General Comments - “I’d like to open up with a statement how fired up I am about our Volleyball team, I’m sincere about that…get our program to that level one day here.
“Not a ton different looking back on the tape. I will say this; I’m extremely pleased with how hard our guys played. That was the way college football should be played in terms of energy and effort. I think our guys have a lot of respect for Stanford. They came out there and it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Looking back on it I think our defense played really, really well - at a high level. Couple things we still have to tweak and work out to hopefully make us a little more efficient. But it was good defense against a good offense.
“I think on special teams, our kicking game was…I think our punting game was excellent, Korey Durkee was really, really good. I thought there were two penalties that really, really hurt us; obviously the kickoff return and then another holding call we got on a punt that took away some field position, with field position was at such a premium in that game. They kind of neutralized our punt returner as well. I thought getting those two penalties really hurt us when we’re splitting hairs.
“On offense, I know everyone is going to want to go after…I’ll go back to special teams one second, and I’ll reiterate again how poor it was of a call on my part on that fake punt. That won’t happen again. I will say this; we’ll take chances. That’s who we are and I’m not scared to take chances, and we will. But they’ll be more calculated. That doesn’t mean that they’re all going to work. Whether you’re running trick plays or trying to get something going on special teams you’ll get some things blown up on you, but that was a poor call on my part.
“Going to offense, again I know everyone always wants to jump on the quarterback, especially when we’re struggling like we were. And some of it is the quarterback. But there’s enough issues to go around in terms of, starting with coaching. We’ve got to coach our offense better, coach our quarterback better. I mean that from me, again. I think our o-line did a decent job in the first half. I thought the second half our run game went away, which puts too much pressure on our pass game. I think our receivers could be more detailed as a group as well.
“This isn’t like something that was out of the blue; I could kind of feel it coming on offense. Now it’s forefront and in our players’ place. It’s on tape after five games. I think we’ll have a good plan in terms of how we need to tighten things up and how we need to coach differently. Players will see it and I’m hopeful for progress.”
Offensive struggles - things you can do to get the confidence back? Getting rhythm in the run game has been a struggle - “Yeah. It has a little bit and I think we’re close there. I think we’re pretty close in the run game to maybe get some rhythm going there. Time will tell on that. I feel pretty optimistic there. In the pass game we’ve obviously got a longer way to go. There’s protection things. I think there’s receiver things, and certainly there’s quarterback things in terms of decision-making and him hanging in there in the pocket when he can and not be that scrambling guy every other pass. That’s going to take some time to work through, but we’ll make some progress, we will.”
Contemplate ever taking Cyler out of the game Saturday? - “No. Did not. No. Maybe in hindsight you could look there. I think to be fair to Cyler he was like me; we’re all looking for answers and probably trying too hard and pressing so much that we were getting away from some things that we actually had, and that can all work against us. But it didn’t come up at that time.”
How many opportunities does a young QB need to work through struggles? - “I don’t know, but he needs time. He’s played five games in his college career, so he needs time against the number-one defense in the country. He needs time to let us coach him and let him grasp on to the things that we want him to do and go from there.”
How good was Stanford? - “That’s a great question. Certainly against us they’re very good. Putting the tape on going in, I don’t think I was under any illusions what it would look like. I was hoping it was going to look better than it did because I do think we had some things had we executed a little bit better it could have been different. Hey, I think the most frustrating thing to me was, minute four left and we have the ball at the 19-yard line and can’t get anything done, so no matter how it went we’re still in a really good position to be able to tie this game back up and we just couldn’t get anything done. That was probably the most frustrating thing.”
In the process of developing Cyler, anything show up as improvements when you watched the tape? - “I do. There were some times where he scrambled out of there and threw the ball into the sidelines, into the cheap seats, and everybody’s…oh, another one, or whatever. Sometimes those are really good plays that they covered us. That’s part of the problem with Stanford is they get a good pass rush and then they cover really well. They don’t give you anything where you’re wide open. They don’t bust coverages and when they are covering zones I don’t know if there’s such a thing with Stanford covering zones because they cover men in their areas even when they are playing zones. They do a really good job with it. Again, that’s why they are one of the top defenses in the country. I think there was times where he got out of there and that’s a good play Cyler, even though nobody else thinks it is. Put the tape on, that is good. Sometimes with the protection he had to flush. Certainly there were other times where it’s like, stay in there - throw the ball. There were times where he stood in there, threw the ball really to the wrong guy. He was getting off his number one too soon and going to number two and didn’t need to do that. So we really need to go back to kind of square one and re-teach these read progressions and get him calmed down and we’ll make progress.”
If you were the schedule-maker, would you have scheduled the bye now given the results of the first five weeks? - “I always look at it in terms of how is this going to help us? So I certainly think it will. We can really watch tape on ourselves as a staff and to get our players to watch tape of ourselves in the first five games, to create cut-ups and what do we need to do to clean some things up. It always comes back to us. So we can really do that. We can get a couple practices in to work on some things, we can get ahead on the next opponent a little bit. I think it’s a positive.”
On working on being more productive on second down to give yourself better third down opportunities - “We have way too many third downs. We had 18 third downs. That’s a ton. Stanford would say, that’s exactly what we want to do. We want first down…everybody talks about third downs but I think sometimes coaches will talk about, we’ve got to play first down defense. That’s going to help third down defense. They did that. Everything was usually first down, second-and-long, now we’re in third…we had ten or 11 third and extra longs. If you do the math, our goal would be to convert 25 percent of third-and-extra longs. That’s the goal, so that’s not good on third down - 25 percent. But that’s the problem; when you’re playing statistics that’s an okay number. Well, we want to be around 50 percent on third downs. You’re right; we’ve got to get better on that first down and not have so many third downs. I think to answer your question, the plan is to execute better. It’s not like different plays and all those things. The plays are all designed to get us some pretty good yards when and if we can block them correctly.”
On Cyler missing spring - “Yeah, I think there can be some of that. Every rep helps, especially when you haven’t played a lot of college football. I think it all matters. I always say I think it’s never like one thing. Any one thing you’re going to fix really quickly. You’re going to get rid of it, get it to change, whatever. Those things are easy. So I don’t think it’s any one thing. It’s not just Cyler. It’s everybody. We’ve got to get better at all these positions and help him out. And not just … I don’t want to put this on Cyler. The quarterback. The whole offense needs to be designed to make the quarterback successful. So how can we do that? Well, we’ve got to run the ball. It starts there. And all of a sudden it’s a little easier to play quarterback when you can do some of those things. But let’s not overlook the fact too – the question was earlier on, I think Stanford is darn good. I don’t want to minimize that. I want those guys to get their credit. The season will play out and see how good they really are. But at the end of the day it always comes back to us. Do we have opportunities if we execute how we think it’s supposed to be? Yeah.”
On idea of rotating quarterbacks - “I’m open to whatever. I don’t like that at all. I think we’ve got to get our quarterback more time, we’ve got to coach him better, see if he can progress. That’s what I really feel at this time.”
How would you evaluate playcalling so far? - “We’re going to tighten some things up. We’ve got to tighten things up. When you start to get thinner and … it all looks good on the chalkboard and ‘we can get them here,’ but if you can’t execute and it’s too much mental strain on guys … We all play that game. So that’s one of the things we’re doing is how can we tighten this up? How can we help our guys? It’s not the players. We’re all in this together. It starts with the coaches and ends with the coaches. So certainly that’s what we’re looking at right now.”
How much offense have you implemented? - “We probably implemented too much, to tell you the truth. The execution, we’re not quite there. So that’s where we need to go back and clean some things up.”
On players buying into day-to-day details of new system, etc - “I was really pleased with all that on Saturday. The bottom line is, ‘how hard are you going to play? Are you trying to do everything we’re asking you to do?’ An empathic yes. They were trying their tails off, and they stuck together as a team. There was no offense vs. defense. None of that. And you know, again, it’s the first bump in the road, so we’ll see how this thing goes. But I think they were really good in terms of all those things. If we keep making progress there, that’s what it’s going to take to do some good things this season.”
How close are you to getting them to do what you want in that regard? - “You’re never going to be there. I’m never going to be there. We’re always becoming. If we think we’ve got it, I mean, go do something else. Tell me somebody in this room that’s arrived, and is there. So if you have that mindset, I think it’s completely the wrong mindset. So are we making progress to where it is? It’s never going to be good enough. That’s what we tell our guys. We have standards that are very, very hard to live up to in terms of everything we do. But it’s always about becoming and getting there. So we’re making progress. I’m pleased with how they’re buying into those type of things. Execution, not so much. That’s were we’ve got to go. But all those other things, we’re making progress.”
Has the team exceeded expectations in any area? - “I don’t know about exceeding expectations. … We’re heading in the right direction and we’re making progress and I can feel it. I think on defense we’ve taken strides a little bit. I think on special teams I feel like we’ve got a few things to clean up but they are getting there and we’re heading in the right direction there. Big struggle at this point is just getting that offense going.”
What do you have to see before making a QB change? - “I don’t know the answer to that. Nobody wants to do that. I had one year we had to do that a little bit. It’s a struggle and it’s painful. So you don’t want to have to do that. But sometimes it can help a guy. It really can. You take him out, somebody goes in, a whole different set of eyes, the guy can calm down a little bit, put him back in the next game, the next quarter, whatever it is. That’s hard to do. You’d love to not have to do that.”
What determines whether Jeff Lindquist goes into the game? - “Down and distance. A little bit of field position, down and distance, those type of things.”
Is that what you’re talking about by giving a guy something to look forward to in each game? - “You like to be able to do that for a lot of guys, even at the quarterback position. But yeah, that’s exactly what we’re talking about.”
How did team respond today after the loss? - “We didn’t practice today – you wouldn’t know that, would you? – we had meetings and all those type of things. So that was good. We had a good talk. I liked their vibe. I did. It wasn’t like they were totally in the tank. They certainly were not happy. This is a long process. If we can stay strong and keep working hard and stay together as a team, we’ll make progress.”
Do you typically like a light bye week? - “I think this – we’ve got to get some things done, without question. But we’ve been going at this for a long time. Five games plus fall camp with not a lot of break in there. So I think as much as anything, it’s the mental health of getting guys as rested up mentally as you possibly can with making progress. So I don’t know the exact formula to that. It’s kind of a feel thing. We’re looking at all that.”
What indicated offense might struggle against Stanford? - “No. 1 defense in the country coming in. and then you’ve seen what I’ve seen the last couple of weeks with inconsistent play. It doesn’t take a… you figure that out pretty quickly that OK, if we don’t get some things going here, this could be a problem, and we saw that on Saturday.”
Work this week? - “A lot of recruiting. So we’ll get for a couple days. Yeah, it’s a big week in terms of looking at ourselves and looking at the opponent, cleaning some things up and recruiting. So this will be as much work, more work maybe, than we do in a normal game week.”
On recruiting plan/update so far for 2015 class - “I think it’s gone well. I do. I think we’re going to get some really good guys. I’m really excited about it. That’s one of the reasons I came here — I think this is a wonderful place. Now, I’ll say this: a big ‘W’ against a team like Stanford is worth about 2,000 phone calls. So you’ve got to get it done on both ends. But we’re going to get some really good players, and we’re making really good progress.”
On Cyler’s throwing mechanics - “He’s not your traditional, classic passer. He’s a little bit more over the top. But I’ve been around a lot of guys that might not have that traditional look that are effective. Does he throw it on time? Does he throw it accurately? And does he make good decisions? I don’t care of he throws with his left hand, right hand, underhand, whatever — the bottom line is, is the ball getting there? I’ve been around some guys that have unbelievably strong arms, classic mechanics, (who) couldn’t play quarterback at all. So they’re going to look different; I’ve learned that. And just because his mechanics look a little bit different, we still think he can be a really good quarterback.”
Are his mechanics OK? - “If he throws it on time, anticipates things, makes good decisions, throw it accurately, yes.”
On progress of secondary - “I’m pleased. I think coach Jimmy Lake, he does an unbelievable job. We had three true freshmen out there for a minute a couple times on Saturday, and that’s a little bit scary. But I think they’re making progress. You can feel it. My hat’s off to Sidney Jones. He’s been out there a lot of snaps on that island, and he’s been playing at a pretty high level. Budda Baker, he hasn’t come off the field yet. He’s on almost all of our special teams, and a couple of those other guys are playing well. Obviously Marcus (Peters) has played a lot. So I think we’re making progress. I do. I hope we can continue to build on what’s been started here. We’ve got to build. Stanford’s obviously a little bit different attack-type team. So now you got to the next game (against Cal) and they’re going to throw it. It’s exactly the opposite of what we just saw in terms of run-pass ratio.
On using Shaq Thompson at strong safety a bit vs. Stanford - “So we’ve been working on that for a few weeks now. Luckily we’d been doing that because Kevin (King) got sick late. So I’m not sure what Shaq’s best position is. I just know we can move him around, whether it’s on offense or defense or at safety or whatever. He’s just such an instinctual player that he can help us get our best players on the field, depending on the situation. So that’s what’s awesome about him. … He can help you in your secondary or if you’re linebackers have an issue — he’s obviously that first and foremost. And even running back. Plus special teams. So you worry about not overloading the guy and wearing him out.”
Do you anticipate having any more recruits sign early financial-aid agreements? - “Maybe with a couple guys. Part of it has to do with, can they get done (with high school) early enough? … I think this thing will start to pick up steam where kids might have that in their mind where they can look at their academic situation and go, ‘Hey, I’m going to double up on a class here to give myself flexibility to leave early if I want it. At this point, when you get into the fall, it’s usually a little bit too late.”
Any updated on Derrick Brown’s suspension? - “No. Same situation.”
On reviewing yourself and coaches after a loss? - “No question. And I mean that. That’s why I like to do this. … I think the thing that’s been hard about this game is, we can be better on offense. I think we all know that. And we can coach them better. And that’s what I feel. So that’s why it’s like you cannot wait to get your hands on the tape and look at it and go, ‘How can we help these kids — in a really like systematic, logical, simplistic fashion? And then players gotta go play. But it comes back to us, it really does. That’s the painful part about it; that’s also the fun part about that. It’s the challenging part of this thing. So it does come back to us, always.”
Do you feel like the game plan for Stanford was good enough to win the game? - “Yeah. And, again, when you’re playing a team that good, it’s not going to be like, ‘If we do this and this’ and we had all these things open. We had enough there if we could’ve executed better to win that game, in my opinion. You’re going to have to earn things, so the execution’s going to have to be precise and on-point, because they’re not going to give it to you. But I think it was there. I just think our guys know too (that) it starts in practice; we’ve got to practice at a higher level, and then it will carry over into the games.”
Why is it so hard to find a kicker who can kick the ball into the end zone on kickoffs? - “Good question. That is a hard thing to do. And one of the problems is wind conditions. I don’t think people realize how a slight breeze affects the kicking game tremendously. You might not even feel it so much on the floor of the stadium, but the ball comes up 40 yards in the air, that changes dramatically — not only for the kicker but for the return guys. And so that certainly factors into it. But it is hard to get that ball placed correctly and deep enough.”
Who was it on the opening kickoff? - “That was Cam (Van Winkle).”
Who has the stronger leg? - “It’s close, but I think Cam might have a little bit (stronger). Cam might have a little more control, but Tristan (Vizcaino), we’re excited about him. He’s a true freshman and he’ll keep developing and he’s going to be good for us. He’s already in the mix doing some good things for us. You can see how a dangerous (return) guy, how if it doesn’t go exactly where you want to … and, hey, it’s not always going to go where we want to. We can’t rely on Korey Durkee putting it exactly where we need every time. We’ve got to cover kicks. And the one time (Ty Montgomery) did get his hands on the ball on a punt, Budda Baker makes a great (tackle), gets off his guy and is right there to make a play. And that’s how it has to go.”
On the missed extra point - “It was a little bit of both. It was a snap issue, so it wasn’t a clean snap. Jeff (Lindquist) couldn’t get his hands on it just exactly. I think we can do better on our snaps, on our PATs, at least.
On the Pac-12 North - “Well, I don’t know. I’ve been saying from the start that the Pac-12’s unbelievably balanced and hard. We had Washington State-Utah down to the wire; Cal in overtime; I didn’t really see the SC-Oregon State game; but they’re just all hard-fought games. Our game, I think that’s going to be every week. It’s going to come down to execution and details.”