Sept. 23, 2003
BERKELEY - Below are selected quotes from head coach Jeff Tedford from his press conference heading into Cal's game vs. USC. The Bears host the Trojans on Saturday, Sept. 27 at 3:30 p.m. in Memorial Stadium. The contest can be heard on KGO Radio (810 AM) and will be televised nationally by Fox Sports Net.
On QB Aaron Rodgers
Aaron does have a banged up finger, but he will be ready to play. He played three quarters with a very sore index finger, which is where the ball comes off. So he showed tremendous toughness in getting through that game. We will see how he is today; I don't know how much throwing he will do today. It looks pretty ugly. It's pretty swollen and he has a lot of blood underneath his fingernail.
On the freshmen in Cal's defensive secondary
They'll rotate in. I was very proud of those young kids. They got in the game and didn't panic in certain situations. There were fades into the end zone. A lot of times, a young guy would panic and pass interfere. They ran step for step and didn't panic. That really showed mental toughness on their part. They're not in game shape. They'll be the first ones to tell you that. Especially Brandon Sanders coming off the appendectomy, but he's working hard in practice. They will play, and they're in the rotation.
On the non-conference portion of the schedule, especially adding the Kansas State game
I still think that was a good choice. We have experienced a lot in the last five weeks - traveling to Kansas State in a bowl atmosphere with the freshmen, having to start early, having some crossover in camp with summer school issues. We played at home against a very good team in Southern Miss and had a big victory there and then we lost two close games, which was very trying for us. We played a Thursday game, which was another experience for us. Then, we traveled back to Illinois to play an 11 o'clock kick and our wake up time was 5 a.m. for our body clocks. So we've experienced a lot and the young guys are handling it very well. Those are all the things you need to go through as a young team. I think we have learned a lot of lessons. I think that the players understand how to practice to be successful. Leadership and enthusiasm don't just happen until you have enough invested in a program. It doesn't just happen. I think the last five games have offered that to us. The last week in practice was awesome. We really challenged each other to be more enthusiastic and practice harder, and we did. I think the players saw that pays off. Every bit pays off for a young team.
What impresses you about USC?
They are very talented. They are very well coached. They have great schemes. They are fast, athletic, great tacklers on defense. They have great receivers and a great offensive line. They are a very well balanced group.
On USC coach Pete Carroll
Pete is very dedicated and has a very strong football mind. He has brought a lot of enthusiasm and is prepared to play with the talent that he has. He is a football guy - a football junkie. I think the NFL made him that way. He has surrounded himself with a very good coaching staff and good players and he works very hard at it.
What do you need to do against USC to have success?
We have to make the plays when they come our way. Last year, when we got in the game with them in the second half, we had chances to make plays on third down and we didn't. We converted a third down and got a holding call. We dropped two balls on third down. We have to take advantage of all our opportunities. It comes down to execution.
On adjusting to USC's defense
We're going to try to utilize a few different things because they are so quick up front. We try and do that every week, though. We change protection schemes to try and give our offensive unit a different chance. We won't try and do things differently
On changes between this year and last year's game
These are different teams now. There were a lot of seniors on last year's team, and they knew what intensity was going to be all about when you play those guys. It comes down to getting off the field on third down on defense and getting our opportunities on offense. Last year's game has no bearing on this year's game, in my opinion.
On what has changed with the team during the last five weeks
I think it's stronger in our preparation. I think it's stronger in whatever situation arises - we will be prepared for it - that we treat setbacks as temporary and we play through them, that we trust in one another, and that we have something invested in the program for the young players. It's hard to have a burning desire and be dedicated unless you have an investment in the program. The young guys coming in have only been here for a while, and so until you're able to work hard and go through some ups and downs and lay it all on the line, that's when you're able to work harder and push over the top.
Is your team intimidated by USC?
I would hope that's not the case. That's why you go to play Kansas State. If we didn't play Kansas State, you could say we haven't been there. So now when we go play USC and Washington and these big stadiums and we go play Illinois, the experience helps us.
On the team's performance overall at Illinois
I am very proud of them. They are a great group of guys that never complain about anything. They are very business like, the way they travel. They lay it on the line every week. Is it perfect? No, it's not perfect. There have been things like dropped passes, fumbles, missed assignments, but I guarantee it's not because of lack of effort. So I'm very proud of them in that way and I was happy to see us hold on after going three tough weeks.
On LB Wendell Hunter
He flies around the field and makes plays. He has the ability to do it, he has the speed. You talk about people who have investment in the program, Wendell has that. He's been there and he wants to be successful. He's not very vocal, but he provides leadership. I was very happy to see him be Pac-10 Player of the Week because he deserved it. Wendell is in great shape and he was able to play 92 plays and play all out.
On P/PK Tyler Fredrickson playing well at Illinois
I'm sure the competition had something to do with it. Tyler has a lot of ability and had some unfortunate things happen. I was happy to see him come back last week. He kicked the ball off real well, made his field goal and extra points, and his punting was tremendous. I think he had four balls inside the 10, and it would have been five if we hadn't been called for illegal formation.
On big special teams plays against Illinois
It's huge. I talked to the team yesterday after practice about it. I watched on ESPN all the huge special teams' plays going on around the country. Special teams is critical, and it's going to take all three phases. We need to make some plays in special teams. That breaks things open and changes momentum. It's critical to make some plays on special teams.