By Jonathan Okanes
Wednesday, November 4th, 2009 at 1:07 pm in Mid-week.
Here’s a sampling of what was said at Tuesday’s weekly press luncheon:
SAFETY BRETT JOHNSON:
On delivering hard hits
I enjoy doing that. It’s part of the reason I play defense – I like the contact and I like hitting people. It’s something I look forward to game after game.
On trying to contain Oregon State’s Jacquizz and James Rodgers
This is going to be new territory for us. I played them last season, and incidentally they both cracked me. I didn’t appreciate it a lot, so I look forward to playing them again and getting a little payback.
On what needs to be done to stop them
We just have to play fast. Jaquizz is a fast guy and so is his brother. They can threaten you on offense and special teams. They’re kind of all over the place and we just have to contain them.
On how the Beavers use the Rodgers brothers
Oregon State uses them well. Coach Riley has a nice scheme for them with the reverses and the stretch plays and things like that. It allows them to use their speed and athleticism in the open field.
On Jacquizz Rodgers also becoming a effective pass-catcher
Last year, they used him well in running game. All he needs is about a foot-wide hole and he’s through it. Obviously, if they’re using him more in the passing game, it’s more of a challenge for us.
On tackling the Rodgers brothers
Don’t break down. If you break down, they’ll shake you. So we have to keep leverage and keep coming.
On the difficulty of tackling Jacquizz Rodgers
He’s hard to tackle, because he’s fast, shifty and low to the ground. I’m kind of a taller guy, so I practically have to get down on my kneecaps to tackle the guy. It’s definitely difficult. You just have to wrap up, keep your head up and keep coming.
On dealing with Jacquizz Rodgers’ patience as a running back
It’s really hard, especially coming from safety. You’re coming downhill so fast to fill the gap, if he stops and changes you’re like, ‘Hey, where did he go?’ All the linemen are 6-3 or 6-4, and he hides behind them really well and uses the blockers really well. He’s got good vision.
On if studying more film will help contain Jacquizz Rodgers
Definitely more film study, in part to pick up his tendencies – whether he likes to cut back, whether he tries to stretch it to the outside, things like that. I have to pick up little things here and there to help.
On the comparison between Jacquizz Rodgers and Jahvid Best
They’re very similar, actually, from the way they hit holes to the way they shake people in the open field. Luckily, we get to practice against Jahvid every day, so it’s a tune-up for us. It’s definitely good for us that they’re similar.
On Cal’s current position in the Pac-10
We’re on a streak right now with the two wins, or three wins, sorry. The games left that we have are all possible wins but by the same token are all possible losses. We just have to stay on our A game and compete at the level that we know we’re capable of competing at.
On the team’s confidence after winning three in a row
After the two losses, it was kind of hard to think back to the time when you had all these expectations and you were supposed to do all these special things. With the three wins that we have now, everybody is realizing that it didn’t’ go anywhere. We just had a couple hiccups. It happens from time to time. Everybody realizes that we are capable of being that team and we still do have a lot to play for.
On whether the team’s confidence is back to where it was before the two losses
We’re back up to where it was before the two losses. We were confident in ourselves then. I’d say we’re right back on that level now. We just can’t get ahead of ourselves, whether that’s not reading our own press clippings or focusing more on team. We’ve been more focused on togetherness and cohesiveness since the two losses. We’ve weeded out a lot of the things that we may have let get to us during the two losses. I think we’ll be all right.
On the defense allowing big plays
We’ve been allowing too many big plays. We have to stay on top of those. Everybody messes up from time to time, but you see it when we mess up because it results in six points. We just have to limit our mistakes and be more focused on the coverage, and do what we have to do.
On whether he’s content with how the defense has been playing
I’m not content at all. I still think we have a long way to go. We’re a lot better than we’ve shown on film. We’re a lot faster, we’re a lot more physical. What it is we need to do to get there, I’m not too sure. But we’re trying to figure it out. But we’re definitely a lot better than we’ve played in the past couple of games. I look forward to us growing in the next four or five games and getting even better.
On contending with Oregon State’s explosive offense
We’ve allowed a lot of big plays and they’re definitely big-play capable with their receivers and their quarterback. Canfield is having a really good season. We definitely have to be on our toes when it comes to him throwing the ball. They’re a balanced team. They’re a dual threat with their passing game and the run game. The defense definitely has to be ready.
SAFETY SEAN CATTOUSE:
On his first career start
It was amazing, all I could ask for, staying on the field. I think I could get in a lot better groove staying in there and being out there with the guys all day long. It was perfect, exactly how I would like it to stay.
On keeping his starting spot
I’ll compete, and at the end of the day it’s between all of us. I know I can get it done, but if for some reason Coach feels like I can’t, whoever is next up will be in there and we’ll keep moving.
On how he’s matured during his time at Cal
I think I’ve grown tremendously. Just mentally, the game slowed down a lot for me. I know what to look for, and that comes from my coaches putting me in good positions and teaching me a lot of things off the field. The game has slowed down a lot. I think that’s the biggest thing.
On the state of the defense right now
In the past few games, or all season, people had quite a few big plays on us, kind of gave them better statistics. As far as right now, we’re meshing really well at this point in the season. We’ve got a better feel for each other, so I think it’s coming together really well – especially communication and talking pre-snap, everything has come a long way.
On being a vocal leader
I’m talking from the jump, from play one. I keep talking all game. Somebody’s got to do it, to keep guys up. When I’m down, I tell guys I need it, give it to me. That’s how it should be.
On what he worked on while waiting for his turn to start
It’s what we’re talking about right now – leadership, trying to be vocal and communicating. It was mostly mental things, nothing really physical. It was more mentally knowing what I needed to do, and being a leader like I know we needed. That’s probably still my biggest focus. I’m confident enough in my game to know I’m going to get my job done.
On whether it’s unusual for a sophomore to be a vocal leader
At this point, it’s not unusual to me or any of the guys. I made a big focus of it in fall camp, and that was months ago. So it’s normal now – they know that’s what I’m going to do and they respond to it. At first, it was a little awkward for me – I’m out there as a sophomore screaming and talking to seniors.
On whether he is so vocal off the field
Off the field, that’s not really my personality – I’m kind of laid back. It’s who I want to be and remain however long I play football. I want to establish myself as that type of player. But it’s all for the team, that’s my whole thing. I want to keep guys up and keep us playing. If they have energy and they’re fired up, that same energy is going to fire me up. So it’s definitely for the team.
On Cal’s position with four games left
I think we’re in a pretty good position, simply because we’re taking things one game at a time and winning out. If we win out, we’ll be 10-2 and 11-2 with a bowl game. That’s really what we’re thinking. But it’s definitely one game at a time, and if we win out that’s not a bad record at 10-2 or 11-2. There’s nothing we can do about those (losses). We can’t get them back. They’re gone. We can’t dwell on them. We just have to move forward.
On improving the mental side of the game
Definitely film work is one aspect of it, just knowing my assignment every play, with all different types of formations. There’s a lot of stuff we have to be ready for. The biggest thing to keep me on the field is communicate with other guys and let them know what we’re running, while the offense might be changing formations or something.
On the team’s confidence
We never doubted we could get back to this level. Those losses, we knew we could have and should have beaten those teams. We really feel like that. Now that we’ve won three in a row, our confidence is definitely growing. I’d never say it went anywhere, but it definitely helps to win games and know everything we believe in is coming true. We’re seeing it develop right in front of our eyes — it’s made believers out of a lot of us.
On trying to stop the Rodgers brothers
It’s more about us. We’ve got to make sure we get the game plan down. It’s going to be fun. We can’t wait.
On preparing for the Rodgers brothers’ speed
I’m sure we’re going to have somebody fast on the scout team this week, running all around. I’m sure coaches will demand the running back and wide receiver move all around, run fast, get us prepared. We can’t see them exactly, but we can get it as close as possible.
WIDE RECEIVER ALEX LAGEMANN:
On making his first meaningful contributions to the team
For the past two years, since I have been injured, it’s hard to try to gain respect back from the team and the coaches and gain trust from Kevin and the other receivers. I feel like it’s good that I finally had a game that I could showcase what I can do. Having a few receptions, even though they only went for a certain number of yards, is still exciting for me.
On catching passes over the middle
I love playing over the middle. I like getting balls on in routes, option routes, going inside. I feel like I have a better feel for what’s going on in the middle. We also have such great guys on the outside, guys like Marv that we can throw deep balls all the time to, so I feel like complementing deep balls with balls over the middle is something we can do.
On whether he likes going over the middle
When I played receiver at Saratoga, a lot of the routes that my coach worked on me with were crossing routes, over routes, post routes, in routes, things like that. I just feel comfortable in the middle and that’s how it worked out in the game. That’s not to say I can’t go outside, too.
On dealing with hard hits over the middle
I don’t think about how hard I’m going to get hit. I just try to make the catch. That’s the only thing going through my mind when I’m out there.
On whether it’s hard to deal with the lack of playing time
I try not to focus on playing time. I respect what the coaches are doing. They obviously know what they are doing. We have so many great guys at receiver. Going into the game, I was staying positive, optimistic, thinking I wanted to get in and try to get some catches and help us win. That ended up happening.
On overcoming a potentially career-threatening injury, a broken navicular bone (foot) two years ago
At this point, it’s completely out of my mind. When it was happening, I got down on myself a lot. I felt like I had come here and let people down and let myself down. Even though I couldn’t stop myself from breaking my foot, it was a mental roller coaster ride. It was really tough. My family and teammates were very supportive. I feel like I’ve grown a lot.
On the frustration of incurring some minor injuries during camp after having a strong spring
Either way, whether I was a starter or not after spring, it still would have made me mad to miss a few practices. You never like missing practices. I’m focusing on staying healthy. That’s the big thing right now for me.
On the aftermath of his foot surgery
The doctor told me it was a toss-up whether I’d be able to play anymore. I didn’t even know if I was going to continue playing I always tried to stay optimistic. That’s one thing I really tried to focus on. I never really thought that my football career would be over. I felt like I did my part in rehab and everything like that to come back, so it’s all good.
On the mood of the team after the Arizona State win
The way I’d describe the mood of the team is just really happy that we got out of there with the win. It’s hard to put into words the type of emotion that went into that game. It was really eye-opening to me see how absolutely intense the passion was and how hard everyone played. After the game, the smiles on people’s faces, you could use a million words and still not be able to describe the happiness that I saw on everyone’s face.
On what last week’s game-winning drive will do for the offense’s confidence
We practice clutch most practices, to actually go out there on the field and execute the way we did with the poise that Kevin did it and kind of orchestrated a drive that was pretty amazing. That gives us a lot of confidence in knowing that we have the ability to come back in games that are really close like that. That was definitely a big help, knowing that we had a plan and executed it.