Sept. 19, 2005
Do you have an advantage knowing the Notre Dame system and is it more important to know the personnel or the team?
Willingham: Well they're both extremely important. Knowing personnel and knowing a team is usually one of the most difficult things, but it's usually the personnel. It's much more difficult to determine from the film the speed, the size, and all those kind of things. If you have that in hand it's a real plus for you, it helps your men just a little bit if you know more about the personnel. The team, you can get that from the film, but its a little more technical there's more to it, but sometimes you can see it with the eye.
On emotions of meeting his former players when playing against Stanford at Notre Dame - and is he downplaying his emotions?
Willingham: I don't think I've ever tried to downplay my emotions regarding any football game. This football game's important just as the last one was important. I think the emotions for those games are extremely high and will be extremely high for this one. The fact that you have players that I recruited, that I spent time in their homes, that does make it just a little bit different the relationship, but no. When you get to the game, it's a football game.
On transition coming to Washington, and what you're trying to accomplish:
Willingham: I apologize for being simplistic in my approach, but all we're trying to accomplish is getting wins on Saturday. Developing outstanding young men, good people, good students, and play great football.
On difference in atmosphere in Pac-10 compared to Notre Dame:
Willingham: I think that the major differences, is there's really two. One is location obviously. South Bend is more of a college town and of course the University of Washington is located in Seattle which is one of our major metropolitan areas. The other is the affiliation, one is independent, which develops a whole different set of dynamics and the other is a conference school.
On the pressure on both:
Willingham: I guess you have a captive audience because it is a university that has a notation with it and because of that I think it has an audience that is naturally a part of its history and tradition. You have the subway group and then you have the alumnus so yea there's a huge following. So from that standpoint there is a little bit more scrutiny but I've always said it didn't change a thing for me. The things I did and didn't do I still do and don't do.
Why'd you watch the Notre Dame game on television?
Willingham: I watched because it was a game that was on and I think a matter of fact it was in this very room. I would have paid attention if there were another game of one of our other opponents on. I think I watched some of the clips of UCLA and earlier I think it was Oregon State so I watch all the teams we play. I had a great interest in the game.
Without downplaying emotions what are your emotions going to be about the game on Saturday?
Willingham: This is a big game it will be highlighted and hyped to a great extent by a lot people around the country. So that means a lot of attention will be on it, a lot of eyes on it and you get excited when you have those kind of venues to perform to for.
What are your impressions of Charlie Weis as a NFL play-caller?
Willingham: I've watched Charlie when he came and visited with our team. We brought him in and had him talk with our staff on some of the things he was doing and he was very willing to do that. He was obviously a Notre Dame grad and of a successful program so we enjoyed those weeks. There's no question he is a very well regarded play-caller, coach and he's done a great job.
What's been the biggest challenge in getting the Washington program going the way you want?
Willingham: Well it's always just a cultural change is the biggest challenge, the things I do are slightly different from the way someone else has done them. It doesn't necessarily make them right or wrong, but you're trying to put the things in place that you believe are going to be successful and therefore just getting your people and others around them to make those adjustments.
What makes their offense so tough?
Willingham: Well he gives you a variety of formations, he keeps you very much off balance with what he's doing, what he's thinking. He's unpredictable he'll do some things in positions that other teams wouldn't do. His variety - you might say he's quite brash. They've done a great job with it.
Do you expect there to be any different feelings this Saturday from when you played Stanford for the first time?
Willingham: Yes they'll be different feelings. It's a different background, different setting, but are there similarities? Yes.
Is this game similar to the phrase "beat your brother" is that an unfair analogy?
Willingham: It's still the same, I have a great respect for the program, great respect for the young men left in the program, great respect for many of the administrators there. We're still friends and you value that but when it comes to play the game, I'd much prefer Washington to win than Notre Dame to win.
On the success of Jeff Demarko:
Willingham: Jeff is a great competitor. I think that was the same thing we told the baseball coaches because if I'm correct that was the year they were predicted to be an awful good baseball team, they had a great pitching staff and they didn't exactly feel like he might fit in. But we told them just try him out, and they were very, very surprised at his performance, so Jeff has always been a great competitor and that's what you've landed on.
On family atmosphere of Washington:
Willingham: "It always takes time to get to know someone. I think that the family atmosphere is based on the same things that I went through at Stanford and last year at Notre Dame. You earn people's trust by doing the right things, and that is what our program is based on."
On Washington being 0-4 versus Notre Dame all time:
Willingham: "I haven't addressed that yet, but I will have a chance to talk to them today."
On playing former team being a distraction
Willingham: "I would imagine that they are a lot harder to play this year, so I don't think that it will be a distraction."
On what he learned from coaching at Notre Dame:
Willingham: "You have to learn to deal with a bunch of off the wall questions. You learn more about the x's and o's and the people. I think that I have learned a lot in all of those areas."
On playing against players that he recruited:
Willingham: "You would hope that it would be some kind of advantage for us, but I don't think that it makes that big of a difference. I think they have a great team and right now they are a top-20 type of team. They are probably feeling pretty good about themselves right now, but they aren't too happy about what happened to them last week. I think they are going to be ready for us."
On Washington players level of excitement:
Willingham: "We haven't had a real chance to see anything yet. Today is Monday and we just finished reviewing our game from last week. Today is a day that we normally give our guys things to do where there will just be a scattering of guys doing different things at practice. Hopefully our guys don't know their coach yet, so tomorrow I start to show them who we are and how they are going to approach this ball-game. A game with this much attention usually peeks everyone's energy level. I am excited about this football game."
On trying to continue winning:
Willingham: "I think that these guys are going to look at last year and not want to go through that again. I think that they are really focused on trying to keep winning football games. I think that is what is important. In some of the players eyes they think that the other team is highly overrated."
On Isaiah Stanback's performance so far this year:
Willingham: "I thought Isaiah was extremely confident while throwing to his receivers. He has done a good job this year of trying to pick up on things that he didn't know. I think he is learning what it takes to become a better quarterback, and that alone is what is driving him so much. He has done a fine job for us, and he will do even better."
On hype of this week's game:
Willingham: "There is obviously a lot of attention on this year's game, but it is always going to be all written up with a lot of hype. When everything is all said and done, the scoreboard is still going to say that it is the Huskies playing against the Irish. Nothing more."
On getting team to focus on the game:
Willingham: "The truth of the matter is that we need to focus on the game. We don't need to get caught up in all of the stuff around this game, they just need to keep their heads in it. There is hype to every ball game and you have to work through that."
Willingham: "There is not one area that I don't want to improve. I think that when you stop improving, you might as well stop doing whatever it is that you are doing. There is not one thing that I don't try to get better at. I try to get better with the media, my players, my family, everything. I always critique myself on things that I say and do in an effort to try and get better."
On difference in Notre Dame now in comparison to last year:
Willingham: "I think that they are executing. When you execute on offense, you are able to put points on the board. Right now they are putting a lot of points on the board."
On Brady Quinn:
Willingham: "Brady is, well I don't want to say perfect, but I would say he is working in that direction. He is a guy who would work for that goal and do everything that he can to be the best at his position. He would be a great leader as well."
On areas of focus during practice:
Willingham: "We need to continue getting better with each practice. We need to learn how to get better with every practice and try harder during the time that we are out there. We are trying to take those two hours out of the day and really make the most of it. To do that, you have to come prepared and willing to work hard."
On Notre Dame's offense:
Willingham: "I think their football team has a great offense. They have guys that can easily get one hundred plus yards rushing in a game. They have a big aggressive offensive line that can really open up some holes and provide a solid protection core. Their receivers are great, but McNight overall is a really good receiver. When you put that group on the field they are not only good in size but they are quick only."
On playing a top-ranked team at home:
Willingham: "I think our guys will rejoice in having this opportunity. We have a top-ranked football team coming in here to play us and it is a great opportunity for them to make something happen."
On Joe Toledo's injury:
Willingham: "There is a small chance that he could play. He is out of the boot and he could go, but we are not sure."
On special teams:
Willingham: "I think that one of the focuses in special teams has been to make sure that we snap the ball well and protect out punter. We have done a pretty good job there, but we are still looking for special teams to add a little something more for us and to be a little more explosive. We will continue to practice and hopefully gain experience in that area. The more you practice, the more confidence that you gain in something."