Sept. 15, 2009
BERKELEY - California head coach Jeff Tedford and junior quarterback Kevin Riley addressed the media during the weekly Cal football media luncheon held Tuesday at Memorial Stadium prior to the Golden Bears' Sept. 19 game at Minnesota (9 a.m. PT). Following are selected comments of what each had to say.
On the team's approach to its first road game of the season following a 1-4 road record in 2008
"No different than ever. I think the teams we played on the road had something to do with us struggling on the road. Playing USC and Oregon State on the road, those are good football teams. We don't ever do anything really different. We went to Oregon last year and beat a good Oregon team at their place, so we're not going to do anything different as far as preparation's concerned. We are going to travel there, because of the time of game, on Thursday and see what that's all about, but really it's only changing our schedule by about three hours on Thursday as far as that's concerned."
On when the decision was made, and why, to the travel to Minnesota on Thursday
"This summer, as we were thinking about things - kind of sit down, put together a timeline on what it would be, what a day would look like, what the schedule would look like - and felt like, we'll see. You don't have anything to compare it to unless you try it. Our emphasis has really been, fly in there, practice, do the same thing we do at the hotel, get up and play, and that's it. That's what we've always done. There's going to be more time now. Maybe if we feel rushed because it's an early morning game or something like that, but the body clock and chemistry, as far as an early game, I don't think had anything to do with it. I still don't. But maybe it's the rush of getting there and hurrying up, and going and going and going, and not having any time to just relax for a second. We'll see. I don't want to be hard-headed about it. We'll do it, and then we'll have something to compare it to and figure out which way is the best."
On Minnesota's leading receiver, Eric Decker
"Good player, big, physical player. Really strong to the ball, great range, great hands, competes hard for the football, can run. Really good player."
On whether the defensive game plan will give Syd'Quan Thompson the primary assignment on Decker
"I haven't got that far yet. Coach Gregory will, I'm sure, come up with a plan that way depending on whether you're in zone or man. We're not just going to do one thing - we never do. It's just a matter of what coverages we have going on."
On whether he has seen any film that shows Decker being shut down last year
"No. I don't watch a lot of the tape on that side of the ball. I watch a little bit of it just to see what they're all about. But coach Gregory and his staff do most on the analysis of what's going on. I can't say I've watched enough tape to see anybody shut him down."
On whether it's difficult to scout the Gopher defense based on tape from Minnesota's game against Air Force and its option offense last week
"It is. We haven't had great film this year to try to prepare from and this is no different. Really, you're only going off the Syracuse game, because every time Air Force is on someone's schedule, you pretty much have to throw that game out, because everybody does something specific to the option that they typically don't do on an every-down basis. You look at it for personnel, but as far as scheme's concerned, you really can't look at it."
On whether Minnesota's 2009 defense can be expected to resemble last year's
"No, they're different. A new coordinator [co-cordinator Kevin Cosgrove], so I assume he'll come in and do the stuff he's comfortable with."
On the Gophers' linebackers and how their defense stacks up
"They're going to be the best team we've played so far. There's no question about that. They're very physical up front and their linebackers are active, really good players. [Nate] Triplett has a lot of tackles, a fumble recovery, an interception. He does a really good job. But all three of them [also Simoni Lawrence and Lee Campbell] are good players. They all run really well - tough, physical guys - and their secondary is very solid, keep a lot of things in front of them. Very disciplined, very well coached, so there's no question that this group is going to be, up to date, the best team that we've played."
On Minnesota QB Adam Weber and the Gophers' passing game
"He's very efficient. They do a nice job of protecting him. They have a big offensive line. They'll try to suck you up with some play actions, get the receiver deep over the top of you - they've done that quite a bit. But he does a good job. He's efficient throwing the ball, he can throw the ball deep, he's accurate throwing the ball short, intermediate. So it's going to be important for us to put some pressure on the passer, as it is in any game."
On whether this four-game stretch of the schedule, with three on the road and the USC matchup, is a crucial part of the season
"I just look at this game. You knew the answer to that question before you even asked it. This game on the road at Minnesota is first and foremost, and that's all we're thinking about."
On the Bears' offense and where it can improve
"The offense has played well. There's certain things here and there on individual play that we can improve, everyone can improve, but the offense - we've had eight total penalties in two games and the offense has had one of them, and hasn't turned the football over. We did put the ball on the ground the other day, which we don't want to do, but we were fortunate to get it back. But no turnovers, one penalty in two games offensively, third-down percentage is pretty high. There's a lot of good things going on, but like I said, there is room for improvement everywhere, every position. I'd say for the most part we've been pleased with the production so far."
On the defense's not having any interceptions yet and what teams might be doing to reduce the risk of interceptions against Cal
"Last week, they got the ball out really quick. You have to give Eastern Washington a lot of credit. They did a really nice job of, they spread you out, they hit the holes, they got the ball out quickly, got themselves in a lot of third-and-shorts. I don't think anybody has really forced the ball downfield on us yet to give [Cal's defense] many opportunities for that."
On whether Giorgio Tavecchio's day against Eastern Washington, with a couple of deep kicks and a couple that didn't travel as far, signaled progress for him
"It was a step forward. We have a lot of work to do though. We've got to get him comfortable and consistent. You see a kick down to the 2 (yardline) and then you see one to the 15. You see a kick where it's supposed to be and then you see a kick wander off into the middle of the field. We know he has the potential to do it. We see it in practice all the time. It's just a matter of transferring practice to the game, and hopefully the more we do it, the more success he has and more comfortable and confident he gets. But we've got to continue to work with it, no question. Giorgio's going to continue to be the guy, but we're going to continue to bring Vince [D'Amato] along to create some competition there."
On the play of Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson and Isi Sofele
"We've had a good opportunity the last two weeks to be able to play a lot of guys. Game time for Covaughn has been great, because Covaughn, being a young guy, you need to get in game situations to run physical and those types of things. I think he's done that. That's provided some nice experience for him. And then Isi, he's only been at tailback for a week, so for him to get in there and carry the ball a couple of times was good for him. You could see that Isi is very comfortable at that position. He's explosive, he can do a lot of things. And one of the great things about it, he went all through camp learning receiver. So now, to be able to transition and play running back, he's going to have knowledge of the whole offense. I think it's really going to be a great step forward for him to understand everything. We could bump him out as a receiver. But he's really comfortable coming out of the backfield. That's his position, he loves it there and he's pretty effective there so far. He's had one carry [in which] nobody touched him."
On whether it has been a missed opportunity not to get the backup quarterbacks more game action during the first two weeks of the season
"Yeah, you're kind of damned if you do, damned if you don't. Brock [Mansion] got to throw one pass the week before and Beau [Sweeney] got to throw one pass [against Eastern Washington]. But you're up by 50 points, and if we throw the ball we're going to be deemed as trying to rub things in. I'm getting bad emails for running the ball with a 50-point lead - you know, [they suggest] we should have a taken a knee. You're kind of in a tough position there, because you would like to get them some experience dropping back in the pocket, feeling the pocket and that type of thing, but you're up by 50 points, you can't do it. So to throw a little naked pass or throw a little quick flat route or something like that is what they both threw, it wasn't something down the field or anything. But just to run the offense - manage the clock, get the signals, get to the line of scrimmage, get out of the huddle, those types of things - it's nice that they both have had that type of experience in gametime situations."
On the upcoming game at Minnesota
"It's going to be our first big test of the season. They've been stout against the run, so we'll probably pass the ball a little bit, which could be fun."
On watching the Air Force-Minnesota tape
"If we put in the double wing this week, I've watched plenty of film."
On not having a lot of film to watch so far this season
"It always makes it a little more difficult. The first game we had an idea of what they were going to do and they did it. So it worked out. It's not the first time we've had to go through this. We'll be ready to play, that's all I know."
On being more equipped to win on the road this year
"Last year, we were a lot more inexperienced on offense. This year, we have way more experienced players. We kind of know what to do going into it. We'll be ready for this game. I have no question about that, especially after last year, going to the East Coast and coming out flat and playing a bad game overall. We'll come out ready to play from the first snap."
On whether leaving Thursday (instead of Friday) will make a difference
"We'll see. It might. I've never done it before."
On whether he felt rushed on the trip last year to Maryland
"It was airport, walkthrough, and then straight to sleep because we had to fall asleep earlier and adjust to the clock. I think everybody woke up fine. We just came out flat and didn't make any plays against Maryland last year. That's what it came down to. This year, we're playing a good team in their new stadium. It's going to be a good environment. It's going to be fun."
On the biggest challenge of going on the road
"You don't really have the crowd to be there to bring you up. You have to go with each other as a team. When a good play happens, you have to rally around each other. You just have to stay focused all game. You can't let bad things happen because you don't have a crowd there to bring you back up."
On whether he will talk to the younger guys about playing on the road
"Probably the day before the game. We do a good job in practice preparing for noise with those speakers (at practice) that are annoying. You just have to try to prepare every way possible. We do a good job of that."
On having to improve Cal's road record to be where they want to be
"It definitely has to improve. If we want to talk about Rose Bowl at all, we have to win pretty much all the games on the road. We just have to be ready and prepare as best as possible."