The sun came up, so Pole eyes win at Stanford

PULLMAN – On the football field, Toni Pole is 300 pounds of barely controlled fury. Off the field, he’s a soft-spoken gentleman with a wry sense of humor and a maturity that belies his age.

Pole (pronounced PO-lay), a senior nose tackle from Union City, Calif., is this week’s guest for’s 11-on-1 – one man, 11 questions.

1. The Cougars face a major challenge, trying to rebound from last week’s gut-wrenching loss in time to play a talented Stanford team Friday night on the road. How do you recover in just six days?

Pole: We lost, but we have an opportunity in front of us. Are we going to dwell on that loss, or are we going to move on and have one of the best wins in Cougar history? Everybody should have an opportunity to do something like that. Just realizing how blessed we are as players, as a whole program: We have it a lot better than most people. We can move on. The sun came up, you know, just like our coaches told us. And you know what? We still get to play this beautiful game.

2. Following a tough loss like the last one, players tend to go wild with anger in the locker room, or they’re too emotionally spent to do much. What was it like in the locker room Saturday?

Pole: It was a mixture. It’s hard not to be emotional, but I talked to some guys. I looked them in the eye. It’s like, “What’s the point of us getting frustrated at ourselves when WE should have done it on the field against Cal? They came and won. We’ve got to suck it up and be grown men about it and attack the next week.”

3. How did you react when Quentin Breshears’ 19-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide right with 15 seconds to go?

Pole: I was on the sideline. I was locked arms with Xavier Cooper, Robert Barber, Daniel (Ekuale), Paris Taylor. We were on the sideline, locked arms, ready to go in the game. It didn’t happen that way. Things happen like that for a reason. Well, not for a reason, but they happen that way. It’s inexplicable, but it happened, so now we’ve just got to move on from it, correct our mistakes. Because in all honestly, it shouldn’t have come down to a field goal.

4. How did Quentin handle things after the game?

Pole: I’m not mad at him or anything. He was pretty down … it sucks to get put in that position, to have all the pressure on you. I would hate to be in there, but I also hate to be on the defense that gives up 47 points in the second half. We lick our wounds and have to keep moving.

5. As you said, giving up 47 points in the second half – and 60 for the game – is obviously disappointing. What went wrong against California?

Pole: I can’t really say what other people (non-defensive linemen) made mistakes on, because I don’t know what their techniques are, what they’ve been coached on. As a D line, there’s just little things like departure angles (out of the stance), staying on the edge, attacking the hands, just getting in the face of the quarterback as much as you can.

6. Your roommate, linebacker Cyrus Coen – what can you tell us about him?

Pole: He’s one of the (most) genuine people you’ll ever get to meet. He’s down to earth, very humble, hard working, just the type of people you like to surround yourself with. He likes being doubted, too. He rises. That kid works hard. He’s not afraid of anything, I’ll tell you that.

7. The Cougars are 4-22 in conference home games since 2008. How do you explain that?

Pole: I don’t know. We have our sense of pride. We played “up” against Oregon. We played a great first half against Cal. This is something that’s just going to take personal choice by each and every individual just to get it done. We’re playing in the conference of champions. There is no “gimme” game.

8. What else must change for you to win more at home?

Pole: Execution. It seems surreal, just the things that keep going wrong for us. The more experienced we get throughout the year, especially now: We just have to, as a defense, slow it down. Slow it down in our mind and just play the call. When they’re moving the ball, you can’t get antsy, anxious, all jumbled up. You’ve got to play with clarity. Our coaches tell us that all the time.

9. Droves of fans have left Martin Stadium at halftime of many games in recent years. How do you react to that as a player?

Pole: I don’t worry about the fans. I don’t worry about that they do, but I do appreciate their support. That’s all I can do as a player. If they want to leave, that’s their personal choice. If I’m going to go out of my way and be thrown off my game because people are leaving … I came here for a reason. I came to play at Martin Stadium just to play to win. Whether we had one fan or we had 90,000, we’re still going to play that game. 10. Who do you consider to be the funniest player on the Cougars?

Pole: We have a bunch of characters on this team. Theron West, Kache Palacio: I’d go with those two. But there’s a lot of funny people!

11. You and many of your teammates are regarded as model citizens, but a significant number of pro and college football players seem to be making an increasing number of poor decisions off the field. Do you think a higher percentage of football players have lower morals than non-players?

Pole: I couldn’t tell you because I’m only around my teammates. It sucks to see things like that come up in the NFL and college football. You’ve just got to understand, as cliché as it sounds: With great power comes great responsibility. We’re not targeted, we’re just under a microscope. I don’t think football players are targeted, but we have more responsibility. We’re models to younger generations.

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