Nov. 7, 2000
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Do you have any update on Randy's (Fasani) situation?
We believe that Randy will be fine, but as always we'll look at it day-to-day, obviously, how he progresses through the week. But if healthy, he is our quarterback.
Does anything at all change with regard to playing people in the last few games, given the bowl is not a factor. Not overtly, but will some guys get more time?
No, our first priority is to win the football game. Everything will be done, everything will be focused to do that. Then from there, you make other decisions that you have to make.
Do you remember at the end of the 1998 season, you guys lost a bunch of games in a row, were out of the bowl picture, and then came on at the end to beat Washington State and Cal? Did that have a carry-over effect to 1999? Even though you didn't make a bowl, you finished on the up take? Did that at all influence the next season?
I'm going to try to go back with you and remember that sequence. I think it was a lot more than just those last two ball games, if I'm correct. We won the last two, but if I'm correct, I think it was a string of maybe the last five or six ballgames that were very, very close. You guys may be able to statistically look at that, but if I remember we were right in a lot of those ballgames and had a chance to win them.
You had one bad game against USC but before that you almost beat UCLA, you almost beat Arizona State, back-to-back.
Yes, and even the USC ballgame, if I'm correct, they had a fumble early - knocked one out of Todd's (quarterback Todd Husak) hand picked it up and scored. So, there were some things in there that made it a little more lopsided than you could take perspective and say 'Had we done this if we would have been in a little better position.' When you look at that stretch of games, it was more than just the two games but a series in there that there was some good sound, solid football. That our young men displayed, hopefully, what is a cornerstone of our program - that's excellent character in terms of the way they play the game of football.
Does that have a carry over effect, finishing on an up take like that?
I think it does. But, also I think what we've mentioned somewhere earlier in one of these interviews or one of these conversations, is character has great carryover. If you believe in certain things and do things a certain way and it's the right way, then eventually good things are going to happen. I think our young men have been a team of outstanding character. I think their work ethic has been very solid, and I'm very pleased and proud of that.
Do you at all talk to the guys about how they're not just playing two games here, but for a lot of them, they're playing to start to build for next year?
Well, that is not a key issue for me. It would be unfair for me as a coach to have one of our seniors sit down and listen to me talk about next year. Our seniors don't have next year. What we have to do for them is win right now. I think they would feel good about their program, and believe that's the right approach and the right attitude to take in anything that we do. That has been a foundation for me. I believe the most important thing we do is what we do today.
Can you speak a little bit about the senior group that you have? (There's) not a whole lot of guys, I think there's seven in the top 44 on the depth charts, but really key guys, some really integral guys.
Yes, it is really a good group of senior guys. In my mind, you have to start with Willie Howard, and his contribution to the team and to the program has been tremendous. Followed by Riall Johnson, Russell Stewart, DeRonnie Pitts, the John Sande's, the Sam Benner's. I could mention that whole group. What they've given the program is not in any way, shape, or form reflective of what has happened this season. I think they've been tremendous.
What about Riall Johnson (and) the year he's had? He came back after last year (when) he had 13 sacks, he's got 13 again already with two games to go. Opposing offenses have to account for him, you would think, yet he's still been successful.
Riall has done an excellent job in terms of execution of the vast majority of the things that we've asked him to do in our program, and that's important because you have to start with execution. Then, you add his athletic ability, and his drive and desire to get to the quarterback. He's doing more than just sacking quarterbacks, even though that jumps off the page at you - that a young man has 13 sacks back-to-back years still with remaining games (this year). He is doing an outstanding job.
You guys have the Rose Bowl from last year and you also have, within the context of that, three losing seasons in four years now. I wondered if you could talk about what that says about the program, if it says anything about the state of the program, or if it's more sort of a reflection of the league and the state of the league, and how unpredictable it is?
I don't know what that says. I don't quite know how to respond to that one, or what is a sound or solid or consistent answer.
Can you maybe talk in general about how you do feel about where the program is - from when you came here and where you've sort of got it at this point?
I guess I'm more concerned about today as opposed to five years ago. I think today our football team is giving great effort, and I've probably said that earlier in some comments. I'm proud of the character that our football team has displayed and really, when you look at it, one could take the point of view that even in our last three ballgames, they have been extremely close. There could be three losses there. But, I think you could also say and build a case for it, that could be three wins. Where would we be sitting if we had three wins in succession? I'm disappointed that we haven't made all of the plays that we needed to make, and that's something that we have to learn and have the ability to understand how to do that. But, I am pleased with the effort and the character that our football team has displayed. So, today our program is on solid ground with those things.
Can you talk a little bit about the defense and what things on defense still need improvement?
In all honesty, we've done some good things on defense. Our run game, to some degree, is still very solid. As you look at us in terms of numbers for the conference in our pass game, we're doing some things well there. But, the biggest thing that surrounds us - if you want to say drastic difference between a successful team one year ago and our team this year - is that we are not creating turnovers. And that's huge. Last year, you would probably describe us as an opportunistic defense. Not that we stopped everyone, but that our defense made those plays necessary to win football games, and they created some turnovers and that's something that we're not getting, the final plays that you need to put you in position to win. That's not entirely true, because we are in position to win. We're not making those plays to get us over the top.
Can you talk about that a little more because it seemed like last year against Oregon State, you guys made them fumble twice, and you guys intercepted a pass in the last minute against USC?
Those are the things that I'm talking about. When you make those kinds of turnovers and you do those kinds of things, you put yourself in a much better position. This year, we're having far too many turnovers, and the ratio from the ones that we're getting is not a positive ratio. So, when you do that, you're behind the eight ball. Then, from a football standpoint, one of the problems that we struggled with earlier - I think last week we were pretty good with it - was when we're in the red zone, taking advantages of opportunities to score. Now, that's not a defensive question, but offense effects defense and special teams, etc. All those things are factored in. Our punting game last week put our defense in some bad positions. All of that is part of the whole scenario that makes a good successful football team.
Do you think the defense could perform a lot better if the offense was more effective?
It all goes hand in hand. The more the offense scores, the more our offense is on the field, the defense in my opinion gets better automatically. It all goes hand in hand. The more turnovers we get, then the more our offense can be on the field, the more it can score. I don't think you can just separate one particular area. It's all interrelated and the better our performance in all of those areas, the better we become as a football team. We put much less pressure on any one particular part.
How's the health of the team? (Zach) Quaccia?
I think we're reasonably healthy, maybe seeming to be getting a little stronger. We're still missing a few guys. Quaccia, in particular, came out of the (UCLA) ballgame pretty good. A little more sore, of course, but I think in pretty good shape to start the week.
Shoulder and hamstring that he's been nursing for a couple of weeks. He'll be day-to-day and we'll see exactly what his progress will be. But he could be a young man that will start the week probably in a questionable category.
What about the guys that were out last week?
(Craig) Albrecht will be ready to come back, if I'm correct. (Anthony) Gabriel will be probably questionable. (Jamien) McCullum will be questionable to start the week.
(Anthony) Gabriel did come back right?
He came back in the Washington game and played a few plays, if I'm correct.
(Eric) Heitmann I noticed came out one play (versus UCLA), but I believe he came back.
I think that was because he was poked in the eye, then he came back, it may have even been a few snaps later. I'm not sure how that series finished (or) exactly when it happened, but he did come back in and played the vast majority of the game.
Are there any guys that you would like to give some playing time to who maybe haven't had the opportunity to get out there somewhere this season very much?
I think there are some guys that we'll look at and see how they fit into the structure of what we're doing, because we will never waiver what I said is our first priority - which is to win the football game. That means you usually put the young men on the field that have deserved and earned the right to be there first. That's how we'll progress.
Is there anyone (who hasn't played much) that you will mention?
What about Arizona State?
You mean somebody asked a question about Arizona State (laugh). This is a football team that, I guess in some regards, is going through a very similar difficult time as we are. I think I can use the word difficult, because they've been in a number of close ballgames, and I can't say that those games have worked in their favor. They're doing a lot of things right. I think they've got the number one pass offense, if I'm correct, in the Pac-10. They've always had a very sound running attack. Their defense is very aggressive. I think the linebacker (Adam) Archuleta is probably leading the conference in tackles, or pretty close to it. So, they've got in my opinion a very talented football team. But, they're probably looking at themselves and saying 'We've not made all of the plays we need to make to be the kind of team that we'd like to be.'
Now they (Arizona State) are going to be bringing a lot of motivation, because they still have a chance to get to a bowl game, correct?
I don't know. I'm aware that they have an opportunity for a bowl game but what value I place that on their motivation, I don't know. I think their coach could better tell me that.
Do you think that it's too simplistic to say that the teams with the best quarterbacks are going to be more successful?
No, I don't think that's too simplistic at all. I think that is one of the things that you have to put a little weight to when you factor success and who has potential success in the conference. Not in a scientific poll, but I'm willing to think that the last five years, it's probably been the senior or junior quarterbacks that have led teams to championships in this league. So, I think there's something to be said for that. But, I'm willing to also believe that there's probably been a core of seniors around that quarterback that have also boosted and helped him get done the things that the teams need to get done. I don't think it's too simplistic to say that because in our league in the last five or six years, it's been dominated by offense. The team, probably that scored the most points, has probably won the championship or pretty close to it - and may have been in total the best offensive team in the Pac-10.
Would it be fair to say that perhaps a lot of where Stanford sits right now is because the starting quarterback (Randy Fasani) has missed parts of five games and his replacement is a redshirt freshman (Chris Lewis) who's still learning his way?
I think that would be unfair to say that. Is that a contributor? Yes. Your quarterback does make a difference. I think Randy (Fasani) did some great things and he's still learning. I think Chris (Lewis) has done some great things. You've got to speak very well for his relief efforts, what he's done coming in. But at the same time, I think he's also still learning. If you look at our football team, in many cases, especially from an offensive perspective, the whole team is still learning. No, I think it would definitely be unfair to say that the quarterback and how the injuries have effected us is the one true cause in that area.
Just a general observation on college football, the point you just made about teams that score the most win. It used to be truisms like "a defense wins". The score of the average game has gone up so much. There was a game earlier this season that ended up 14-10, the Oregon-Arizona State game. That's just outlandishly low now. At one time, that was like a normal score.
If you're looking for why, I don't know if I have all the answers to that. But, I think, one, you've involved a great deal of passing in the game. The thought was many years ago, and it may have been attributed to (former Ohio State head coach) Woody Hayes, that if you pass the football three things can happen and two of those are bad. But at the same time, if you pass the football, all you need to do in some cases is be successful only one out of three throws and you have a first down. I think there are two ways to look at it. It does put good athletes out in space and that's one thing that happens when you pass the football. You get a guy out there that in many cases one-on-one, that if he does have a little athletic ability, he can shake a guy, something happens and he's off to the races. So, it does make a difference. I think also the offensive mind around the country has changed so much. I think we used to be so protective of the football. Offenses around the country now are willing to take more risk. Anytime you have high risk, they tell me you have high reward also. There are a lot of things that are adding in to it but passing the football has been a plus. They are doing it at all levels probably better than they've done it at any time. At one time, option football used to have a corner of the country locked in. The Southwest was just going to be option football, but now you look around the country and everywhere, in high school, they are throwing the football. Kids are coming up throwing and catching and running, and doing those things much better each year that we progress in football.
On the subject of one play doesn't make a big difference ... but as opposing coaches look defensively at Luke Powell with the long touchdown (versus UCLA) and the speed he's shown in running away, those Arizona State coaches now think we better know where that guy is.
I don't know if you go to that extent yet, but I do think it showcases one of the things that may have been missed from our offensive attack, is that big explosive play. Somewhere in college football, the modern game, you've got to find that. It's got to come from a wide receiver, it has to come from a running back, somebody that can change the length of the field. That field gets awfully short when you have a guy that can take one 60 or 70 yards. We need that. A year ago and I hate to reflect back to a year ago, we had that in a young man. Troy Walters at any point could make the field seem awfully small with the number of big plays that he had. We need to do that - big plays, score in the red zone, not turn the ball over, get turnovers - all of those things are important.