What are the challenges in playing two teams like this on back to back weekends?
They're both very good football teams. They're very different football teams, in the way they play the game. It's two very hostile environments to go into. They're both difficult places to play, especially with such a youthful group that we're playing with. But, as I've always said, our kids are competitors and they love the challenge.
How important was it to play a more traditional team on offense like Stanford, in terms of things you could learn about your team's ability on defense?
Well, I don't know that it was extremely important because if you look down the road at the teams that we play in the conference it really won't be until the last week of the season that we play a team that will be termed as more conventional. So, we play a lot of teams this year that play more of a spread out type of game. So this was a little bit of an anomaly for us. If we were getting ready to go into a stretch of the season where we're playing a whole bunch of teams that play two-back power football, with eight offensive linemen like Stanford has on occasion, maybe that would be a learning experience, but that's really not the case for us this year.
Were you satisfied with the way your defense was able to respond to something new?
Oh yeah. Our defense went out there and played a very good football game against a very physical offensive football team. They essentially held them to 17 points and that last touchdown there at the end. And they were placed in some difficult positions and they stiffened up and played well.
I'm sure if you had your druthers you'd spread these two games out, but what are the concerns about attrition first having to play a very physical football team and then having to play one that could be like a track meet?
That's a great question. My concerns right now are health along the offensive line. WE lost Torian White. There's some uncertainty right now as to what Simon's status will be. And his backup is Conor McDermott who came in, played well, and got hurt, so we don't know what his status will be. We're not quite sure how we're going to put that thing together up front yet. And we're very very young up there. We're not very deep right now. We've got some young guys that are getting better every time they play, but there's a lot of them now. When there's a lot of them it makes it a bit more difficult than when there's just one. You look at Stanford's offensive line, they have four seniors and a sophomore, and the sophomore is an All-American type of guy. You look at our offensive line, we are still very young in comparison. I think that affected us. And now you're getting ready to go to Oregon and I think they present a whole different set of challenges than Stanford. We've got to be able to coach it and adjust and play well. It's not easy. We're trying to develop depth there. We've got talent, but it's not necessarily experienced talent. That's why we recruited that position so hard, because when we got here, it was an area that needed to be addressed. We're addressing it, but it's a process. I hear people sometimes say well, can't you just put this guy in? Well, no, we're playing the best guys. We're doing the best job we can, and they're playing the best they can. There's a definite process to putting a unit together like that.
Facing Oregon, it's also a thing where you'd like to keep their offense off the field as much as possible, too, right?
Yeah. Sure. Being able to control the ball and keep that amazing offense on the sideline a little bit. That goes into it. Hey, it's a great challenge for us. Nobody said this was going to be easy. We're excited about the challenge. It's going to be a great test. I'm sure we're going to play well. I'll tell you this about our team, these guys fight their tails off, which is what they're supposed to do. They don't blink. It's tough to win every game. But we're going to go out and give it our best every time. That's what I saw yesterday. I saw a team that yesterday that laid it on the line, every single one of them. Were we perfect? No, we were far from perfect. Were there a lot of things we could have done better? Absolutely. But they fought their tails off. They laid it out there. I was proud of them from that respect.
Is there anything you can take from Washington also having to play these teams back to back?
Well, Washington got beat twice, and they got Oregon at home, which always helps, because it's really tough to play in New Husky Stadium. Well, it was always tough to play in Husky Stadium. But, if Washington had been able to beat them or slow them down a bit, maybe, but Oregon is a special team. That's why they're ranked No. 2 in the country.
What's Kendricks' status at the moment?
Kendricks' status is much improved. He underwent all kinds of tests. Everything was negative. He did have a bruise, but it looks like it's just a pain management issue right now. He was up here today watching the film and felt much better. So that's encouraging. I don't know that the bruise is on the kidney or the surrounding tissue. The doctors are very encouraged about it though.
Even with the injuries to the offensive line, do you still feel better about the unit than you did last year?
Well, no, not right now, because we're missing both starting offensive tackles right now in Simon Goines and Torian White. They were our two starters last year and they were our two starters going into this year, so if Simon doesn't play, then no, I won't feel as good about it.
At what point did you realize that the secondary was going to start to be a strength of this team?
Well, you've got to keep doing it. The style of offense we played yesterday, a lot of those tackles were assisted tackles, which tells me that they're getting to the ball, and they're hunting, and I like that. If they'd had a lot of solo tackles, which means they're the first guy to the ball carrier, that wouldn't sit well with me because it would mean we had issues up front. But all those tackles, or at least most of them, were assists, which shows me that they were doing a great job of getting to the football. I think they've tackle well all year. That hasn't been a problem. I think our safeties have covered well all year. That hasn't been a problem. I think our corners are doing well. I like the way we're playing in the secondary. They're playing disciplined. They're playing with good technique. They're playing together. You know, when we gave up the throw yesterday on Fabian Moreau down the sideline, and he had great position. The big guy just went up and high pointed an underthrown ball. I watched the play with Fabian today and we were trying to figure out what he could have done differently. And quite frankly I don't know what he could have done differently other than maybe try to pin him a little bit more to the sideline than he did. So I'm happy with the way those guys are playing. They're taking a lot of pride in it. I think that the fact that they came into this year feeling like people thought they were the weakness of this team inspired them to really work hard at it and put in the extra time and the extra energy and the extra effort. It's hard to find a group on our team that watches more film together than that group right there, and communicates as much during the week as that group right there about how to handle things. That's impressive to me.
On another thought, sorry about Don James.
Oh, I know. I've known him since I was a five year old boy. His older daughter Jill used to babysit me when I was a kid, and his younger daughter, Jenny, I used to babysit when she was a kid. Our families have been close friends for 50 years.
What do you remember about Don in his relationship with you?
Just, Don James, not just with his relationship but his relationship with everyone, No. 1, he was a tough son of a gun, and extremely disciplined. I think I've told you guys this story before about Coach James, but if a team meeting was supposed to start at 3 o'clock, he knew that it took 32 seconds, or whatever it may be, to walk from his desk to the podium, and he was hitting it right on the second every single time. So great discipline in all areas of his life. Great integrity. Always told it like it was. Just a tough guy. I learned so much from him that I've been able to apply in my coaching career. The way he talked to his teams. So many of his pregame and halftime speeches still stick with me. He gave a Thursday afternoon talk before we beat UCLA one year, as a matter of fact, it was one of the great speeches I've ever heard. I wish I had a tape recording of it, the way he inspired the team. He gave a halftime talk one time before we played Washington State, which was kind of a Cinderella team, and it was one of the great halftime talks I've ever heard. You talk about a guy who can just set his jaw and will his way to victory. He was amazing. The services will be next Sunday at 2 o'clock, and I'm quite certain I'll be there.