By Jonathan Okanes
Wednesday, October 21st, 2009 at 11:00 am in media luncheon.
A sampling of what was said at Tuesday’s weekly press luncheon:
CORNERBACK DARIAN HAGAN:
On playing better Saturday
Yeah, I think so. I’ve just been trying to overcome my injury, and things have been getting better. I definitely feel I can continue to play like this.
On whether his knee injury during camp set him back
It happened during camp, and I was limited in practice. Even during the season, the first few weeks, I was limited in practice and I felt like it hurt me a little bit. Technically, I got a little rusty, just have to get that back together.
On the injury leading to technique problems
That was the main thing that brought me to my down point, that knee injury. It had me at my worst, I’m just trying to bounce back from that.
On falling out of the starting lineup
It was tough, but not too tough. I feel like whoever we put in is capable of doing great things. I wasn’t really affected by it that much.
On feeling vindicated by his strong play Saturday
That’s something that makes me feel good. I had a terrible season up until that point, for that to be my best game and to get nominated, that’s a good feeling
On why he felt his season had been terrible for UCLA
It seemed like nothing was coming my way – and when it did come my way, I didn’t have a good outcome. That was a little frustrating. Up until last week, I had 10 tackles and one pass break-up. So for five games, I feel like that’s terrible. To have the type of game I had last week was just kind of a sigh relief for me.
On his poor performance against Minnesota serving as motivation
It kind of spurred me a little, made me realize I really needed to focus on some things and get better. I had an opportunity to face an excellent wideout (Eric Decker) and I came out on the bad end, so that kind of hurt me a little. Not really mentally or confidence wise, but to have that type of game just hurt. I guess it’s bound to happen at the position I play. So I just try to bounce back from that.
On handling his demotion better than he would have in the past
My freshman year, if I was starting and that game happened and I was pulled, I would have gone down in the hole and not really quit, but just had the type of attitude, Why am I doing this? Just being young and coming from my high school, I wasn’t ever challenged or had to face that type of situation. So I’m kind of glad it happened after a little bit of maturity, to keep me level headed.
On last year’s success helping him deal with this year’s struggles
The type of season I had last year, I gained the confidence of the coaches, to know they can trust me even if I have that type of game (against Minnesota), to put me back out there again and throw me in the starting lineup again if needed.
On why he was benched
I gave up a few touchdowns and had a blown coverage. Up until that game, I was just kind of out there. I feel like it was right, guys were working their butts off. I think they deserved to get out there and get their opportunity. It was the right thing to do at the time.
On the implications of the UCLA win
For us to get a win down there was kind of big – it’s been 16 years or something, so that was a good accomplishment for the school, for the staff and for us as players. We were 0-2, and 0-3 would have been terrible. So people have a little more juice this week, and coming back home, where we play excellent, hopefully we can keep things going.
LINEBACKER MIKE MOHAMED:
On overall assessment on the defense against UCLA
Overall, pretty good. We still allowed more points than we wanted to. We gave up a couple big plays. You don’t really want that to happen. For the most part, we shut down everything. When it mattered most in the red zone, we really came alive and held them to four field goals.
On concern of giving up so many yards
I wouldn’t say concern. It’s just an indication that we can still get better. We still have some things to work toward. We’d like to hold teams to a little less points. They can gain a thousand yards in a game, but if they don’t score any points.
On the source of the defense’s problems
A couple of minor fits. A couple guys, myself included, sometimes you get out of your gap and you don’t fit up to how they are. A couple inches here with one guy and a couple inches with another, and that can turn into a big play, like the long run that they got. After looking at the film, it was two inches from one guy and a couple inches from another guy.
On getting more pressure on the quarterback
That’s something that we’re working on. A lot of times they try to get the ball out pretty quick. That makes it almost impossible to get pressure. But we’ve got a couple things that we’re going to do to try to create more pressure, more looks, more things for them to try to process and try to handle.
On putting pressure on freshman quarterbacks
Freshman quarterbacks are not going to have a whole lot of times where they just drop back and try to read and try to throw the deep ball. They’re going to want to try to get the ball out quick, make the decisions easier for the quarterbacks. I think that has played a big part of it.
On what the team will do to improve pass pressure
We’re going to try to get after him, bring some blitzes and stuff. If we can do that, good things are going to happen. That’s a strong part of our game. We have a strong pass rush.
On the progress of the linebackers
We’re making progress. We’re nowhere near where we want to be. We feel like we can get a lot better. It’s coming together good. A lot of guys have been switching positions. Coaches are still trying to find the right fit for everybody. When you’re switching positions, it takes a little bit more time to get adjusted to that specific look.
On Washington State
Definitely better They have a pretty strong runner. They do have that freshman quarterback but he looks like he’s progressing every week. Their line is a little bit younger, a little bit smaller. But as a whole, the team is definitely a lot better. They played USC pretty tough a couple weeks ago. It’s not going to be an easy game at all. We have to prepare for them just like any other team.
On the importance of Saturday’s win
I guess you could say it was a must-win for us and we prepared for it that way. It ended up working out.
On the outlook for the rest of the season
Everyone is optimistic because the Pac-10 is still wide open. Everybody is pretty good. Anybody can beat anybody on a given week. All we can do is worry about ourselves. Everything else will take care of itself. We just have to keep working.
On having only 10 players on the field for two plays
Pretty fortunate because at the time we were only up by (12). The score would have been a lot closer. They would have had a lot more confidence. We did dodge a bullet. That was a substitution error that we’re going to fix. The cool thing about it was the last time we were down there they returned a pick for a touchdown when we were trying to come back. It was kind of a little payback.
On when the team realized there were only 10 players
After the play, people were kind of talking about it. I didn’t realize it at the time. After the game, we were talking about it and realized that’s not good. We were real fortunate to come out of it like we did.
CORNERBACK JOSH HILL:
On picking it up after Syd’Quan Thompson went down
Syd is a great player, of course. But we have a lot of depth. Even though Syd went down, we held our own.
On the importance of Saturday’s win
We knew that this was kind of a must-win. Coming into this game, it was like a new season for us. We knew we had to take it one game at a time and we got the win like we needed to.
On the mood in the locker room after the game
It was like we won the Rose Bowl. We were so excited that we finally got back on the winning track. We have to keep it going.
On thinking about what would have happened if the team dropped to 0-3 in Pac-10 play
Of course, everyone thinks about it but we try not to worry about it too much. We just don’t think about losing. We think about winning.
On Darian Hagan’s play
Darian played extremely well. He probably played one of the best games out of all of us. It’s good to see he’s back on track.
RUNNING BACK SHANE VEREEN:
On being tired after Saturday’s game
I was pretty tired. I went home and went to sleep, then went home and hung out with my family and everything.
On ABC showing his father, who is a video engineer, on the sidelines
He said he was getting texts and calls from family members and friends that were watching the game. He said at one point he had to turn his phone off because so many people were calling him. He said a couple times he got in trouble because he got caught up watching the game and not doing his job. He loves being on the sidelines and working and being able to see me play.
On the importance of Saturday’s win
It was huge. The previous two games, we had pretty big letdowns. For us to kind of get back on track and kind of get the wheels rolling again was big for our team morale.
On how the win changes the season outlook
It definitely gives you a more positive outlook. It helps our motivation and the team morale.
On having a more productive day than Jahvid Best
I think a lot of it has to do with who’s in at specific times. I think if Jahvid was in on the plays I was in, he would have just as much success. I think it’s just the luck of whoever is in.
On his relationship with Best
He’s one of my best friends. It just works. We’re competitive on the field, of course. But we both want each other to do well. Off the field, we’re as good as friends as any. On the field, we’re great teammates.
WIDE RECEIVER MARVIN JONES:
On whether he prefers burning his man or having to out-jump him for a catch
I like hauling down the pass. It’s what I love to do. Doing that felt really good.
On the importance of Saturday’s win
It was very vital to bounce back. We always say 10-2, 10-2. This season still could be great for us. That was just another step for us.
On what Saturday’s win does for the team’s confidence
We kind of feel like we did at the beginning of the year. Our offense has come on strong. We wanted that back and we got that back. We can go with the best of them right now.
On practicing making “jump ball” kind of catches
A lot of people don’t have the focus to actually bring down balls like that. During the practice week, receivers have to focus on the ball and not think of what you’re going to do after the catch or do this or do that. You just look the ball in. You have to have good hands and good hand-eye coordination and a good judgement of the ball. That’s what I work on during practice.
On whether he expects Washington State to be better than last year
I expect it to be a fight. Nobody is going to come in here and just lay down. Their defense has improved.
On his relationship with Kevin Riley
I play with Kevin more in practice. We do have that bond because we look at things from the quarterback perspective. Reads that he looks at and what we expect him to do and what he expects us to do. Having that meeting with the wide receivers and quarterbacks was critical to the evolution of our relationship as a group.
On whether they communicate at all as they break the huddle
He just knows that if he puts it up there that I’m going to get it. Here and there, there will be a look. I might give him a nod or something like that. But for the most part, he just does what he has to do and he can trust me to make a play when he throws it.