Dec. 10, 1999
Washington Head Coach Rick Neuheisel
Holiday Bowl Press Conference
General remarks:"I came recently from San Diego where the Culligan Holiday Bowl will be played on the 29th. I had a great affair the other night where all the red coats explained their pleasure and matchups. Bill Snyder and I were both there, and we were both thrilled to be there, it is one of the great destinations in the United States and a big time ball game for us to be involved in. It sets up as a large task for our program because someone told me the other day that we are the biggest underdog in any bowl game, but that is where I am comfortable. Hopefully our team will respond and put together a good performance. I feel good about our team right now because they are excited about the reward phase of the bowl and spending some time down in San Diego, but they are also very much excited about playing a top ten team. A team that is arguably one of the best in the United States over the last several years. I think our guys are going to put together the preparation that is necessary to put together a good effort. That is our job as coaches to make sure they have fun and prepare well so they can look like a well-oiled machine. It is a great place for our program to be, if we can play well, it will be a great stepping stone for the year 2000."
On practice schedule next week:"We will practice Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday in the Kingdome. We are practicing in the Kingdome to make sure the weather doesn't impact our practices as we get ready to go to San Diego. We are going to practice this weekend in Husky Stadium and we'll be fine. As we start preparing for our top-notch opponent, the distraction of the elements, if we can avoid it, should be avoided, and we found a way to avoid it."
On philosophy of bowls: "Well, I think bowls are unique to college football. The argument is made annually about 'should there be a playoff system in college football?' There are always different opinions and the analogy of the college basketball tournaments is always brought up and the excitement that it brings to the fans. The difference is that the basketball player rarely gets to enjoy the city that they travel to. He rarely gets to go out and have the fun that the football player is afforded on a bowl trip because they are not there for that much time. I think we would be silly to ever lose sight of the experiences that the bowl affords, not just for the players and the coaches, but for all the traveling parties of the universities. Bowl games are very important as a reward for all the hard work that went in to the season, that is our first priority. Our second priority is to play well, because it is always a much better experience if you find a way to win the game. I've been very fortunate in my experiences to be on the winning side most of the time. With Terry Donahue, we won seven in a row at one point. I am anxious to try and accomplish both tasks."
On coach Bill Snyder: "I don't think we are as opposite as people make us out to be. Both of us have a great affinity for the game of football. Both of us care a great deal about the student-athletes. He is probably more reserved in terms of his personality than I, but that doesn't make him any less fun when he is in own comfortable surroundings. I admire what he has accomplished a great deal. All of us in the coaching profession can look at what he has done at Kansas State and honestly say it is one of the great coaching jobs ever done in the college ranks."
On Kansas State this year as compared to last: "Well, there are maybe some subtle differences. But certainly the things that jump off the tape are the great team speed on defense, and the ganging-up approach on that side of the ball, daring you to throw, to see if you can. They certainly are not the same on offense in terms of the dimension of what Michael Bishop brought them, with all of his talent. They have got lots of weapons on that side, with their great wide receivers and tailbacks that come at you. I guarantee you that Joe Hall, the 300-pounder, he has got our defense's attention. They are all saying 'how fast is he?' It is not lost upon us that they are a top ten team and have been so for some time."
On turning point of the season: "The Colorado game might have been the turning point, only because we won. We were 0-2 going into the game, and looking down the barrel of a long year. Fortunately, we have great character in our program, and the kids practiced with a lot of urgency that week. We got over the hump and got us a win over a great team in Colorado, so our confidence level increased and we were able to use that and play well in a game the next week against Oregon. Unfortunately, we aren't talented enough to win games when we don't play well. That bit us twice during the year when we didn't play well against Arizona State or UCLA."
On Marques Tuiasosopo vs. Michael Bishop: "Well, I think Bill Snyder said it very well that both are great athletes, both have unique ability to affect the game with both their arms and their legs. In so playing like that, it creates a lot of stress on defenses. The other thing that sets them apart from your average, run-of-the-mill quarterback, is that they are both very competitive. They play with a great sense of determination, that is contagious to the rest of their teammates, and it shows when they play."
On Marques being recruited as a defensive back: "It is not hard to believe, because I was one of them who recruited him that way. I knew his father, he was a UCLA alumni, and had worked at the UCLA camp when I was running it. I was trying to persuade Marques to come to Colorado, yet I didn't want to sell him anything that I didn't truly believe, so I told him I thought he'd end up being either a linebacker or in the secondary. Manu said 'thanks, but no thanks, we think Marques can play quarterback.' I'm glad they thought that way because he certainly can."
On the option offense this year: "It was born out of necessity. We looked at ourselves and tried to figure out what the best way was for us to be successful. To take advantage of the resources that we have, we felt we needed to attack the perimeter with the option game. None of our offensive coaches had a big background in the option, I think we could all get on the chalkboard and show you how it is supposed to be done, but the nuances were new to us. Fortunately, we had a quarterback that grew up in an option offense, he kind of taught us along the way. I am fortunate that our coaches are flexible enough in thought to not force square pegs into round holes. We are going to give our team the best chance to be successful, whatever that requires, and the option was the answer this season."
On Kansas State being similar to any Pac-10 foes: "Kansas State is a great football team. I'm not sure there was a great football team in the Pac-10 this year. There were lots of good teams, but I'm not sure there was a great one. That is not knocking our league, it is just the facts of the matter and I don't think anyone would dispute that. Hopefully the bowls will prove that all the teams are on the upsurge."
On problems Marques presents defenses: "I think he is capable of presenting any problem. He is capable of beating you with his legs, witness the 200 yards rushing against Stanford, and he is capable of beating you with his arm. If you decide you are going to contain him, as Washington State did, he ran up the middle for 12 and 13 yard gains to keep drives alive. If you are going to come up the middle, and he goes outside, he can beat you by both throwing it down the field or running with it. By design, we have the ability to spread you out, run the quarterback draw, run option. It makes defenses practice a lot of things, and when you have to practice a lot, you have a relatively difficult time putting too much defense in. Not particularly in a bowl game where you have a lot of time to get ready for one particular contest, but when you are playing in a game where you only have a few days to get ready, he puts a lot of stress on defenses."
On this year's defense: "We tried to marry our philosophies so that we could help one another. We led the Pac-10 in two things: time of possession and fourth down conversions, everything else we were in the middle of the pack. On time of possession we were trying to help our defense stay off the field so that when they went out there they could play fresh and with a lot of enthusiasm. I thought at times, we looked like a very good defense. Early in the season, we were tacked with polar opposites in BYU who threw 60 times and Air Force who runs at you 60 times. We took a while to find ourselves, but at the end we played some really good defense, and hopefully we can continue that trend because we will need to against a fine Wildcat team."
On the 1999 All-Pac-10 team: "Those things are decided on by ten coaches and I am just one vote and the new guy, so I'm trying to keep my mouth shut. I am proud of my players and if the other coaches thought the other guys were more deserving then that is fine."
On Kansas State's Mark Simoneau: "Simoneau is a great ball player. I remember playing against him vividly in Boulder last year. There was a fourth down situation and I was trying to make the decision and Simoneau is looking at me, nodding at me to go for it. I was looking at him thinking, 'now there is a guy who loves to play college football.' It shows, it jumps off the tape at you. He is a great football player and I am sure he will get to play a lot more after his days at Kansas State."
On the impact bowl game has on recruiting: "Well, I don't usually like to think about things that might happen. Certainly a good performance in the game could be a catapult for our team and provide confidence not only for ourselves but for those recruits who are watching closely, maybe those who are still on the fence as to where our program is going. My hope is that we will put together a great effort and prove that things are looking good for the Huskies. Since we recruit a lot in the southern California area it can be a benefit. But you still have to get the work done. We have a schedule that will allow us to practice in the morning and review practice in the early afternoon, leaving our evenings open to visit homes. The rules do not allow us to talk to recruits while they are at practice, they can certainly come to visit us, but if we talk to them it becomes a contact. You are only allowed one contact per week, so we have to be careful. I am scrutinizing the rules carefully this year."
On injuries: "To the greatest extent possible, certainly John Westra is not back, he hurt is knee and is lost for the year. For the most part all the bumps and bruises are healed. We are hoping Kurth Connell can practice this week and if he can we will be right on schedule. Marques is back to full function and I think everyone is feeling pretty good."