Sept. 2, 2008
BERKELEY - After opening is season with a 38-31 win over Michigan State, the University of California football team now turns its attention to this week's opponent, Washington State. Cal hosted its second weekly press conference on Tuesday at the Hall of Fame Room at historic Memorial Stadium. Saturday's Pac-10 Conference game will be televised live in the Bay Area by CSN West beginning at 3:30 p.m.
Head coach Jeff Tedford and numerous players attended to speak with the press. Here are Tedford's comments:
On if he likes playing a conference game early in the season:
Actually, if I had my choice, no. We'd kind of like to play the nonconference games first and then get to conference play. But it is what it is. One of the things about it, especially it being a road game, you cut down to 64 players to go on the road and it's still kind of early to do that. We're still evaluating some situations and special teams and so on and so forth so that's a challenge this week to cut down to 64 for the road.
On opening with a difficult opponent:
I think it was good. There were a lot of situations that came up, there was a lot of adversity in the game, and there were a lot of ups and downs. I think you can learn a lot from those situations. I thought our team held together very well. You know when you play a great team that there's going to be adversity, that it's not all going to go your way so how you handle adversity and respond to it is critical. I think that game the other night gave us the opportunity to do that. Like I said, [it's good] to be able to figure out who's exactly going to play for you, with special teams, to get some game experience for guys before you have to get into conference play.
On Washington State:
Washington State's defense plays very hard. They always have, that's no different this year. They play hard. Their offense, I think their quarterback is a talented guy. He's a big 6-7 guy who is very athletic. To me, he looks like Drew Bledsoe throwing the football. He's more athletic, he gets to the edge, they move him around. They do some things that way so he really has an ability to cause you problems because he can beat you with his legs as well. Then [wide receiver] Brandon Gibson, I think everybody knows that he can do. He's always had big games against us. Dwight Tardy is a very solid running back. They have big play potential. We have to do our best to slow them down. Then offensively, we're going to have to take advantage of every situation we can because they play very hard.
On playing a no-huddle team:
The no huddle, the simulation of the no huddle, because we're not a no-huddle team, is something that's difficult for a scout team to do and do it at the pace of the game. It's not that they're hurry up, it's that they're no huddle. They bring in a lot of personnel groups so we're going to need to match up from time to time with what's going on personnel-wise with them. There's going to be a lot of communication going out on defense where you don't have the luxury of huddling. I think the first five teams we played last year were no huddle. We got a lot of experience with that early. But still, that's last year and this is this year. It takes great conditioning. That was one thing I was pleased with the other night in the game, was that I thought our team was very well conditioned. That shouldn't be an issue but the communication issue is something that we need to get done.
On playing in Pullman:
The fans are very loud. I don't know what the weather's supposed to be right now but sometimes the weather can be an issue. They're just a very loud crowd there.
On Cal's receiving corps only having five catches last week:
I think you have to be able to take advantage of what the defense is giving you. It's not that we didn't call the plays the same way for the receivers, that wasn't the plan. It was to take what the defense had given us. We could have made a couple throws. I think Kevin [Riley] threw a couple balls low to Nyan Boateng that could have been made. I thought Sean Young played well. He caught a nice ball on a long ball, that was a very difficult catch, over the shoulder like that. That was a nice catch. By no means are we not throwing the ball to our receivers because we're afraid of their inexperience. You're going to take advantage of what goes on in the game plan.
On challenge of facing a new coach like WSU's Paul Wulff:
It is because you don't know what to expect. We've obviously seen tape from Eastern Washington from last year to get a gauge on who they are. Their personnel is a little bit different at Washington State as far as four down and three backers are concerned than it was a Eastern Washington. You just don't know. There are a lot of unknowns playing a conference game so early especially against someone you don't have a lot of history with. That makes it more difficult to play a conference game that early when there's a new coach.
There's room for improvement everywhere. We need to be more productive in the passing game. On special teams, we had two young mistakes, if you want to call them young mistakes. [Punter] Bryan Anger dropping the ball [snap] or it going through his hand, and Mychal Kenricks using poor judgment [on a roughing the punter penalty]. That's a true freshman going in there on a punt situation. We need to use better judgment there. But for the most part, in giving up a big play, the big pass, we can't allow that. I thought we tackled as well as we had in our first game in a long time. But we probably tackled more in practice in this preseason than we ever have so I think that paid off for us. There's room for improvements everywhere. There's no one guy on that field that can say he played a perfect game. The focus is to develop every single week and to get better every week.
On Sean Young as punt returner and if Syd'Quan Thompson may move into that role:
[Syd'Quan Thompson] would be in the mix if he's healthy. But right now, we have the most confidence in Sean as far as fielding the football is concerned. That's the number one objective is to make good decisions and field the punt. And Sean right now is the guy that's doing the best job at that. Syd very played well. He was sore after the game. He'll be limited at practice today. We'll rest him a little bit today and make sure he's ready to go. He came out really no worse than he was.
On younger players standing out:
[Offensive tackle] Mitchell Schwartz played very well. He made a key play on [Shane] Vereen's long run and did a nice job of protecting the passer and did a nice job of run blocking. I thought he finished his blocks very well. You saw a few times where he was down field continuing to pancake guys down field. Mitchell played very well. I thought the backs did a nice job. Besides that, I don't know how many real young guys played.
On senior center Alex Mack's performance:
Great. He was one of the players of the game, one of our offensive players of the game. [Shane] Vereen, Jahvid [Best] and Alex were players of the game offensively. Alex did great. He locked guys up, finished blocks, did a nice job of pass protection, was very dominant in the run game. He played very well.
CAL PLAYER QUOTES
WR LaReylle Cunningham
[On having confidence during the game]
I always have confidence in myself. It's good to have that game experience going into every week. I feel real good every game I'm in. We work hard and practice hard preparing for our next opponent, so I'm always comfortable. It's not difficult at all to maintain confidence [in my abilities].
[On Cal's new wide receiving corps]
Obviously we had three great receivers leave [DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins, and Robert Jordan]. Playing behind them, we [as a group] didn't get a lot of playing time. So over the summer we trained hard together, over the spring we trained hard and we built some chemistry. Now with the season underway, we're ready to play and show what we can do.
DT Derrick Hill
[On preparing for Washington State's no huddle, spread offense]
All we really need from the coaching staff is to get the plays in fast. Once we get that play we know what we need to do on the field - it makes our job that much easier. The less you have to do on the field, the easier it becomes. It's more of a mental game than a physical game. If you can mentally beat your opponent, you can physically finish the rest off. If we can mentally get over that hump of having to rush [getting the assignments in quickly] then that can be a big difference in the game. If we get our plays in [quick] and slow down their game, they might have to adjust their game plan.
[On preparing for the no huddle, spread offense in a 3-4 defense]
It's a big difference because in the 3-4 we have the ability to play run defense and pass defense without having to change our personnel. With the 3-4 we can create penetration with our linemen as well as with blitzes, so it makes our defense that more dangerous than a 4-3 defense.
TE Cameron Morrah
[On how to prepare with having defense's keying in on him more this season]
It's about studying film more, making sure I know the defenses more and more as we get further into the season. I know they are going to key on me, I just have to continue working hard on route running and just making sure I do my best to continue making plays for the team.
[On how WRs help his progression]
Everybody has to do their part. So the receivers like Sean Young, who had a big game, will continue to develop and then the offense will continue to thrive.
[On LaReylle Cunningham]
LaReylle has some of the nicest hands on the team and some of the nicest hands I've ever seen. As long as we can get the ball in his area, there is a great chance he's going to make a big play.
DB Marcus Ezeff
[On preparing for the no huddle]
We saw that against Oregon last season, so that helped us a lot and I think we will be ready [for that challenge] again.
[On preparing for WSU]
It's hard because we don't know what they are going to throw at us just yet. Right now we just have to go off of some of the old films from their old coaching staff and also their first game, we don't know all of their personnel groups quite yet.
[On WSU fans]
The thing I remember about that stadium is that the fans are right there on the field. And it's such a loud environment. Their fans are real supportive of their team, so it's important for us to try and quiet them early and try and put some points on the board.
QB Kevin Riley
[On running backs Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen]
You can see what they can do. [They are] tremendous players and they made plays when they had to. I'd give those guys as many carries as possible and hopefully they can do their thing with the line doing their job as well.
[On the offense responding each time to Michigan State]
I'm just proud of our offense. Every time Michigan State scored, we came back down the field and scored back at them. It's not ideally what you want, you want to score points every time you get the ball, but when we had to, we put up points.
[On the boost of having a full game under his belt]
I feel the same. I expected to play like I did. I ran the offense like the coaches wanted me to and I did my job. So I just have to continue doing that throughout the season. I use the same approach. We have Washington State, who I've watched a little bit of. There defense looked pretty stout; we have to go out there and play. We can't take a week off; we have to be ready to play.
[On playing a Pac-10 game in the second game of the year]
That's different. It will be my first time starting a game and coming back and starting again. We'll see how that goes. I think we'll be all right. This first game gave our team a lot of confidence. When they scored, we responded, sometimes last year, we didn't do that.
C Alex Mack
[On handling the noise at Washington State]
We're going to focus on communication. Even if everything's loud. We have to make sure we're all on the same page. We don't want noise to be the big factor in the game, but it will be a little hard to ignore it.
[On what the offensive line needs to improve]
We gave up a sack, that's too many. There were blocks we could have done better; we watched the film and picked it over. But as an offensive line, I thought we did a really good job. For the first game, going against an even-front when we've been seeing odd all spring and fall, I thought we did a really good job. We're just going to continue to work on all those blocks. Hopefully everything we did will get better and better and better.