Nov. 6, 2008
BERKELEY - Below are quotes from head coach Jeff Tedford and selected players from Cal's Tuesday press conference. The Golden Bears visit USC Saturday at 5 p.m.
Is the team looking forward to this game against USC?
It is always a great opportunity to play a great team such as USC. It is a huge challenge, no question about it. They are a very talented group. Going to the Coliseum to play poses some other challenges as well. But our players will be excited to play and we are looking forward to a good week of preparation.
How has having two quarterbacks impacted the offense?
I think it has been fine. They both get reps in practice. They are both doing a really good job in preparation. I don't think it has had any ill effects on our offense whatsoever. I think it has been fine.
If Kevin Riley is healthy on Saturday will he play?
We will see in the next couple of days. I think we will be able to make a determination by Thursday on what is going to happen depending on his health.
Can you talk about USC quarterback Mark Sanchez?
He is a good player that is very athletic. He is a great leader that looks like he brings a great energy to their offense. He moves in the pocket well and is an accurate passer. He does a very, very good job and has a lot of weapons to use - very good offensive line, great running backs, big-time receivers. He does a great job of running that offense.
Is Mark Sanchez more of a playmaker that other USC quarterbacks in the recent past?
I think he is. He is more mobile it looks like. He can pull it down and run. He is not afraid to run with it. He is a little bit more mobile than the guys they have had in the past.
The perception of the Pac-10 nationally is that it is USC and everybody else, is that a valid perception?
I would have to say that is fair. They have done enough to earn that. They are a great football team and I don't think there is any question that everybody sees USC as the team to beat in the conference. I don't think there is any secret to that.
What do teams have to do to close the gap?
They seem to always have the No. 1 or No. 2 recruiting classes in the country. They recruit very, very well. They are very well coached. It is difficult, but I don't think there is any doubt that if you're successful recruiting and can stay healthy that you can compete. I don't think that you're ever going to run away with anything against USC because they are a great football team with a lot of talent. Pete Carroll does a great job of coaching them.
Can you comment on USC's defense?
I think statistically they are No. 1 in the country in something like four categories. But when you watch the tape, you don't even have to look at the stats to know how good they are. They are very athletic and can really run. They are physical. I think the key is going to be, as it always is, the turnover battle. If you think you're going to go down there and turn the ball over against them and be successful that is not going to happen. If you can control the football and they turn the football over then it gives you a better chance to be successful. The key in my mind in this game is field position and winning the turnover battle.
Is the USC game the most intense matchup all year for your team?
The intensity level is very high. It seems like every year that we have played USC we have been ranked high and they have been ranked somewhere near the top. It's always been two ranked teams playing against each other. It is always high intensity whether we are playing them here or down there. Down there, there is a lot of excitement and electricity in the Coliseum when you play there. It is a difficult place to play.
Can you comment on what you thought Oregon State did well against USC?
They got some turnovers and that is key. Oregon State didn't turn the football over and USC did turn it over. It's the same thing that happened the last time Oregon State beat them. USC turned the football over and Oregon State didn't. Obviously, Oregon State's back played a great game. That guy made a lot of phenomenal plays inside in the running game. You have to give Oregon State a lot of credit for doing that. But again I think the key was the turnover battle.
Can you comment on both your linebackers and USC's linebackers?
I have a lot respect for their linebacking corp. They are great players, as well as ours. I think when you look at these two teams, you are looking at two linebacking corps that you would matchup against anybody.
Is this the best USC defense that you have faced?
They have always been really, really good. I think it ranks up there near the top. But over the last few years, they have been near the top in the country and this year is no different. They just keep reloading and they are very well coached. They are great players. Their corners are excellent cover guys. Their safety is big and fast and covers a lot of ground. Their linebackers cover a lot of ground. They have so much speed and athleticism and size. They have great players and they do a good job of putting them in position to be successful.
How is Jahvid Best feeling this week and will he practice?
Yeah, we will see today how he does. We may limit him a little bit today [Tuesday], just to try to give him an extra day to get healthy. He was no worse after the game than he was going into the game.
Does the Jahvid Best's elbow brace affect how he can hold the ball?
It is just something that he has to focus on when he has the ball in that hand, making sure that he protects the football with the other hand. He is going to play and he has to wear the brace so he has to get used to it and protect the football.
Can you talk about the lack of success that Cal team have had at USC?
We have played well down there. We have had close games. I don't know, maybe they have lost one game in the past how many years at home or whatever it is. I don't know that our players have played tight. I don't know that our players haven't played well. You are playing a really good football team and they have been close games. They can go either way. So, I don't think at all that our players go down there with the thought of feeling intimidated or trying to do more than they can do. I think they go in there excited to play with a high intensity and lay it all on the line. So I don't there is really anything that needs to be address there besides knowing that you don't have to be superhuman or do something special but just play to your potential and play hard. It will be what it will be if you win all those categories in the game.
Can you talk about the importance of the turnover battle and the advantage Cal has there?
I think it something that we talk about a lot and that we work hard on every day. Every day in practice we do a turnover circuit, which is something that we have never done before. I think it is paying off for us. Whether it is recovering fumbles or catching tipped balls - those types of things. It is something that we work hard on. I think it was a perfect example when Matt Russi recovered that fumble the other day. He was able to get in there and use good technique to get his body wedged against the other guy and get the football out. It is something that they believe in because they are working hard. They are in position to make plays. They are running and hustling. Anytime you hustle, you put yourself in a position to make plays. I don't know that we are hopeful that we will come up with turnovers, we just want to put ourselves in a position that if the ball is on the ground, overthrown or tipped that we are in position to make a play on it.
How did you come up with the turnover drills you mentioned?
We brainstormed and came up with them as a staff. We sat around and said we are going to do this and these are things we need to do - tipped balls, overthrown balls, how to recover fumbles, and diving catches. A lot of times in practice you don't get a chance to get on the ground after a football so we really needed to orchestrate that to get guys on the ground to know how to recover a football from kickers to offensive linemen. Also, we wanted to make sure they knew how to wrap the football up and secure it. Offensive guys like linemen and defensive linemen, if they scoop up a ball, they become the ball carrier and know how to protect the football. We have really stressed that a lot this year.
Why do you think that Pac-10 teams have had more success against USC than non-conference teams?
Maybe Pac-10 teams are more familiar with USC. We play them year in and year out. It would be the only thing that I can guess. I don't know that absolutely makes a difference but that would be probably the only thing I could guess. You have a history with them.
What does the defense have to do in this game to give you a chance to win?
Eliminate the big play. I think the explosion plays that we talk about, we need to eliminate those and make them go the distance; make them earn everything they get. We need to come up with some turnovers and control the run game and not let them establish the run. We need to put some pressure on the passer. Those are all key elements of being successful on defense.
How much confidence has the defense gained after playing well each week?
Well, the defense is playing really well. But just because we played well last week doesn't mean anything this week. We have got to prepare well every week. They have the potential to play very, very well and how we prepare will dictate how we play. I think the defense is playing with a lot of confidence, and they should have confidence because they are playing so hard. As long as they are playing hard that is all you can ask.
What were you happy with from the Oregon game?
I think the hustle on defense was pretty impressive. Guys like Cameron Jordan chasing things down, Zack Follett chasing plays down from the backside. They get you in the open space and if one guy didn't tackle him other guys were there and ready to make a play. You could just see a lot of yellow shirts around the ball. When I watched the tape, I thought our guys are really playing hard and really hustling.
Can you comment on why USC has played so well in November in recent years, something like 24-0?
Yeah, thanks for telling me that. I really won't sleep tonight. We understand that they are a great football team. Pete Carroll does a great job. They are very well coached. They are a great team. But we have played a lot of close games against them. Most of the time it has been within a touchdown and a who-has-the-ball-last type of thing in some games. We are looking forward to a great week of preparation and going down and competing with them again.
Senior LB Zack Follett
On USC: When you play a team as talented as USC, you've got to play pretty much a perfect game.
On any USC mystique: The Trojans deserve the mystique, because they've been the dominant team for years. The whole reason I came to Cal is that I figured Cal had the best chance to beat USC.
Sophomore DE Cameron Jordan
On the USC offensive line: Mark Sanchez is well-protected to say the least. We've played bigger offensive linemen, but they're a combination of big, fast and strong.
Senior LB Worrell Williams
On emotions heading into the game: This is first time I've walked into the stadium during a USC week and not immediately thought, `This is USC week.' I'm hoping we can continue to look at this as just another game without getting overly excited. When you watch film, you see guys doing things they don't normally do. USC has their opponents going crazy because of the presence they bring to the field.
On his senior year: When I got home after the Oregon game, I started thinking about USC and how I've never beaten them before. I've got to have these guys under my belt, but I know that comes with great preparation during the week.
Senior center Alex Mack
On USC's defense: Every year, USC has a good defense. It's not any more comforting than it usually is.
On being over-amped for the game: It's important to know that USC is a good team, but they're not unbeatable. It's more about what we do as a team and what kinds of plays we make. If we get overly concerned about how good they are or where they're ranked, we're going to go into the game feeling tight.