Nov. 17, 2008
Below are quotes from head coach Jeff Tedford and seniors Noris Malele and Worrell Williams from Monday's Big Game Press Conference at Perry's in San Francisco. The 111th Big Game vs. Stanford kicks off at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Memorial Stadium.
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Head coach Jeff Tedford
It's very exciting to be a part of this tradition again. This will be the seventh Big Game for me and my staff. I know it's always an exciting time. There are a lot of great traditions that go along with this game and we fully understand that. It's an honor to play a great team like Stanford. Coach [Jim] Harbaugh has done an outstanding job with that group over there. They play very hard in all phases of the game. They are very disciplined, and it's going to take our best effort to be successful. I know our players are very excited for the opportunity to get the Axe back. It is something that weighs very heavily on our players and something that will give them great motivation. I look forward to a great week of preparation and competing against a great team like Stanford.
It becomes more special when you lose the Axe. I feel that after having it five years straight, you really can feel its loss. You feel the pain that comes with not having it and the pride that goes along with it. That's something especially in our seniors' minds. They want to leave here with the axe.
What is your game plan for stopping Stanford running back Toby Gerhart?
You really need to gang tackle him. He is a big, physical back with great balance. He runs good at pad level. He has surprising speed for a big guy when he gets into the open field, and he can take it the distance. It's going to be very important that we wrap him up and that we get more than one hat to him to make sure we bring him down because it is very hard to tackle him one-on-one.
What are some of the key lessons you learned from the Oregon State game?
There needs to be great focus in making plays. We let them have some key plays on special teams that led to 14 points. That comes down to discipline and being in the lanes and doing the right thing. Offensively, there are plays we could have made. On offense, everybody has to be accountable for pass protection, making the throws, making the runs, whatever it may be. Defensively, we played pretty well, but there were some drives that we let guys break containment on us. So there are a lot of lessons to be learned. Any game, whether you are successful or unsuccessful, there are lessons to be learned. So there are plenty from last week.
This is not a situation like last year. You've lost two tough games to two very good teams. Are you worried about things slipping away?
Because of last year it is something that we talked about. But we need to make sure we understand that because we've lost two close games, it doesn't mean that the season is over. There's a lot to play for. Pride and tradition in what we're doing is very important. It is very important to the senior leaders on this team. I have confidence that they'll play very hard. I have no doubt in my mind whether we're successful or unsuccessful it won't be because of effort.
What Stanford does best is probably what you do best, run the ball. Is that the matchup that will determine this game?
We need to stay balanced. They're a very good team. We need to have some success running the football. I think one of our problems, especially last week, was that we had so many third and extra longs. We had negative plays, with sacks or going backwards. I think we had six third-and-12s or more, and you can't win like that so we need to have success on early downs to handle the situation.
On Stanford's run game:
Yes, we do need to stop the run. These guys are built for it though. With a big offensive line and a big physical back, we're going to have to play very well and get a lot of guys around to tackle those running backs. Their offensive line is very good. They get movement so we're going to have to hold point and gang tackle.
How is your offensive line looking?
Well, we are banged up, we've lost five scholarship linemen this year but the guys are competing hard and they'll give it their best effort this week I'm sure. They'll prepare well through the week and go out there and cut it loose.
Does the team wanting the Axe back make your job a little easier?
There's a lot of motivation there. We had won five in a row and the pain of not winning and not keeping the Axe has given them a lot of motivation. Especially to the seniors, they understand that they want to go out with the Axe. I don't think motivation will be a problem.
Senior OG Noris Malele
Coming in here for your final Big Game, does it have any special meaning to you?
It definitely means a lot to me. I take a lot of pride in every game, especially a rivalry game. We've been living without the Axe for a whole year now, so we still have that sour taste in our mouths. We're going to come out and do what we can and this being my last run at it, I'm going to make it a special one for me.
How is your ankle holding up?
Right now, I'm doing good. I'm slowly working back into it. Last week I got a chance to get back out on the field and get some action. Hopefully this week I'm 100 percent and ready to go.
Are there any special challenges against Stanford's defensive line?
Stanford has a great defense overall. Obviously, they've got some great players on the defensive line and they have a few playmakers at linebacker, as well. They do a great job of getting to the ball as a whole group, so it presents a challenge to us in that they come out every week and play ball. It is something to look forward to. It's the Big Game and it means that much more. Their ability will present a good challenge and we'll see what happens Saturday.
Senior LB Worrell Williams
Every guy on our team knows how important this game is. Not just because it's the Big Game, but because of how many things are riding on it. It's huge, and it should be huge, and we should take it personally.
Did playing at Stanford with fewer Cal fans in attendance affect you last year and are you excited that the opposite will happen this year?
I really don't think it made a difference last year. I don't really care who shows up to the game, I hope Stanford shows up to the game and we can play football. That's all you can worry about. Coach [Tedford] does a good job getting us in the mindset of not caring who is in the stands, because you should be able to play the same as you do in practice when no one is in the stands.
On last year's Big Game loss:
Coming off the season we had last year and then on top of that to lose the Axe was dramatic and very detrimental to the whole morale. I think we have a chance to redeem ourselves this year and that is the beauty of it. This is my last time and last chance to get them, so I know how important it is and I'm going to take this game very seriously and dear to my heart.
What was the team like before the Big Game last year?
We came into that game wanting to win it. But intent to win is not good enough if you are not doing the little things or focusing on what you need to do to get the job done. Everybody wants to be successful in life, but if you don't get out of bed in the morning, trying to be successful isn't going to cut it. It was a big letdown, but now we get a chance to get at them again so let's hope we can get back on track.