Oct. 27, 2009
BERKELEY - California head coach Jeff Tedford, quarterback Kevin Riley and other Cal players addressed the media during the weekly Cal football media luncheon held Tuesday in the Hall of Fame Room at Memorial Stadium prior to the Golden Bears' game at Arizona State this Saturday, Oct. 31 (12:30 p.m. PT). Following are selected comments of what Tedford and Riley had to say.
HEAD COACH JEFF TEDFORD
On the ASU defense, ranked tied for sixth in the nation against the run, and what the Bears can expect in their efforts to run the ball
"Very difficult. They're a great defense. Before last week they were second in the country in rush defense and they're the top defense overall in our conference, and so, great players, great up front, physical, fast, great linebacking corps. And they get after the passer as well. They have, overall, a great defense. It's going to be a tough road. We're going to have to stay patient and stay after it. "
Comparing the ASU and USC defenses
"Very similar. Very similar as far as personnel is concerned. Great athletes, great team speed."
On the importance of being prepared for short-yardage football while also mixing in the pass against ASU to loosen things up
"It is always, yeah. The thing that we have to remember is, the last couple of weeks there's been some plays, we've had some big plays, especially this last week running the ball, running the ball has seemed - ripping off big chunks, well, you don't do that against these guys. You're going have to stay patient and there's going to be some two-yard gains and some eight-yard gains and some zero-yard gains, and you have to stay patient and hopefully leave yourself in situations where you can convert third downs. It's going to be that type of game. I don't foresee this being where you're just going to rip off huge gains in the run game."
On how to prepare the team to stay patient in a game where it may see offensive yards come in smaller increments
"We have to educate them to that. Make sure we know who we're playing. Know ourselves, know who we're playing, know what these guys are all about. They're going to be watching tape all week long, so it's not going to be a surprise, but it's something we've got make sure, that our mindset is right and that our mindset is that we're playing a very difficult defense."
On QB Kevin Riley and his progress since the bye week
"I think we've been protecting him a little better. He has worked hard through the bye week of trying to make sure that his fundamentals are correct. And he has been very accurate and, again, he's been very smart with the ball. The interception last week was very uncharacteristic of him, to try to force something in there. But he's done a nice job of comprehending the game plan. Coach [offensive coordinator Andy] Ludwig's done a nice job with him of making sure he knows where to go with the ball. His fundamentals with his feet and his arm have improved."
On how Riley will be tested by the Sun Devil defense and its blitzes
"It depends on what we have going on, but we have to do a good job of protecting, and there's going to be a lot of emphasis on pass protection up front with the tight ends, with the running backs, because they're very good pass rushers. They can get after you, which has caused people to throw a lot of interceptions against them, because they pressure the passer very well. So, it's going to have to be a total team effort as far as protection and the receivers making plays on the ball."
On ASU QB Danny Sullivan
"He's a big, strong-armed guy who can throw the ball anywhere around the field. He's not the Rudy Carpenter guy that they've had as far as running around, making a lot of plays happen with his legs, but he is big, he has great vision and he does have a really nice arm."
On what makes the Sun Devils' defense good
"They're physical and they're fast. Their linebacking corps is very fast, their two defensive ends are very fast [and] physical inside with their tackles. They get up and challenge you outside. Get in your face and play bump on you. It's a good group."
On what he expects to learn about his offense against the ASU defense
"I don't know, we'll see. I'll tell you after the game what we've learned from our offense. You usually learn from what happens. I don't know going in what we're going to learn, actually. But I do know that it still comes down to execution. It comes down to being patient. I thought one of the best things Stanford did against them was be patient with the run game. They didn't get away from it. I think [Toby] Gerhart had 125 yards or something like that, but there was a lot of runs there where he was stopped for nothing, and they stuck with it, and they made some plays. It's going to be a battle, there's no question about it. We're going to have to be physical. We're going to have to protect the football and hopefully make our plays when, if we stay patient enough, that we can break one here and there."
On the improved pass protection and what accounts for it
"I think it's got a little bit to do with everything. It's trying to help them with schemes. You have to a take a look at the guys that we were playing against earlier, too, were pretty good. UCLA had some good pass rushers, but I thought we did a fair job there. Not to take anything away from Washington State, but they're not the pass-rushing team that Arizona State is. Let's be honest about it. This is a different group that we're getting ready to play. As Washington State continues to build, Arizona State has one of the top defenses in the nation."
On how he sees the Bears' cornerbacks matching up against ASU's wideouts
"Fine. We're very multiple in the secondary, so we're not going to - when you say 'match up,' you typically talk about man-to-man matchups. We're very multiple with zones and man and things like that, and I think we're fine when we do get into man coverage to be able to match up with those guys. I don't see any problem there. Even though they are good players - both their receivers are good players and can run, but we always have to know where our help is, and make sure that we're playing proper technique and fundamentals."
On whether anything other than the need for patience, being that Cal's rushing attack is different from Stanford's power-running offense, review of the ASU-Stanford film suggests
"Not really, because Stanford is different as far as we're concerned. They have a big back who pounds in there. Those aren't our backs. We're not big, pounding backs. Stanford runs downhill a lot at you and they don't care if you have extra guys in there. They're going to run downhill at you and let him run through tackles. I'd have to say that we're not going to look at that game and say, 'We're going to do what Stanford did' - because we don't, we aren't Stanford."
On Cal's wide receivers
"Those guys have done a nice job. Marv[in Jones] has really stepped up, Jeremy [Ross] has stepped up, making some plays. And I think they're getting better each and every week. I think there's some guys there that we could probably play some more. When you look at Michael Calvin and Alex Lagemann, those guys have been practicing well. Encouraged by that crew and felt like if we had some guys go down that we had some capable guys to step in."
On starting off fast against an ASU team that has outscored opponents 64-17 in the third quarter
"Every game we go into, you're going to go into the game with your first-half plan. You're going to make adjustments at halftime and you're going to come out. I think starting fast is kind of a mindset. You need to make sure you come out and you're ready to play. As long as you're ready to play, there's going to be times where you can be successful. I think it has a lot to do with what plays you run and how well you execute. Looking at their numbers and saying, 'We have to do something different in the second half than we do in the first half,' I'm not a big believer in that. It all depends on how the game plan's going, what have we done in our game plan so far, what do we still need to do, what can we go back to, those type of things, what adjustments need to be made."
On whether Jeremy Ross can be expected to return punts again at ASU
"Yeah, depends. Depends how Syd['Quan] Thompson and Shane [Vereen] are."
On whether Cal's return game can be a consistent weapon
"The return game has a lot more to do with it than the guy with the ball in his hands. That all has to come together and you've got to make sure that you're disciplined and you're getting the right blocks and right spacing and things like that. I think we've been close, especially on kickoff return. We've hit some kickoff returns out to the 40, midfield, things like that. So we have been close to breaking kickoff returns, especially. A punt return - now, if we can better outside with our hawks to make sure we can get the play started, if we can get the play started, then, again, you have a chance."
On whether the 76-yard punt return for a TD by Jeremy Ross vs. Washington State was a team effort or a single player making a play
"Jeremy made a play to get the thing started because again, our hawk outside on their gunner got beat, and Jeremy did a nice job of, if you remember, when he initially got the ball he got bounced around and then got started. But you would prefer that he'd get it and have a nice lane to be able to see it, so it was a little bit of both. Initially, for it to get started, Jeremy did a nice job, but after that, everybody kept playing, did a nice job of staying on their blocks. It's a team effort. Anytime those returns happen, very rarely is it just the returner that's doing it. There's a lot of people that continue to play and hustle and get in position to make plays down the field."
On the Bears' 2-1 road record and whether anything accounts for that success so far this season
"Not really. We pretty much do everything normal that we would do here. We've been going a little earlier than usual, that's probably one thing that's a little bit different is we go a little bit earlier on Friday so we're not just getting in there at five o'clock. So we've been trying to make it as, I don't want to say chaotic, but not as rushed as sometimes when you get there in the evening and you have a lot to do. We've been trying to space it out a little bit, just to where it's more relaxed."
On Friday's travel schedule
"We'll travel in the morning, get there around 11:30ish, noonish, something like that."
On whether it is strange to be more than halfway through the season without having played any really close games, and how to prepare the team for one
"That's part of the mindset that we talked about, is to make sure that we understand. But I think UCLA was that type of a game. UCLA was a back-and-forth game and Minnesota became that type of a game, but I think UCLA was probably the closest to a game that was going back and forth for three quarters. That is really, really important, that the mindset is there that, in a close, tight game, you kind of just keep slugging it out."
On adjustments that can be made to prevent opponent scores late in the first half
"One of the things that happened last game was that we missed a couple of tackles. We got a little sloppy with our tackling, which we need to make sure that we're better with that. And then, with the deep throw, that's a perfect throw. The guy wasn't running wide open, the guy's running step for step with him, and it takes an educated risk to go up and make a play on the ball. It's a perfect throw and you have to give him credit for that. That happens from time to time. But the tackling is a little bit more the issue. I thought we were a little sloppy with our tackling. Didn't take the right angles, and then when we got there, we didn't wrap up enough, we just bounced off of guys. So we need to do a better job with our tackling."
On whether he liked playing defense with four down lineman
"Yeah, I think it's something that you're going to mix in and get you some bigger, more physical pass rushers on the field."
JUNIOR QB KEVIN RILEY
On the ASU defense
"It's fast. They've done a good job of stopping the run all season. I think Stanford probably had the most success last week, watching film. It's just a solid defense overall. Besides that Stanford game, they've done a real good job this season not giving up that many big plays and holding teams in points, in check. It's going to be a fight. It's a team we've played, I'd say they're similar to UCLA, just in what they do, things like that. They're probably a little more stout, with their linebackers."
On whether he, like head coach Jeff Tedford, feels that Stanford's success against ASU came with a style that cannot be described as Cal's
"Definitely, but you could see that they had success, and I think we can have some success running the ball, and we'll look at some things and see what we can do."
On pressure he expects in passing situations
"They'll do a lot of different things on third down, mixing it up. They'll bring everybody and just go man on the receivers. They're bringing seven people sometimes, so we're going to have to have some answers for that, but they do a good job of getting a little bit of pressure on the QB and bringing some different blitzes."
On his game vs. Washington State and whether he feels on track
"It's going to be a bigger test this week for our offense as a whole, and we can see what we've done since the bye week and how we've improved, and how we've got to continue."
On the development of the wide receivers and his timing with them
"Marvin Jones keeps on making plays and catching the ball well, and he'll continue to do that. I have a lot of confidence in him. And everybody's kind of stepping it up a little bit. When it comes down to it, we've got to keep on making good pass plays in the game and we'll continue to work on that."
On what accounts for ASU's high number of interceptions (13)
"Sometimes it's the coverage, and a lot of times it's the pressure and the quarterback's kind of throwing the ball when he's not quite ready to. Just making plays. A couple look like they were bad decisions by a QB, but that could be caused by pressure as well."
On how difficult it might be to be patient at ASU and whether big plays are still possible
"I still think we'll make some big plays because that's what we do. But I don't think they'll come as often and as easy as they have. We'll just take our turns, be smart with the football like we've done a good job this year, and when the opportunity comes up, we'll make them."
On the significance of this game
"It's the biggest game so far this year, that's for sure, on where we're at and what their defense has done. I don't know much about their offense, how they're doing, but I know their defense is solid. [Cal's] offense is going to have to come there and play their best game of the year ... Facing a better team than we have these past two weeks and we're going to have to play well. Like I said, since the bye week, this will show us how much we've grown as a team."
On whether there's anything about this Cal team that make it a good road team
"We'll see when tougher games come up, like this week. A lot of it, being on the road, is just counting on each other and feeding off each other's energies, because you don't really have the crowd to get behind you. Just making big plays, offense gets picked up by the defense, special teams and vice versa, for everybody. We've just got to continue to do that."
On whether big plays could deflate a crowd on the road
"Absolutely. Big third-down conversions kind of deflate them a little bit, and big plays always do, touchdowns, and just continue to pound them."
On what was learned in the first two road games this year
"Just sticking together. That Oregon game, things started to fall apart and people were pressing. You can't press when things go wrong, you've just got to come back and bounce back and make some plays."
On the crowd he expects at Sun Devil Stadium
"We've been to a lot of places this year. It'll probably be a pretty loud venue. I remember there two years ago, it got pretty loud and I think they were undefeated there at the time ... It's a cool place to play."
On whether Halloween will be a factor
"I don't think so. It's a day game, so it's a little different than being on at nighttime, so it's just another game for us."