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Quotes From Football Head Coach Tyrone Willingham - Text And Audio
Courtesy: Stanford Athletics  
Release: 09/12/2000

Sept. 12, 2000

Audio

Other than the fact that you lost, what is the most distressing thing for you about that game Saturday (versus San Jose State)?

Obviously, the loss takes center stage. That's the thing that just grinds you. It's that you lost and just the opportunity to move yourself and your football team to what I thought would be a very special place. Because, one of the things that we had hopefully pointed to was the fact that our football team could possibly be 2-0 this season, and that would be, I think, the fourth team in Stanford history to do that in the last 25 years. So that was an important thing in my mind and hopefully in the minds of our football team. The loss is the number one thing. I don't think any of the individual things that you couldn't accomplish carry much weight when you lose.

Can you talk about your defense and what concerns you might have, particularly against Texas but also in general as the season matures?

We opened the season with some very obvious concerns and knowing that we had to improve our defense to be a better football team. Coming out of the Washington State ballgame, we were pleased with the initial progress of our team. But, with our absence of tackling this past ballgame, we took a step back. We've got to look at that and make sure that we become a much better tackling football team. The continued effort in terms of our fundamentals, as we always place each week, will be there. But, also we've got to approach the overall attitude that it comes to make a tackle and stop that opponent. That has to be improved. That's something that not only our coaches will be talking to our players about but hopefully our players will be talking to each other about. That's something that we have to make sure we get squared away.

You said last week that Whitaker (San Jose State running back Deonce Whitaker) could easily be the best back you face all year. I'm not sure everybody believed you. I think most of them do now.

It's a shame if it took just our ballgame to convince someone that he's a very good back, because I think that his career has really pointed toward that, when he's been healthy and when he's been in their lineup. I think Nebraska is a worthy football team in terms of being able to rate players and rate teams. He had a great performance against them and a very fine performance against us.

Do you have a different mindset when you're facing a Top 10 team like Texas?

Probably, the mindset with Texas is a little scary. They are a very talented football team. It's rare that you see this overall talent that they have. They've got two quarterbacks, they've got four or five receivers that almost look like cookie-cutter receivers - 6-4, 6-5, 205 pounds, that run 10-plus, 10-something 100-meters. This is a very talented team, not to talk about an offensive tackle that may be one of the best ones in the country and an offensive line that is very gifted, but a defensive line that probably has by some people's estimations, maybe two first-round draft choices just on the front line. I've not even started with their linebackers or their secondary. So, this is a very good and solid football team that gets your attention very quickly.

We're you disappointed in your players last week and what did you tell them?

The first thing is I've always said that disappointment starts with me. I'm the first person that's disappointed and what I have to do is always look at any and every thing that I've done - any and every thing that I've said to our football team - in terms of posturing them to be in the right position to do the things that we need to do. So, my disappointment starts with me. Then, I would hope that within the structure of our football program and with the competitors that we have that every guy on our football team looks at himself and takes that evaluation that you have to do every time you play. You have to look in that mirror and ask yourself "Was this my best, did I do everything that I could do to make our football team be successful? And for me, that starts with me and then hopefully extends to everyone on our football team.

How do you turn around that mentality (by starting with yourself) or can you in a week's time?

The first thing that you have to do any week is to make sure your preparation is in place, that you know from a knowledge standpoint all the things you need to know. And that as a football player, you build yourself up emotionally for what has to take place on Saturday. So, if I have my emotional level where it should be and if I have my knowledge level where it should be, then I should be able to rest comfortable that I am going to be able to have my best performance.

Do you go back at all to last year (game versus Texas)? Is it too far removed with it being game one last year or do you look at some of that and maybe learn from this team? Or is this (Texas team) a totally different team and is your team totally different?

We are totally different, number one, because we don't have a Troy Walters, we don't have a Todd Husak. If you look most closely at our offensive line last year, we are totally different there. Because, after I think it was the first five minutes of the game, we were awfully stretched in terms of our offensive line. But, you do have to go back, you do have to look at the strategy, you do you have to look at how they wanted to attack us and how we wanted to attack them - and see if there's anything in there that you can pull out that will help this year. So, yes, we go back and we make sure we look at it, and we try to evaluate. In some cases, you will probably even go back as far as our game against North Carolina when coach Brown (Texas coach Mark Brown) was there to see if there are any similarities or things that you can look at in game film from that standpoint.

Is it a clich? or do you draw added motivation from the score (69-17 Texas) of last year?

I think you can't help but be hurt and disappointed by the score of last year. In the game of life, you use everything you can that's motivation to put you in the right position to win.

Do you think it (last year's loss to Texas) was a 52-point loss, or was it close or just one or two plays here or there that really kind of broke it open?

It was a 52-point loss. I think that was the differential.

Can you talk about the (Texas) quarterbacks?

First of all, they are two very good quarterbacks. I think you have a contrast, first of all in terms of experience and probably in terms of confidence. One young man comes with a great pedigree. But, I think (Major) Applewhite has a confidence from being the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year (last season) and has led his team to the successful journey that they've already been on. That in itself is the difference between the two guys. That difference in itself allows for a difference in their play. In terms of (Chris) Simms, we could see a young man that, one is left-handed, which presents a change in probably the style to some degree in terms of how they may call or structure things and how we may have to look at things. You will also see a young man that because of his inexperience to some degree, it may cause him to not see things in the same manner that Applewhite would. When that happens with the quarterback, sometimes it makes you make moves prematurely that the more experienced guy would not make at that time that might be a little more reserved and wait a little longer to read things out or do things from that standpoint. So, from that standpoint, there is a tremendous difference between the two. Physically, we're not sure quite yet how Applewhite will totally perform. You know he had some medical problems coming out of last spring and coming into the year. So, those may force a change in his game. It may make him a little less mobile in some instances and a little more reserved in getting out of the pocket.

Can you talk about your quarterback (Randy) Fasani and your view of his progress so far?

I like a lot of the things that we've seen out of Randy and there's no question - we knew all along - that Randy would add some dimensions to our offense with his mobility, his athleticism. But, as always, I think anytime you have - I consider him a young quarterback even though he's been in our system, he's just gaining his experience - there's some things that you are going to see, not see, miss, not get the right throw here or there. So, we're having some of that also, but I think overall he's doing a good job for us and (we're) pleased with what he is doing.

(Offensive guard Paul) Weinacht did not play (versus San Jose State). Can you tell us why and whether you think he will be able to play this Saturday?

As you know, I'm a little reluctant about the actual specifics of the injuries, but I can tell you that going into this week right now, he is a probable.

What are two or three specific areas that you would like to want to be focusing on in practice this week in terms of making the outcome of this game different from last year?

The key word for us right now as a football team is probably the word "finish". That hits us all across the board, whether it's finish the throw, finish the catch, finish the block, finish the tackle. That's something that we have to do as a football team. If we can do that, then I think you upgrade your execution.

Do you look at this Texas team you play now compared to the Texas team you played last year? Is this a better team than you played last year? I know they are higher ranked.

I would have to say yes. I would have to yes, this is a better team. They lost some key players from last year's team that were very good. I also think they've elevated some guys that have moved up that in the process of their recruiting have been outstanding players that have just kind of been waiting for their time to step in and make some contributions. So, no, I think this is a better football team.

Is that why you say scary?

I say scary because when you look at them and you start to take the individual components - they are very solid at quarterback, very good at running back. Their two backs are very solid. You look at their receiving core. It's a very talented group. Their offensive line is as big and as a strong and probably as good as any we'll see. Then, you flip the corner and go on their defense. Their two defensive tackles may be as good as any two in the country. Their overall speed at the linebacker core and defensive ends is excellent. They feel like, even from their own admissions, that their secondary is probably one of the real strengths of their football team. When you look at them from that standpoint and you take all those components and put it together, that becomes a frightening team that has the potential to do a lot of really good things. That's why I use that term.

Are they beatable?

Yes.

Is confidence a concern for you right now, having arguably having taken a step backwards (versus San Jose State) and then playing a team like this that is so good and what happened last year (versus Texas), all those things together?

It's more execution that is a concern than confidence. We have to execute. If we execute, then we'll be in great shape. Again, that goes to my word "finish".

Is this more exciting with the team knowing it's a nationally televised game or do you approach it as any other game?

Well, it's not any other game. Anytime that you're on major network coverage, it's a big deal. That's what little kids that have visions of themselves being football players, that's what you grew up hoping that one day you'll be that guy that's in front of the camera. You'll have that opportunity to be either in front of the lights or in front of the good old-fashioned sunshine playing a big time college football game. So, I think it is exciting. There is more to it. It adds something to everyone's preparation and everyone's focus.

Anybody else coming out of the (San Jose State) game in such a way that you would think they would not be able to play or is more questionable? No, this is probably as healthy as we've been this year. If you can tell me somebody that hasn't played I can probably give you a pretty good comment on where they are. (Sam) Benner? Probably questionable ... (Byron) Glaspie? That would be one that would probably be out ... That's a while, right? I'm going to definitely say out for this week.

Is it a factor at all the way your team has played after a loss? Since 1998, they haven't lost twice in a row. Does that give you a good feeling for this week or is that just an invalid statistic?

Until you mentioned it, I hadn't thought about it. Does it say something hopefully about our resiliency and our ability to bounce back and focus, I hope it does. So, I hope it speaks well for us, yes.

Last year, Texas hurt you through the air. Defensively, will we see as much nickel, five defensive backs like we have in the first two games. Is Brian Taylor going to start again?

I think we're going to see a lot of four-receiver sets and three-receiver sets out of Texas. What they would like to do is feature some of those big wide receivers that they have. In the ballgame against Louisiana-Lafayette, they used those sets. I don't think that's anything new to them and they're very comfortable using that approach.

Do you think that you probably will continue with multiple (defensive backs)?

If we see that style offense, we'll have to be able to matchup.

Do you have any other punters that you are looking at? Is there anybody else other than those two (Sean Tolpinrud and Eric Johnson) that have a chance?

No, right now those would be the two that we are working with.

Is (Eric) Johnson still the starter (at punter)?

We'll see as we go through the week. My plan was probably to get (Sean) Tolpinrud in there at some point (versus San Jose State), and I didn't do that. So, we'll see as we progress through the week.

What about (quarterback) Chris Lewis? Last week, the situation just did not occur where you wanted to get him in there?

No, we just didn't have what we thought was the right opportunity to put him in and so we went with Randy (Fasani) the entire time.

Do you want to get him (Chris Lewis) in this week?

We'd like to get him as much experience as possible. I think you have to be always very careful in the commenting you say in what you will be able to do, because sometimes you are not able to do it. Therefore, you have misrepresented what your intentions were.

Can you talk a little bit about the comparison of last year? With the exception of Washington, you had a lot of games where you simply had to outscore them ... UCLA, Notre Dame, Cal, lots of others, Arizona.

That's really something that hopefully as we progress through this year that we'll see an improvement in our overall defensive play so that we don't have to be in those situations.

Was it a shock to the offense maybe this time that they weren't able to get it together in the second half and outscore them?

We just didn't execute. That was thing. We had plays, some big plays - a fumble on one of our receptions, a fumble on a pretty good run that was just about to put us in position to score some points - and when you do those things, it's very difficult to win. You go back and you look at what I've always said are critical areas in terms of measuring success. You look at your third-down conversion rate. What were we on third-down conversion rate? You go back and look and see what we were in terms of the turnover game. Did we have more turnovers - did we create more turnovers to put ourselves in positive positions than they did? We didn't win either one of those categories. It's very difficult to win a football game when you don't win those categories, and then we had maybe the ultimate measuring stick against us was that when we gave a turnover they scored on it. It's very difficult to win when you do those things.

Is it safe to say that the true freshmen who have not played will probably redshirt?

That's not safe.

Do you have a general philosophy? Do you prefer to redshirt whoever you can?

I prefer to play our best player and that's always been what we've tried to do. Where that has a little bit of a contradiction to it, is that usually for your freshmen to become that best player, they need to really learn and understand your system, so it takes some time. Some make that transition much faster than others.

It is just Kwame (Harris) and Amon (Gordon) at this point?

Those are the only two that have hit the field, yes.

Last week, we talked about the turf (at Washington State). Let's talk about the lights now (new permanent lights at Stanford Stadium). There weren't as many shadows. These are better than the old lights.

The lighting system that we had in place was excellent. Except for a few trimmings of a few trees around the field, around the stadium, we'll be in great shape. I think it was a marvelous addition to our stadium and really provided for a well-lit playing field.

Do you attach any significance to the fact that you scored virtually all your points in the first half in the first two games?

You have to score points in the second half and you have to score points in the fourth quarter to be successful. That, we've not done in the abundance that we need to do it. That also goes back to the finishing and your execution. If you can do those things, you're in positions to score. As a matter of fact, we had one that just missed in the fourth quarter, if I'm correct, a pass in the right corner of the end zone that was just out. So, that's execution. We've got to execute that play in order to put ourselves in position to score more points.

I don't think we can let you go without talking about (wide receiver DeRonnie) Pitts? I think we all felt he had a fabulous night of football as he always does?

I guess the old joke is that if you looked in the dictionary under consistency, you would probably see DeRonnie's picture. That's pretty close to what he gives us every night out. He is just a pure football player, and it's a pleasure to have a guy like that on your football team.


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