11/11 Rick Neuheisel press conference

It's Oregon week. After a year off, the northwest rivalry heats up again with a battle in Eugene. A game we all thought would have huge national implications is now simply for northwest bragging rights. In his weekly press conference head coach Rick Neuheisel addressed the status of his team coming off a victory over one northwest rival and with two more staring them in the face.

Fans at both Washington and Oregon circled this day on the schedule in the preseason. While the game may have lost some of its luster to those on the outside, those who follow the programs closely still know the importance of the border war. Every Pac-10 team that enters Autzen Stadium not only goes against the ducks, but also against their raucous home crowd.

"I think they're great fans. It doesn't sound like we're going to be able to do much about the noise. That's just part of the environment there. It makes it difficult to your offense, but it comes as no surprise," began Neuheisel. "We had seen the film. They had played UCLA the week before and you could tell that UCLA was struggling to hear. We felt like we had prepared in a way that was taking the noise into account. The noise was so much that we couldn't even communicate between sidelines and press box. Even the headphones were drowned out and that's a tremendous home field advantage. We've got to find a way to be comfortable in that environment. We can't change the environment; we've got to be comfortable in it to work effectively.

"But you look at the tape and Fresno State is in position to have a victory, they played there. Obviously Arizona State had a great second half and found a way to win and USC played well there. So it's not as if there aren't any models prior for success. Maybe they aren't as excited to play them as they are to play Washington, but I think they show up each and every week," he said.

Rivalries usually bring out trash-talking fans, but of late there have been some trash-talking players. With all the pride that surrounds the two programs it doesn't surprise Neuheisel, but he definitely doesn't endorse it. "Young players get excited about that. My experience is all that is very overrated. It comes down to blocking and tackling, making plays. Hopefully given where we are in the program and given the chance we have this weekend, that will be enough for us to play our very best.

"If a player's comments help bring out that sprit and that kind of stuff then I guess that's ok. But I think there's plenty of motivation without all that talk to play our best. I heard coach Bellotti say that it's the most important game this week. It's also our most important game this week. The bottom line is that we're all doing the best we can, so lets go play," said Neuheisel.

"I don't think the extracurriculars are ever important. It just comes down to who plays better football. It's certainly fun for the fans because there is a lot of passion around the two programs," he continued.

Oregon's recent success has translated into some off the field notoriety as well. The infamous billboards have not gone unnoticed by Neuheisel. "They're certainly a propaganda machine in terms of how they promote. They seemingly have an endless budget to do so. More power to them until the rules change. Looking at the success, you've got to say that it worked.

"Ultimately for us to get back to the top team in the conference we've got to play better. Doing our job on the field especially in head to head competition. Last year it didn't arise. I'm in the end of my fourth year here and we're 1-1 against them. We've had two great games. We won when we were at home and they won when they were at home. Both programs have enjoyed success over those three years. I think they spend more time talking about numbers, but again that's probably budgetary," he said.

One of those billboards features Onterrio Smith. This week the Husky defense, which has performed admirably against the run faces arguably the best running back in the country. Having already faced Tyler Ebell and Steven Jackson, Neuheisel feels his defense is ready. "I thought our run defense did some things well Saturday. We did give up some yards, but fortunately we were able to keep the field position in check so they had to go big distances to get those yards. We've got to do a better job in our first down runs. We've got to get them into second and 7 or 8 rather than second and 4. If we can do that then we can put a little pressure on the other facets of our offense.

"Onterrio Smith is the best back in the conference. I think Stephen Jackson will have a great carreer and may become the best in time, but Onterrio Smith, in my opinion, makes more people miss."

The Huskies have only played two road games in 11 weeks leading up to the matchup at Husky Stadium. Neuheisel knows his team hasn't performed well on the road of yet, and is looking for a quick start from his team this weekend. "We haven't played well on the road of late. It's obvious we struggled at Arizona State, maybe our worst game of the year. We got beat by a very good USC team. We've got to figure out how to get out there and play well to start a game on the road.

"Even Michigan, where we probably should've won the game, we were down 14-0. So somehow we've got to start out strong and play good football to begin the ball game. That takes away some of the crowd's edge. We won't be able to take away the crowd's noise this weekend, that's just part of the deal when you play down there," he said.

A day off from school doesn't mean a day off from practice for the players, if anything it means they'll go at it a little harder. Coming off a win Saturday will obviously help the team get up for practice today. "Everyone feels better after a win. When you invest of yourselves, like coaches and players do every week, and you come away with a victory you feel much better about what you put in. You have a little bit better disposition about the next week's work. We're excited about the victory but that doesn't mean we'll work any less hard or have any less of a task to undertake this week. We've got a huge hurdle in front of us and we've got to do our best to get over it," said the Husky head coach.

"The Northwest championship is a goal. We got off to a good start with a victory over Oregon State, but we've got two more opponents to go. This week we have to focus all our attention on Oregon. It's a hostile environment and a raucous crowd. They love their ducks and so forth. We've got to go in and play a great game."


Notes: This week's game will be on ABC at 12:30 PT. Cougar Keith Jackson and Duck Dan Fouts will provide the call.

DJ's big day: Derrick Johnson has been named Pac-10 defensive player of the week for his two interception performance against OSU.

More records for Cody: Cody Pickett is now the leading passer in UW history. " I think he'd trade all those records for more wins," Neuheisel commented.

Dawgman.com Top Stories