Sept. 29, 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' Oct. 3 game against USC (5 p.m. PT). Following are selected comments of what each had to say.
HEAD COACH JEFF TEDFORD
On how he expects his team to respond this week after its loss last Saturday at Oregon
"I expect that they'll respond well. There's a lot veteran guys on this team that understand that that's one game, and it's really important that we put that behind us, that we learn the lessons from that game and that we move forward. Obviously to move forward against SC, you're up against a great football team, and so it's really important that we don't spend time looking backwards, that we focus on what's ahead."
On whether it's better to follow up last week's loss with an opponent like USC as opposed to another, more lightly regarded team
"I don't know. After a game like that, you just really need to focus on yourself. It's not so much about the opponent. You need to focus on execution and making plays, and so on and so forth. It's really about us not playing very well the other day and Oregon playing really well. We need to focus on what we do and try to execute."
On whether Oregon demonstrated how to limit Jahvid Best by stacking the box against the run and if that will put more pressure on the passing game
"A lot of people stack the box, but yeah, there's no question that you have to be balanced and you have to be productive in the passing game. The difference was last week, we didn't make a lot of big plays. We had some guys running deep, open, and didn't get them the ball, and didn't protect the passer very well. That's key, that where it starts, is protecting the passer. There's no question that we need to be effective in the passing game."
On whether QB Kevin Riley took a step backward in his development at Oregon
"No, he had some pressure on him and we just missed on a couple of guys. There were some balls that he threw a little bit early and just overthrew them because he had to get rid of the ball early, but I think that's a good game for [his development]. That's a tough place to play. It's very loud there, very hostile, they played great, but any experience - Kevin has enough resolve and enough confidence to work hard and keep going. I wouldn't say he took a step back. He had a rough game, but I wouldn't say that's going to shake him forever."
On what watching tape of the Oregon game revealed
"We had a bad day and they had a really good day, and that's a bad combination. That doesn't really work very well in your favor if you're not executing, you're falling down and doing things that you do every day but, for whatever reason ... It was like 10-man football [on tape]. We had 10 guys that are doing it right and one guy maybe doesn't do his job. It's important that everyone execute in all phases of the game. That's correctable."
On losing physical battles up front against the Ducks
"Technique is a lot it, being able to get out of your stance on time and things like that. I know on the first play of the game the noise was a factor where we didn't get out of our stance at left tackle, where he couldn't hear and he got out of his stance late, and they're very fast, and that made a difference there. I think everyone can improve - coaches can improve, players can improve. It's a total team effort to play better than we did."
On how to guard against ensuing losing streaks such as those that followed the first loss of the 2007 season against Oregon State
"That was that team and I know I learned a lot from that year. We'll spend a lot more time talking about things we need to do instead of just Xs and Os. There are a lot of guys on this team that went through that, that understand that, and so I don't know that that's going to be an issue."
On things that will be discussed as opposed to Xs and Os
"Back then [in 2007], I just focused on Xs and Os. They were tough losses that we had two years ago and instead of me spending time motivating the team and looking for things in the locker room that were maybe getting us down, I spent all my time trying to come up with plays and things like that, to try to, `OK, now we'll do this, we'll go out and win and everything will be fine.' So I learned a lot as a coach that year that there's a lot more to it than just Xs and Os. To keep your team motivated, to keep their confidence up and keep them together is a big thing."
On whether doing those things is a job for the coaching staff or the seniors and other leaders on the team
"Both, it's up to both."
On whether anyone in particular has stepped up to address the team
"We had a walkthru on Sunday, that's the only time we've been together, but there was about three or four guys that talked on Sunday, and they all have great things to say. They're all ambitious, they're all looking forward to moving on. One of the problems that I talked to the team about, as much as we want to talk about moving on, all these questions don't make it possible to move on. It's there, we have to deal with it, but we need to put it behind us. Learn and go forward. We have a huge game this week against the best football team in our conference. We can't keep going over and over what happened last week and what happened two years ago. We lost a game, we got beat in a game. They played better than we did, we didn't play very well. We need to learn and move forward. We can't let that one game beat us down. The focus that we're taking is we need to move on and get prepared for SC."
On what opponents and Cal players might be doing to account for only 97 yards rushing by the Bears since the second half of the Minnesota game
"I don't know that they're doing anything. I think we're blocking things pretty well. Sometimes they'll beat us physically, if they outman us. Sometimes they stick an extra guy in the box late or something like that, and a back has to make a guy miss or what have you, but the thing about that is when you're so successful early breaking off 50-yard runs all the time, it's not going to happen like that all the time. You're playing against good teams. They're well coached, they get scholarships too, they're good players, so you're not just going to run through everybody. Jahvid Best is a great back, but they have good players too. SC gives up 1.7 yards a rush, so you're not just to run through SC. They give up 59 yards a game rushing. You're playing against some people that are good, so it's going to be hard-earned a lot of the time. It's not all that easy.
On looking at the big picture and the Bears' continued chances to win the Pac-10, or whether it's best just to focus on USC
"Obviously you go into the season with goals, and winning the Pac-10 is one of them, but it's one game at a time. There's no question that's what we'll be focused on, that it's one game at a time. We're not looking at the whole season, we're looking at USC right now. That's what we need to absolutely focus on. The big picture will take care of itself."
On freshman USC QB Matt Barkley
"He's a good player. He can do all the things that they want him to do. He's mobile, he can throw all the balls, he can throw the deep balls, he's got touch, he's got arm strength. He's elusive, he's tough. Obviously he smart, to be playing as young as he is, so he's got it all going for him."
On how to approach the Trojans' offense
"That's the thing about [Barkley], is he's not doing it on his own. He's a great player, but I think he can go into a game with a lot of confidence knowing he has a stable of tight ends, great receivers, great offensive line, four or five tailbacks, great fullback, so he's got a lot of talent around him that can make plays for him. He just has to do his part, really. But it's tough. They're going to make their plays, there's no question about it. They are great players but we have to gang tackle. Their tailbacks are really good and their offensive line's really good. We have to gang tackle, make sure we get after the football, try to cause some turnovers. That's the key, is to try and get SC to turn the football over, because if they don't turn the football over, they're very difficult to be successful against."
On how he rates the 2009 Cal linebacking corps after four games
"They've played well. As a new unit, so to speak, after losing those three guys last year [Worrell Williams, Zack Follett and Anthony Felder], I've said that this group is maybe more athletic, because I think they run a little bit better than that group did. Every week's a new experience and I think they're improving every week. I think they have the ability to be a really solid linebacking corps."
On how far back he looks at the Cal-USC games from previous years, and what he sees that keep coming up
"Probably three [years], and yeah, [I see] great players. That keeps coming up. They all look great. They can all run, they're all very physical, they're well coached. That never changes."
On whether rebuilding confidence is a major focus this week
"Yeah, I think it's important to go back out there and make sure that we understand who we are, that we are a good football team. I think our team understands that we have ability. It's important to go out there and just have a great week of practice, go out and play our hardest this week with a positive attitude. We got dinged last week and we had never been dinged like that, but we can overcome that. I don't think that there's any doubt that there's enough leadership on this team that feel good about who we are and what we're about that we'll go out and play hard this week. I have no doubt that we're going to prepare very well and we'll lay it all on the line on Saturday."
On whether Josh Hill is the designated starter opposite Syd'Quan Thomson at cornerback
"That's always competitive [for that spot]."
On whether he uses video from 2003 to motivate his team against USC
"I have not."
QB KEVIN RILEY
On the players' attitude following their loss at Oregon
"Just watching film, they outplayed us and won, but we saw how many chances we had, just one play away, one chance away, one second. You've just got to learn from it. You can't think about it and let it go into the next game. So we're going to come out, new attitude, and play our game."
On balancing learning from the Oregon game and putting it behind him
"It's nice to have that much experience on this team. You know, we've been through losses before and a bunch of guys on the team are from the team a couple of years back when we went on that downward spiral, so we've learned from it. You've just got to come back and you can't think about it. The game's over with, we got beat and we got beat down. You've got to just go out there and play, and I think SC players know we're going to be ready to play and they know it's going to be a fight for four quarters."
On what he learned from the Oregon loss
"Technique, things that you did wrong. Working on steps, if I can get the ball out quicker on some throws, or just hold it a little bit longer - little things that make the game difference."
On whether more-experienced players are propping up the less-experienced players
"Absolutely. The younger guys, it's probably the worst loss of their life, me included. You start thinking about that when you haven't been there before, when you haven't lost before, when you have high hopes to win the Pac-10 and a possible national championship. Winning the Pac-10 is not out of the picture at all, so the older guys who've been through it will talk to young guys and tell them to just forget about it. You learn from it, you move on. That's all that you can do."
On whether it's any easier to move on knowing who this week's opponent is
"I think so. If we come out thinking about last week, the same thing's going to happen. You've got to be ready to play and we will be."
On balancing the big picture of the Pac-10 race with the immediate needs to fix things for this week
"One game at a time. Looking at the Pac-10 and what they've done so far, every game's going to be a fight. Every team is improved from last year and this is another stern test for us. This game will show a lot of who we are and how we respond, and this will show us for the rest of the season what we could do."
On the load Jahvid Best has carried and whether he'd like to contribute more through passing
"Absolutely. I think we'll mix it up. We'll go with how the defense looks, how they're playing and just go from there."
On USC's defense
"They have a great defense. They lost some players from last year like everybody knows but they returned players just as good. They have speed, they do a good job mixing up their fronts and pressures, and their secondary does a good job. They're a great team but we are, too."
On what last week's film revealed that will allow him to attack a defense that puts eight men in the box
"Just timing. We had a couple of miscommunications last week on some routes and that's something we haven't been doing, which was a little surprising. We have to win those chances. We have great receivers and we'll hold them up front and make a play. That's what it comes down to."
On the players who addressed the team on Sunday and what they said
"There was a couple of seniors who spoke, just talking about some people's reactions during the game. Some people got pretty emotional with what they said. They were just talking about stepping up and taking responsibility, trying to get everyone to get going and work harder. Everybody on this team knows that last week's over and we have to be ready to practice today."
On how much experiencing the slide in 2007 helps him with this situation
"It helps a lot. We were in the same situation, top 10 and we lost, and we think people thought about that when we kept on losing, and the team kind of got split in half where people got mixed up, and that's not going to happen this year."
On any other problems that tape of the Oregon game revealed about Cal's offense
"There are some things we've got to fix but it was a bad day. It was uncharacteristic of what we were doing, things we haven't been doing, things we were doing last year, really. That's not who we are. We're not last year's offense, we're this year's offense."
On whether the one loss for each team takes anything away from this weekend's game
"Not at all. It's two great teams going at it."
On whether he remains confident following the Oregon game
"Absolutely. I missed some throws, but that happens. They just did a good job. A little half-second here or there, I had to throw some balls early and they did a good job of getting pressure. A couple of moves where the receivers weren't ready, I just had to throw it away. But yeah, I'm definitely just as confident."
On whether the team had the passion it needed through the second half at Oregon
"We played hard all four quarters, just things didn't go our way. A couple things hurt us from the first play to the last play. It wasn't our day."
On USC's pass-rushing tendencies and whether they resemble Oregon's
"They bring it from all over. They'll bring some zone dog, some blitzes from the safeties and they do a good job mixing up their fronts. It's a little bit what Oregon did, some similarities."