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Coach Neuheisel Press Conference Quotes
Release: 09/09/2002
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Sept. 9, 2002

General comments: "We have earned our first victory of the year. It was not a beautiful thing, especially after looking at the tape of the first half. We played much more like what I had anticipated for our group in the second half. We need to build on that; I feel like we're in a good situation right now. We got our win and we also have lots of evidence to show to our team that we can and have to get better. I believe that there are a lot of things that we can improve upon immediately and I know that we have some kids who are very, very willing to do that. I'm excited as we head forward. The second half looked like what I envision for Husky football. I'm anxious to see us continue along that vein and hopefully not have to take very long as games begin to get up to game speed. I'm anxious to improve in that regard starting with the Wyoming game."

On opposing quarterbacks getting into a rhythm against Huskies: "It certainly helps when you get pressure on quarterbacks. In the Michigan game, I thought we did a decent job of getting pressure on John Navarre and we don't need to go over that game again, but we were in position to win the game in a hostile environment. I didn't feel like we were terrible. We can be better in third down, no question. In the San Jose State game, given all of the misdirection, we were a little conservative. We need to play better zone defense. We can do that, we're going to do that. In the second half, we did get pressure on the quarterback and we were able to shut down San Jose State's offense. They only had 37 yards of offense in the second half. The intensity got to be where we needed it to be."

On Reggie Williams' endurance: "I thought it was great. I think that Reggie played well. I think, like all of our players, there are things that he can do and do better. I'm certainly glad he's on our team. His conditioning was suspect in game one and I think he certainly was better in game two, but it was kind of a cool day. He'll be fine, I don't think that it's an issue anymore. It was never meant to be a knock on Reggie. It's impossible to stay in great shape when you're not able to practice. That wasn't his fault, it was the fault of his foot. If that serves as a needle in his side and he's going to play like he did on Saturday because of it, then I'll be quick to insert it."

On Reggie Williams' abilities: "He's obviously gifted. The subtleties, how to set up routes, how to set up releasing, having more than one way to run a fade, those are the kind of things that the great ones learn as they go. If Reggie studies the game as he has shown the willingness to do, there's no telling how much he can accomplish."

On upcoming bye week: "As I looked at it from the season's start, I think I would have preferred it a little later, but given where we are now and the experiences of the past two weeks, I think it falls at a perfect place. I'm excited about improving and improving a great deal in the next four days."

On priorities of improvement in bye week: "There are lots of priorities. We want to continue to get better as a running team. We want to make sure that our offense is complementing itself, that one play is leading to another play and giving defenses more to worry about than just what they're seeing. We want to play better zone defense, that'll be something that we can do. I want to continue to address our special teams. I thought we were much improved from week one to week two, but we can get better and I'm anxious to do that. We also have the ability now in our open week to develop more inventory, to give opponents something more to worry about."

On Cody Pickett's performance: "In terms of going back and throwing the ball, I have no quarrel with Cody. He's doing outstanding. I think he can be more of a tactician there in terms of managing our offense. Understanding that you're not just running plays, but you have to move the chains. You have to be aware of managing the offense, rather than just going back and throwing to the open receiver. That's all part of the experience. This is a great week to keep coaching him on that and hopefully he can do that. There was some great things he did in the ball game and there's some plays he made that were unnecessary and we and he can learn from them."

On what Cody Pickett needs to improve: "I think sometimes he has a tendency to make up his mind before the play develops and that's common with quarterbacks. He's not the exception, rather the exception is the guy who can consistently only take what they give him. There's all kinds of clues before the snap, but ultimately the final decision should lie after he's taken the ball from center and now seen what has developed. Then knowing your offense so well, and knowing how to respond and you know in time that it cooresponds to your feet, so your feel are on time to make the proper decision, proper throw and so forth. When you get to that point, that's when playing football seems like it's easy. We've all seen quarterbacks who can do that and they're usually getting paid a lot of money."

On Elliott Zajac's injury update: "I'm told that everything is proceeding as hoped and our hope was that he'd be able to start practice and some limited contact in anticipation for the Idaho game."

On defensive changes: "We decided to go with more man coverage. Come after them a little bit. We felt like we'd seen what they were doing and felt like we could keep up with their misdirection and counteraction coming off the back end. So we went after them a little bit more and obviously that paid off. We still played some zone, we have to do a better job of carrying things into the second level. Our linebacker level is sitting a little bit too low in our zone defenses. And we have to get better, especially carrying the number two receiver coming from the outside in, so that he can't get into those seams and catch the ball behind us. Those are things that can be addressed immediately. As you're running to them you have to be able to eat up gaps so that you're not exposed to draws. Those are things that we can get better at and have to get better at. And our young players have to keep maturing. Defensively we're playing with Evan Benjamin, he's going to be an outstanding player, but he has to get up to this level of competition and understand how pivital his play is. Manase Hopoi has certainly made a number of good plays, but also has to get up to game speed a little bit. Those two guys come to mind in terms of young players playing for the first time and having to come along a little faster. That's another advantage of having a bye week."

On plans for Sept. 11 anniversary: "This was a tough week for everybody. I recall vividly getting ready for the Miami game and staring, horrified at the television set like everybody else at the events that unfolded on that fateful day. All the concern is not only what it meant for our country, but what did it mean for the program and how things unfolded as the week went on. And then to compound the tradegy, the disaster in Mexico with the 16 Husky fans who lost their lives in that plane wreck. It was a very, very difficult week for everybody involved and we will take time to remember as the week unfolds."

On evaluation of defense: "I think our defense is promising. I don't know that we're there yet, but I think that there's reason for optimism. I think all of the defensive coaches are anxious to get busy this week to make sure that we get better and we have time to get better."

On third down defense: "I don't know, we aren't playing the same defense on third down. Everybody's trying to see where the ball is instead of just playing the defense, that might slow us down a step. Being a little cautious. But we're going to play better on third down, that's a promise."

On Miami's victory over Florida: "Miami has a very good team. We witnessed that first hand last year. It wouldn't shock me to see them have a season much like last. Hopefully we'll get a chance to play them again someday."

On slow starts: "Maybe we'll come to the stadium a half hour earlier. I don't know that it's something that happens all the time. I think that we've had some good starts here in the past. We have a tendency to do some feeling out early in ballgames. The other thing we do sometimes is we have a script as an offense and maybe we should stop that. Maybe we over-analyze the things that we're doing to start a game rather than just going out and letting it wing because when we do that we look pretty good. We'll keep evaluating it. We certainly don't want to get a goose egg the entire season in the first quarter."

On Evan Benjamin and his father: "Obviously when you have family members who understand the rigors of the game and the demands of the game, they can be of tremendous value from a support system. Many people don't understand the kind of time commitments that these young people put in to play at this level and go to school at a university of this caliber. Tony is a great guy, and obviously understands football extremely well and I'm sure he's of tremendous value to Evan as would Manu Tuiasosopo would be to Zach."

On Paul Arnold's performance: "I think Paul is fine. I think he's still bothered a little bit by a nagging ankle. Sometimes when you're in an offense that has this deep a wide-receiving corps, it's just not your turn. I feel very, very fortunate to have this number of kids and we're going to keep them all coming and they're all going to make their share of great plays."

On wide receiving corps: "I don't think it's necessary that one of them emerge, all of them need to be consistent. That way, when we come to that side of the field in any particular play, we have a reliable receiver running it. Part of me wants to conserve them, not use them all at the same time and maybe save one, but they're all playing so well that it's difficult to say 'Okay, we're going to have you red-shirt or you sit', I think we just go. In talking to some youngsters across the country, they're all noticing that we have a nice looking group of young receivers and it's interesting to see how many wide receiver recruits want now to be a part of this kind of offense."

On friend, Karl Morgan, a coach at Alcorn State: "I have a friend there by the name of Karl Morgan. He was one of my first friends when I walked on at UCLA. So he had I stayed in touch and he is now the defensive coordinator at Alcorn State. He called me late last year and asked if I would be willing to donate some money so that they could get some new uniforms, so I was willing to do so. Then I wrote him a letter saying, ' no matter how good looking the uniforms are, make sure there's only eleven of them on the field at once.'"

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