Coach Hankwitz began the press gathering with some comments on Oregon State
Mike Hankwitz: "Obviously, this is going to be a great challenge because we are facing a team that was expected to be a contender for the Pac-10 title. I'm sure they are disappointed about losing to Washington State after Washington State turned the ball over seven times. They are still going to be a team that is hungry and ready to play."
"They have a veteran defense that is very aggressive. They have (Bill) Swancutt, who has 6.5 sacks, (Richard) Seigler, the linebacker, and their safety, (Mitch) Meeuwsen, has six interceptions, so they are a formidable bunch and an aggressive bunch."
"Offensively, they have the best running back (Steven Jackson) that we will face. He is the most consistent, and nobody has totally shut him down. He is a strong, hard-running guy. They have a veteran line, and they spread the field enough with different formations, and they throw the ball well enough. (James) Newson, the receiver, has 47 catches, and he is a big-play threat. Their quarterback (Derek Anderson) has thrown 16 interceptions, so they have had times where he has not been overly effective."
How good is Steven Jackson?
Hankwitz: "He is an excellent runner because he runs North and South most of the time. He runs aggressively, and he is hard to bring down on the first hit. He has some great moves, but he does not rely all on fakes and moves."
Question: How disappointed are you in the effort against Cal?
Hankwitz: "After watching the film, I am still as disappointed in the fact that we didn't improve. I thought we had some momentum going after UCLA, but we just didn't carry it over. When people ask me about the open week, I don't think that we can use that as an excuse. It might not have come at an opportune time, but we felt like we could utilize the open week to get healthy and take some time off. We had excellent practices, but for whatever reason, we didn't carry it over to the Cal game, and that was disappointing."
"I told the players that we cannot accept that. If we accept a poor performance like that, then we will just continue to tolerate losing until we get enough guys who are tired of that and ready for a change. Unless that happens, things won't change. I think we have enough good people on the team who are tired of it and trying to do something about it. We just need them to step up. It doesn't detract from our ultimate potential of how we can finish, but we have to work a little harder to get some of that back."
What has coach Bray brought to this staff with his background as a defensive coordinator in the Pac-10?
Hankwitz: "He's brought so much to our defense, especially because of his knowledge of the Pac-10 and having defended all of the teams. He has a feel for their tendencies and a great feel for their personnel, and he brings so much discipline to the defense, and having been a coordinator, he is going to reinforce things a little more strongly. He also has brought a lot of input to the game plans. When we switched defenses, we switched to more of a 4-3 principle, which is his strength and not so much my strength. I have relied on him and the rest of the coaches as much as ever or more than ever because it was farther away from my expertise than I had been in the past."
"He has great awareness of their (Oregon State's) personnel, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. He knows what their capabilities are, so that will help immensely."
Question: Cal was really able to run on you, is there anything in particular that they did to be so successful?
Hankwitz: "We did not attack the line of scrimmage like we are capable of doing. I thought we made great progress from Washington State to UCLA, and I was really pleased with our front in the UCLA game because they attacked the line of scrimmage, and they were physical. In the Cal game, we were not as aggressive as we had been, and we just weren't as fundamentally sound. We missed tackles that further compounded the situation. There were numerous times where we had them tackled for a 1- or 2-yard gain, but we didn't wrap, and they would get another three, four, seven or eight. That was disappointing because I thought we had made strides in playing the run better; we had not given up a lot of long runs, and in this game, we gave up two. When you allow a team to run on you, it has a demoralizing effect. When you allow someone to consistently move the ball running, it can be very frustrating."
Question: Did you go for the long field goal to show that you still had faith in the kicking game?
Hankwitz: "At that point, we wanted to try to get some points. In warm-ups, he had kicked from that depth. We just felt like we might as well take a chance and score some points as opposed to punting. It was on line, but it just did not have the distance."
Question: You must be pleased with the play of Mike Bell?
Hankwitz: "I have been really pleased with the way he has run for the last two weeks. He had 11 carries and 94 yards against UCLA and 182 yards against Cal. It is very gratifying because he is a young man who tries to do exactly what is asked of him. He understands the importance of hitting the hole where it is supposed to be hit and running downhill. Consequently, we are starting to see the results of that. He really hits the holes hard, and I was very proud of his performance."
Question: The running game has been much better, have you done anything different with the line to facilitate this?
Hankwitz: "We are spreading the defense out and trying to attack the defenses in different manners, and that has been a factor. The offensive line is blocking better and coming off the ball better. It is a combination of all those things and the fact that the backs are running downhill better that have allowed us to be more effective."