9/16/02 Rick Neuheisel Press Conference

After watching the rest of the Pac-10 go 8-1 over the weekend head coach Rick Neuheisel is excited to get back on the field this week at home versus the University of Wyoming. In Monday's press conference the head man made it clear that the Dawgs are tired of watching and are ready to get back to business.

With their bye week behind them the Huskies are now focusing their attention on this Saturday's game "After taking a weekend off and being on the sidelines, we are eager to get back in the arena and play, this week we have the Wyoming Cowboys coming to town," Washington Head Coach Rick Neuheisel said as he addressed the media earlier today at the Don James Center.

"I remember Vic Koenning from my USFL days. He is a very competitive guy and I know his team will be ready to play. They will look at this as a great opportunity to right their ship and they'll throw caution to the wind. I don't think there's any question we'll get their best shot. It's important for us to really come out and be eager to play. Whenever you're playing a team that's on the ropes you always worry about their devil may care strategy to a game. It can be wide open and cause you all sorts of fits. If they're doing things that might not be the norm in a contest. There seems to be very little risk for them in terms of what they can do or what they can try. So you get nervous about that."

With a week to work on what ailed them, the Huskies are looking to shake off their first quarter demons and come out firing against the Cowboys of Laramie. "We're going to play good in the first quarter, we're going to find a way to get out of the box rather than wait around, we need to learn how to do that," Neuheisel said. "As competitive as our league is we can't waste fifteen minutes of action and think we can come back from it.

"I'm leery of the Cowboys. I know they're capable of being very good and I know they've played very well at times and it wouldn't shock me to see them play very well this weekend. So it's up to us to make sure that we play very well to counteract that."

During the bye week Neuheisel wanted to address the defense's zone coverage schemes and feels while there was progress there is still work to be done. "That'll be a work in progress all year long...kids are eager to please," he said. "So when a receiver goes inside, you wanna go close down that receiver but if you go too far then you're overlapping with the next zone defender and we're voiding a zone. Offenses are designed to spread you out and create 2 on 1's and so forth. You can't jump at the bait. Its almost like they're fish and you can't jump at that thing and give them something behind you. And we're going to continue to work on it until we're proficient at it.

"Obviously in our third down defense we've got to be able to mix in some zone with our man. I think our man has been fine. But we've got to get ourselves some answers so that we don't always have to put ourselves in that situation. You can get schemed if all you're doing is man. You can get picked off, you can get rubbed off, last week we got rubbed off by an official, the umpire. If you give them the chalk last then they're going to have ways of beating those types of schemes."

The Huskies had a good week of practice and enjoyed having the weekend off. "I don't recall a bye week where I felt better about the practice and the work ethic. With maybe a couple of exceptions every kid on our football team worked to improve. I'm excited about that, we had a young player scrimmage on Thursday to culminate the week that was very competitive and showed that we've got a lot of young players in our program that are going to hopefully be very, very good players in our future. I like where we are it's just hard to be on the sideline for a weekend. I found myself pacing in my living room rather than a sideline in watching all the action. So I'm anxious and eager to play again," said Neuheisel.

With this Saturday's game slated to kick off at 7pm, Coach Neuheisel is expecting the crowd to be especially fired up. "I like night games from a fan standpoint. It seems that our fans are more in to the action early on. This time of year its beautiful in Seattle. I think it will be a fun night for the spectators and hopefully we can add to that by playing well."

One player who you know will be ready to play is RB Braxton Cleman. "Braxton Cleman may be available and it'd be fun to get him into the action and get his senior season underway." The question of how the stable of running back will be managed has yet to be answered. "I haven't really sat down and figured it out until he's 100 percent exactly how we'll divvy up the responsibility. I'm eager to see Rich continue to get better and become a major player at tailback. But Braxton can provide us some great things not only as a tailback but catching the ball out of the backfield, but Rich has done a nice job with that too," said Neuheisel.

Last weeks success of the Pac-10 was not lost on the head coach. Impressive wins by USC and Cal seemed to stick out the most. "It looks as if our conference will be very very competitive judging by the teams I watched this weekend," Neuheisel said. "It's gonna be a gunfight to the bitter end in this conference. In order to get ready for it we need to really play good football in the next couple of weeks starting with Wyoming.

"Certainly Cal's win was extremely impressive. I in my own mind kind predicted that Cal would play really well in that game. Not necessarily as one sided as it was. It obvious that they've got a new enthusiasm and a little swagger about em scoring as many points as they have, there's a lot of confidence in that program right now. And they've got Airforce this week and then they open their conference season against Washington State at Cal. That'll be a really interesting game before we open our Pac-10 season with them here. We've played Cal three times since I've been here and every one has gone down to the last minute. So I've always thought Cal was a good football team, they just haven't been able to turn that into a lot of victories over the last three years, but certainly they're finding the formula for that now.

"Watching USC dismantle Colorado, that was as impressive a victory as there's been in the Pac-10 in a number of years. I thought that was a real eye opener. But I also thought they were pretty good after watching them beat Auburn in their opener. So we say it all the time, I'm not sure the country will ever get the message, but the Pac-10 plays as good a football as is played in the country. Especially when you consider top to bottom. I don't think there's a team in our conference that can't play with a team from any other conference. I have a hard time believing that a Miami and/or a Texas and/or an Oklahoma would come into the Pac-10 and go unscathed. I don't think that would happen. I think you can get away with being a great team and taking a weekend off in some other conferences and I don't think that to be true in this one."

Neuheisel is particularly eager to gauge his team's improvement. With the Pac-10 season on the horizon the Huskies know what they need to do "We haven't played good enough football to be where we want to be if we really want to compete for a conference championship," he said. "We have to do that, we have to start that now, and continue it on until the Pac-10 conference. Hopefully they're as eager as I am. And I think they are.

"We want to establish who we are. These are games first off we need to understand that the job is to win the game and to play well, but if we're fortunate enough to get that done, we want to establish ourselves from a running standpoint, to a passing stand point, we want to be an offense that can generate more of itself. As soon as you take something away we've got an answer in some way to take advantage of that. We need to counter ourselves so that we have our answers within our offense and become efficient at it. On the same page on defense, we need to have looks that don't necessarily tell anybody what we're in and be able to pressure the quarterback, but also be able to drop and still play great defense and see if we can't get that 3rd down conversion ratio way down. If we can do that then we're going to have a lot of success. If we can do that and give our offense more chances and develop what I think can be a very successful offense, I think we're going to like the direction games go.

"Hopefully our football team did what I did this weekend and watched football and got excited about getting back in playing and fixing the things that plagued us in our first two weeks. I don't think that list is inordinately long. It's all very very doable. But we're excited to play."


Notes:
Team Health is good: Braxton Cleman and Tui Alailefaleula will both return to action this week. Elliot Zajac, Justin Robbins, and Jimmy Newell will look to return next week to prepare for Idaho.

Game moved up…kinda: Saturday's game was originally slated to start at 7:15pm but has since been moved to 7:00pm.

Saturday is Band Day: 4000 high school band students will join the Husky Marching Band at half time Saturday for the annual band day. The Husky Band will also unveil their brand new uniforms.

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