Neuheisel Sunday Conference Call

Coach Rick Neuheisel answered some tough questions Sunday about the Arizona game, including the defense's tackling issue, and more...

On the tape, what are you seeing defensively going on?

‘'Uh, I see, as we talked about yesterday, I see great effort. … We're playing against some very experienced players. Arizona started five seniors in their offensive line, two of them are in graduate school. But I see great effort. And the other thing that happened, we had some pressures that got home, but we didn't tackle well. We've got to finish the job. We've got to execute better, as we said.''


You mentioned that and it's kind of a catch-all thing. What is it that's not being executed?

‘'Well, you need to get them to the ground when you're tackling. You can't just get an arm on them and let them spin out and then make a play. I give their quarterback (Matt) Scott a lot of credit. I mean, he spun out and made some plays down the field, some really pivotal plays. The second touchdown drive after the score was 7-7, it's third down and three and we've got a sack, Sean Westgate has got him sacked. It's going to be a six, seven-yard loss and they're going to punt or kick a long field goal. But he spins out and gets it all the way up to 1-yard, they go for it on fourth and 1 and they make it. That's a huge play. There's a third down pressure in the first drive of the second half where the kid spins out. Akeem (Ayers) has got him dead to rights and he spins out and makes a play, a beautiful throw right over Tony Dye's shoulder after the guy turned up on the sideline. That drive goes down and becomes a touchdown. Those are two touchdown drives that shouldn't have been touchdowns, should have been punts to us, and when you're playing in a close game, that's the margin, that's the difference.''


The tackling issue, you've had that since Day One … I mean …

‘'No, that's not fair. …''


You talked about it after Kansas State …

‘'That's exactly right. And then we played really good defense for two weeks in a row. Now, one of the problems, as you know, is we don't have a lot of healthy bodies so we can't do a lot of tackling in practice, because we can't afford to lose any more of our scout team players. We just don't have guys. We have to practice tackling in other ways. We're going to figure out how to do it better, no question about it.''


The Westgate play, it seemed like that was kind of the whole day, in a nutshell what was going on all day. He had him and couldn't quite pull the trigger …

‘'Oh, he pulled the trigger, he just was a little high and the kid made a really good football play to spin out of it, It wasn't like he was tentative at all.''


So if you can't tackle your scout team guys and you've got this issue, how do you solve it?

‘'There are a couple of things about tackling. No. 1, you tackle in the course (of practice) there's a lot of bodies. Every time you go to the ground, everybody that is on the practice field is at risk, because you fall into people. That's how Kai Maiava got his ankle broken. That's how Jerry Johnson got his ankle broken yesterday - in tackles. Yes, it's a major part of the game and you have to practice it. But how much you practice it during football practice, I'll probably say that a great majority of college programs across the county don't bring people to the ground in football practice except in isolated drills, but that's no excuse. We've got to tackle and we're going to make a big deal of it this week.''


Can you talk about opening up the playbook a little on offense? You guys took some shots down the field. Was that Richard (Brehaut) playing quarterback over Kevin (Prince)? Is he better suited to that?

‘'You know, those things are all a product of timing. Richard is a good thrower down the field, but I think Kevin is as well. You just pick your spots.''


Do you expect those type of plays to be part of the offense going forward more?

‘'I'd love them to be part of the offense every week, sure. Those are big plays. They help you in the ball game. We're going to be playing a team this week that also likes to throw those kind of throws.''


When you're talking about execution, and I don't want to say you haven't executed all year, but it seems like … are these things that you still should be dealing with at this point, the execution of basic things?

‘'Well, you're exactly right. But remember, there are a lot of guys that are playing now that weren't playing all eight weeks and even if they had, this is the eighth week of their college career. While I am going to be very critical of ourselves, I'm not going to do that publically.''


How is Steve Sloan?

‘'He's got a little bit of a hamstring issue. We'll have to wait and see how significant, whether or not he can be ready this week.''


Anybody else that had any injuries, aside from (Jerry) Johnson?

‘'You knew about Jerry Johnson, you knew about (Damien) Thigpen, right? I think those are the two significant ones, other than Steve.''


With Jerry, I'm sure that's the end of the season, but …

‘'Yeah, for both … both Thigpen and Jerry, they're out for the year. Both will probably require surgery. Thigpen actually already had his surgery last night.''


The offensive line, it seemed going in the big concern was the defensive ends, but it seemed like you guys did OK in terms of protecting Richard …

‘'I thought the offensive line played pretty well. They were a little less aggressive because of the Pistol, so that played into it a little bit, the ends stayed pretty much on the line of scrimmage, but I thought our offensive line graded out pretty well.''


To get back, you talked about guys who hadn't played and even if they had it was only their eighth game of the season. I mean, with four games left how much can you expect these guys to improve so that a bowl game is possible?

‘'Well, they have to. We're running out of time.''


I know they have to, but eight weeks, they're still inexperienced …

‘'A lot of them didn't play all eight weeks. I mean, (Owamagbe Odighizuwa) certainly isn't in his eighth week of fulltime play and Cassius (Marsh) is gaining more and more reps as we go, Keenan Graham is gaining more and more reps as we go. But they haven't played a lot of football. Nate Chandler, this is obviously his first year on defensive side of the ball. We've got some inexperience that's part of the issue. But, it's time to now expand and become the quality player that those kids all can be.''


In watching the film, are you seeing anything that makes you think that you can't get a balanced offense together? It just seems like you can get the pass but you can't get the pass or you can get the pass, but you can't get the run …

‘'Yeah, I think we can do it. As a matter of fact, I'm convinced we can and hopefully we're going to be all the way there when we get to the field on Saturday.''


I jumped on the call a couple of minutes late. Can you tell me any injury updates from last night?

‘'Thigpen had surgery on his clavicle and Jerry Johnson broke an ankle and probably will require surgery. I think there's going to be a second opinion, but probably will require surgery.''


Steve Sloan, was that just a pulled hamstring?

‘'I don't know the significance. We'll have to wait and see.''


Rick, how do you think (Jordan) Zumwalt played?

‘'You know, he ran around and played fairly well. Obviously as the season wears on he's going to get more and more so it's a great opportunity for him to grow.''


Who fills in behind him now at Mike?

‘'Well, Isaiah Bowens and Mike Schmidt.''


It seems like the past couple of weeks you've tried to get Anthony Barr more involved in the offense. Can you talk about his development and what you've seen from him?

‘'I think Anthony Barr is going to be a terrific player, a really terrific player, and obviously we'd love to get him more chances and are going to continue to look for more ways to do that.''


Is Sloan going to be getting a MRI, is that what you're waiting on?

‘'Oh, you know, it's how it responds. That's trainer talk in terms of how quickly, you know, whether it bruises, blah, blah, blah, I don't know. I just know there's a hamstring issue and we'll have to see when and if he gets back.''


Blah, blah, blah, by the way, is a lawyer's response to a medical question, I want to point out …

‘'It is. If you say it four times you get more billable hours.''


Did he have a MRI before,today?

‘'Steve Sloan? I don't believe so.''


Did anybody have a MRI, or are any scheduled?

‘'There may be one on Jerry Johnson. Like I said, I think he asked for a second opinion, so that may require a MRI, but I'm not certain on that.''


A second opinion on whether the surgery was necessary?

‘'Was necessary, yeah. But my sources tell me that it's likely.''


Rick, did you get a chance to look at the Oregon State-Cal game yet?

‘'I have not. I'm going to get on that as soon as we finish here and I talk to the football team.''


I don't know if I was on the phone for this, but can you tell me what you saw from Brehaut yesterday?

‘'I thought Richard did some really good things and unfortunately, as is the case with a lot of young players, there were some unforced errors and to get to the level of proficiency you have to be at to play against good football teams like Arizona, and certainly they're a quality team, you can't have a bunch of unforced errors. It will cost you.''


We talked about this yesterday, about going for it on 4th-and-11, but had the defense only given up 380 yards or 350 yards instead of 580, would you have considered the punt at that point?

‘'Uh, you know, that's all speculation and since I don't have to, I don't have to answer the question. I make my decisions based on what the facts are at hand and I felt that it was the best choice. Unfortunately, we had a little glitch in our alignment, but we did have a play backside and talking to Taylor (Embree) he thought he should have caught the ball, so …''


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