Sept. 22, 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. 26 game at Oregon (12:30 p.m. PT). Following are selected comments of what each had to say.
HEAD COACH JEFF TEDFORD
On whether last week's road win at Minnesota ranks among his best
"It was a good road win for a lot of reasons. To be able to go into a hostile environment - they did a nice job as fans in Minnesota. In the third quarter we stumbled a little bit, and then to respond the way we did, I thought it said a lot about the team. And so it was what we needed, this last week. I was pleased with the focus on the road. I was pleased with the preparation, so it was a good win against a good football team. Minnesota has a good football team. They're going to win a lot of games."
On how much it will help the Bears this year to return to Autzen Stadium with some players who have played there before
"Anytime you can go in and it's not a surprise, you're not going to get ambushed with an environment, I think that's important. And there's enough guys on this team who understand what that's about. Then, again, this last week, going to Minnesota, there were some similarities there to Autzen's feel, the 50-something thousand, very loud. So it was good experience heading into this one."
On the level of noise at Auzten Stadium compared to others
"The difference is Autzen's is continuous. At most stadiums, there's ebb and flow of what goes on. When they're excited, they're excited, and then they lull for a little bit. Autzen stays the same say no matter what, always, no matter if you get ahead by 14 or 20 or whatever, they stay after it. They're very educated, they know exactly when to cheer, they're very loud, and so in that regard I think it's unlike any other stadium, because you notice there's a lot more ups and downs in other stadiums. Not at Autzen, they stay after it."
On how much of an advantage he remembers Auzten bringing the Ducks when he was their offensive coordinator
"Big. The biggest mistake people made going in there was trying to instigate the crowd and say bring it on, because they brought it on and usually it was followed by three illegal procedure penalties after that. So you don't want to do that, that's for sure, because they get after it."
On the Ducks defense compared to the last time Cal faced them
"Really solid. Real good secondary, athletic linebackers, they can run. Physical middle linebacker [Casey Matthews]. So, they're an athletic group, and very well coached. They do a nice job of putting them in position to be successful and it's a talented group."
On any elevation in intensity on the team leading into the Pac-10 opener
"Sunday, when we had our walkthrough, there was a little bit of edge to them, of opening up conference play. It was very serious on Sunday. It was almost like we'd lost the game the day before. They were very focused, very serious about what we're getting ready to get into. I think that has a lot to do with the maturity and experience of some of these guys on this team."
On any comparison in the team's level of seriousness compared to other years
"I don't know. But I did notice on Sunday there was a lot of intensity - not tense but intense - about what we're getting ready to do. We're getting ready to go into conference play against one of the best teams in the conference, on the road, so it's a big deal. It's a very important week, as all of them are, but being conference does put a little kick in the step."
On areas he's most and least satisfied with after three games
"I'm pleased with some of the production on offense and defense. I think we've been very solid. Special teams, I think, we need to improve. We've given up some plays. We've given up critical field position, and field position is the bottom line to how games are going to turn out a lot of the time. Field position, winning the turnover battle and winning third downs are a lot of what the game's about. And right now I think we're winning the turnover battles, and I think we're doing pretty well on third down. But field position, we're not doing very well, so that's something we're going to have to improve."
On the continuing effort to improve on kickoffs
"We're going to continue to compete, we're going to kick off more in practice, make sure we put a high emphasis on that to where mainly that we can get some confidence, take some confidence away from it. The only way I know to build confidence is by repetition, by continuing to do it and do it and do it, invest a lot of time into it. Because I do have confidence in the belief that our kids can do it. I see it in practice. It's just a matter of transitioning practice to game time. That's one of the areas. There's other areas in the special teams that we can improve in, but that's one of them and obviously a major one. We'll continue to coach the details on what we need to do, but the kick is the first part of it."
On whether PK David Seawright is in the mix for the placekicking duties
"No, Seawright right now is not in the mix."
On whether Seawright is healthy
On what changes from practice to games
"I don't know if it's adrenaline or whatever, but it's important to be able to transition practice to game. We need to continue to do what we can as coaches to help make sure that happens. We'll continue to work with it."
On whether Oregon's passing game can be overlooked
"You can never just eliminate a phase of the game. They have good players and they can hurt you, so you still have to be disciplined in what's going on. It's pretty well known that over the last couple of years, the strength of their team is in the run game. That's not a surprise to anyone, but it doesn't mean they can't throw it. They can hurt you at anytime, so there's no way that you can let down or overcompensate for one. You still have to cover the whole field."
On Ducks QB Jeremiah Masoli
"He's a highly competitive, gifted guy. Tough. I think he's a really good football player."
On whether he is surprised that opposing defenses aren't stacking the box on defense against Jahvid Best more often
"They do that quite a bit. They have some guys up there and we will continue to see it, but play-action pass and throwing it over the top, Kevin's been right on target. The two deep balls he's thrown have been beautiful. With the maturity and development of our receivers and Kevin being very consistent, it's the same deal - you can't just stop one thing or, if you have any balance at all, it leaves you open for other things."
On WR Jeremy Ross and the other wide receivers' opportunity to contribute more with Nyan Boateng injured
"He's been a part of it but some other guys are going to have their opportunity to step up now, which we have confidence that they will. Jeremy Ross will play more now, Michael Calvin, Alex Lagemann, Charles Satchell, those guys will now be in the mix. But you hate to lose anybody. Nyan has come a long way and has done a nice job for us. But there's other guys there that are very capable."
On any differences in WR Jeremy Ross this year and his play against Minnesota
"I don't know that he's whole lot different than he was last year, because he had some experience last year, at least he was on the team and knew the offense. I think he's more confident in what he's doing because of the experience. He just got the opportunity. Kevin made a nice throw on 3rd-and-16 and then made a nice read and a great throw - [Ross] really had to go get that ball he took down to the one. That was a nice catch. Jeremy's been practicing well, so I don't think there's anything that just kind of went on all of a sudden."
On balancing the team's needs while putting TB Jahvid Best in position to win a Heisman Trophy
"There's no emphasis put on padding numbers for Jahvid. Our success is going to come highly due to what Jahvid does for us as a player. We're not going to keep him in there any longer - a lot like in the first couple of games, we were up by a lot - he wasn't in there to pad his stats. It's team first, all the way, and everybody knows that. Jahvid understands that, Jahvid appreciates that, and Jahvid appreciates the tandem of him and Shane, of keeping him fresh and healthy. Jahvid's going to get the ball plenty of times just because of, every down, what we need to do to be successful, and so there really is no balance in what goes on. He's such a major part of our offense that it just happens. There's not really any focus that needs to be put on it."
On whether time on the sideline for several plays in the second half against Minnesota was by design
"That's what we do every week. We alternate those guys, keeping them healthy. If Shane [Vereen] goes in, Shane is usually going to play the whole series. Coach Gould does a nice job of communicating with those guys and keeping them fresh. That's completely up to coach Gould. He's done a good job of rotating those guys."
On the dimension and versatility that TB Shane Vereen adds
"I think it's huge and there's no real dropoff. Shane's is a quality back. The good thing about it they're both very versatile. They can pass protect, they can run inside, they can run outside, you can split them out, they can catch the football. It's not like that guy can only do this and this guy can do this, and they're different guys. They're pretty much the same guy. To have the luxury of having two quality back like that, it's nice."
On whether he's pleased with Kevin Riley's play
"Very pleased. With his preparation, going into the game, his maturity level, he's grown so much and he's making great decisions, handling the huddle very well, the clock, play clock. He's been in 2-minute situations where he's done a very nice job. He's accurate, he throws the ball away, he takes sacks when he needs to. Decision making has been really good, so really pleased with the way he's playing right now."
On the unique atmosphere at Autzen and how tough it is to start the Pac-10 season there as opposed to any other matchup
"I think we already had [a tough test with a loud road crowd] last week, so I think that's kind of a moot point because we've already done it. We practice with a lot of noise, and it almost feels odd when we don't have noise because we practice every day with a lot of noise."
On whether he's noticed whether players play any better when they travel for a game to their home region
"I haven't noticed that. I don't know."
On whether WR Jeremy Ross, known as a fun-loving guy, is any more serious this year
"We're working on it. Maybe a little bit."
On Ducks RB LaMichael James
"He's a good player, quick, has speed. He can make some big plays, there's no question. Again, they have some talent there at that position."
On whether there is any less of an emotional connection to Oregon in his eighth season with Cal
"The first year here, we went there to play and there was a different feeling going on the field, because I'd spent years there coming out of a different locker room, being with the coaches and players, and things like that. So the first year, it was a little odd, but since then it really hasn't been. There was enough time in between to kind of let that fade away a little bit. I still have great respect and admiration for their program and their coaches and the people in Eugene. We had a great experience there, we'll never deny that. They were very good to my family and we won a lot of games there. I had nothing but positive experiences there. But it's different now. We're in our eighth season here now and while some of those guys are still my friends that are on that staff, I don't know any of the players anymore, didn't coach any of the players, and that makes a big difference. It's changed since year one."
On getting his first win in Eugene in 2007
"I think it was big because I respect how difficult it is to be successful at Autzen. That day, especially the way that game played out, the weapons that they had on offense with [Dennis] Dixon and with Jonathan Stewart and Jeremiah Johnson, they were a powerful offensive group. And to play the way that we played, we were stretched all over the field, we ran, the effort was unbelievable. The win there was a great feeling, but to win the way we did in a really tough football game like that was very fulfilling."
On whether it will be different not to see Mike Bellotti coaching on the Ducks sideline
"Mike will be on the sideline, I'm sure I'll see him before the game, but really once you get out there all that stuff is gone. You have enough to concentrate on without thinking who's over there on that sideline. Again, we had great experiences there but it's different."
On making up for the loss of WR Nyan Boateng's blocking
"That's always a big focus for us, for our receivers to block at the second level. That's key to springing Jahvid [Best] on big runs and I think our receivers take a lot of pride in that. I don't see any style of play different from any of our guys. They all hustle, they all try get to the blocks, so I just think that's something that's expected of our receivers and they take pride in it. I don't see any letdown there."
On any concern his team will take this game too lightly
"No way. Not by what I saw on Sunday and what I expect to see today in practice, no. Our team has way too much respect for Oregon. They've been battles every time we played them. Even when we didn't win, they were overtime games. There's a lot of respect for that program without a doubt. You can throw the three wins that we have, you can throw those away, because it's a brand-new season starting right now and that's the focus we're going to take."
JUNIOR QUARTERBACK KEVIN RILEY
On his last game at Oregon
"I think I had two handoffs. I remember it being loud. I was a little nervous, for sure. It was fourth quarter, something like six minutes left, tied up. It was probably the loudest part of the game. I just remember yelling at the huddle and being a little nervous. I handed off twice. If I threw it deep, it probably would have gone 70 yards."
On whether it is any more emotional going to his home state to play
"Absolutely. It's going to be a fight. They have a good defense, they're a good team. They responded well to that Boise State game with two wins, so they've got confidence going into this game. It's just fun going back there and playing in front of family. A lot of family gets to go to this game, it's just fun getting to see them there."
On the start of Pac-10 play
"You look at the Pac-10 and it's a tough conference this year. Everybody is doing well out of conference. Every game will be a fight. What we do from right now the rest of the season, that's how we're going to be looked at. We have three wins, that's good, but it doesn't matter now. It's Pac-10 play and these wins are the ones that matter. We're going to have to come out ready to play. It's going to be a hostile environment. It was kind of nice playing in Minnesota, because their place got loud at times. It was good preparation for this game."
On whether things seemed more serious Sunday at practice
"I think people on this team realize we can be a great team. We've had letups in the seasons before, and we don't want that to happen. We want to be as prepared as possible for every game. I think everyone on this team is going to do that."
On whether this tough three-game stretch ahead will show a lot about the team
"A lot, definitely, starting this weekend. We take it one game at a time and don't look ahead, but like you said, those upcoming games - we win all those games, we'll look good. We're going to have to be ready every single week."
On his reaction to USC's loss
"A little bummed out. I'd like for both teams to be undefeated going into that game [against USC on Oct. 3]."
On whether the Trojans' loss both puts Cal in the Pac-10 driver's seat and puts a bigger target on the team
"Definitely. People say Cal is the favorite to win the Pac-10 now, but people are going to be gunning for us. We just have to be even more prepared."
On the importance of coming through in the fourth quarter at Minnesota
"It was a great feeling. It's not something we've done well in the past. When teams started to come back on us, we haven't been able to bounce back from that. We were put in a pretty tough situation and we came out on top, started getting our flow again on offense, started moving the ball, got a couple of touchdowns late in the game. It gives us tremendous confidence. We got that win on the road, set us up to continue doing that. Before last week, people were talking about road wins. We said this is a new team, we have a ton of experience. We just have to continue doing that."
On the loss of WR Nyan Boateng to an injury
"We lose another weapon. He was making plays this year, runs crisp routes, catching the ball well. It definitely hurts, but it was good to see Jeremy Ross come in and make some plays and build some confidence. He's got to continue to do that."
On WR Jeremy Ross's attributes
"Just the type of athlete he is - very strong kid, fast, you can see on that third down after he caught the ball, he dragged a couple guys for 15 yards. He's a great athlete and has talent to be one of the best receivers we have."
On the variety and creativity in Cal's play-calling
"That's something we did a little bit in the past, but now we're doing more. We have a lot of speed on this team and we're going to utilize it - try to stretch teams out and then attack them. That keeps the defense offguard, I don't think most people predicted me running the ball on the first third down. ... I saw the play and thought, okay. I hope I get it. ... We have to continue to keep defenses on their heels."
On running plays designed for him
"I like it, absolutely. It gives the defense another thing to think about. They have to game plan for it and be ready for it. I just have to be smart with the ball. I can't try to run into three people like I did last year against Oregon. You've just got to play smart."
On the different gear TB Jahvid Best demonstrates on the field
"On the field, you don't realize it. But then you watch film and see people have the angles on him and he completely outruns them, it's incredible. On that third touchdown, when he hit that lane, I just stuck up my arms because I knew he was gone. You see it so much from him, you almost expect it every game. He's a tremendous player."
On Oregon's defense
"Very similar to last year. The guys they lost and the guys they got back are all athletes. They fly to the ball and play the same style of defense. They haven't given up that many big plays this year, so we just have to continue trying to create big plays."
On what will be learned this week in Autzen Stadium's environment
"Part of it is they have intelligent fans. They know when to be loud. It's going to be a fight. We have to continue to limit mistakes. With [our] offense not having a turnover yet we put ourselves in such a better situation to win the game. Limit penalties, give ourselves more third-and-short."
On whether he's most proud of his zero interceptions so far
"I'm just proud of playing smart, I just have to continue to do that. That's something I pride myself on, keep doing that and we put ourselves in better situations."