Well, I mean, this is not a week where you really have to sell guys on playing …
‘'That's correct. Everybody is going to be excited to play on both teams.''
What does this game mean at this point?
‘'Well, it's the concluding game, so to have any sort of fond memories you need to find a way to win it. This season has been one that unfortunately hasn't gone as we want it, and in that respect it's a disappointment. But I have been very proud of the way our kids have kept coming back to work and working at it and we need their best effort this week.''
Rick, when you got here, they were just a year removed from beating USC. From what you saw in the program at that point, why didn't that become a turning point where things went back UCLA's way?
‘'Well, I think it comes down to the depth in the programs. I mean, you don't have to look very hard to see that … look at the NFL draft boards, the draft choices. You can draw your own conclusions there.''
How did you come out of the weekend injury wise?
‘'We're fine. We have a couple guys with some concussions that are getting much better and I expect everyone to be healthy.''
Did they do any workouts today?
‘'No, they're in the protocol, but all signs point to them being ready.''
The other night you didn't really want to get into whether a bowl game had to happen next year …
‘'No, because you want me to …''
But what I want to say is, what guarantees can you give the fan base that will happen next year?
‘'We're going to be a better football team. Now, to have that actually come to fruition, you've got to count on a few things. You've got to count on a reasonable amount of health. You have to be able to count on that you're going to be able to put your team out on the field a reasonable amount of times. And you've got to count on the fact that there's going to be an unbelievable amount of work and resolve during the winter months in preparation for that. That I can promise. I can't necessarily predict the future with respect to health.''
If those things did happen, is a bowl game inevitable?
‘'I would be crushed if we don't make postseason next year.''
How close do you think you were this year?
‘'I think we're close. I mean, the score is 10-7 when Richard Brehaut goes out of the game at Washington. Uh, Kevin Prince doesn't get any training camp time against Kansas State. Uh, the Arizona game, you know, was there. We had chances. We didn't get it done. I think we're close.''
It will necessitate winning some games on the road, I would imagine …
‘'No question. We have to find a way, a formula to play better on the road.''
What happens to you guys on the road?
‘'You can't say it's one thing. Our defense played wonderfully against Washington, at least for most of the game, and our offense played darn well against Arizona State.''
What wasn't working defensively Friday?
‘'Well, you've got a combination of some missed assignments, a hot quarterback and unfortunately the lack of a consistent pass rush.''
The lack of pass rush, is that scheme? Is it inexperience?
‘'Well, I mean, you can blitz a lot more. But when you have a 6-8 quarterback who can see everything down the field, you better get there and we certainly did blitz. I'm getting e-mails about you've got to blitz more ... they want to come in and watch tape they're welcome to. But you've got to get home.''
You got those e-mails too?
‘'Yeah, I thought you were forwarding yours.''
With respect to Chuck (Bullough) can any of this be looked at as him, that something isn't working right there?
‘'It's all of us. I mean, there's plenty of blame to go around. None of us can avoid having part of it be associated with us, starting with me. It has to be better and the first thing humans want to do is say, ‘Well, here's why … ‘ and give you a bunch of reasons. But you have to start with the notion that there's an answer and we've got to find it.''
Are you on the trail of it, of an answer?
‘'I believe so. I really do. I think we're not far away, as we grow some of our young players up and so forth, But, again, some of this is going to be evaluation topic and stuff that I'm going to have to do as soon as the season is over.''
Rick, you've had so much success in the recruiting aspect over the last few years, what do you sell this year?
‘'Well, I mean, I guess I can give them the medical charts. I can show them some of the issues that we undertook. I can show that in the offseason, I don't know, what was the schedule ranked, No. 4 in the country in terms of difficult? Those are things you can at least talk about, but I'm tired of doing excuses. I'm looking for some hungry guys that want to play ball, that want to get a great education at the most beautiful school in the country. And there's plenty of them out there. And we'll do fine in recruiting. We will do fine. But I need to make sure that the guys we bring in are ready to go to work.''
About hungry, at least from my perspective, there seems to be some guys who for losing, it's much worse than winning is good for them. You can see that in some of the guys. How important is that, not just recruiting athletes or goof fits for the system …
‘'Winners. You need to find winners. No question. And I'm not suggesting that I don't have a bunch of them. I think I do. But it has to matter. There's no question.''
Rick Neuheisel's Sunday conference call:
What did you think of (Mitch) Mustain last night?
‘'You know, I'm just watching that tape right now. You know, Mitch Mustain is a quality quarterback. He was a superstar as a freshman in this country. There's no question that they can run their offense when Mitch Mustain is in there.''
I think Rahim Moore told Scott (Reid) or someone about his decision to stay for his senior season. Have you even broached that subject with Akeem Ayers and Rahim and do you have any thoughts on him coming out and saying he wants to be here for another year and wants to get things turned around?
‘'You know, I have not had that conversation with them. That, again, is for another time. But, you know, I think the world of both those young guys. I think, you know, both need to make decisions that are best for themselves. But I look forward to that conversation with both of them.''