Is USC’s up-tempo offense a challenge for your young defense? - “It can be. I think Cal is an up-tempo offense. I think USC has a bit more formations, so that can make it a little more challenging to get lined up quickly. But our defense has seen it for quite a while in terms of practice. we’ve worked on those things. But now, games are always a little bit different, so that will be another element – the first element being really good players they have over there. And then (they) do a great job with their schemes, executing and you throw in a little tempo and stuff – it’s a pretty big challenge."
What did Stanford do well against USC? - “I think one thing is, they kind of weathered the storm. They hung in there with them. They got behind, but then they scored and kind of answered and it just didn’t get away from them. Arizona State, by halftime that was just a tough situation. … Big fumble return, fumbled kickoff, and then the momentum just, woo. So I think Stanford just kept close and kept battling and were able to do that. Now, credit to Stanford to be able to do that."
Does USC’s offense look similar to what you saw against UW in 2013? - “They have some of the similar concepts, some of the similar plays. I think they’re doing a little bit more. They have some two-back concepts, as well. Not just all spread. So there’s a lot of variety there.”
In what area has Jake Browning grown the most since the opener? - “I think there’s certain things that he’s pretty dialed in – certain plays, certain concepts that we run that he’s probably more dialed into, feels good with. But as we go through this, we keep adding kind of more to his plate, so that’s a process of this whole year. There are certain things, we’re trying to get him more reps really because he hasn’t had a whole lot. So again, it’s that fine balance between flooding him, overloading him, and still being able to scheme things how we’d like to.”
Was playing against Boise a good lesson in terms of crowd noise? - “Yeah, I would hope so. I think noise is a big thing. I think noise is really a big thing. That’s a hard thing to deal with, when it’s really, really loud at all times. Boise was a good introduction to that, because they get pretty loud there. But we practice a lot with that. Part of our practice, even when we’re at home, we put noise on, music on, all those things, and I think half the time the kids think I’m doing that to energize them and fire them up – I’m really doing it so they can’t hear. And I think that helps us in the long run."
On evaluating ways of snapping the ball in a noisy stadium - “Yeah, I think the big thing is being able to hear – like, what’s the best way to do that? Well, a silent count is probably the best way, because you don’t have to hear anything. But like everything, there’s always a tradeoff. There’s no perfect thing, there’s no perfect plays … they can always answer. When you’re going on a silent count, one of the linemen is going to see things at the last second. We’ve got a couple different things we can do, as well. The clap has worked pretty well for us, just in terms of guys being able to keep their eyes up and still hear.”
On what you’ve liked about the young offensive line, and what are you focused on now in terms of things to work on? - “It is challenging. I think you see maybe more flashes of what it should look like and really good at times…fundamentally-based; I’m playing low and with a flat back and hands inside and stuff like that…what really good linemen look like. Are we starting to see that a little bit more? There’s still inconsistencies because they’re still learning a lot, but I think some of the stuff they are figuring out and are able to play faster. I think some of it is they are able to delve into the details a little bit more. Sometimes it’s almost they don’t know what don’t know and you just go, but now they’re starting to figure out that this guy can actually go one or two ways, he could bull rush me, he can do all these things. Now they are coming to grips with…the more you learn the more you’re almost thinking - how did I do this before?”
Seeing progress with their chemistry as a unit? - “I think we’re making a little bit of figuring out their assignments better. I think first it has to start with us first knowing our assignments. That’s where we are. And then being able to fit blocks together. That’s Part B. It’s sporadic. And I think the goal is to see it become more consistent, not so sporadic.”
Do you expect more OL shuffling down the line? - “Yeah. I think coach Strausser always does a good job in practice to move guys. We’ve already experienced this year where we had to throw Coleman Shelton at left guard and hadn’t really done much, so seeing him do a little bit more of that as this season starts to go on…those guys just get banged up.”
Coach Smith mentioned being more stubborn in the run game against Cal. How difficult is that when you get behind and you’re tempted to throw more? - “Always think hindsight’s 20/20, certainly as a play caller. I think there’s certain things you’re always analyzing. What could I have done better to help us? The problem with the run game is, it can be working but you can be 0, 1, 7, 0, 1 and then you’re behind and taking one yard gains…that’s hard, that mentality. We were running the ball pretty good and that takes pressure off the quarterback.”
Going forward, is that stubbornness something you’d like to stick to? - “I think we’d like to stay balanced if we can. But I think a lot of it depends on the opponent we’re playing and can we legitimately run the ball? Does that give us our best chance to move the ball, or can we pass protect them? I don’t think it’s that easy to say this is what we’re going to do, period. I think we’ve got to give our kids a chance where we think gives them the most chance to be successful.”
With Dwayne Washington getting 100 yards, has he cleared a hurdle so that he breaks through? - “Confidence is important. I think we know Dwayne can do some things if we give him a chance. That just kind of confirms that. If we can keep him healthy, it’s always such a pounding position. Keep healthy and that line keeps developing…”
On Dwayne Washington’s pass catching “It is unique. Last year I was a little surprised because I thought we dropped too many balls, easy throws for a guy that catches the ball pretty well. I think this year we’re seeing he’s caught the ball really, really well whether it’s down the middle, on a flare screen, and those types of things. That’s nice. That’s kind of what we expected out of him. That’s his skill set. Get him out in space and try to make one guy miss. He can run.”
On how big a recruiting tool a Thursday night game in Los Angeles is “I think there will be a lot of eyes on, so you really want to go out there and put your best foot forward. I think the players are always excited to play in that situation and compete hard. A lot of guys come from California and southern California, so we’ll stay down there ourselves and recruit a little bit after and all those types of things. It’s important.”
On how the fact that a lot of players on this team were recruited by the USC staff and have yet to play at USC and how he’s dealt with that “Well, I think it’s always the next team we play. The next team we play always has different challenges and this one has as many as anybody that we’ve played and maybe will play all year. I think this is definitely one of the elite teams in our conference without question. I always chuckle at the rankings and the ratings this early. I know this team is completely underrated in terms of rankings. That’s why that never means anything to me. They have tremendous talent, they do a great job coaching them, and those kids show up. They’ve built some depth through the young guys that they’re playing. This is a really good team.”
On if there’s a mystique surrounding USC “The mystique is you look at the tape and, to me, the mystique maybe there’s something not real about it. I look at that tape, and you’re going ‘okay, that’s USC.’ They usually have some pretty good players and these guys have some special guys.”
On if the emotion of facing the staff that recruited you fades quickly once the game starts “I think. We kind of went through it ourselves on the other side. When you go out there and play it’s about blocking and tackling and catching; that’s what it is. It has nothing to do with all that other stuff. I think a lot of times if there’s stuff made out of it it’s pregame hype that doesn’t really have a whole heck of a lot to do once the game is played.”
On if the emotion of facing the staff that recruited you is overhyped “I think it is. I think the big thing is playing against USC and the players they have. A lot of our players know those guys, know of them, know them personally some of them. They were the top players in southern California. Some of these guys were top players in the country, so our guys know those guys.”
On how he spent his Saturday “We got back from recruiting on Friday, so we all rolled in here on Saturday and did some more football and then saw some football in the evening time.”
On college football rankings “I guess it’s good for college football. From a coaching stand point I know we just kind of shake our heads. So many things just change and it’s all about a body of work and ‘where did this team come from out of nowhere.’ It’s like, what do you mean? This team has gotten a lot better. This team had these coming back. Sometimes teams don’t meet expectation. You have to play at least a half a season and then you probably have a pretty decent idea of who’s what.”
Did you learn anything on your return to Boise that might apply to UW players this week, managing emotions while facing old coach, etc.? - “I don’t think so — I think the Boise State guys played pretty darn good. I thought they were pretty focused in and played hard, and that’s what I hope our guys will do — stay focused on the game and play hard. Like I said, it’s all about the game; it’s all about playing the players on the field. The rest, I think, is kind of overdone.
More on Stanford’s upset of USC: Did Stanford’s physicality wear down the Trojans? - “I don’t necessarily think they wore ‘em down. I just think Stanford, they have their style, which is different than most, and they’re really good at their style. Just like USC is really good at their style. And it was a hard-fought game — really two good teams going at it that I think are elite teams in this conference, I really do. And I think it could’ve gone either way and Stanford did a good job of maybe making a couple more plays. I think it was a really good, physical game on both sides.”
First game on grass. Do you do anything different this week to prepare? Can you do anything different? - “I think there’s certain grasses that are a little bit different, but in watching all this tape I haven’t really seen a guy slip; I haven’t seen much slipping, I should say. We (sometimes) slip on the turf ourselves out there (in Husky Stadium). I don’t think that’s going to be a big factor.”
So you’re not going to be practicing up on the Quad or anything this week? - “Very hard for us to go anywhere else with class. We’re (already) going to miss two days of school, so it’s too hard for us to pull guys out of class to go practice on grass.”
On SoCal guys going home — does that end up being a distraction? - “We make a point about it, we talk about it, that it can’t be a distraction. It’s got to be a bonus, a positive thing to go play in front of a lot of their families. That’s awesome, they get to see their family. But this is a business trip. This isn’t a break; this isn’t a long weekend that they’re going home. They’re going to go there to play a football game. They’re family gets to (attend), a lot of their friends maybe get to attend it. We’ve just got to keep this in mind. We’ve got to get our tickets done early, make sure that’s out of the way (so) they can focus on their preparation.”
Is there a time Wednesday night they can see their families at the hotel or whatever? - “Yeah, we have our meetings in the evening time; there’s usually a couple hours between meetings and the time they go to bed that families can come by and see them and all that.”
Is the Thursday-night game a big issue for you? - “The time I always thought it was an issue — and I think I’ve only done this one time — is when you play on Saturday and then have to play on Thursday. That’s hard. That is really hard. That doesn’t seem right. That’s a short turnaround for these kids with everything they’ve got going on and just to prepare them and to recover and all these things. Other than that, for us, we’re going to miss two days of school. Now, you talk to the basketball guys and (they’re like), ‘Two days of school? Huh?’ Those guys are gone all the time. But it’s a big deal for us to go miss two days of school because we play (Saturday) on the road we might miss a class or two, depending on what time we leave (Friday), but we’re kind of in and out. Thursday night games, there’s a balance. It’s great to be seen by a lot of people (on national TV), but there is a price for it.”