of air for nifty quarterbacks like Keith Smith and certainly Marques Tuiasosopo to make plays in them, so when you've got gifted runners like Smith and Tuiasosopo at quarterback, you're certainly less likely to be sprinting up the field and making those lanes."

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