Oct. 28, 2002
RICK NEUHEISEL WEEKLY PRESS CONFERENCE 10/28
Opening comments: "While Coach Toledo expresses that nothing surprises him in college football anymore, certainly finding ourselves in this situation surprises me. I wish I could tell you I saw it coming, and know exactly how we arrived here, but sometimes you're in the forest and can't here the trees fall. I'm very, very disappointed in where we find ourselves currently, and yet I look at it as a huge challenge for all of us associated with the program to get it fixed. I know I said that a week ago and in anticipation of having a much better effort at Arizona State, playing a very good football team in the Sun Devils, and it just didn't happen especially on the offensive side of the ball, we just did not play very well. Of course after the ball game I said give credit to Arizona State, I still feel that way. They played inspired football, but the bottom line is we aren't performing like a Washington football team should perform. It's imperative that all of us associated with the program do everything now in our power to do the fundamental things that are required of football teams so that we can give ourselves the best opportunity to turn this thing around as we enter the month of November. We've got an opportunity this week to play UCLA a team that is playing well, a team that always has lots of talent. They're coming in here with some young quarterbacks but they really haven't featured the throwing game much this year anyway, they're kind of a running offense. Hopefully we can do a great job defensively. I thought we improved from two weeks ago 'til last week defensively, there were a couple of breakdowns but for the most part we played pretty well against ASU on defense. We're going to need a stepped up effort against UCLA this week. Offensively we got to go back to blocking people. We've got to do a better job of just that, blocking people, sounds simple, sounds very fundamental and it is, but we haven't done a good job of that the last several weeks. We've got to get back into the position of getting body on body, letting running backs see some air and hitting it with some authority, and also give our quarterback some time to operate when he's trying to throw a pass. The other thing that was kind of disappointing from the last week was the lack of execution in our kicking game. Our kicking game had been doing okay, doing their jobs. They hadn't made any huge plays, but we hadn't hurt ourselves. Unfortunately we were beaten in the kicking game in last weekend's performance. We've got to make sure we get some urgency about ourselves in that regard too. It's important to me down the stretch here that we play clean, hard, aggressive football, and we give ourselves every possible chance to win. I don't want to be sloppy; I don't want to come unglued because the people in this program haven't faced adversity before. Adversity is part of life and it's a great chance for us to realize it and do something positive about it. I'm hopeful everyone will feel the same way, and I'm confident that they will, and we can go about fixing our problems hopefully as soon as this Saturday, and try to get a win against a good UCLA team."
How much does the continuity of who's out on the O-line every week effect how good the blocking really is? "Everything plays into itself, but it doesn't make sense to make excuses. Bottom line is we've got coaches and it's their job to make sure that young people who are in the game know what to do and we've got to make sure that when we call a play, we're going to get what we call, and that's the bottom line. It's about productivity. We've just got to make sure that when we go out there, we get productivity."
On fullback Zach Tuiasasopo taking a more active role in the ASU game: "That's just because we got him some carries. It's not a noticeable position unless you see him carry the ball. Zach is like a lot of players on our team. He's a great kid, works hard, but he like everyone else needs to get more consistent. Once we get consistent we'll get better results."
Neuheisel's thoughts about how tough it is for a team especially in the Pac-10 to win conferences: "There's no question that the run of success that Washington's enjoyed over the last quarter century, it's a difficult thing to maintain on a yearly basis because there is such parity now in our conference. For years the Pac-10 conference has been one of 'haves,' and 'have nots,' and that no longer is the case. Everybody's in a state of building their programs of doing things in a way that will attract recruits and we all recruit the same area. It ends up becoming a very, very evenly divided pool, maybe some geographic exceptions, that make it very important that you're doing everything fundamentally correct within your program, and when you have a lapse in recruiting or a lapse in fundamentals, or injuries take place, there are going to be some voids. As I told you, I wish I could've seen this coming, but I did not. I thought we had a very good football team to start the season. I thought we had a very competitive football team, and for whatever reason we have fallen on hard times the last couple weeks and we have to find our way out of this spiral."
Comments on blocking and practicing first-teamers against first-teamers: "If you're just looking to block good players that would be the answer. The problem is you've got different defenses you're playing each and every week, and I think the most important thing is to block what you're going to block that Saturday. You spend your time having your offense emulating what UCLA does in the running game or the defense emulating what UCLA does in their run defense. If you don't, you're taking away some precious time to prepare for that weekend's opponent. We do some of that everyday. We have two periods a day, actually three a day, that we go our ones versus our ones, but to do that any more than that defeats the purpose of preparation."
On improvement in the offensive line? "The proof is in the pudding. I am reluctant to point at players, I prefer to point at myself. I think you get better results when you start looking at yourself for different ways to do things. I think our players all start with the premise that they want to be good, they accept coaching, they want to please, and they want to win. I don't think there is a lack of determination, or lack of heart in the program. I don't buy that. I know there are those out there that may suggest otherwise, but you're not going to convince me of that. I do know that we can be even better. I know that we can find other ways to get more out of what we have in terms of personnel, and we're going to just keep busting our tails until we do."
Is part of the problem UW has changed the blocking scheme since last year, since there is more experience this year? "Well I think we've gone more to the drop back throwing because of the numbers that have developed with Cody and certainly the great start our wide receivers had. As we've gotten more into the season we've slowed down a little bit, protection has gotten harder. We've got to go back and retool ourselves so that we don't become one dimensional. I think we've had that conversation before."
Are you disappointed with Khalif Barnes performance against Terrell Suggs? "I think Khalif Barnes is one of the best kids on our football team. I think he's a wonderful young man, I think he's going to be a fine football player. It was not a good night for him. No one took it more personally than Khalif, but Khalif Barnes did not lose that football game for us. He'll be back, and he'll be back stronger and better than before."
The benefits and possible changes of playing weak side and strong side offensive line schemes: "The benefits are, when we arrived here, that we felt like we only had one weak tackle. We just didn't feel like there was another guy in our program who could block the open side edge, that being Elliot Silvers, when I first arrived So the decision was made to play strong and weak, because that was the way the system started, and we kept it that way. Like all things, at the end of the season we'll look at what we're doing now and evaluate it from the standpoint is this the right way to proceed, or if we should go in another direction. To do those things mid-stream might have a positive effect in that 'hey, we're shaking things up, we're going to do things differently." Also it may have a negative effect in that you lose all the reps you've taken in that regard. So you have to weigh that. My inclination is that usually it is less beneficial than perceived by making those kind of wholesale changes."
Do you see any parallel from when you were a coach at Colorado and your team was struggling? "The parallel is that both programs are used to having a lot of success, both programs were riding high, and feeling good about themselves as the season began. That team was picked among the very best in the conference and so forth. When you stumble and you stumble early, the answer's more difficult than other times. There is a shock that can take place if you're not careful that all of a sudden you're not sure why this is happening. It didn't happen when I was a freshman, it didn't happen when I was a sophomore, we won all these things. Now we're struggling, and that's part of the evolution of programs. Programs have to teach their young how to take over when it's their turn and our older players now need to take the bull by the horns and find ways to lead as well as our coaches need to continue to lead so that we give ourselves the best possible chances to be successful here in the month of November."
What will solve the struggling on special teams: "I don't see us struggling vitally on special teams. I know we didn't have a great night of special teams, but that was an aberration if you look at the season in total. We haven't exactly made the big plays that we made the year prior, but some of that is attributed to some players not being available and so forth. The bottom line is this last week was the first time I've been disappointed in our special teams play. I'd love for Derek McLaughlin to be more consistent, and I'm going to make sure we have competition for him because I think he's got it in him. Somehow, sometimes when guys feel comfortable they don't perform as well as they think they are capable of performing. For the most part I feel like our special teams can be good, and can be good again as quickly as next week."
What it takes for a player to play on the special teams: "You have to have great speed, number one. You have to have attention to detail where everybody who is on that special team treats that as a very important job and does exactly what they are coached to do. Many times this fall we've had exactly that. We've got great effort, great speed, great execution of what the schemes call for. Sometimes kicks don't go exactly where you want them to go so you don't get the return that you're looking for, but when it comes to the effort and that kind of stuff, I don't have a problem with that. The other night for whatever reason, Arizona State was at another speed than we were, and we've got to correct that as fast as this weekend."
Coach's evaluation on Chris Singleton: "Chris did fine. We are going to continue to compete at that position, hopefully find more running yards. We ran for 126 yards before you take away sacks so there was some improvement, although, not where we want to be, we've still got more room to go."
On Rich Alexis' injury: "Rich has got sore ribs, the x-rays were negative. It's a pain tolerance thing, we'll see how he participates this week."
On the importance of this weekend's game restoring some of the pride in Husky football: "It's right there staring at us in the face, if there has ever been a call to arms, it's now. We have got to find a way to go out and play with great passion and find ways to get wins so that we can keep that streak alive."
On the morale of the team on the whole: "We're sticking together. I don't think we have a bunch of people pointing at each other as to what's the reason, what's the fault. I think we all understand that we're in this together and everyone needs to grab a shovel and dig our way out. Sometimes I think we talk too much. Ultimately it's about executing, going out there and if the play call is for you to do something, then you do that, and finish the job with great tempo and great toughness. If we can do that we'll be back to playing Husky football."