Head Coach Bob Toledo was told that Washington State Head Coach Mike Price suggested Toledo should tank the game Saturday, and Toledo responded with...
"I'm not tanking it!"
His introductory comments...
"It was fun to relax and take a little time off and reflect a little on the season. And then to come back refreshed and play one more football game. We've done a lot of good things. If you look at the season and you look at where we came from and where you guys predicted us to be, with the senior quarterback, and to have an opportunity to be 8-4, and to go to a bowl game and being 9-4, I don't think many people would have given us much of an opportunity to do that. Now we have to take care of business, obviously, and it's not going to be easy. Washington State has an excellent football team. They're third in the Pac-10 in total defense, they are very athletic and very physical. Their defensive line is the best that we've played against all year. Rien Long is probably the best defensive lineman we faced all year. Marcus Trufant as a corner is as good as they get. He's one of the top guys in this league. Their linebackers are athletic. They don't give you a lot of rushing yards. And they do a good job of sacking you. I think they have twice as many sacks as anybody else. So they're really an excellent defensive football team. Offensively, they have so many big play guys. They have five or six receivers that can make plays. They have two quarterbacks. I think Jason Gesser is a great quarterback. He makes plays. He's like Houdini. You think you've got him stopped and he finds a way to make a play. The running back, Jermaine Green, is a good runner. They have a very good offensive line. They're very difficult to stop. With their kicking game, they have one of the best kickers in the conference in Drew Dunning. You look at their stats, we're very similar in stats special teams-wise. It's going to be a heck of a football game. Obviously they're very motivated because they know if they win they go to the Rose Bowl. They won't lack for motivation. We have a lot of motivation on our side, too. Our seniors have a chance to win eight games. They haven't won eight games since they've been here. With a possibility of winning a ninth game. We could have a real good season, come in third place, and again nobody predicted that we'd do what we're doing right now. There are a lot of good things that could happen Saturday. It's our seniors last game at the Rose Bowl. So it should be an exciting day. I really don't care about USC. I'm sorry Mike, I'm not going to tank it. It is going to be a great football game. I can't believe Mike said that."
Do you think this season has laid good groundwork for next year?
"I think we have a running start into next year. We've played 22 freshmen. We're now starting freshmen quarterbacks, so midway through the year they've had opportunities. We've had a lot of young guys that have played. And we've had a lot of young guys that haven't played much or at all, that are actually redshirting, so the program is looking up, I think. We have a chance to have an excellent football team next year.
"You look at the Rose Bowl game, you look at who won the championships and I think since 1993, Wayne Cook and Ryan Leif are the only two underclassmen that have taken their teams to the Rose Bowl. All the quarterbacks have been seniors. I look at Carson Palmer against us five years ago. He gets sacked six times, he throws two interceptions, and they fumbled five times. Now the roles are reversed. Look at the top teams. They're the ones that have the most players coming back, and a senior quarterback. You can't emphasize that enough. Just look around the country."
Do you think about the BCS implications?
"Not really. I don't worry about it, whether this game helps or hurts anyone in the BCS. We're worried about winning the football game. The only thing we're concerned about is beating Washington State. We don't care about anyone else."
Do you think Gesser will play?
"Knowing him, I think he'll try to play. I've met him, he's a great kid. He's a fun-loving kid, a great athlete, and a fierce competitor. I would say if there's any way possible he could play, Gesser will play. How effective he is, how well he performs, I don't know how bad he's hurt."
How do you feel about your team overall?
"I feel good about this team. This team has really good leadership from the senior class. They have worked hard the entire year. They are looking forward to this football game. They have a chance to win eight games, and come in third place, and go to a bowl game. They're not worried about anyone else at this point. They have worked extremely hard. And played extremely hard. It was unfortunate our worst football game was against our arch-rivals, where we turned the ball over a bunch of times. When we won those three games in a row, we didn't turn the ball over basically. It was one game when we turned it over. I'd say our attitude is very good. We're looking forward to playing in the upcoming game. And looking forward to a bowl game."
How can you hope to erase the memories of a game like USC?
"I don't know if you ever erase those memories. But, I think you look forward to finishing on a positive note and having a good season. You all picked us to come in sixth place. The worse we can finish in the league is fourth. And if we can go to a bowl game with a young football team. If you would have said that four months ago, it would have been a different story."
How do you prepare for Washington State without knowing if Gesser will play?
"You have to prepare for their offense. Mike's been doing the same things offensively for years. He's not going to change. The other quarterback, Matt Kegel, has been in there and he threw for over a thousand yards. He's not going to change. They're going to do the same thing. The only thing I would say is that if Gesser is in there he won't be under center as much, he'll be in the shotgun. They've done that before. They've thrown and run the ball out of the shotgun. What might change is that he might not be the mobil quarterback he has been."
Do you think Pete Carroll might call you with some tips?
"No, Pete, doesn't talk to me about tips."
What's the plan for your quarterbacks on Saturday?
"We'd like to play them both if we could again. We think that they're both very good young quarterbacks. I said last week, if I knew that Matt Moore was going to fumble the ball, I wouldn't have put him in. He hasn't fumbled all year. Hasn't fumbled in practice. He went into the Arizona game and took us down the field and scored. He fumbled the ball. But he did play pretty well after that. He did throw a touchdown pass. I think they're pretty equal, is what I'm trying to say. We're going to start Drew Olson, see how the game goes, and try to play Matt Moore."
"We would have liked Ebell to get the ball more last game but we got behind. At halftime we made a couple of adjustments that we wanted to do. We actually ran the ball pretty good at them, but they scored that first possession of the third quarter and that basically put us out of the game plan. We want Manuel to get his carries and catch some passes. Of course, we'd like to get Ebell enough carries to where he can make some plays. He's an exciting young back that has great speed and quickness. We need to try to make some plays against them. They're very good against the run."
Would you have liked it if WSU had beaten Washington and were already going to the Rose Bowl?
"I would have liked that. I like Mike Price, he's my buddy, and I wish he would have beat Washington and knocked Washington out of it. Because now we have to compete with Washington, too, for a bowl berth. I want to see him before the game and chew him out a little more. Now they'll be motivated, big-time. It will be a heck of a game."
How do you think Price has done it – after Washington States goes such a long time without going to the Rose Bowl, he could put them in the Rose Bowl twice in a few years...
"I think he's done an excellent job. If you recall it was three years ago, he was 1-10 and on the hot seat and they were ready to get rid of him up there. Everybody, including me, said, ‘You have to be crazy, he's a heck of a football coach and he'll come back.' And he has. I'm happy for him. He's a great guy. We're very good friends. And we'll be very competitive on Saturday."
What do you think of their backup quaterback, Kegel?
"I think he's a real good quarterback. He's their future, too. He can do what they want him to do with their offense. He went in there, cold weather, not starting, and he got put in a tough situation. That doesn't mean he's not capable of doing it."
How do you defend them, and will you approach it the same way you did last season against Gesser?
"Basically you have to give them different looks, and attack him in the pocket. He's dangerous moving around, being mobil, finding guys. If you look at that game last year, we lost it 20-14. We had five interceptions. Our quarterbacks were hurt. And we fumbled twice. DeShaun Foster fumbled on the sixteen yard line and they pick it up and run for a touchdown. And they beat us by six points. We could have beat Washington State. You have to keep from losing football games before you can win them. And we lost that game because we turned the ball over."
Are you excited about the game and the implications?
"I think it is exciting. We have a chance to knock them out of the Rose Bowl race, to change the BCS picture, and all that. Not that we care about that, but we have a chance to do that if we win the football game. And again I look back on the positive things of the season. We beat Oklahoma State and they just beat Oklahoma. We've done some good things. I hope that that won't be forgotten. I'm going to remind my team of that today. Unfortunately we have a bad taste in our mouth because of what happened a week ago. It's just too bad that we had to turn the ball over like we did. It could have been an interesting football game. I think Notre Dame found that out last week."
Are you satisfied with the All Pac-10 teams?
"I think so. I'm disappointed that maybe David Ball wasn't first team. I think he deserved to be there. But there are a lot of good football players in the Pac-10. Craig Bragg is not second team. Those two."
Do you still think USC is as good as you said before?
"They are an excellent football team. It's the best USC football team that I've seen since I've been at UCLA. And that's nine years now. They're a heck of a football team. We were there five years ago, too. It's been reversed. When Palmer was a freshman, he was throwing interceptions, fumbling, and we beat the heck out of them. It's cycles. This thing goes in cycles. Hopefully this cycle is going to change. They have some really good seniors. They have some guys they're going to lose. Look over the years in this game. It goes in cycles."
How do you think they stack up nationally?
"I saw Miami the other day. That'd be a heck of a football game. Ohio State plays great defense and can really run the football. That'd be a heck of a football game. I haven't seen much of Georgia. They're in the top four in the country, in my opinion. I think they can play with anyone in the country. They have that kind of group, that senior quarterback, who can hold it all together. He's playing lights out right now."
You had said they were the best team you have faced since you were at UCLA...
"I said they were the best USC team I've seen since I've been here. And that they were the best team we've played against this year."
What does a bowl do for the program and is there a bowl you'd prefer to go to?
"I think you want to go to the best possible bowl. The key is to go to a bowl. Last year we had the opportunity. I don't know, five of the last six years we were eligible to go to a bowl, and we elected not to last year because we would have had to pay a lot of money to go to the Humanitarian Bowl and decided not to do it. We've been bowl eligible most of my career here. I think if you go to a bowl, it helps your football team. It helps in recruiting. It's another opportunity to get your players more practice. It's almost like another spring practice. It's just real valuable. Hopefully we can go to the best one available. We have to win Saturday."