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Did you see (Washington football player) Curtis Williams in the hospital over the weekend? Do you know how he's doing?
I did not see him in my visit to the hospital, and I think at this time I'd not be allowed to say very much regarding his condition in any way. I think that should all come, with proper respect to his family and Washington, from them.
Can you talk about how a profound experience like that (the serious injury to Curtis Williams) tempers the week and also your sense of how it affects the team?
First of all, both teams did a good job of handling that situation - not just the delay but the trauma that that situation creates. Both teams came back and played what I thought was good, sound football. I commend both teams for the manner in which they handled that and how they finished the ballgame. The trauma of it - it's a very serious thing. It's something that often, as players and coaches, you choose not to think about. But, you're aware that it can happen - but, you've chosen the game because you love it and even with some of the negatives that are concealed in it, you still go forward in the game. I think our football team, hopefully very much like the University of Washington, will be working our way to be very positive about a very bad situation.
After such a tough loss (versus Washington), you have three games left and you have to win all three (to be bowl-eligible). How do you get that positive back, get pointed back in the right direction?
It's probably not as difficult as some people might think, because I believe at the start of the football season that you prepare your football team with thoughts of success and thoughts of disappointment. Because, at some point both of those can happen. We can have that marvelous win against Texas or the last-second win against USC, or you can have that disappointing last-second loss against the University of Washington. You know within the course of a football season, those things can happen. And that's part of football. So, you prepare for the ups and you prepare for the down. As we've always tried to do within the structure of our program, is play toward the things that our positive. We're playing a football team (UCLA) that has a great tradition in this conference this weekend. We're playing for an opportunity to go to a bowl game. So, all those things are very positive for our program. I think they're things that we can point toward, and I believe our young men and our coaches will be pointed toward those type of goals.
You guys have seemed to always be able to keep a pretty even keel in following weeks in either direction? Have you experienced that everywhere you've been or have you experienced that more here at Stanford?
I think that's kind of, not a difficult question but comes from different perspectives. As a head coach, you have an opportunity to hopefully influence more so than a position coach may do that. The manner that you kind of set your agenda, set your program. I think sometimes as an assistant coach, you have a tendency to follow. To answer your question, I'll only say for what we've been able to do here. We've been able to keep a very even keel about the good and the bad that has occurred during the course of a football season.
Is that something you talk about with them (the team) every week?
(Do) you just pick your spots?
I've noticed you guys have been very successful in November? Do you think that's a result of that approach that you take?
No, I think there we've had some good fortune. Also though, we've played some teams that our young men pointed toward. Possibly, there are some things that we do within the structure of our system that allow us to still be fairly healthy at this time of the year and be both fresh mentally as well as physically.
Why don't you talk about Randy (Fasani) a little bit. He was having a difficult day (versus Washington). Throwing the ball in the first half was almost non-existent and somehow, someway with five minutes to go in that game he found something within himself - what kind of a competitor he is or what he was able to achieve. And then of course the terrible feeling of not being able to walk out of there with a win after he had put on such a show. I thought it was just remarkable.
I would definitely compliment Randy, but I'd also compliment our entire football team. As we started the game, for those that were kind of keeping track of the ratios, which I think I was kind of asked that question on Saturday - something about the number of passes being four at halftime. It was quite a bit more than that. Unfortunately, based on coverage and based on pass pressure, etc., Randy ran quite a few of those (plays) that in some cases worked in our favor. The compliment, yes, is to Randy but it's also to the football team, because I thought our football team, regardless of what had taken place during the majority of the football game, still had the character and the courage to keep coming back and find a way to make those little plays that we hadn't been making earlier to give us a chance to win. I was extremely proud of our young men for doing that, but at the same time there's nothing like that feeling of having it in your hands and then having it slip away. We had that experience.
You mentioned that there actually were a number more pass plays called that ended up turning into runs. What is your feeling after watching the film? Do you think that on most of those occasions that Randy (Fasani) did pull the ball down and run (that) it was warranted? Would you like to see him maybe stick to the pass longer before pulling it down?
Well, there's a combination of some (plays) that (there is) just pressure from the pass rush, that you have to move and do some things and scramble and try to make something happen. There are times that the coverage does a great job, and they're times that maybe we just miss something. So, it's all of the above. But, I was very pleased with his play, very pleased with his effort, his character and his courage of putting us in a position to be successful at the end of the football game.
He (Randy Fasani) is one reckless, in a way, quarterback, not at all shying away from running.
That's a positive.
Would you like to see him, maybe, run not quite as much?
No. That is something that in modern day football is a plus for you. When you have a quarterback that has mobility that means that's one more thing that a defense has to defend. Now, what you have to do is make sure you use it at the right times.
You guys traditionally are one of the least penalized teams in the league. The last three games, though, have been perhaps not what you would have wanted in that area.
Well, one is always too much.
There's been clearly a notable difference in the last three games. Have you seen any common ground to the mistakes?
No. Even in other years, I think that we've led the conference, three out of the (last) five years. You had a game or two where you've had eight or ten (penalties), or something along those lines, and you've had those games where you've had two or three penalties. Of course, I think we've had some of those this year also. So, it kind of ebbs and flows just a little bit. You have a couple high points and you have a couple low points. But, the thing that you hate about any penalty is that usually it's disruptive to success. Usually, it stops a drive or it allows them (the opponent) to maintain a drive. We had a couple of those Saturday (versus Washington) that really stood out. Those kind of things are the little mistakes that you don't like and that you can't afford to make when, you're in a sense, battling to get those victories.
To what would you attribute the success of the running game the last couple of weeks?
I would say, one, we are staying with our running game, which is important. The confidence of our young men in our running game, of our line, of our backs, and I think the improvement (of those players). That group, to some degree, and not to make any excuses but when you look at the group, you're starting a couple of freshmen at the tackle (position), you've got at left guard a young man that's getting his first starts that is starting to come along. We've lost (starting center Zack) Quaccia and Quaccia is now able to come back, but you're playing with a true sophomore at center (Mike Holman). You're talking about a lot of inexperience there to some degree. They're starting to grow, and they're starting to gel, and they're starting to get better each week. When you go against a schedule that's as difficult as ours, you need some seniors and you need some leaders across the board to really have the success that you'd like to have.
Is (Zack) Quaccia about ready to come back (from his injury)?
We're hopeful that he'll start back into the system at some point this week.
Have you noticed a difference in the way (running backs) Kerry (Carter) and Brian (Allen) have run?
You mentioned the group you have at left tackle, left guard and at center. At right guard and right tackle, you have two guys that were starting last year. Have they provided a little bit of stability?
Yes, they have. Eric Heitmann and Greg Schindler have done a great job of being a stabilizing force up front for us. Especially in light of the fact that we've missed (tight end) Russell Stewart a lot of this year - that is a fifth-year senior and a proven player that you know can provide that maturity and that leadership and that guidance for those guys up front.
No, we try to take it wherever we think we can find yardage - left or right, center.
Did the (weather) conditions effect the game (versus Washington) appreciably?
I think to some degree, yes, whether it was just within the players' ability to execute. I'm not certain that it really overall affected our (play) calling. I think it may have affected some strategy in terms of our kicking game, what you can do and can't do there. I think it did have some impact, yes.
We talked upstairs (in the press box) at one point of the wet turf, and it was a little slippery. We saw some people slip and obviously that (Stanford's grass playing surface) is good turf under any conditions, but yet slippery. Maybe there is a little advantage to the offense in that the receivers know where they're going and the defenders have to react to that. It's always seemed to me that if a ball is kept relatively dry that the receivers have an added advantage over the defenders.
Well, I think it was hard to do that (keep the ball dry). It was very difficult to keep the ball completely dry. You saw a couple of passes from both sides that just kind of took off. That made it very difficult, but I thought our guys responded fairly well under those conditions.
How different is UCLA with (tailback DeShaun) Foster playing?
Drastically. If you were to make a comparison, and you guys would probably look at our system and say 'When Randy's (Fasani) in the lineup our point totals (are here), when Foster's in the lineup (this is) what they're able to do'. There are certain players that bring an air of confidence to their teammates because they're there. He is one of those players. He is one of the better backs in the league. Unfortunately, he's been injured a lot of his career, but he is truly a very talented back.
And (wide receiver) Freddie Mitchell. You'll pay a lot of attention to where he is?
Well, the problem that arises there is that they have what I consider a lot of Freddie Mitchells. They have a young kid that's starting to play a little bit (Tab Perry) that's developing into a fantastic player. They're starting to get him more involved. They've got Mitchell, they've got a lot of guys that are very, very talented. When you have that many guys that have the speed and the ability that they have, it makes it very difficult to focus on just one guy.
You mentioned (Zack) Quaccia. The other guys who have not played (because of injury)? (What is their status?) (Darin) Naatjes? (Craig) Albrecht?
As we dig down the list, Naatjes will probably be day-to-day. Albrecht, probably right now we'd still say out today. That could change, but out today. (Russell) Stewart's okay. I'm trying to think who else did not (play versus Washington).
Pfeifer, probably questionable, but that could change by (this) afternoon. As soon as we get the doctors to look at him, we'll see where we are.
What do you remember about the game (versus UCLA) in the Rose Bowl in 1996. I think (quarterback Chad) Hutchinson led you guys down for a late touchdown. Did that have a big impact (on your team)?
There were a lot of very good things there. Probably one of the biggest ones was during that ballgame we were kind of battling back and forth, and we needed a big play. I think it was right before the half we got one when Troy Walters had just made a spectacular catch, it might even have been on our sideline. I think that kind of ignited our energies and our focus and our belief. I think we went in at halftime and came back out and were able to find a way to win the football game.
Do you remember that game having a significant impact on that season? If I'm correct, you guys had lost a couple in a row. You won that game and you finished off with a winning streak. And the Sun Bowl, is that right?
I'm not sure where the UCLA game fit, but you've got to get one. You're at that point. My comparison is baseball where you have a stopper come in. This is the guy that you know that puts you in position to win after you've had a stretch where you've kind of slid a little bit - a guy comes in and gets it done. At some point, you need to find that stopper that stops that slide and then you can get yourself going and that confidence can be reborn. Then, you can play the kind of football you're capable of playing.
Would it be likely that if (Zack) Quaccia returned to practice this week ... what would be the scenario as far as the game on Saturday (at UCLA)? Get him in for a few plays? Spell (current starting center Mike) Holman?
We'll see. The best I could tell you is that there'd be the chance that he (Quaccia) could start or Holman could start. We'd look at the practices, see how they're both doing. More particularly, see how Quaccia is doing, more than anything else.
Is daylight savings time a big deal for you guys without the lights (on the practice field)? Does that really significantly change the way you prepare for a game?
It changes your routine. As much as anything else, you always like to be as consistent with routines as possible. But, with the same breath, you can always say that when you have a team and you give them adjustments and they're capable of executing your adjustments, you believe that helps you also. There's room for both. It kind of goes back to your question about bye week. You have to make whatever situation you have a positive. So, if we have to change our schedule to some degree with the change to Pacific Standard Time, then we ought to find a way to make it benefit us. That's what you do.
Would you like to get your lights (on the practice field) next year?
We'd love to have them at that time.
Are you actually losing practice time?
For the most part, no. It's just a little tighter window. Probably what you lose, maybe meeting time and effective meeting time.