Neuheisel After the Cal Game

Rick Neuheisel talked about the details of the loss to California from the Rose Bowl media room, discussing how the defense was exposed, and what the program needs to focus on moving forward...

Rick Neuheisel

‘'Congratulations to Cal. They played terrifically and that was the first time our defense looked like … they were being exposed. Thirty five points in the first half was not something that I had anticipated.

‘'These are difficult times and in difficult times the key is for everyone to know that there is a plan and that the plan will begin in earnest tomorrow and that we will come back.

‘'In the first quarter of the season we were 3-0. In the second quarter of the season we were 0-3. So we find ourselves at 3-3 and now we've got to take inventory as a coaching staff – see what we can do well, what we are struggling with, question all of the things that we're coaching and teaching, making sure that it's right and can be executed by the individuals that are playing, and then go out and coach it as best we can with as good an attitude as we can in the weeks that come ahead, and get on a plane and go to Tucson and play with everything we've got and try to find a way to beat the Wildcats. I know they're a very talented team and all that, but when we play well and we make the plays that we're capable of making, we can play in those environments.

‘'Today was a case of down in the red zone as an offense and not (being) able to execute the plays in there even though I think they were there to be made. The last ball that ended up being the deciding interception for the touchdown, I guarantee you that Kevin is thinking about it because he had Logan Paulsen 10 yards open … 10 yards open and all he had to do was put a little air on it and for whatever reason he just got excited about seeing the man open and it didn't get over the guys head, so give him credit for making the play. But you grow with that, and I don't know what else to say other than we have to continue to do that and we can't jump out of the ship in the midst of some adversity.

‘'All of the things that are worth something always have some adversity associated with it and you have to be tough enough to handle it. I've been through it before and I'll be through it again and I guarantee you I can handle it, so we'll keep moving in that direction.

‘'I understand the frustration of all the people that support UCLA football. I understand their dissatisfaction, especially given the 3-0 start and the things returning and so on and so forth and all I can tell them is we're going to keep working at it. It's too long and hard a story to give all the details and frankly, I don't think they'd understand all the details, but it's a lot of it, so we keep working at it. No excuses, we're going to keep working at it.''

Does this make it a situation where it's increasingly difficult to get that bowl game, considering the number of teams you have to climb over?

‘'You know, that's not … In the preseason you're always asked what your season goals are, and so I said I would be disappointed if we didn't get to the postseason. But that can't be my concern now. My concern now is the Arizona game, and building back the confidence of a lot of young players that are wondering, and just making sure everybody understands that this stuff will work and if it's executed well we'll sing the fight song again and that's what we have to do.''


It seems the defense had been so strong, but it has sprung some leaks, against the run more than the pass … what do you see as the reason why?

‘'Well, it's difficult to make that determination without a chance to look at the tape, so without jumping into any details, I just know we have a bunch of proud guys on the defense, proud coaches that are willing to work tooth and nail to get it fixed.''


The second half, the defense was much better …

‘'We talked at halftime. We had a long conversation about, ‘I know who they are, I know what kind of tough guys they are, I know what kind of character they have, and let's play UCLA football.' Let's go out there and have an inspired second half and for the most part, we did.''

You mentioned adversity you've been though. But with a team, when you think back to the past teams that you've coached …

‘'We had a season at Colorado in year three where we were picked to be No. 1 in the country and ended up with a 5-6 year and you're dealing with a lot of, you know, wounded egos, in terms of kids thinking that we were much better than we were, and dealt with that. Then I also had a Washington team in 2002 that fell to 4-5 after losing three in a row and came back to win the last three. That was maybe my most rewarding season as a coach in terms of turning it around … that's what the job is. You keep looking for the positive, you keep grinding away, you keep telling kids that this will work and this will happen, then you give them the tools to go out and execute it correctly and they'll hang in there with us. That's the only way I know. I know one thing – you don't get it done if you stop trying.''

You said something about the players thinking they were better than they were in the past. After the 3-0 start, did this team get overconfident?

‘'I think these guys have had a blue collar attitude about this season all along. I do not think that this is a bunch of kids that believe themselves to be, you know, the best players in the country. I do believe that they believe themselves capable of great things and we as a football team are going to continue to recruit all the great players around, continue to bring in the players that want to have the best of an academic experience as well as a great football experience and I told them, ‘The great people in the world have vision.' You have to be able to see it, and then you have to figure out how to execute to get there. And I said at some point in life, they looked and there was a desert, and someone said, ‘What about a bunch of hotels there?' And you've got an unbelievable city in Las Vegas. All right? There was nothing there. Someone saw it and it happened and all I'm saying is we can build this.

‘'This is not as desolate as a desert. There's enough here to get it done and we are going to get it done come hell or high water. That's what we're doing. That's all I know how, until somebody tells me, no, it's somebody else's turn. We're going to keep grinding and we're going to do it with the right attitude, because it's a great place to work and it's a great place to go to school.''

How encouraging is it to see the fans still behind you? There was only one time you got booed, and that was when you didn't go for that first down …

‘'You know what, I think UCLA fans are great. I've always felt that. That's why I'm so excited to be back here. I know firsthand what it's like to go through tough times as a player and also to be at the highest of highs. When I was a freshman, we were 5-6 and they were swirling, you know, in terms of all the different commentary about Coach (Terry) Donahue's job. Coach Donahue got it done. He kept his head, kept his wits about him, had a coaching staff that believed in him, and all of a sudden as a team things changed and changed quickly and great leaders like Kenny Easley and Freeman McNeil helped get it done. I finished my career here in the '83 and '84 Rose Bowl games. It can happen. It just has to happen in a very methodical way, where kids are learning what to do and then going out and doing it.

‘'There were enough plays out there to be made that now we'll see it on tape and hopefully next time they'll make the play. We're going to keep coaching and keep trying to get the right guys in positions to do that and, you know, I have zero regrets about how we're going about it. It's just now we have to knuckle down and get it. I said, ‘We're done using youth as an excuse.' Guys are ready to play and have to make plays, or we have to find somebody that can.''


You mentioned the lack of or difficulty with the execution, does that make it difficult to even consider some of the fourth-and-shorts?

‘'Yeah, and the score at the time was 28-14 and if I kick the field goal I'm down 11 points and it's still in the first half. I don't need to show that I'm that desperate. You know, a week ago I went for it on fourth and inches and we didn't make it. I don't know that I needed to do that. It's 28-17 – well, and then they go back and score again – but 28-17 isn't a bad place to be. We're moving the ball. I just didn't feel there is any reason to lose your cool right there.

‘'I know every fan in America wants you to go for it and there's a time and a place to go for it. There is. That, to me, isn't the prudent place to do it. There will be a time when we're the team that we're going to grow into be that I'll do it like Coach (Pete) Carroll does it because your probability of success is going to go way up. But we're young … I don't want to use young, so scratch that. We're a growing team that I thought three points, we stay right where we are, the defense realizes the offense is doing its part, we're going to be OK.''


Coming onto the field there in the fourth quarter, trying to get back in it, you get a delay of game penalty. What's going on there?

‘'Well, Kevin got in there and saw Bear defense. And he saw it late. In practice, he's been program to switch it. But he's got to see, he doesn't have time to switch it. It's a freshman thing. Those are the things that we have to keep trying to grow through.''


You made some sideline changes, with Reggie Moore now on the sidelines …

‘'Yeah, Reggie has come down on the sideline and Phil (Rauscher) has gone up. We just think that it can help us with regard to Reggie getting substitution of the wide receiver position – getting guys into games and making sure we're not getting too many plays for any guys. It's a difficult job.''


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