10/07/02 Neuheisel Press Conference

After beating up on three lesser opponents, Head Coach Rick Neuheisel and his Washington Huskies got a big taste of Pac-10 football from a Cal team which hadn't beaten the Huskies in 26 years. Going into this week's 5th consecutive home game the Dawgs stand at 3-2 with no let up in sight. The Wildcats of Arizona are on tap this week and Coach Neuheisel knows there is much to be worked on.

Though Arizona looms large in the mind of the head coach, Neuheisel knows that it's more about execution than who is on the other sideline. "You have to play your level best each and every week otherwise you're subject to getting beat. Especially if the other team is playing very well, which was the case with California. We had a long streak which is by the wayside now simply because we were outplayed. We've got to practice better so that we play better. When I say out played let me also say outcoached. I don't want to point the fingers just at the players, it's all of us." Said Neuheisel.

The Huskies were mistake prone and at times sloppy on Saturday. One may attribute that to the fact that Washington has not played a quality opponent in a month. But that excuse does not jive well with the head man. Fumbling and interceptions are always cause for concern. "We were a little sloppy. I don't know why, but the discipline of our offensive unit came apart a little bit. We've got to get it back as soon as possible." Neuheisel said. "If we make the plays we're capable of, and do the things we're coached to do, the score stays closer in hand then the running game could've been very much in line with what we wanted from our running game."

With the Huskies only accumulating 41 yards on the ground Saturday the running game has become a topic of much discussion. Neuheisel contends that health and game situations dictated the heavy skew towards the passing game. "Unfortunately he (Rich Alexis) was hurt. I was convinced that he'd be ready to play by game time, he just wasn't. I made the mistake of putting him in without having much practice time. It resulted in an unfortunate turnover. I take responsibility. Braxton is a quality player, but is coming off a long injury. Thinking back maybe I should've put Chris Singleton in the game. But with Chris and Kenny James, our younger backs, you risk a little bit in the pass blocking mode. They don't have much experience there."

"The plan was to take advantage of some single coverage outside because of the way they played. And early in the game we did take advantage." He continued "Unfortunately we got some holding calls which was a little uncharacteristic of us. We'd gone through the season relatively unscathed in that department and got four called on us in this ballgame. That took us out of some redzone situation situations. We can't throw that many times and put that kind of pressure on our quarterback. That's not who we are or who we want to be."

Playing through their sloppyness, the Huskies almost overcame their turnovers and made a game out of it. Yet drives were stalled due to both penalties and lack their of. However, Neuheisel refuses to blame the loss on the officials. "Officiating didn't lose that game for us. Ultimately we've got to play better. With the margin of talent so close in this conference it's about who makes plays. And Cal made plays. Given the same opportunity we didn't." he said.

Star receiver Reggie Williams felt it was prudent to mention how he was robbed. But the head man doesn't think the sophomore's comments were necessary. "I understand that he had something to say about the officiating. I'm going to talk to him when I see him this afternoon, because that is absolutely inappropriate. If there are any comments about officiating they're going to come from me and I'm not going to say a lot about it. The bottom line is that we need to play better and we'll start that today." Said Neuheisel.

It's Williams' play, not talk, that is getting attention around the league. Teams are starting to take notice of the receiving corps at Washington and Cal came out and looked to stop what was obviously the strength of the Huskies, focusing on Williams. "He's obviously gained a lot of respect around the league because people are starting to design coverages around him. He was harassed by the California coverage; at times it resembled a mugging."

Whether or not Arizona comes out in similar fashion remains to be seen. John Mackovic's team has been somewhat bothered by injury this year. A few of their more notable players have been dinged up at one point or another. They will enter this week's game with the Huskies with out their main horse Clarence Farmer. What was originally thought to be a three week injury has turned out to end the season for the Wildcat junior tailback. But there are other weapons in the Tuscan arsenal. "I think their quarterback (Jason Johnson) is very very good. I think he understands what coach Mackovic is trying to get done. I think he understands how to take care of the ball and not go backwards. We've got to make sure we can control that running game so that their not in a position to have their cake and eat it too.

"Right now Bobby Wade is maybe the best receiver in the conference. He's having an unbelievable year, I recruited him, and I'm sorry I lost him. He is an excellent football player who is just about doing everything for them. We've our hands full there. Especially after giving up so many big plays to California we've got to find a way to contain Bobby Wade and that's not an easy task." Said Neuheisel

"On defense they bring a different style of defense. Coach Mac Duff was there in the glory days of Arizona defense and he's got great plans." He continued "We're trying to find ourselves as a balanced offense and that's difficult to do against a defense that's built to stop the run."

Washington's 17 game home winning streak ended Saturday. Coach Neuheisel felt that that while it lasted the streak was due to the fan support. "It's disappointing for our fans to lose such a long streak, and it's disappointing for all of us here to see a home streak go by the wayside. But that's what happens to streaks. Now we get to start a new one.

"We're eager to atone for last weeks loss and see if we can't get back up and really improve this week and put our best foot forward against another quality Pac-10 opponent in Arizona…I know we'll get another unbelievable effort out of the team we're going to play this weekend. I hope we can end this 5 game homestand with a big win" he said.

Coach Neuheisel feels that in order to start a new home winning streak it all starts with practice. "There needs to be more urgency in practice. I think sometimes we go through the motions and digest the game plans. I don't know if it has anything to do with 5 straight home games, doing the same thing over and over, but there is something too monotonous right now. We've got to jump start that and get some urgency into our practice plan so that we execute better on Saturday." That message is not only for the players but also for the coaching staff. "I told the coaches today, if we were fired today there would be a new staff in here tomorrow so excited to be here that they couldn't stand it. Let's be so excited on fixing what's broken and putting a great game together. If we can do that we'll be right back in the thick of things. We're 5 days away from fighting for our lives and 6 days away from, hopefully, being much happier." Said Neuheisel.

What specifically needs work? Neuheisel mentioned that the defensive backfield is still raw and has a lot of potential unseen. "We're doing some better things, our rush defense has improved. But we can still get much better. We've got to make some plays in the back end. We seem to be there just to make the tackle. We've got to knock some balls down as its happening to us. I almost think we're playing too clean. We're not hanging on and all that kind of stuff as it looks like others are getting away with. I know the rules are difficult to keep track of and see everything and so forth, but my hope is that we can get more aggressive in the back end and help our front and get us off the field more." He said.

With all that surrounds Husky football Rick Neuheisel knows that expectations are always high. Accordingly he doesn't intend to be satisfied with where his team is now. "When you're in a place like Washington, losing once, or now twice, is crisis. That's just part of the deal. When you get to that there's a tendency to overreact, there's also a tendency to underreact. Finding the balance in that is the secret. I don't think anyone has a magic formula for that. You just have to keep feeling things, and trying things until eventually you've got something that makes sense. Once we get in a rhythm and I envision us getting into a rhythm we'll be back here talking about good things."

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