10/28 Neuheisel press conference

Bob Toledo talked about parity in college football this morning, and how there was no better evidence of that than in the Pac-10. He also said that in regards to his next opponent's sudden downturn that nothing surprised him anymore. Well, you could have knocked Rick Neuheisel over with a feather this afternoon at the Don James Center as he fielded questions surrounding his struggling Huskies. At 4-4, he seemed as surprised as anyone in the room.

"It's a surprise to me," Neuheisel said. "We are very disappointed but we can also look to this as a huge challenge to get things fixed. I know I said the same things last week in regards to Arizona State, but that didn't happen, especially on the offensive side of the ball. But I give credit again to ASU for playing inspired football."

So with the temperature starting to rise in Montlake, Neuheisel knows the parity created makes life difficult for a program that expects to win, and win consistently. "I wish I could say I saw this coming, but I didn't. I thought we would be a very good, competitive football team this year, but we've fallen on hard times and now we need to find a way to get out the spiral. To stay on top is more difficult now when you've had a run of success nowadays. For years this conference was a conference of 'haves' and 'have-nots'. Now everybody is in the process of building up their programs and there's an evenly-divided talent pool, with some geographical exceptions."

So is this the lowest point in Neuheisel's 8-year career as a Head Coach? "I don't consider points to be low or high in coaching," he said. "You just have to deal with what happens." But he's certainly aware of the disatisfaction that a lot of people inside and outside the program are feeling. "In this business, there's what happens in the War Room and then there's what happens here, externally," he said. "Both happen and both are reality. People vent. Years ago it was in barber shops. Now it's in chat rooms. I'm not complaining about it at all, but if I try to confront it all it takes valuable time away from fixing the problems that I see."

Whether or not he's feeling any uneasiness about the direction of the program, there are some uncanny similarities to what Rick did at his former employer, the University of Colorado. In Neuheisel's third year of a four-year tenure as Head Coach in Boulder, the Buffaloes went 5-6. He downplayed the fact that the Huskies are now seeing a similar pattern in his fourth year as Washington's Head Coach. "There's some parallels in that both programs used to enjoy a lot of success," he said. "When you stumble early and answers become more difficult, there's a bit of shock. It's all part of an evolution process that takes place with programs. Now we've got to take the bull by the horns and lead the players to get the best possible chance to be successful in November. And I've told the players, after you are done here, you'll still face adversity in life. How you deal with it will tell more about you than just being there."

In looking toward the Bruins, Neuheisel noted that productivity is needed. "We have to make sure we've got the coaches who make sure players know what's called and know what to do and will execute what's being called. We had three different busts man-to-man against Arizona State on defense. Two of them didn't cost us, but one help set up their first touchdown. They worked their tails off in practice last week. We just need to eliminate the defensive mistakes. If they line up where they are supposed to line up and play where they are supposed to play, it's amazing how well they do."

It's not helping the Husky cause that injuries are now starting to pile up. "Rich (Alexis) has sore ribs," Neuheisel said of the junior running back from Coral Springs, Florida. "X-rays came back negative, so it's going to be a tolerance thing for him, see how much pain he can endure." Marquis Cooper has been cleared to play after passing an exertion test for a concussion he suffered Saturday night but will not see contact today. Robin Meadow has a bruised ankle and Greg Carothers has a groin problem but both are expected to be available this Saturday against the Bruins.

In regards to Arizona State's defense, he had nothing but praise for junior DE Terrell Suggs. When asked who Suggs reminded him of, there was one players that came to mind. "Junior Seau," Neuheisel said, without hesitation. He may not be facing any guys like Suggs this Saturday, but Neuheisel knows that a spark will be needed to get the offense back on track.

"We need to block better," he said. "I'm reluctant to point fingers at players. I'd rather point the finger at myself. We have players that want to be good, accept coaching and want to please - want to win. There's no lack of heart or desire there. I know there are people out there that think that's the case, but you'll never get me to believe otherwise. Because we've become more of a drop-back throwing team with Cody's (Pickett) numbers, we just need to retool it a bit before we become too one-dimensional."

Khalif Barnes was singled out for his problems containing Suggs. Neuheisel defended the offensive lineman from Spring Valley, California to the hilt. "Khalif Barnes is one of the best kids we have in this program. It wasn't one of his best nights, but Khalif did not lose that game for us. He'll be back, better than ever."

The other key Neuheisel stressed this afternoon was his disatisfaction with the special teams play. Derek McLauglin first punt against ASU went for 19 yards and another punt was mis-handled by McLaughlin, forcing a turnover deep in Husky territory that the Sun Devils converted into a field goal. "To have dynamic special teams you have to have great speed," Neuheisel said. "You also have to have attention to detail and have players that take pride in their jobs. For whatever reason, when we came out on special teams, Arizona State was just at another speed. But I think that game was an aberration, when compared to the season in total. We haven't made any big plays like we did last year, but I think some of that is because of some players not being available. And I'm going to make sure Derek McLaughlin gets some competition this week. He has it in him to get the job done." Normally, McLaughlin's backup would be placekicker John Anderson, but it remains to be seen if this means that punters like Lucas Michener, Isaak Woldeit or Garth Erickson remains to be seen.

Neuheisel wouldn't say if there would be any additional position changes. Last Saturday, tackle Nick Newton was moved outside to replace Aaron Butler, and Robin Meadow took over Newton's job at strong tackle. "There's no concrete changes right now. All the coaches - starting with myself - need to make sure we are committed to doing the job and make sure we're in a position of being capable of doing the job. I really think there's just been too much talk about all of this. At some point you just have to go out and execute."

No OSU on television: The UCLA game is being televised at 4PM as TBS' regional game. The Oregon State game the weekend of November 9th was not picked up.

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