Neuheisel Sunday Conference Call

Coach Rick Neuheisel took a good amount of tough questions from the media Sunday night about the loss to Cal, about the quarterback situation, the offensive line, and more...

Opening statement

‘'What can I answer for you?''

How much time do you think you're going to devote in this bye week to improving the pass game?

‘'Well, we've got two things to improve on. We've got to improve on the pass game and we have to improve … uh, I shouldn't say two things, there's more than two things to improve on … but, pass game has got to go a long way and really in the pass protection. The pass protection was subpar yesterday. Kevin (Prince) didn't have enough time to get his feet set and, you know, while I know everybody points to the quarterback when the pass game goes awry, you can't put it all on him. There wasn't enough time, and we've got to do a great job of shoring that up. And then the other thing is stopping the run. I mean, our defense was not good enough, coming off the ball and doing the right things at the point of attack to create an opportunity for our linebackers and secondary to get to the places where we could keep the run game contained. Not good enough.''

Why are you rotating so many guys in on the defensive front?

‘'Well, I know what we're trying to do. We're trying to raise a bunch of young guys, and there are a couple of really bright spots when you see the plays and can dole them out as kind of a highlight reel. The unfortunate thing is that it's hard to get the feel of it. But I don't know, given the inexperience at the position, if we can afford to just leave one guy out there, so we're going to have to continue to find combinations of people that can get out there and stop the run.''

Rick, you were talking about the pass game a moment ago and you were talking about pass protection and, I mean, it doesn't sound like you are contemplating any quarterback change at this point.

‘'No, I'm contemplating everything, but I haven't made any decision on that nor will I any time soon. I think those kind if decisions, based on the emotions of a loss, are usually things that you reconsider and so I'm going to watch practice carefully. I know it's a popular subject when teams are unsuccessful, but there's no need to make that kind of decision any time soon, especially when the game is not for another 11 days.''

So if I'm reading that right, Kevin is the starter then?

‘'No, you said that. I said that I haven't made a decision as to who the starting quarterback is. I want to look at the film with the coaches – I've given them the day off. I want to go through it verse by verse, I want to watch practice, I want a bunch of competition in practice and I want to see what we want to do.''

Will Richard (Brehaut) get more snaps next week?

‘'We'll wait and see.''

In four games you've outscored your opponents, I think it is 118 to 74 or 78. In the other two games it's 70-7. How is there quite such a discrepancy? Even the Kansas State game you were in it, and you won the other three. Those other two games just really seem to stick out.

‘'Well, both were poor, poor performances by our offense ... poor, poor performances by our offense. And in both of them we left the defense out there too long, especially an inexperienced defense, in the front. When we win the time of possession, we can hold up. We had one aberration, that being the Washington State game, where we didn't play as fervently in the backend. But when we win the time of possession we can usually manage hanging out there on the field with our inexperience and finding ways to play aggressive and play hard and make enough plays where there the thing doesn't get going against us. But when we leave those guys out there too long, it becomes a very difficult chore.''

Do you think any of it has to do with, and I don't want to use the term guys giving up by any means, but not …

‘'No, it has nothing to do with that. There's plenty of effort. There's plenty of effort, and I'd invite you to come and watch tape with me. You could see that there's no give up.''

Is it a scheme thing then?

‘'Well, it's an execution things, certainly, and sometimes there are some matchup issues. But we have to scheme, we have to do a better job of giving our guys a chance to be successful.''

Pardon me for getting back to the quarterback situation, but there have been Sundays where we've talked to you before, where you've talked about competition, said I need to see what they look like, and then 24 hours later you're saying that Kevin is the starter. Why would we consider this a different moment?

‘'Well, I told you, the offensive staff isn't here. I've given everybody the day off, their first day off since we started camp. And so I want to watch the tape with them. I've watched the tape, and I want to get their impressions. I've made my notes, and we have to learn from this and put it behind us and then go and try to play a much better game when we get to Eugene.''

The quarterback obviously is important to the passing game, but what is your impression of the receiver's performances so far?

‘'Not good enough.''

What areas are they lacking in?

‘'Well, some of it is separation, but, in truth, we're not giving them enough chances to get down the field and we have to figure that one out.''

That would be a protection issue?

‘'That goes back to protection, exactly.''

Rick, you talked about separation. Josh Smith has put up some pretty big numbers returning kickoffs. Why isn't he returning punts?

‘'Why is he not returning punts? We just want to be real comfortable with him handling punts. There's no question that he would be a great punt returner. It's catching and fielding the punts and doing it securely that you have to get real comfortable with and he's working at it, as is Damien Thigpen. Both are explosive athletes that we'd love to give them the chance. Taylor (Embree) knows that he's not that guy, but Taylor catches them so cleanly …''

So he's kind of in a holding spot right now?

‘'Well he's the most secure punt catcher that we have. One of your jobs fielding punts is to actually catch it, and we'll make that move when we feel good enough about the other guys.''

Rick, you seem to be very, not eager by any means, but willing to make defensive switches and defensive adjustments in terms of playing time and starting roles and not so much offensively or in special teams. Why has there been more, I guess, experimentation defensively than there has been offensively?

‘'You're talking about defensive tackles and quarterbacks?

Not necessarily quarterbacks, but wide receivers …

‘'We roll all the receivers, Jon. Every one of them plays.''

Offensive line?

‘'Offensive line we go with the five guys because that's what Bob (Palcic) believes is the best, and if something happens to one of them then we've got guys to go in. But there's no hesitation to roll guys. Now, the quarterback position is a little bit more precarious because of the attention that the attention gets and the importance of the position to the management of the offense. And then, with respect to the punt returner, shoot, that's an important job to catch that dang punt and you want to make sure you've got it. Now, both Josh and Damien are working their tails off and I'll be excited when Frank (Gansz) feels they're ready to go.''

What about Mike Harris? Two holding penalties on the first drive …

‘'Yep, and very disappointed in him because they were not necessary. And Darius Savage had one as well on a drive that took us out of field goal range where we were down to the 9-yard line. That pushed us back to the 20, and then we mishandled the ball that took us back to the 34 and it just got uglier and so, you know, those are going to be huge deals. Now, fortunately, to date, up until yesterday, that had not been a problem, but it reared its ugly head and we've got to address it and we've got fortunately some extra days where we're going to get down to the brass tacks and make sure it doesn't happen again.''

With the protection thing, you'd been dealing from a position of strength with the offensive line, in terms of you were ahead, in the three victories you were ahead most of the time. What changes for a lineman when the team is trying to come from behind?

‘'Well, it's like anything else. You start throwing more, and defensive linemen get to start pinning their ears back, and we've got to do everything we can to stay ahead of the down and distance so we don't put our linemen and quarterback at risk like that.''

Rick, why were they getting so much pressure from the outside on Kevin, and is there anything to line wasn't used to having to pass protect so much? Is there anything to that?

‘'Well, we haven't thrown the ball a bunch in the last few weeks because as you said, we've been able to run it. But in this game, the running game got stymied, we fell behind, and then the game got one-sided and so we're trying to make some throws to get ourselves back in the game, we've got a touchdown there at the start of the half with a couple of good throws and unfortunately, we're not able to sustain it. It's not good enough. We've got to be better, and then like I said, staying ahead of the down and distance so we don't put these guys at risk where they're able to pin their ears back.''

Any update on Anthony Barr?

‘'I don't, you know, the kids had the day off today. There were some kids in for treatment, but I have not yet received a training room update.''

Any ETA on (Nelson) Rosario?

‘'I'm hoping Rosario is ready to go here for our next game. I've got my fingers crossed.''

Are we at a point where Datone (Jones) is probably a redshirt issue?

‘'You know what, we'll wait and see when Datone is healthy where we are. Let me give you some of what we have for our injury situation … Anthony Jefferson looks like he had a significant foot injury. It's probably going to require surgery, so he'll be out for the rest of the year …''

Is it a break or a tear?

‘'It's what they call a Lisfranc injury.''

Who is Liz Frank?

‘'I don't know, but it's a tough injury.''

Is it a muscle or what? Do we know?

‘'It's a bone injury, yeah. … Sheldon Price, we have to get a MRI to see what the significance of his knee is. Anthony (Barr) was just a calf strain. Hopefully, he'll be ready to go by next Thursday. And Owa (Owamagbe Odighizuwa) has a shoulder strain.''

Do you expect him back this week?

‘'He's going to get a MRI to make sure there's no structural damage.''

They'll be getting their MRIs tomorrow?


It seems like Aaron Hester has not played up to expectations, and there were a couple of plays the other day in the first half where he really gave up big plays. How disappointed are you in his play and what does he need to do?

‘'Well, I know that when you're the last guy on the defense that people can point out where you didn't make the play and, you know, Aaron, like all of us, has to get better and we're going to work hard to get that accomplished. He's done a lot of good things, but yesterday wasn't a good day for any of us.''

Rick, when you talk about the difference between scheme and execution with regard to the Pistol, did you see anything in the game film that made you think that they knew maybe more than other teams have known coming into that game?

‘'Well, they had a good plan. There were things as you watch the tape that we might have done differently and probably will do differently if we get another chance. But I think it was a case of them really just playing very well and us not getting done what we had been getting done and hopefully we'll raise up and face the music just as we have done before when we've got a dose of a rear-end kicking and we'll play much better the next time out.''

Rick, how do you deal with (Johnathan) Franklin , going forward with him? Last year he had this problem …

‘'All we know how to do is keep working it. We work it every day. No one is more disappointed than Johnathan. But we've just got to keep pounding away at securing the ball, because he's a gifted guy. He made another great run yesterday and if the game hadn't gotten away there's no question in my mind he would have ended up having another 100-yard day. But it got away from us, but that turnover was costly.''

You played UCLA, you coached against UCLA, you coached for UCLA for a few years now, are you at all surprised by the fickle nature of this particular fan base?

‘'No, they're frustrated. They're frustrated and they want to believe that we're ready to turn the corner. It's been a while since UCLA has been in the conversation, and, you know, we're frustrated, too. We feel like we're getting closer. But all I know how to do is put your head down, go back to work and keep making believers out of all these young kids that are playing and keep doing all the work that is necessary to become a good football team, and show up every Saturday believing you can win. And I know we'll do that again even though it's a Thursday when we get to Eugene.''

Rick, did you believe after Austin that you had turned the corner?

‘'You certainly hoped, you know. And I thought there were enough good things out of the week last week, and you saw that Washington State had another good day offensively against Oregon. But, physically yesterday, we didn't answer the test and so we've got to get back up and become a physical football team again.''

Rick, in your mind, what is considered turning the corner?

‘'Oh, we want to be in the race down the stretch of a conference season. You want to be in the mix.''

I guess my question off that is, you know, at this point you're 1-2 in conference play and 3-3 for the season, given that status you wouldn't think by any means that you're out of it. And yet on those particular games, on those two particular games …

‘'They were hard losses.''

How do you balance where maybe you are in the season and the optimism that with three more wins you'll be bowl eligible with those two particular games being that bad? You talk about turning the corner and then that game it looks so disastrous, how do you maintain any hope after those two games?

‘'That's my job. I believe in this team. I believe in what we're doing. I believe that we can fix it. We've done it before, we can do it again.''

How close do you think you are? What's preventing you from taking the next step?

‘'Well, you know, we've been a little bit unfortunate. I'm going to say that. It sounds like a heck of an excuse and that's why I hesitate in even saying anything, but we've got to put that behind us and we've just got to find a way with the tools that we have to go and play really good in all facets of the game and we've done that three of the six times. In a fourth of the six we were close enough and the other two we weren't and we've got to play more consistently each week out.''

Is Anthony Jefferson still eligible for a redshirt?

‘'I believe he is, yeah, because he didn't play in the first two games, so he's only played in four games and since this game was still in the first half of the season I think he will be able to get his year back.''

Isn't it the first third of the season?

From Marc Dellins – ‘'You can't play more than 30 percent, which would be four games, in the first half of the season, but he's only played three games. He didn't play at Texas.''

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