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Tyrone Willingham Quotes - Text and Audio
Courtesy: Stanford Athletics  
Release: 10/03/2000

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    We just heard the potential weather report in South Bend.
    So, does that mean you guys are still going (laugh). So, you've got second thoughts now (laugh). No, it's going to be cold. It's going to be a Midwestern day, we anticipate. For many of our guys, that will be a return to what they call football weather.

    Is there any way you can prepare in case it's raining and 35 degrees? Do you guys practice with a wet ball?

    We can probably get into a couple of deep freezes around here. See if we can walk around and hold our own (laugh). No, I don't know. The wet ball things we've done occasionally, and we'll continue to do those things within the structure of our practice. But, I don't know if there is anything you can do here to simulate that (the weather). Hopefully, we can bring enough "Cool Zones" out to practice to get it cold enough to simulate that, but the whole key is just focusing on what you have to do. (That) is the key area. If our football team can focus on going in there, winning the football game, and let that be their focus, then the weather becomes less of a distraction. But, if you can't focus on that, then weather becomes a factor.

    Would a team make up sort of dual game plans to prepare for varying (weather conditions)?

    I think you have to prepare for the conditions. The conditions will limit certain things that you can do. We'll start to figure out some of that, hopefully, when we get there. But, I think you have to have an initial plan for it. How does the weather affect the footing? What can you do? How much of your pass game can you have involved, etc., things of that nature. So, you have to have some plans for it.

    Might limit your practice on Friday? Depending on rain?

    It might very well limit our practice on Friday. All of those things have to factor in.

    Does taking players to Notre Dame still have the same sort of mystique do you think that it might previously have had? Or does it's exposure - television, players being exposed to so much more, you guys going there on a regular basis - is it perhaps less (of a big deal)?

    I'd probably say that has, maybe, individual impact. As a coach, it probably has less on me. I've been there, played there, coached there, so I think it has less. I think each time a player goes back there, it probably has less of a mystique. In most cases, (the players) probably don't read as much about it, having had the experience of being there. Probably, it does more than anything else, kind of shape how people feel about it. Because, if there was nothing written about mystique, who would know anything about mystique (laugh)? So, I think that shapes more of it than anything else and starts to develop some type of mindset within your conscious. I've said this many times - no matter where you go, the field dimensions are not going to change. And that's what you have to deal with.

    Is there any advice you can give a freshman quarterback (Chris Lewis) making his first start on the road, right under Touchdown Jesus with all those people?

    See, there you go, writing the mystique again. I have a hard time, because I don't know how much Touchdown Jesus is going to see. So, you'll have to forgive me, but no, I think the comments for our quarterback will be very much the same as they were the week before, and the week after that, and the year before that. As a quarterback, you must take what they give you. You don't try to force the action. You let the action and what they display - you take advantage of it. (An) inexperienced quarterback and a veteran quarterback, if they (both) do that, they have great success.

    How did Chris (Lewis) do in that regard against Arizona?

    I think Chris did some good things, but I think there was also some learning that took place during that football game. That learning was not just limited to Chris. There were some other areas that we learned and grew some, also.

    In both the losses (this year), a couple of coaches have made sort of illusions to being surprised at how not up for the game or not sort of mentally as aggressive as maybe you were against Texas for example? Is that a coaching thing? Is that (something) that is just different for different players? Is it difficult because different individuals require different motivation? What would you attribute that kind of thing to?

    I don't know where to attribute it to. I'm always one that believes that any result - victory, loss - is shaped by a total team. I think as a coach, I play a part when we win, I play a part when we lose. I think you constantly go back and are evaluating, reevaluating everything you do to try to make sure that it's the right thing to put yourself and the team in the right position to have success.

    Have you guys made any decisions regarding Teyo's (freshman quarterback Teyo Johnson) situation?

    No, not in terms of (being) final. I think the situations that we're prepared for (are that) we're prepared to play Teyo and we're prepared not to play Teyo. I think that is in a sense the approach that we have to have. That is a difficult one for the young man to be placed under, but at the time I think it is probably the best one to work with him and try to work through with him.

    When you talk about quarterbacks, do you think (Notre Dame head coach) Bob Davie is sitting in the same place you are, saying the same things you are, with the same situation you have?

    I'm not sure if he's getting as sophisticated questions that I'm getting about that (laugh). But no, I think it's very similar. I think he's starting a quarterback there for the first time, too, and he has to have all the right answers and do the right things with his quarterback. It's very much the same. His guy's going to have 41 degrees and snow and rain. This is very much the same. My thing has always been as long as it's equal on both sides (I'm okay with it). If it's raining on one half of the field, then we have a problem (laugh).

    Have you ever seen that?

    No, not at a football game I haven't. I've been walking on one side of the street that's raining and the other side is not. They have similar circumstances that we have to some degree. We both have to battle through it and find a way to be successful.

    Injuries? Both questionable and probable (for this Saturday's game at Notre Dame)?

    We have a doubtful in Russell Stewart. Luke Powell was injured in the (Arizona) ballgame Saturday. He's questionable. Amon Gordon was injured prior to the (Arizona) ballgame. I think he is questionable. Anybody else I've missed? (Matt) Wright is okay for last week, so that's a probable if you want to list one. Other than that, I'm not sure if we had any others that jump out.

    Can you talk about the (Pac-10) conference a little bit? There have been many years when USC, UCLA and the (Washington) Huskies are all ranked at the top or very close to the top - and we've barely started and they've all lost? Is that unusual?

    I think I've been maybe one person that for at least the last year has said that the Pac-10 may be the forerunners to what's happening around the country. I guess parity or balance - or whatever positive tone or words you like to put on it - is occurring. I think I stated that the 25 scholarships (football reduced its scholarship maximum from 110 to 85) are starting to spread their way through college football. I said television that now, from the standpoint of a young person... 20 years ago, you saw one football game on a Saturday afternoon. You got lucky if it was a doubleheader one Saturday. And you had, basically, Notre Dame football on Sunday from a college standpoint. I think now with cable, satellites, etc., a young person can see themselves play almost anywhere in the country every weekend. So, I think it's taken some of the boundaries (off) on where young people are willing to go to school. So, kids that once always went to Ohio State or Michigan in the Big 10, or Alabama in the Southeast Conference, now he can go other places and be seen on television. Usually, those schools, they soaked up all the television - a couple of your big powers. That and the scholarships have been significant factors in helping change college football. I think we're headed in the direction that every weekend is going to be unpredictable. Now, there will still be some very good programs. But, I think there's going to be a point now where anyone, as they say on any given Saturday, you can win or lose a football game.

    You're an old Big 10 guy and here comes Northwestern again.

    They're a charging team. And, Wisconsin. They've (Wisconsin) had success over their program's career, but they made a heck of a run. They're still a very solid football team, and they'll be reckoned with this year. I think the landscape is changing to some degree. It's starting. I hope it's not just a fluke. I think it is something you're going to see.

    Is altering the week (the week's schedule) a big deal to do that?

    You have to forgive me for ambiguous answers sometimes. I think it all depends on who you talk to, because in any thing you do there are pluses and there are minuses. Getting outside of a normal schedule for a lot of people could be a minus, for some people it could be a well-welcomed change. It's something stimulating, something new, something different - boy, they like it. So, I think you have to balance that. What as a coach you're forced to do, you're forced to try to make the best arrangements that you believe will help your team have success. I think it would be very difficult for us as a football team to have success if on Friday morning, we got up and tried to fly to South Bend. I don't think that would bode well. So, I think the next thing you look at is how we can make it a positive for us. So, if we try to leave sometime Thursday, get in there and now have Friday (as) a day that you kind of have a normal and somewhat relaxed schedule, I think (that) gives us our best chance.

    And that's why fly (in the) middle of the day instead of flying after practice (on Thursday)?
    We also have to work with the airlines, too. But, if you fly after a normal practice, what time do you get there? You might as well leave Friday.

    Do you ever remember going through a period in the schedule where you played five ranked teams in a row?

    Since I've been at Stanford, no.

    Do you at all talk to the players about the five weeks (versus currently ranked teams) as a whole and here's the challenge for the month of October?

    My focus is one at a time, because I think when you start trying to play two teams at one time, you don't have much success. Our focus is - the most important game we play, the biggest game we play, is this week. I think that has helped our team be very resilient in the past. Because, we can't do anything about last week today, so why focus on it. Let's go take on the team that we're going to play this week, and I think we've tried to do that focus over the years. I think it's worked well for us.

    On special teams?

    We need to improve our special teams, and I think in saying that that is not a mystery, a secret. I think it's a fact that we need to improve our special teams. The one that seems to be most glaring, of course, has been just the act of punting. We need to find a way to improve that.

    Have you made a decision on who will be the starting punter Saturday? I'm leaning toward, I think is the best way to say it, Mike Biselli being our starting punter. I've yet to determine his backup.

    Can you talk about turnovers, Coach? Is it almost a contagious type of thing? If you bring it up, it's too visible?

    I'm not sure if it was last year, I don't think we had any major (turnover) games, I think it might have been a couple of years ago, in fact (the) Arizona (game), that we had a game where I think we had somewhere in the lines of almost eight potential turnovers. We may have lost five of them in that ballgame and the same question was raised. I think any time you have an opportunity to deal with things from a positive standpoint, you're better doing that than you are from a negative standpoint. What we try to do is coach it (and) teach it the right way. I think it's something that we talk about in our program every day - holding on to the football - no matter whether it's fumbles or whether its interceptions. The thing is those things are not a one-person act. If a back gets hits too soon, everybody says 'Well, he fumbled.' Well, there were some other people that contributed to that also. So, it's a team thing, and it's always not just the physical act of holding on to the football. Sometimes, you say "Whoa, gosh, they weren't touched, they weren't this, they weren't that." There's more to it than just one individual.

    On that point, you were talking about a learning experience for Chris (Lewis). That first interception was (by) a linebacker. Does Chris now know where that guy came from? Why he was there? How he got there? Is he more aware of that kind of situation now than he was before the game?

    We hope so, but that's all part of playing the game and starting to see things in a live situation. Things change. You can practice that particular route all week, but maybe their guy doesn't quite line up the same place that you practiced. The game has a different perspective to it. That's where playing the game, gaining the experience now allows you have to have a larger library, and I keep saying that, a larger library to reference the game when you play. And, that's what you have to have.



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