By Jonathan Okanes
Sunday, November 1st, 2009 at 10:43 pm in Gameday.
A sampling of what was said after Cal’s 23-21 win at Arizona St. yesterday:
COACH JEFF TEDFORD:
On gutting out an ugly win:
It was great for this team to respond and keep answering. It wasn’t pretty, by any means. When you run into games like this, it’s really important that people really dig down deep and believe in each other. I thought that was evident today with our team. They kept battling, never got down, never gave up and did a nice job of finishing the game.
On the mood after Giorgioi Tavecchio’s missed 39-yard field goal:
There was still plenty of time left. That’s something we’ve been preaching, that we have each other’s back. If we make a mistake in one phase of the game, we have to make up for it somewhere else to respond. Defense responded by getting the ball back.
On overcoming Marvin Jones’ face mask penalty on the final drive:
It seemed like we were in long-yardage situations a lot with penalties today. But to recover from that, that was another thing right there in that drive that was another setback. The guys just kept playing and stayed poised, and Kevin did a nice job.
On Kevin Riley’s performance on the final drive:
He showed what I really know Kevin is made of. He’s a great competitor. He proved it there. He was harassed all day long by their pass rush. He just kept hanging in there and was smart with the football as far as throwing the ball away down the stretch and utilizing the clock, running a great two-minute drill. He played his heart out today.
How the final drive will help Riley’s development as a quarterback:
I think anytime you can put something like that in the memory bank, you can always draw off those experiences to have confidence. It was a great drive for him and for us as a team.
On Tavecchio bouncing back to make the game-winner:
I’m happy for Giorgio that he came in and kicked that because you really feel bad for a kid when the game is on the line. I was happy that he came back and knocked it through.
On how close he wanted to get for Tavecchio to kick a field goal:
Within 55 yards because he hit the 51 pretty good. He has plenty of leg. There’s no doubt about that.
On whether he said anything to Riley before the final drive:
I didn’t say a word to Kevin. Coach Ludwig did a great job of calling the two-minute drill and Kevin did a great job of executing it. Everyone did. A lot of people made plays right there. You don’t need to say anything to Kevin.
On the near-interception of Shane Vereen’s late pass:
In the beginning, I thought it was a touchdown. Then when I saw it come wobbling out of there, people started closing in on it and I started holding my breath a little bit. Initially, it was wide open and it looked like it slipped out of his hands or something.
On downing it on third down and not taking a shot in the end zone:
It’s an extra point. You’re going to put the kicker in the best situation to be successful. Put the ball in the middle and let the clock run down. We were going to let it run all the way down to three but they used their last timeout. There was no way we were going to throw the ball right there and have something happen and stop the clock.
On Cal’s penalties:
It was unlike us today. It was uncharacteristic of us to have that many penalties. It put us in a lot of long-yardage situations. We definitely need to address that.
On whether the offense got down after sputtering in the second half:
There was no doubt. I didn’t’ see any panic in their eyes or any doubt at all. Nobody was coming off complaining. That’s a really good defense. You have to give those guys a lot of credit. They are very difficult to run the ball on. I thought they kind of controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
On Alex Lagemann’s contribution:
It was great to see a guy who works so hard in practice. You get guys who come out every day and work their tails off in practice and they don’t get much game time. To be able to come in and catch some really key passes and get whacked pretty good in there, I’m really happy for him.
On the kicking situation:
It’s still going to be competitive. Today it was truly a game time situation – whoever kicked best in pregame, that’s who was going to be our kicker. Last night, I couldn’t have told you who was our kicker. Coach Alamar felt like Giorgio kicked the best in pregame.
On being bowl-eligible for the seventh straight year:
It’s great to be bowl-eligible, but that really doesn’t mean anything. We need to continue to strive to play better and reach our full potential.
On the significance of the win:
This win the way it happened, we haven’t had one of these. We preach it all the time, but you don’t always come up with the opportunity to carry through with it. Today, all the things that we preach and talk about as a team, we got to experience. It was a great win for us to get — not a pretty win, but a great win because of the way the kids hung in there.
On maintaining confidence after losses to Oregon and USC:
I had confidence all the way that we would reverse field. We ran into a couple buzzsaws and didn’t play our best early in the year. Now I think everybody understands that Oregon is a top ten team and so is USC. I think it’s a mark of the character on this team, the togetherness on this team to bounce back.
On the team continuing to believe in itself:
To be honest, there were a lot of people off the bandwagon and the only people we could really trust and believe in were ourselves. I think that was something that the kids really took to heart. We never lost confidence in our kids.
QUARTERBACK KEVIN RILEY:
On his mindset when the final drive began:
Just get down there and get a chance to score a touchdown or a field goal. We weren’t really having success in the second half moving the ball. We had a couple plays that got pushed back on penalties. We put ourself in tough situations. But the drive before that, we made some big plays and got into field goal position. I knew we could do it again. People stepped up all around, made plays all over the place. It was a great team effort and it was great to see Giorgio hit that one to win it.
On being prepared for a two-minute drill:
We have clutch drills every Wednesday. It’s something we’re just used to doing. We do it so much and it’s not an uncommon thing. Coach Ludwig has talked about putting it in mid-game because we do a good job at it.
On getting another chance after the missed field goal:
When we missed that field goal, it’s not like I’m “Yes, I’m so excited to do this again.” You have to step up to it. It was great to see our team step up like that and get a win. It’s huge.
On how many times he’d ever been in this position before:
One, and I kind of messed that up (against Oregon St. in 2007). We’ve had a couple situations at halftime, trying to score a touchdown. It’s the same thing, but more is on the line.
On his reaction to Tavecchio’s miss:
It was just get the ball back and let’s do it again. The defense stepped up and gave us a good amount of time. That’s plenty of time to get down the field. They gave us enough time and we did our job.
On the 26-yard completion to Marvin Jones on 1st-and-25:
When you’re in that situation, you’re thinking of just trying to cut it down and give yourself a chance on third down. I just scrambled and Marv made the catch.
On the significance of a comeback win:
It’s huge. It was a little different than Minnesota because we actually fell behind. We haven’t had many successes when we’ve had to come back from points behind. This just gives our team that much more confidence.
On Shane Vereen’s near-interception:
I told him before the play, “Shane, be smart. If he doesn’t look open, throw it over the goal post.” I might have gotten into his head a little bit because I think he hesitated on the throw. It was a good spot to run it. I was trying to run over there to make the catch, but I was a little late.
Right when we ran the play before in Crazy – we call it crazy, you guys call it wildcat; Coach Ludwig is not a big fan of the wildcat. We were trying to set it up.
On the read on Marvin Jones’ 26-yard catch:
Marv was not really part of the read at all. It was only a two-route read. The pocket kind of went right and I saw a huge lane. I just stepped up in the pocket and rolled out left to run for 10 yards or something like that. The safety kept on going and Marv stopped. I just threw it right to him. It’s just a scramble drill, like we work on in practice.
On whether the Oregon St. play in 2007 ever crept into his head:
I’ve grown a lot since that day and I know every situation pretty well now.
On the significance of gutting out an ugly win:
It’s nice to see us win ugly. The first two drives were real nice. Besides that, we moved the ball but we didn’t finish. We had some chances. But I’m proud of this offense.
On whether the final drive will improve his confidence:
I’m a pretty confident guy. I don’t think it’s going to make my confidence any higher. It just feels good that my team my teammates trusted me to go out there and put us in the position to win. Everybody had faith in me and I had faith in myself and the offense, and we did it.
RUNNING BACK JAHVID BEST:
On his reaction to Shane Vereen’s near-interception:
It was a funky look. He probably should have just kept it. Thank God nobody caught it.
On what he watched for on the Vereen pass:
I was watching the safeties to see if they’d bite. They bought a little bit, but there wasn’t enough room to get a throw in there.
On whether the struggles on the ground became frustrating:
It wasn’t too frustrating because I knew it was going to be like that. We knew against this defense that a three-yard gain or a four-yard gain or even a two-yard gain was pretty good. We knew that we weren’t going to get yards in chunks, but when we do run it we had to make a positive play.
On Kevin Riley’s performance on the final drive:
It definitely shows his confidence, but he’s prepared for it because we do it every day. It should be routine.
On the significance of winning a close game;
It will just boost our morale and our confidence will grow from this. If we get into another close game, we can draw back on our memories from this game and know that we can come out on top.
On the mood after Tavecchio’s missed field goal:
We were still ready. We just said forget about it. We’ll go back out there and do it again, and we did.
On the offense coming through after the defense came up with a crucial stop:
Our philosophy on this team is we have each other’s back. When the offense makes a bad play, the defense has our back. When the defense stops the opposing offense, we have to go out there and play well because we have to have their back, too.
On whether he could have come back into the game after tweaking his ankle on the first play of the final drive:
I almost ran out on the field one time. It didn’t hurt that much, but they were rolling so why mess up something that’s working.
On whether he’d rather win a close game or in a blowout:
Close games are better. When you win close games, it feels better. It was close all the way. It feels like all your hard work paid off. In a close game, it’s almost like a surprise so it feels better.
On the significance of the win:
It’s a big win for us, a road win and a come-from-behind victory. That’s just one more step to where we want to be. We have four more games and we want four more wins.
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR BOB GREGORY:
On last defensive stand:
That was a big series for us. The kids knew they had to stop the run. It was a little scary there. They were great. All game those guys were really focused on what they had to do. Unfortunately we gave up a long touchdown pass but those guys played hard every down.
On why the team started struggling against the run:
I think we got a little fatigued in the second half. We weren’t striking like we were earlier in the game. A couple guys got out of their gaps. I think overall we played the run pretty well.
On ASU running back Cameron Marshall’s success:
I think he’s a good football player. He’s a little bit different that (Dmitri Nance). He’s going to take it and cut it back. He’s a strong kid. He’s a good player.
On Cal’s secondary:
We can’t give up those long plays. In close games those can hurt you so we have to get better at that, there’s no question. I felt good about getting turnovers, which we didn’t last week. I felt good about how we played the run. We just can’t give up the long pass.
On what happened on ASU’s 80-yard touchdown pass:
We were in a two-deep. It probably wasn’t the best call in the world. It was first down and we were taking a shot because they had run it a bit on first down. It was a play-action pass and we lost our middle linebacker and we also lost our backside safety on the play-action pass. They kind of jumped at the run a little bit quick as opposed to playing back a litlle bit. It was a combination of not great technique and I could have had a better call on first down.
On whether he thought it would take eight games for Syd’Quan Thompson to get his first interception:
No, I did not. The other thing we keep talking about is we’re still trying to figure out why we’re not getting more interceptions. For what ever reason, we’re not. There are probably a thousand reasons, but it was good to get a couple today.
On rotating in a lot of players:
We just felt like we’re better getting more guys reps and we’re fresher at the end and all that. The guys deserve to play.
LINEBACKER MIKE MOHAMED:
On his nerves during the offense’s final drive:
It was nerve-wracking, really. We ended up coming out on top. We kept saying believe on the sideline. It was all about togetherness. It paid off.
On the defense’s final stand:
We knew they were going to run it on us. Everybody just had to be tight and tough, just come down hill and plug the holes. We did a good job of that. It was just a couple inches but that was all we needed.
On bouncing back from a couple poor defensive performances:
We want the offense and the rest of the team to be able to count on us, especially in those critical situations. So we came up big, got the ball back in the offense’s hands and then it was our turn to trust them. It all came together.
On what the team found out about itself:
That we’re a pretty good team. That we trust each other, that we know how to fight through the tough times and the good times. It was a big road win. It was a dogfight. It came down to the final seconds.
On going from 0-2 to 3-2 in conference play:
It’s huge. We believe that we had a better than showed up in those two blowout losses. We’ve been showing up. We’re looking ahead now and start getting ready for next week and keep the good momentum rolling.
CORNERBACK SYD’QUAN THOMPSON:
On ASU’s improved running attack in the second half:
They were doing a little bit of mixing it up, trying to catch us on little short plays, passes on the outside, trying to tire our front, our box. It was rough but we found a way to stick with it.
On the defense finally creating some turnovers:
It was real big. Last week we had zero turnovers. We always want to go into a game or practice and our goal is to get 3 turnovers a game. If we do, we have a good chance of winning the game. Being up 14 and having them come back and tie it up and for me to get a pick, it was real big and a momentum swing for the game for our team. It was just a play that happened and I was in position to make a play for us when we needed it.
On his health:
I’m getting there. When you’re in the game and the ball is in the air, you kind of don’t think about your injury. You just react and play ball, so I did.
On finally getting his first interception of the season:
It felt good. I’ve been hearing it from all of my DB’s.
On the defense’s stop on Minnesota’s last third down:
I think they tried to run it up the middle, I forget what the down and distance was. We clogged the middle and he bounced out at the last minute. Luckily we had our left corner, Josh Hill, out there to contain the outside. Josh just made a big play for us. The ball was an inch from the first down marker and Josh was able to take out his legs and get him down.
KICKER GIORGIO TAVECCHIO:
On getting another chance at the game-winner:
I was praying for it. Something inside me just told me, I knew I was going to get another chance. I just tried to stay focused. I really appreciated everyone being supportive of me. I went off to the sideline and people were saying, ‘Don’t worry about it, don’t worry about it.’ I really appreciated that. Something deep inside said, ‘Hey man, you’re going to get another chance.’
On his nerves before the final kick:
I thought, I’ve been here before. Just kick the ball. It’s not rocket science. I figured we needed the field goal, so I’m going to have to make it. Jogging out there, I was focused, concentrated. I felt pretty good. Being in the moment is awesome. I feel very blessed to have been able to win the game at the end.
On coming through during an up-and-down season:
It feels great. Again, it’s a blessing to be on this team and to be out there. The best feeling for me after making a good kick, a kickoff or whatever, I walk to the sideline and everyone’s smiling. I really love this team, I love this program, I love this school. So that’s the greatest feeling. It’s great to be able to help the team out, especially on a day like today.
On not knowing he was going to kick until just before game time:
Usually, it’s by Thursday. Today, I was actually surprised – I thought I was going to kick, and then Coach Alamar came to me in warm-ups and said, ‘We’re going to see who’s kicking better and then we’ll make the decision.’
On improving his kickoffs:
That feels great. I’ve always had good kicks, just had one or two I really want back. Today I felt like I put a complete kickoff game back – they were all around the 4 or the 5. That’s how I want to be every game, that’s how it should be every game because that’s how it is in practice very often. It feels great, because that helps the team out with field position. As a kicker, I figured there was altitude here, that should help my confidence. It put the doubts away. As long as I hit the ball solid, it’s going to go down there at least to the 5.
On whether it gave him confidence the final kick was so short:
My mentality before I kick a field goal is, I really don’t remember how far it is. If you ask me where I kicked them from today, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you. It’s just a matter of focusing on the kick, close, far, whatever. I knew my team needed me.
On how often he’s dreamt about kicking a game-winning field goal:
Every night. I feel very involved in this team, and a kicker’s greatest dream is a game winning field goal.
On the reaction after his 39-yard miss:
At least 30 players came up to me and said, ‘It’s OK, we’ll get another chance. After the (made) kick, Riley came to me and said, ‘Great job, I knew you’d come through for us in the end.’ I really appreciated that.
On how long the game-winning kick is in his dreams:
In the dreams, it’s always 55 yards. I don’t think of distances in reality, but in my dreams, why not? Sixty-yard field goal …
On whether Tedford said anything after his miss:
He said stay focused, don’t worry about it, we’re going to get it at the end. I kind of fed off that confidence. Even though I missed, I thought we were going to get another one. That helped me a lot.
WIDE RECEIVER MARVIN JONES:
On Kevin Riley’s play during the final drive:
It was a picture perfect drive. I’m just happy that he had the poise and control that he had to lead it.
On whether what Riley did surprised him:
You know every day in practice we practice certain situations and situations like that. Just to do it actually in the game is key to our progress as an offense to give us the confidence.
On his facemask call during the final drive:
I ran a go route. I was going to the ball and he was holding my hips so I was trying to slash him off, to slash his hands off me. My fingers grazed his facemask. I guess that’s a penalty.
On redeeming himself after the facemask:
During times like this I always want to make the play. When the ball goes my way I try my best to make the play. You see on the play right after that, it was first or second and 25, he looked at me and I got the first down. I was pretty happy that happened.
On emerging as a dependable receiver:
I think I’ve stepped forward in practice, repeating everything, repeating the plays. We know where we’re going to be. Riley knows where we’re going to be. He just puts the ball there where we can catch it. I think that’s key to the quarterback to receiver relationship.
On the vibe in the huddle during the final drive:
It was crazy. Everybody was focused. There was no talking, no smiling. You just looked at everybody’s eyes and saw the focus, you saw the anxiousness. That was something I never felt before in the game. I liked that.
On his confidence in the defense getting the offense the ball back:
I was very confident. Our defense was going hard all game. They were stopping them. I was very confident in our defense to get the ball back. From our line to our DB’s to our linebackers, I was very confident. I wasn’t really worried about that.
On maintaining his confidence in Tavecchio:
You always want to boost your kicker up if he misses a field goal. He’s human. He’s going to mess up. The way you respond to it makes you the person that you are. He’s a great person and he responded. You can tip your hat to him.
On the 26-yard catch on 1st-and-25:
I had a protection route to get somebody else open. I saw Kevin roll out and I just stepped into the zone where nobody was. He looked at me and delivered the ball. He made it happen.
On the significance of the win:
It means a lot. It’s a confidence-builder. It’s the first time it happened to us since I’ve been here. It means a lot. Next week, we’ll get on the field and feed of that, our confidence.