Dec. 1, 2004
Below are selected quotes from head coach Jeff Tedford from his press conference heading into No. 4 Cal's match-up with Southern Miss in Hattiesburg, Miss.
Does it feel strange to be playing this game after playing Stanford, a game that traditionally ends the regular season?
Not really. We did have a week off, which helped us. It was a little awkward in that normally that is the last game of the year for your seniors at home. It is a little bit odd, but it's another game on the schedule that we need to prepare to play.
With all the talk of the BCS and Cal, how do you keep the players focused at the task at hand?
We can't control any of that (BCS). The only thing we can do is prepare our best this week to go play a very good Southern Miss team in a hostile environment. Let everything else take care of itself; there is nothing we can do to control it. We're going to work hard this week and prepare our best to go and compete. I think they realize there is nothing we can do about it. All we can do is go and play. I was very pleased when they came back from Thanksgiving. Sunday we had a very good practice. I was pleased with their focus and attention to detail, and am excited to see them today. I think they understand that this is a big game for us. Every game has been a big game down the stretch. I think our players understand that all the other things are trivial right now. The only thing that matters is going to play this game.
Does the game feel different this week, that maybe you need to do more than just win?
No. It's going to be all we can do to win, that's our number one objective, to win the game. Hopefully we will be fortunate enough to win this game. We're not going in with any different mindset. As far as I'm concerned, the point spread and all that stuff has been taken out of the equation. It's going to be difficult enough to go and compete and hopefully have a chance to win this game. In no way, shape or form are we going into this game worried about style points. What comes after the next opponent is all speculation. You can't control the voting. The main objective is to go win the football game. If that happens, then, when the word finally comes in, that is where our fate goes. We've said for the past two weeks that there is no point in speculating what may happen.
On Southern Miss
The only game that really sticks out to me is the Cincinnati game, where they gave up a few big plays. Besides that, they played very well on defense. That's the only game that really sticks out as a game that got away from them. They had some mix-ups in the secondary where guys got deep on them. To continually move the ball against these guys is a tough task. To go to Hattiesburg and play is difficult. I know their players will be very motivated and I know coach Bower will have them ready to play. It's going to be a tough environment. They have very good players, as TCU found out a year ago when they went in there undefeated. They're a good team, great program, they've been to bowl games six out of the last seven years. They're a tremendous football team and I know they'll be ready to play and very emotional about playing. It's a very tough place to play, a very harsh crowd that gets after you pretty good.
Cal's had a few slow starts in its past couple games. Are you looking to change that?
We were going into those other games with the same thought process. It was just the way it worked out. Other teams played well. A lot of games happen like that, that's why it's a four-quarter game. Obviously yes, we would like to start fast and finish strong. At times you have to be patient with what you're doing and feel some things out. Teams, especially Stanford, did a very nice job of game planning and did some different things against us. We had to figure that out and make some adjustments.
How big of a factor is emotion in a game like this, and can it be sustained?
Emotion is critical in football. Football is an emotional game. I know that they'll be very emotional coming out. When you have seniors coming out in their last home game, there is a tendency for their to be a lot of excitement before the game, a lot of energy. After the first series, second series, that all pretty much settles down a little bit and you settle into the game. As you open up the game, there is a lot of excitement and adrenalin flowing. After you settle in, it's another football game.
On how the time off between games will affect the players
The last three weeks it seems as if there has been more attention focused on us by the media and by outsiders. We continue to do the things which we do. Our players are rejuvenated from having three days off over Thanksgiving. When we've had breaks in the past, usually we're a little sluggish coming out on the first day, and we weren't this time. We were excited to get on the field. I think they understand where we are and what needs to happen. All that being said, for the preparation, we do all the same things. There is no need to change the things we do. If there was, we should always be doing that. They understand that.
On eight Cal players being picked to the All-Pac-10 team
I'm happy for those guys. They've worked very hard and provided such fine leadership for this team. It's nice for those players to get recognition as being some of the top performers in the conference.
On Tedford being named Pac-10 Coach of the Year
That means our staff did a great job. It's a group effort; that award goes to our entire staff. My name just happens to be on it. Surrounding yourself with great people on the staff is key. They're responsible for that. It's a group honor.
On LB Wendell Hunter
There is no question about his athleticism, his ability to run all over the field. He's very tough, he plays through injuries. He has a great understanding of the defense. He's a tremendous tackler. He's got a lot going for him, no questions about it. As he has come to understand the defense better, he's put himself in a position to make many more plays. Experience has played a key role in his success.
On some of the keys to Tedford turning the football program into a success
Number one is for the head coach to surround yourself with a good staff, which I've been fortunate to do. Changing the mindset, getting the confidence and self-esteem back was very important. To have and recruit good kids, good players, but character kids that provide and receive leadership well. There was a great group of guys when we got here who were willing to buy into something new, believe in certain things and provide the leadership needed to get us there.