Neuheisel After Wednesday's Practice

Rick Neuheisel answered questions Wednesday after practice about the difference going into the USC game this year compared to last year, the mindset of his team, and what he thinks about the USC prank of painting the Bruin bear statue red and yellow...

Rick Neuheisel spoke after practice Wednesday to the media.

"Good practice. It's exciting to be getting closer to the contest, but there are still lots of work to do. Given the Thanksgiving holiday, we have some challenges ahead. We'll get in a practice early in the morning, get in and get our work done and get these kids home with their families."

Because of the problems that USC has had this year, do you or your team think there are too many holes for them to fill in right now?

"No, we have great respect for their program. We feel given the two weeks that
they've had to get healthy and practice, we're going to take their best shot. If
that's the case, then we have to play our best to stay in the hunt. We feel like we're getting closer to being a good team. And, we're excited about having this opportunity."

You see special circumstances where you can take advantage of certain situations?

"Yeah, there are things you see on tape that you think you can take advantage of,
and we're going to have to execute. It's like everything else. There are all
sorts great ideas on the chalk board, but it comes down to can you get it down
on Saturday night, especially on this kind of stage. But it's a dream for all of
us to be a part of these kinds of games and we're looking forward to being there
and living it up."

What's the energy level coming into this year compared to last year?

"The energy level is always high for this game, always. As the old saying goes,
you throw out the records. You feel a lot better about yourself coming off a
three game winning streak and having a great month of November under your belt,
and you feel like you're getting better. As a program we're anxious to play this game and keep moving forward as the season winds down."

Is there more of a margin for error this year than a year ago, when it seemed like you almost had to play a perfect game to beat USC?

"They've had attrition in their program. They have players who have had to fill
in as well. So, you, probably a little bit more. But that doesn't mean they
can't come out and explode. They have some big offensive production under their
belts as you watch their tape. We just have to play a wise, field-position game,
hang in there."

What's different about being a quarterback in this game, as opposed to other games?

"I think you really have to get into the moment and block out the distractions,
because there is a lot of pomp and circumstance with this game. There are lots
of people talking to you, wanting your time and wondering what you think. It's
fun to talk about it, because this has been the dream of most kids to play in
this environment. But you have to block all this out and focus on the task, take
what the defense gives you. If you do that, then good things can happen."

Is that harder for a freshman?

"No question, no question. Both these young players, starting young quarterbacks
in this game, this is a tough test. I think they're both up to it. I think they
are obviously talented kids."

Last year, 157 yards in total offense. Were you shell-shocked by them? Did you do things you didn't expect or was it just that the USC defense was that good?

"I think you could probably look it up and see they had that kind of success
against a lot of teams. They were a dominant defense a year ago. That's not to
say they aren't very, very talented this year, but you can't help but take a dip
when you lose that kind of quality of play."

Is there anything yo ucan gain from that game at all?

"Sure, there are some schematic things you can take from that. But they're a
little bit different this year. In so being, we have to adjust what we do."

Injury update?

"Ryan Taylor practiced today and he is up to questionable. And, that was good.
Everyone else is ready to roll."

Your thoughts on the bear being painted?

"You know, kids will be kids, I guess what I take from it was how neat it was to
see our facilities crew working so hard to get it off. They were there from
probably 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. taking it off, and it as oil based paint, and
getting right back where it was supposed to be. That depicts what kind of pride
this institution has, and it's fun to be a part of it."

These pranks, do you like them?

"They are part of the magic of the rivalry. There are those who will call it
vandalism, and probably by strict definition it is, but the bottom line is, it
shows passion, albeit in not the right way, and makes this game what it is. It
is an exciting game, there's a lot at stake for the pride of both schools. I'm trying to find out what happened to our sentry. I'm trying to figure out what he was lured away with."

Does the two weeks off give USC any kind of advantage?

"Sure it does, certainly in the health department, certainly in the game-planning
department. You have more time to review tape. That's a huge advantage. But,
television does strange things. We're excited to get the chance to play. The one
thing we do have going for us is we got a little momentum. Hopefully that will
carry us into Saturday night."

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