Oct. 15, 1997
Tom Holmoe Press Conference
"This week we are preparing for Washington State, the first place team in the Pac-10. They are undefeated and ranked 12th in the country. They are a very good opponent. They're personnel is experienced and primarily senior-laden and to play them up at their place will be quite a task for us.
"Last year, this game proved to be a turning point in our season. We are hoping that it proves to be a turning point again but in the opposite direction.
"I think the attitude of the team is up beat. They know that we have the potential to play better if we can eliminate mistakes and big plays."
Q: "Can you talk about Ryan Leaf and the types of challenges he presents?"
A: "I think he has improved a lot from last year. One of his strong points is that he is very confident in his skills and you can see that in the way the tries to zip in balls between defenders. Sometimes those turn out to be dangerous passes. He also has a lot of confidence in his receivers and the way he spreads the ball around is very impressive. What really makes Washington State difficult to defend, though, is Michael Black and the running game. He is one of the better running backs in the conference."
Q: "With the quarterbacks that have come out of Washington State in the last few years, do your ever ask yourself, 'Hey, why can't we do that'?"
A: "I think that Cal has had a number of really good quarterbacks too. Washington State has also developed some good quarterbacks through the years and I think that has to do with the wide-open style of offense that they have. It's imperative that we recruit quarterbacks that are capable of being the best quarterbacks on the conference. We've had an unlucky string of events that put us in a position that we're really not in the best shape quarterback wise. After Pat Barnes, the heir apparent was probably going to be Trevor Thompson who has now gone through two shoulder surgeries. Then there was a guy by the name of Mike Murphy who transferred and is no longer here.
"We feel good about Sam Clemons (redshirting) as a guy that's coming up and we feel he's going to develop into a great quarterback. Now our efforts in recruiting are to find the best quarterbacks we can find because we need to replenish our system with quarterbacks and It'll be a point of emphasis, year- year-out, to find the quarterbacks that will make this offense run."
Q: "What is it about playing at Washington State that is so tough? What makes it a tough place to play?"
A: "I don't know. When I was at Stanford I think we only played them up there once. They had (Drew) Bledsoe and we beat them. Last year, we had a chance to win the game. To me, when I went up there, I didn't sense any jinx or spell, they just beat us in the game. I'm not one to put any credence in streak because streaks are going to end. It's about putting together a team that can beat the opponent. One of the things that may have been a factor is weather. Last year weather was a factor but I don't know what the weather was like in the other games. I've been involved in games as a player where we've done great against cold weather teams and I've been in games where we've done poorly against cold weather teams."
Q: "Now that we are at the midpoint of the season, can you give an evaluation of Justin Vedder?"
A: "I think that in the first two games he was very good. The next three games he's had spells in each game where he's been very good and spells were he hasn't play to his ability. There are some things mechanically that the last few weeks have broken down somewhat, and he's aware of those things. I think that when he corrects those, things will bet back on track. But overall I'm happy and please with the way he is performing, not just statistically but overall he has meant a lot to this team. He confident, has a great attitude, a great work ethic and he really concentrates on what he's doing. He has come in here and filled a position in which we were in absolute need. Pat Barnes left us with a void that only a junior college guy could fill and he has really done a good job of doing that."
Q: "Have you made a decision as far as who will start in the secondary?"
A: " Marquis Smith will start at free safety and we'll make a decision between David Burnside and Pete Destefano at sometime during the week."
Q: "How do you keep the spirits of the team up after three straight losses?"
A: "It's hard to lose games. Nobody feels good about a loss and losses linger longer that wins do. But these guys are confident in their abilities. They know what they have to do to get better and I think the attitude is right. They're eager to go up and play again. I've said this and I'll say it each week, I'm not going to come in here and hang my head after a game because I know there is always another game. This is a game that I know we have a chance to win. After playing against Washington last week and really playing well in many portions of the game, it gave us confidence. But on the other side, we did get beat 30-3 and that's not satisfying to anybody."
Q: "What is it going to take win this game?"
A: "I think one of the keys is to play consistent ball against their offense. Last year I think it was probably one of Leaf's least successful days, at least statistically. We did a pretty good job against him. I don't know what his passing percentage was but I know he didn't have many yards. But (Michael) Black had his best day ever. So we went into that game knowing that we had to control the passing game and in an effort to do so we didn't do a very good job against the run. We know now that they are a multifaceted team and you can't put all your emphasis on one part of their offense. They're quite balanced and we'll have to play well against their quarterback."
Q: "You haven't forced any turnovers in the last few games, is there anything that can be done about that?"
A: "Well I'm hoping so. I think that when you're flying around and there is a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, your going to cause turnovers. We had one last week but it was called back. It was a great play, our guy did a great job at getting that ball out. But there's no question that with the our overall giveaway/takeaway ratio sitting at minus three, that tells the story of where we are. I'm a firm believer in the fact that if you look at that ratio from top to bottom it's going to mirror the standings in the league. Early on we had them and we didn't give the ball up and now we're not getting them and we're giving the ball up. But its something that we work on in practice every week on both sides of the ball."
Q: "Following the loss to Washington, people were saying that this game against Washington State takes on a whole new meaning. Is this a make or break game for you as far as the season?"
A: No, I don't think there is a point of no return. It takes on meaning because if we can go up there and play a big game and win it, then it gets us turned around in a big way. If we were to lose it then we'll have to look to the next game. Right now it's not a make or break game for us. We'll take it on and every game we attempt to win but I'm not willing to say this is a make or break game. We go after every game as hard as we can and I can say that we did just that against Washington. We gave it a darn good shot but it didn't last. I think we'll be prepared to go up against Washington State and hopefully we'll be able to endure and finish out the game this time."