Oct. 23, 2007
BERKELEY - The University of California football team returns to action this weekend at No. 7-ranked Arizona State in Tempe. The Golden Bears (5-2, 2-2 Pac-10) dropped last Saturday's Pac-10 game to UCLA, 30-21, and are currently ranked No. 18 in the nation. Cal hosted its ninth weekly press conference 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 ASU's defense:
They're solid. They've done a great job out there. They're playing very well up front. They're disciplined--backers run well and are very athletic, good safeties and very good cover corners. They've done a really nice job of creating turnovers and not allowing big plays.
On ASU linebacker Robert James:
He's a guy that really jumps off the film at you. He's a guy that looks like he could play on Sunday, very fast, athletic. In space, he covers a lot of ground. He's an excellent player.
On team character:
I think it's important that we bounce back, we regroup, and that we still have confidence in who we are and what we're all about. That's the thing. We're a couple plays away from being undefeated. It's disappointing, there's no question about it. It's disappointing to be where we are right now. But we're also playing a great ASU team on the road. I have no doubt that our players are going to practice hard this week, prepare well and go there and let it hang out. What happens, happens, but I have no doubt in the effort and the attitude that our players will take into the game.
On the team's confidence after two losses:
I think anytime something like this happens, you always have to look in the mirror and say, `What's going on?' I don't know that their confidence is wavering; I think it's a matter of maybe a little disappointing and really wanting to get back on the right track. I wanted to make sure to remind them who they are and what we're all about. We're still a good football team. But just because you're a good football team doesn't mean that you're going to win the football game. We have to go prepare well and we have to go out and compete and we have to eliminate mistakes. We have to do the things that win football games because we are not good enough to make mistakes and still overcome a lot of things. I don't know that there are a lot of people in this league that are. When you make mistakes, things happen in this conference, and you're not going to be successful. I'm anxious for this week to get out and practice and get back on the field and get going.
On Nate Longshore:
I think Nate will be fine with his confidence. I thought he played very courageously. I thought for him to go in there and do what he was doing, he did an excellent job. That was the number one third-down team in the nation. I think at one point, we must have been 50 percent, somewhere in there, 7-of-15 or 7-of-14 I think at one point, or what have you. I thought he did very well, especially on third down. Of course, that last play down there, something like that always sticks with you. For the most part, I thought he did a great job of running the show. He didn't have a lot of reps in practice last week, but I thought he threw the ball very sharp.
On how the team will recover:
I think we'll find out today [Tuesday at practice]. I have confidence that they will have belief and trust in each other to stick together. I think one thing that we learn from this is that the expectations, when they get so high and so great, that when you do stumble, it's a long fall and it's a hard fall. It's something that comes with the territory and it's not pleasant by any means. It's not enjoyable for the players. It's not enjoyable for the coaches. It's difficult because you hear it everywhere you go. As positive as all the rankings are, that's what I've said all along here, those rankings mean absolutely nothing. There's still so much football to be played that those rankings mean absolutely nothing. Of course it's going to get blown out of proportion because of what the rankings were. But it's disappointing because they hear it everywhere they go -- they hear it in class, they hear it on campus -- they hear it everywhere they go. There's no hiding, there's no getting away from it, it's just something that you have to grit your teeth and hope that you prepare well enough to win the next game. That's what we're going to do this week. We're going to go out and work hard. There are no guarantees this week. You're going to go out and do your best and play. It's a great football team we're playing. Hopefully we can eliminate mistakes and get back on track.
On whether the last two opponents had something to do with the losses:
I thought the defense definitely had something to do with it. Those two defenses that we just played are two of the finest in the conference, if not the two finest. UCLA has been very, very stingy on defense. Oregon State is always a very good defense. I think, still, it comes down to turning the football over. If you look at turnover ratio from the first part of the season to the last couple games, those are the difference makers in close football games, and they're all going to be close. Did Nate play much differently last week from before he got his ankle hurt? No, I don't think so. Kevin, of course, was young, but I thought he played very well. I'm not going to blame it on the quarterback play, by any means. It's a team game and we have to get out on the field on defense as well and we have to stop turning the football over offensively, it's a total team game.
On if Cal's turnover ratio is demonstrative of its success:
No, I don't keep statistics that way. I can imagine what it is. What I do know is that when we haven't been successful it seems like that's what's biggest. The reason I say that is, last year when we lost to USC, we had two turnovers down inside the red zone. Last year when we lost to Arizona, we threw an interception for a touchdown. The turnover battle is huge, I think that definitely plays into it. It does in football, I don't it's just us, I think that's the way football is.
On being surprised by Arizona State's success:
No, not really. I thought they've always had good players and they're a veteran group. Anytime you have a player like Rudy Carpenter and their running back [Ryan] Torain, who's been playing so well, no, I'm not surprised by it.
On what's missing on defense:
We need to get off the field on third down; when it's time to get off the field, we need to get off the field. Normally we're very good at stopping the run. Last week, UCLA ran the ball on us better than people normally do run the ball on us.
On team leadership:
We don't have a lot of vocal leaders. Guys don't talk a lot, there isn't a lot of `rah, rahing,' and that's not typically what a leader's all about. I don't expect anybody to really change, I don't want them to change; I want them to be like they were. I think it's typical when you stumble a couple of times to start reevaluating everything. We won a lot of football games around here, doing things the way they do them everyday. Just because we lost a couple of games, the natural thing is to go, `what's going wrong, what should we change, what should we do?' I'm not sure that we should change anything. We've done the same thing, as far as preparation and everything like that, for however many years we've been here. I don't think it's time to press the panic button and say we need to start changing stuff. Leadership, yes, if the team feels like the leadership needs to step up and be a little bit more vocal, then the guys on the team know who they are and I'm sure they will if that's the way they feel about it.
On being the lower-ranked team this weekend:
I don't want to think that we were playing tentatively or anything [when we were higher-ranked], that we were playing with pressure or anything. Even though you say, all the pressure should be on Arizona State because they're highly ranked and all that kind of stuff, there's still always the expectation to win for us. When you ask yourself why you play the game, sure you play the game to be champions, but you play the game to win. [Being lower ranked] should not make any difference on how we go into this game. We're going to go into the game the same way we always do: to win the football game. If we change anything now, why weren't we doing it back when our record was whatever it was 5-0 or whatever, why change things? It comes down to football - throwing, catching, tackling, blocking, don't turn the ball over, create turnovers, don't get penalized. We got caught in what seemed like long-yard situations the other day because of some penalties, that's what wins. I don't know that we can play more loose now or if we weren't playing loose in the beginning. I don't think it's not so much that we weren't playing loose, if that's what you're getting at.
On DeSean Jackson:
It's not that he's not consistent; he's been playing very well. Certain things match up certain ways. In football there are certain things that will allow him to do this, or that this formation will allow him to do this or that or whatever. We have things in every week to try to get him the ball. Sometimes it works and sometimes it's a situation they try to take it away and then you don't force it. You don't get him blown up by trying to force a ball or whatever, you go to the guy that's open. The week's that DeSean hasn't had a lot of production, Hawkins has had big production. It's not like all the receiving corps is getting shut down. Both those guys are near the top in the Pac-10, I think, in receptions and yards or whatever it is. They're both very productive right now and it's nice to have them. Hopefully we get [Robert Jordan] back this week because he factors in that whole mix as well when we have three receivers on the field.
On style of a Dennis Erickson-coached team:
They play fast and they play very, very hard. There's no question about that. They let it loose, they have fun, they have a lot of energy on the field. You could really tell the energy level was very high with those guys.
On linebacker Worrell Williams:
Worrell has been playing well. He's done a nice job in there. I think he's getting better each and every game. I think he's become a better tackler. Two weeks ago, for him to tackle Oregon State's back in the open field a lot when they were checking balls down there, that's not easy to do. I think he's tackling well, he's playing very physical. I think he's improving each and every week.
On having Robert Jordan healthy:
It gives us options, there's no question about it. All three of them are playmakers, they can all really run. It's a good group when they're all in the field. [Robert's not underappreciated] by us, I still appreciate him and hope he plays and love him and I hope he doesn't feel [underappreciated]. I think all those guys have had great attitudes, I really do. Some games are more productive than others. Robert's been a part of this offense for a long time, I think he's on a streak of catching balls in 30-something straight games or something so he's always been a contributor in our offense. They've all had great attitudes, they really have. They just want to win and they're very competitive. It's a very competitive group that wants to win and so it's not easy when they don't.
On throwing the ball more on first down:
DeSean made a comment about throwing the ball more on first down and you come back in and you look and we threw the ball 17 times and ran it 10 times on first down. You've got the number one rusher in the conference and are we going to bail out on our run game that fast or are you going to give it a chance to maybe be productive with it? If our run game was something that hadn't been very productive for us, then yes, it'd be easy to say we need to move on to something else. You always expect that when the run game is called, it's going to be productive. Sure maybe you got shut down four plays in a row but those fifth and sixth plays are big ones for you. Take the Oregon game, for example, I don't think we ran the ball particularly well in the first half but we came out in the second half and Justin had a lot of good runs. Everybody needs to understand where we are and what we're doing with the offense and I think our receivers do, our receivers have been great that way. But if you pose a question to any receiver and say, `Should they throw you the ball more on first down?' `Oh yeah, I'd like to have the ball more on first down.' It's not that he's being derogatory, and it's not that he's being a malcontent or somebody who doesn't believe in what we're going, it's the way questions get posed to you sometimes. `Hey, do you think you should get the ball more on first down?' `Oh yeah, I'd like to have the ball more on first down.' That's the thing. I don't think, by any means, that he's being negative, I think it was the way he was posed the question because I was posed the question the same exact way so I know where that came from. Those guys have been great, they have great attitudes. I thought DeSean played extremely well the other day, especially on third down. I think he made a lot of the third-down conversations last week, I think we went to him a lot of times. Again, that's because the coverage dictated it and not so much that we were having to go to him, to pick him out, it's the way the coverage dictated it. We have a good running game. We would have to be really, really bad in the running game to abandon the run. We need to mix it up. As a play caller after every game do I go back and think: should we have done this, should we have done that, no question about it. No question about that I'm not going to call the prefect play every time. I'm going to do my best to do what we feel as a staff is what we worked so hard all week to do and hopefully we execute. There's always going to be, `dang I wish we could have done that,' that's part of the game. If you weren't, if you were an excuse maker and go back and think, well that should have worked, that's not the way I deal with it. I look in the mirror and I lay awake a lot at night thinking maybe we should have done this, maybe we should have done that, and hopefully learn from it and make it better the next time. Far from being perfect.
On the late-game plays at UCLA:
I'll tell you exactly what happened. I thought they should have gone for big, big gains. Had the right scheme called and the defensive end just threw one of our guys away and made the play so we came back to the same exact thing, they were running the same exact defense and we blocked a little bit differently. I had a lot of confidence in those schemes, in those plays right there. Then the next part is, now it's third and five, third and six, and it's going to be a 48-yard field goal, do you run the ball? It's easy to go back and forth. You run the ball and get stuffed. Why didn't you throw the ball and try to make a first down? Or you run the ball and fumble the ball or throw an interception, anything can happen. We called a play that could have gotten us five yards and unfortunately it didn't. That's the hard about the thing. Trust me, I've been awake over the past couple of days wondering if that was the right call, if we should have done this, if we should have done that, if we should have done something different. If it had worked, it would have been, `OK, great.' But that's the way it is, I understand that. But does that make it any easier? It doesn't make it any easier to deal with, it really doesn't. It's hard and it's hard to deal with it when it doesn't work. I know that there have been comments made that they had the play scouted and they knew what was coming, that's all well and good, that's football and that's game planning. The two touchdowns, the touchdown with DeSean, the safety was going to bite through and that's why he threw the ball over his head for a touchdown. We knew the safety was going to the field, so that's why he threw the ball to Craig Stevens on the post. That's football. That's game planning and sometimes when a guy made a good play, give him credit. He made a good play and that's unfortunate for us that we couldn't have thrown the ball a little outside or thrown it away or whatever. We give him credit for making a good play.
On getting more pass rush defense:
We're going to have to bring more guys. There are a couple different philosophies: either you come after him or you drop eight and rush three. I think there's merit to both. I have great confidence that Coach Gregory mixes the defenses up and does a great job with it. Sometimes they stay in and they maximum protect. If you maximum protect, you bring a lot a bunch of people that leaves holes too. We've got to mix it up and we've got to bring some more people from time to time and we've got to bring more coverage and keep the quarterback guessing.
Senior WR Robert Jordan
[General] We just need to change a couple of things and we will be all right. It's not like we're getting blown out. It comes down to turnovers. Our defense is doing a fine job, but you are not going to win a game in this conference if you continue to turn the ball over. We understand that. We just have to correct those mistakes. It's not like other teams are outplaying us.
[Are you a vocal leader?] I just try to practice hard and go hard, and if somebody needs me I can certainly be there for them, but I try to lead by example. We [as a team] bought into the big picture, now we need to take care of the little things. We'll be fine, we just need to relax and know that it's not over and we have a chance for the Pac-10 title.
Senior OL Brian De La Puente
[On Arizona State defense] They have a real stout defense [based on the early film study]. They have some big guys inside, real run stuffers. Their linebackers are real fast as well. It's going to be a challenge. Just from the early film I've seen, their defense is like a combination between Oregon State and UCLA.
[On UCLA defense] They were a very active defense. Their safeties were loading up in the box and made a lot of plays. It was a tough game.
[On final year at Cal] You really begin to realize that winning is what it's all about. As a senior you feel it coming to an end. We just have a few more times coming out of the tunnel. Winning is certainly sweet, but it's sour when you're losing.
Junior LB Worrell Williams
[General] We have to take the rest of the season game by game. Arizona State is one hell of a ball club. I've always been honest with my teammates. I've let them know what's at stake and what needs to be done.