Rick Neuheisel Quotes

Coach Rick Neuheisel was a bit happier to address the media than he was a week ago following the Michigan loss. Today his team erased a 10-point first-half deficit and hung 34 straight points on the San Jose State Spartans to win their first game of the season.

General Comments:

I want to congratulate San Jose State. I thought they played really well. They will be really excited about the way they played in the first half, but fortunately we were able to get on track in the second half and get the game back into our favor. At halftime we talked about not panicking, taking care of the ball on offense and getting them off of the field on third down on defense. I don't know if we were a little lethargic given what took place a week ago. I thought our preparation for the week was good but, for whatever reason, it almost looked as if we were waiting for bad things to happen to us and responding as if we were in a little bit of shock. It was important that we snapped them out of that at halftime and I thought we did. I thought we played an exceptionally good third quarter but the fourth quarter got a little sloppy, which I am disappointed in. We are a more mature team that we were a year ago, yet we are still making some of the sophomoric mistakes from a year ago. I am excited that we have a bye week so we can address some of the fundamentals and become a much better football team.

On Reggie Williams being in game shape: He is getting better. I am not sure that he is totally better, but I would say that by Wyoming, it will no longer be an issue. Reggie is a very competitive young man and was anxious to get more ready to play. He worked very hard in practice and I was very pleased with his improvement from week one to week two.

On Defensive strategy: In the first half, because of all their misdirection stuff, we tried to play a little bit more zone. One of our main goals in the next two weeks is getting better at playing zone defense. We have to remember that the ball belongs to us too. We let too many balls get in there in zone coverage and we need to tighten that up. If we just play strictly man coverage, then they have all sorts of schemes to take advantage of that. The intensity picked up in the second half. We got after the quarterback and when you put pressure on the quarterback, defenses always look very good.

Halftime talk: It was not loud. I don't ever doubt the competitiveness of this team. I don't feel they need a cattle prod to be asked to play, I think they enjoy playing. But they needed to be reminded that we have to play now, don't sit around and wait for somebody else to make a play, make the play yourself. We had two drives that resulted in zero points and both were down in the red zone, one was at the one-yard line. We've got to make better decisions down there and take care of the football. Defensively, we just needed to get them off of the field on third down like we are capable of doing.

Importance of scoring after halftime: You can't put all your eggs in one basket because obviously you have 30 minutes to play and you are only down 10-0. It becomes a little more problematic when the team thinks they should have been blowing somebody out and now you are in a position where you are not. You have to make sure that panic doesn't set it. We've been in that situation before and have responded, and we responded again. Now, we have to learn to start games like that and play for 60 minutes like that. We've got to grow up a little bit. We need to be more professional about coming out of the box and playing great football.

On the fumble at the goal line: He didn't get the snap. Cody said he didn't get the ball. The cardinal sin as a quarterback is if you are bobbling the ball then you try to hand it off. That is exactly what took place.

On Cody Pickett: Cody is an immensely talented young man and he's got so many gifts that are just too numerous to mention. He has got to make this a real learning experience in that you take care of the ball, you make sure you get what you can get and get down (which happened on the first fumble), and if you bobble the snap, get on the ball. We'll live to fight another down. It was only second down and there was still plenty of time to score a touchdown, but to come out of there with nothing was absolutely unacceptable. Another mistake he made was after the referees called Kevin Ware out of bounds, he threw one up for grabs. He absolutely cannot do that. I am harder on quarterbacks than on any other position because I know more about it. I am not against him taking his chances. Sometimes, I think he needs to be more patient and he throws balls he shouldn't throw, but I am willing to live with that. What he can't do is turn the ball over.

On defensive line play: I am going to have Coach Hart start to do the defensive back drills because it seems like our defensive line makes all the interceptions, although Evan Benjamin had one today. That was a wonderful play. We had pressure on the quarterback and he had nowhere to go and Terry Johnson ends up scoring a touchdown.

On Rich Alexis: I wouldn't say that was Rich at his best, but we are gaining on it. We want to be a proficient run team. We've got a lot of work to do as we mold our running and passing games together.

On the record play: It is interesting how plays are put in the record book. When their grandchildren come to a Husky game, they will talk about having the longest pass. But Cody will have to admit to his grandson that it only traveled about nine yards in the air. We've got those kinds of weapons where you take a play that should just be a first down and all of the sudden it becomes a touchdown. We have those playmakers. Eddie Jackson came out of a route to make a scramble catch. Wilbur Hooks scored a touchdown on a scramble. E.T. had that big catch last week. Kevin Ware keeps figuring in prominently in our offense. There is no reason for us not to have great proficiency in the offense. We just need to continue to work on fundamentals and discipline.

On special teams: I thought we ran well. I thought our kicking game was better. We looked like we knew what we were doing on field goals and extra points. We knocked it through every time. I don't think we were in danger of having any punts blocked. I thought kickoff coverage was exemplary up until the last kickoff, which we jumped offsides. We really didn't try to do much on punt returns because we were nervous about them faking. They had shown a lot of proclivity to the fake, so we were cautious there.

On FS Evan Benjamin: He has a chance to be a very good football player here. I am very encouraged with him after two weeks of his career. But, he is a redshirt freshman so we are going to have some growing pains. I think on the first third down of the game, he missed a coverage and that allowed them to get a first down. But, I think the world of Evan and we are very fortunate to have him.

On Spartan RB Lamar Ferguson: I ran up the hall to say hello to him because he is a unique athlete. He has a lot of speed given his relative diminutive stature. He is a hard guy to put your arms around.

On slow start: Some of my coaches have the theory that if you play a really hot game the week before, it takes a lot out of you. It might take a while to get your game legs back again. That was a very taxing game physically last week. Maybe we were feeling out game tempo and, with things not going well, it put everybody into a mild case of shock. I don't know. But we survived it and it can't happen again.

Thoughts after two games: I like where we are right now. Number one, we got ourselves a win. Number two, I think the coaching staff certainly has the players' attention, in terms of what we have to face. Number three, we have a bye week so we can address all those things without the pressures of working out a game plan.

On not pulling many starters: I wanted our offense to start clicking and clicking and I just never felt like we quite got there. I was hoping when we got the ball on our nine yard line that it could be a pivotal drive. We could drive 90 yards and put the game away, but we got it all in one play. I felt like we still needed to churn out our running game and pull together a drive.

Injuries: Marquis Cooper sprained his ankle in the first half. But he is a tough son of a gun and he came back and played in the second half. John Anderson had some cramps in his legs. I asked him why he would lay down like that and make everybody think something was really wrong. He said that he was told to relax. I told him that the next time he was told to relax, don't look like your dead.

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