Sept. 25, 2001
Below are selected quotes from head coach Tom Holmoe from his weekly football press conference. The Bears host Washington at 2 p.m. Saturday in their Pac-10 home opener.
We're getting ready to play the Washington Huskies here, a very, very big challenge for our team in light of how we've held ourselves the last couple of weeks. But this is a time where our patience and our wits and our dignity is really tested to the core. I'm really proud of the way the team, in spite of unanswerable questions, is really trying to bond together and come up with the answers. We know that the answers might not be right around the corner, and that's an even more difficult thing to look at. But the players and the coaches are in it, and they're engaged strongly with the hope that we do find the answers and that we can come back to the kind of play that will make us successful and help us to win games and enjoy that feeling of winning.
As in the past three weeks, we just have to look back at what's happened in the past and not dwell on it. Because really, our future eight games is all that we have and we want to make the absolute most of those eight games. There are players and coaches that really have a lot riding on it. When I say that, they want to make sure that we do our job professionally and that the players act professionally. That's what I know that the players are doing.
This Washington team is an interesting team. Against Michigan early in the season, the first game, that was a very tough opponent and Washington didn't play very well, and they won the game. They didn't do anything on offense, but they came up with some great plays on defense and special teams to win the game. It's kind of the antithesis of how we are. Two years ago here, we were down by 3 with about three minutes to go in the game. We had an opportunity last year, it was so close. So, our guys know that there are some struggles that we have to get through, but we also know that it was pretty close last year with a lot of the same guys. Our hope and dream for this week is that we get our act together and compete like we're capable of and play a great game against these guys at home, at Memorial Stadium.
Marques Tuiasosopo accounted for more than 56% of their offense last year. With him gone, what kind of a team are they?
It's a very different team. There's no question that Marques' signature was all over that team. His style of play, the way he ran the ball, the way he came up with the big plays, the way he overcame obstacles, he made mistake last year almost every game. But once he made them, the next time he was in the game, he more than made up for it. That's a big guy to lose. I think with everybody, especially the writers that cover the Pac-10, the biggest question is how in the world is Washington going to survive this year without Tuiasosopo? Well, in two weeks, they've done pretty well. They're really not anywhere near what they were last year on offense. But they are a very very good team and you've got to give Rick Neuheisel and those players a ton of credit because they are as resilient a team as I've seen in years. It will be good for us to rub shoulders with those guys on Saturday.
Is there a quarterback controversy at Cal?
I don't believe so. I know that we're going into this week's game with Kyle (Boller) as our number one quarterback. We made a decision in the game (at Washington State) that we thought would be best for our team. I don't regret that decision at all. I think it gave us an opportunity to see what Eric (Holtfreter) would do in a key situation, not at the end of the game where nothing is on the line. There was a lot on the line at the stage of the game where Eric came in. He did some things well and some things not so well. We made a decision to go back with Kyle. At this point in the week, we are confident that Kyle is our starting quarterback and that he'll go into this week and have a fine week of practice. Eric probably learned a lot from that and it will help him and help us as a team to know that he maybe came a little bit further along as a result of playing significant play time.
Are you looking to shake up the game plan, or are you staying the course, in that you like what you have and it just hasn't been executed?
I think in certain areas we have to. We've seen in three weeks that some of the things that we've done defensively just aren't working. We would like to think that some of the members of our secondary would've come out of the slump and played better, but we're not. So, we might change some personnel and give some other guys an opportunity and try a couple of different combinations. I think that on the offensive side of the ball, we've done some good things. The one thing that we will never get better is if we continue to have the turnovers. Right now, in three games we have 12 turnovers. Regardless of how we played on defense, I still don't think that we could've won any of those three games with 12 turnovers, averaging four a game. Just as an example, in the Pac-10, we're last with 12. I think the ratio is minus 11. The ninth team in the Pac-10 is minus 2. That's a big thing. If we can go down to one a game, we're going to be considerably better because there are some positives on the offensive side of the ball. We're second in the Pac-10 in first downs, we're third in the Pac-10 in third down efficiency, and those were two things that we were last in the Pac-10 last year. We're fifth in the conference in total offense and last year we were 10th. So, we have stepped up our game but we're cutting our throat with the turnovers.
There are things that we do well in practice that we just don't do well in the game -- individual team stuff, like dropping a punt, not fielding a punt and not fielding a kickoff. Those are things that are just a matter of confidence. We're at a low low tide in our confidence level and that's not something that has to stay. So those are the things. Our coaches are working very diligently to find those answers, but until our confidence comes, and we're not just hoping that it comes, we're trying to do things and we're trying to do everything we can to get that spark back. Really in our last two games, for the first half, we played well. We were in both games against two very good teams. But then once the adversity came, the wheels fell off. And that's where we've got to get deeper into the game and finish the game. That's what our hope is.
Are there possible changes in the secondary?
Perhaps. We have to try different combinations. In three weeks, we have had some guys that have worked in different combinations, but it hasn't been successful. We have to stop that. We'll try some things that are different, personnel-wise. You'll see some players that haven't been out there, but they really deserve an opportunity to try. We'll see how it goes in the course of the week of practice.
Does it help playing against a team that you've played pretty close that last couple of years? Is that something that you'll talk to the players about to try and reinstill the confidence?
Once again, our battle is with ourselves. If we can hold on to the ball and play smart defense, we've got a chance to win the game. I can see ways that we can beat Washington, but whether or not we can execute them remains to be seen. We'll practice and we'll get on the field and we'll execute that. The players will start to see the same things that we see and they will go up there and there's the test. And we have to pass the test. Our hope is still bright. If we beat them here, the temperature all of the sudden goes up....quickly. And that's great.