Oct. 2, 2007
BERKELEY - The University of California football team earned its second Pac-10 Conference victory last weekend at Oregon. After improving to 5-0 overall, 2-0 in the Pac-10 with the win, the No. 3 ranked Golden Bears have their first and only bye of the schedule this week before taking on Oregon State on Oct. 13 at home. California hosted its sixth weekly press conference on Tuesday at the Hall of Fame Room at historic Memorial Stadium.
Head coach Jeff Tedford and numerous players attended to speak with the press. Here are Tedford's comments:
On the bye week:
We're going to look at Oregon State, do some recruiting, and try to get our kids healthy. Do some work on fundamentals and try to get better on the football field.
On other college football games last weekend:
I think it just sums up that you have to be ready to play every week. It's so hard to win, it really is. It comes down to all the things that you preach -- turnovers and playing penalty free -- all those types of things that can really make a difference in winning or losing. There are just too many good players and too many good coaching staffs around, that you really have to be on top of your game to win. It proves again that if you're not ready to play, or you don't have complete focus on the things that are important, the game can go any way.
On becoming a Florida [playing No. 1 LSU] or Stanford [playing No. 2 USC] fan:
No, I'm not a fan of anybody but us. All that stuff [rankings] really means nothing right now. Until December and January get here, that stuff means nothing. There's really no difference in my mind from being tenth, sixth or third, at this time of year, it doesn't mean anything. There's so much football to be played and we need to get so much better in order to continue to be successful, that's where our focus needs to be -- on us improving. We're not worried about what else is happening in the country.
On if rankings affect recruiting:
There's no question about that. When you have the national attention of being highly ranked, the recruits know that so I'm not going to be naive and say it doesn't help in the recruiting efforts that we have, that's definitely true. Where the rankings matter in what we do here, in terms of day-to-day preparation, they mean absolutely nothing.
On talking to players about rankings:
We'll talk about it, only because it's going to get so much attention. I'm not going to bury my head in the sand think that they're not going to get asked about it so we'll address it. I don't think their mindset changes one bit from last week being number six to this week being number three. There's not that big of a difference.
On the team overall:
I'm really proud of our team, the way that they've battled. We've been playing with guys that are injured, you have guys playing on one leg out there and still hustling and battling. I'm just really, really proud of the efforts that they're giving -- the players, the hard work that the coaching staff has been putting in--I'm really proud of everything that's gone on. To win that game last week with a lot of guys banged up, in a tough environment like that, says a lot about the character of our team. [I'm proud of] the depth of our team as well. The depth of our players gives them an opportunity to step up and contribute, which is always nice. The one thing that I think goes through and through, no matter who's on the field for us, is the effort that they give and the passion that they play with is always at a high level, and that's always nice to see.
On the Zach Smith and Mike Mohammed taking new starting roles:
Zach Smith did very well. From being the third fullback to being the first fullback in a couple days, there's a lot to be said for that. Not just the physical aspect of what's going on, but because sometimes you're pigeon-holed as a third guy, there's not a lot of focus that goes into the mental part of the game. But for him to be ready to go mentally and not make any mental busts in the game, there's a lot to be said for that, also for Coach Gould who prepares him everyday. It says a lot about Zach, he plays very well physically and mentally. Mike Mohammed, to have a redshirt freshman to go into a game like that against an offense like that, and to perform like he did, was great to see. That does back to preparation as well, to Coach Thompson making sure that he's ready to play because they threw a lot at us last week. There's a lot of recognition issues that go on and a lot of different things that go on so I'm very proud of Mike, the way that he prepares for the game and plays.
On backup QB Kevin Riley's appearance in the Oregon game:
He was fine. He's got a lot of confidence in his abilities. He didn't look scared, he was, "OK, where's the play? Let's go." Sometimes it's better to happen like that than to have a long time to think about it.
On where Tedford would like to be ranked:
It doesn't matter. I probably don't know enough about it, I don't spend enough time trying to formulate things or figure out how it works, we just need to get ready to play our next game. Whatever happens, happens. I figure if we prepare our best and go out each and every week and try to reach our full potential, the other stuff will take care of itself.
On what surprises Tedford most about this season:
I don't know, I guess the most surprising thing is that some other teams are falling off and have lost some close games. As far as we're concerned, I don't think this is anything new for us. I think the expectation for our players is to be where we are and all that kind of thing and keep working to play as hard as we can. I don't feel surprised about what we're doing or where we're at because that is what our expectation is every week. I don't get a feel of getting anything else than that from our players. The good thing is that we've been in this arena before, we've been ranked over the past few years. I don't think the rankings have any bearing on how our players act from play day to day.
On DeSean Jackson following the Oregon game:
DeSean was fine. DeSean he hasn't changed any week during the season, to tell you the truth. His attitude was the same last week as it was the week before when he caught three balls. I think he's really excited to win right now, and he feels good being able to contribute a little bit more to the win. His attitude was no different at the end of the Oregon game than it was at the end of the Arizona game, about how fired up he was. His thumb's doing fine. I don't think it's a secret to anyone preparing for us that we have three very good receivers that they have to watch out for. I don't think that just because Lavelle [Hawkins] had more catches going into that game that they could forget about DeSean. I think that DeSean's ability and potential speak very highly and people have to make sure that they defend the whole field against us. I don't know that it's any surprise to anybody. Sometimes it comes to match-ups. If you look at the year before, I think he was very involved in the Oregon game, it really depends on match-ups and things like that. We don't typically put DeSean in places that he wouldn't normally play in because we have other guys that play there just as effectively. Sometimes it just depends on what the match-ups are, from defense to defense.
On the team's focus following multiple wins:
I think we're always fairly focused in our preparation and our work habits on the field. I haven't seen them yet this week -- they had Sunday and Monday off -- and we'll have a team meeting today and go out and practice today. Walking through the airplane after the game, it was as quiet as could be. They were all tired, they were sleeping, they weren't celebrating or anything like that. It was business as usual for them. I think they realize that they just won a tough game. I think the leadership on this team, we have very strong leadership that understands what our mission is each and every week, and that's to prepare.
On where the Oregon victory ranks among Tedford's career road wins:
It was a big one, there's no question about it. It was against a top-ranked team, that's a very good football team and that's a tough, tough place to be successful. For our defense to play like they played, against an offense that spreads the field, a no-huddle deal that moves as fast as it does and stretches you so much; and for the offense to be able to handle the environment and not turn the football over and, for the most part, play penalty free; and for the special teams to create field position like they did, I'm really proud of the way we played in that environment. I don't think there's any question that when two top teams play like that, it's a big win, but I don't know where it ranks as far as the others, I can't remember them.
On looking past opponents towards bigger games:
I hear that said a lot, I hear that said about us from time to time. I always like to think that that's not the case. I don't know if that's what you can put it on, I guess it's a possibility. I don't know what other teams' chemistries are like, I know what our team chemistry is and I never choose to believe that our team would look ahead a week and overlook an opponent. I would think that we're smarter than that, and that we respect our opponents too much to do that. I guess it's possible [that was the case at Arizona last year], but like I said then, I didn't see it, I didn't see it on the practice field, I didn't see it in the meeting rooms. I don't know that some of the mistakes that were made in that game were from lack of focus. I don't think that on third-and-10, when you have to run a pass route and you have to catch a football, you think, "Oh we have USC next week, I don't know if I want to catch this ball or not." I don't think it has anything to do with it once you come out and you cross the line, next week has nothing to do with it.
On kickoff returns:
There were a few different things, like where we kicked the ball. I'm not so sure it's so much about what we did as opposed to what they didn't do. I think they had some miscommunication on where the ball was and ran into each other a couple of times and let the ball hit the ground a couple of times, but that's all part of it. Actually, to cover a kick when a return is set up and things like that, I thought some of our guys did a real nice job. Jahvid Best continues to be a special teams phenom. The guy covering kicks and punts and things like that, he just plays with a lot of passion. Again, I think mixing up where we put the ball and things like that has an effect on our success on that team.
On Jahvid Best:
He's got unbelievable athletic ability so it's a lot more possible to play like that when you have the tools and he's got plenty of tools. If you can coach him to be in the right spot, and he's a very coachable guy, then he's going to make a lot of plays for you. He has a great passion to play the game, he's a tough, tough guy. You say this in recruiting all the time, and we're honest with kids about things when they ask if they're going to redshirt their first year. We tell them that very likely they will unless they have a huge impact on special teams but typically you don't go into a top recruit's home and say, `You're going to play on the kickoff team, that's why we're recruiting you,' they don't buy into that. Reality says that a freshman, if he plays, has to make a contribution on the special teams because they're very important. Jahvid has taken that to heart and takes great pride in it. I don't know [if I can compare him to anyone else], I think he's starting to separate himself, the way he covers kicks--he's smart, he doesn't make mistakes, he's a good tackler -- he's a tailback that has never really done that before and he's still a good tackler, that's not a very natural thing to do if you haven't practiced that. I think he's starting to separate himself as one of the better special teams players, for sure as a freshman, that we've ever had. I think he's pretty natural with it, he comes under control pretty easily.
On the timing of the bye week:
This one definitely comes at the right time. We're very happy we have a bye right now. Going into the season, before we changed the schedule, we had no bye [after the season went to a 12-game schedule]. We changed our game against Washington to sometime in November to get a bye mid-season. It's very difficult to go 12 straight weeks and play 12 straight games with the injuries that occur and things like that. You would like to have a bye somewhere in mid-season, which falls at a perfect time for us. Sandy [Barbour] was reminding me about that the other day, that when we go to Seattle in November to not be complaining about it [the cold] because that's why we have the bye. It was great foresight by her, when they changed to 12 games, I don't think people put a lot of thought into byes and that type of thing. But thankfully, her and Steve Holton look at it and gave us some options, `Which game do you want to work on moving?' We opted to move the Washington game and it fits perfectly with our schedule. We're pretty banged up right now but from year to year, you never know what the extent of your injuries is going to be. I'm not sure what the Washington bye schedule is. I don't think they were complaining too much that we're going to go there in November.
Junior FB Zack Smith
[On getting the start at Oregon] Out of all the games to start that was definitely a big game -- No. 6 vs. No. 11 -- that was really huge. I was really excited about it.
[On preparing for the game] I didn't prepare any different than I had before entering the week. Coach [Ron] Gould does a really good job with everyone, not just starters, making sure you know your assignments and everyone is physically and mentally prepared. So from that standpoint it was like any other week for me. He [Gould] expects and demands a lot.
Sophomore DB Marcus Ezeff
[On his hit on Cameron Colvin at the goal line at Oregon] It was a great play, but at the same time a play that had to be made. That's the reason why I'm out there on the defense -- to make plays like that. It's a great feeling to have the coaches and players put their trust in you to make that play.
[On late hit call in the first half] I haven't looked at it, really. Jonathan [Stewart] was running down the sideline line. It looked like he was going to squeeze the sidelines and just keep running forward. I had a full head of steam and I wanted to at least knock him out of bounds. It would have looked bad if he were to stay in bounds and I would have just laid off. I didn't see any feet out of bounds; I just saw his body and tried to hit it. I didn't hear a whistle, and I wasn't trying to cheap shot the guy, that's just not my style.
Junior LB Anthony Felder
[General] As well as we have done this season, we still haven't put together a complete game on both sides of the ball. That is the good thing about football -- you can always work to perfection. It's exciting to get some guys back from the injured list as well. We just have a lot of guys that are willing to step up at when the situation calls its guys on this team taking care of their jobs on the field.