Here is a samplaing of what was said at Tuesday’s weekly press luncheon:
LINEBACKER MIKE MOHAMED:
On the weather playing a factor Saturday
Hopefully not much. That’s kind of what we talked about at the team meeting. It is going to be cold but you can’t let that affect you. Hopefully when we’re out there running around, it’s not going to be that big of a deal because they’re going to be ready. They’re going to bring everything they got.
On getting revenge from the loss at Washington in 2007
Especially the way we lost. They ran for over 300 yards on us. They just totally dominated us. We just didn’t show up and play Cal football. We definitely would like to leave there on a better note.
On Washington’s improvement this year
They’re a much better team this year. They’re gone out and beat USC. They beat Arizona. They beat quality opponents. Defensively we’re going to have our hands full with (Jake) Locker, and their running back (Christian Polk), he’s pretty good too.
On why Cal’s defense has improved in recent weeks
Just the intangible of just sticking together. Every once in a while they might get a big play, but we all feel as a unit that we have each other’s backs. They might have that big play, but then let’s forget about it and line up for the next play. Let’s get a stop here. We’ve just been playing with a lot of excitement out there — trying to create turnovers, three-and-outs, just try to get the ball back for the offense and watch them do their thing.
On following the bowl situation
It doesn’t mean much to me because we can go out and win this week but a lot of it is out of our hands because it all depends on what the other teams do. That’s not something that we can control so we just have to go out there and do our part and it’ll all take care of itself.
On whether he’s tried to figure out the different bowl scenarios
That stuff is pretty complicated. I don’t know how you can figure that out. I have no idea how you’re supposed to work that out.
FULLBACK BRIAN HOLLEY:
On the weather
It’s easy to let cold weather and the elements distract form the game plan, but we just have to focus on what we have to do.
On the bad loss at Washington in 2007
I haven’t really talked about it too much. I know it’s been in my head since ’07. That loss sticks out in my mind pretty bad. It’ll definitely be a good chance to go up there and redeem ourselves.
On the potential for a 10-win season
Naturally, the topic gets brought up but I think for the most part this team is focused on just winning games. The standings are really out of our control. The only thing we can do is play our best football for Washington and then whatever bowl we get into do the same thing. This team really wants to have 10 wins this season. Coach Tedford has brought it up to us, and that’s a big accomplishment, a big testament to this team to get that ninth and 10th win. That’s what we’re going to focus on.
On winning six of seven after back-to-back blowout losses
After our first bye week — after those first two losses — this team really did some soul-searching. Previous years, previous teams, we may have folded and took a different direction. But we came together and tried to make the best season possible. Ten wins is something that not many Cal programs have done, not many teams around the country have done either. No one in this locker room stopped believing in us. We knew what kind of team we were, we knew what potential we had. It was just a matter of executing and putting it together, just putting in a little more effort and having a little more passion.
LEFT TACKLE MIKE TEPPER:
On going 6-1 since back-to-back blowout losses
We came a long way. We had two bad losses that kind of flustered us a little bit at the beginning of our season. We came back strong. We don’t know what bowl we’re going to yet, but we’re going to a pretty good bowl.
On what changed after the two losses
I think our confidence has really grown after that little fluster. We knew we could win big games. We’re no slouch. We’re a good team. Our techniques have all gotten better. It’s a season of growth. We can still get better.
On whether Shane Vereen seemed tired at the end of the Big Game
We’re all tired. But you know what you have to do. If Shane is in the game and they call a run play, you know you have to block forever and a day. If it’s pass protection as well – forever and a day – to get the person with the ball down the field. It doesn’t matter if he’s winded. It’s better that I’m that way than he is, so I ‘m going to work my tail off that he’s not. So for the most part he’s not. I like it that way. Put it on my shoulders.
On the weather
After we played Stanford, some of the younger guys were asking me what Washington was like on Dec. 5. When we played in November, it was about 42 degrees, 25 mile an hour wind and raining. And that was in the middle of November. I imagine it’s going to be five or 10 degrees cooler and the same conditions. It’s going to be cold. They have a very hostile environment. I imagine with Senior Day, it’s going to be a very emotional environment for them. I can imagine it’s going to be a packed house and it will be just as loud as Autzen, the Coliseum or the rest of them.
On whether beating Washington will be the final memory to erase from 2007
As much fun as that offensive line had and as good as we were as an offensive line, it’s not about yourself, it’s about the team. I kind of want to burn those memories away.
On bowl experiences
It’s gotten to the point with me that I don’t know where we’re going to go. I’ve been to Vegas, I’ve been to Holiday, I’ve been to Texas before – I’ve been a lot of places. I’ve kind of learned over the years that bowl games are what you make of it. Even though I was under 21 in Vegas, I made the best of it. You find ways. In San Diego, they have the whole gaslamp district and the whole party scene down there. Texas, Dallas had its own little scene down there. It’s what you make it. If you want to sit in your hotel room, like previous centers (Alex Mack), and sit there and do nothing, that’s fine with me. But I don’t think I’m ever going back to Dallas unless I’m playing for an NFL team there, or I’m transferring flights there. So I’m going to go have fun. That’s part of the bowl game. You realize you’re playing a game, but you also realize you’re traveling somewhere and you want to have fun with it. I don’t really care where I go. Vegas is always fun, but I’ve had fun in San Diego and I’ve had fun in Texas.
LINEBACKER DEVIN BISHOP:
On trying to defend Jake Locker
It’s a big challenge. He’s like a triple threat. He has the boot, he’s a great passer and he’s fast on his feet. He’s like a potential running back back there at quarterback. We have to make sure we keep a good eye on him because he can run and he will run. I heard he runs like a 4.4 or something like that. We’re going to have to contain him or it might get out of control.
On whether the team believed it could almost go 7-0 the rest of the way
As football players, one thing we have is short memories. We had to let it go and look to the future. We stayed positive and optimistic about it. It stayed in our mind that we could go 7-0. Even though we had another loss, we’re going to work to go 6-1.
On whether he’d like to play USC or Oregon again
All the games we lost, you wish you could go back in time and play them again. As players, we really have come together. We’re a better team. I think it would be a better outcome if we went back in time. But we have short memories and we have to let that go.
On Cal’s success on the road this season
We came into the season with this theme that we’re going to be road warriors, that we wouldn’t let last year faze us. We were going to let that go and come into the season with our camaraderie right for road games. We’re the same team. Once we got the little things right, we could be good on the road or at home.
On why the defense has played better in recent weeks
For the most part, we got the little things fixed. We know what we’re expecting. We know what’s coming at us. We prepare for a lot of things that could happen to us. We make sure we know everything so we’re the most prepared for the game. The little things that hurt us earlier in the season, we had to fix those things and try to be perfect out there. We try to demand perfection out there, regardless of the opponent. We know if we execute to the best of our ability, we can stop any offense in the country. That’s what we believe.
On an example of one of the little things that have been fixed
Vision. Make sure you’re seeing the right thing. If he runs a play action and you bite down on the run too hard, you can’t get back to where you need to be. But if you get back in time, the only thing left is the quarterback to get sacked or throw it away.
DEFENSIVE END TYSON ALUALU:
On the team’s turnaround after back-to-back losses
After losing those first two games, we just felt that wasn’t our identity. That wasn’t the Cal football team that we knew. We knew we had to clean up the mistakes we made. And from then on, we had to take it one game at a time, not take any game lightly. I think we came out strong, we got together as a team and that’s helped us be successful.
On Washington’s improvements this year
Watching a lot of film, they’re definitely a different team. Every game they lost was a really good game – they were in it until the end. They definitely look like a really good team on film. It’s going to be a good fight out there, to challenge them in the last game. … There’s a big difference from last year to this year. They’re not the same team. I don’t know what it is – if it’s their mentality or their coaching staff.
On Washington quarterback Jake Locker
He’s a great quarterback, a big threat throwing the ball and he’s a great runner. We’ve watched a lot of film where if you don’t do your job he can make a big play, whether he’s throwing or running. We’ve seen him run for a 65-yard touchdown and he got in the end zone easy. We have to go out there and stay disciplined, continue to do what we do and hopefully he’ll keep him from making all those big plays.
On being careful not to over-pursue in pass rushing situations
That’s what our coaches have been telling us. We’ve been working on our pass rush. We have to stay disciplined and stay in our lanes, not freelancing or getting greedy. You have to do your job and someone will come out and make the play.
On playing in the cold weather
It’s going to be rough. I’m not a fan of cold weather, especially playing football. You’ve got to hit and your body takes time to warm up, trying to get used to the weather. We’re going to go out there and give it our all, regardless of the weather or whatever circumstances come our way.
On whether he’s like to play Oregon and USC again
We’ve had our chances. Of course you wish you could go back and fix the mistakes. After watching those films, we knew the mistakes we made were on us. We could have prevented so many plays, but it was our mistakes. We definitely wish we could have another chance, but that’s life. We can’t play them again.
RUNNING BACK SHANE VEREEN:
On whether he’s ready to carry the ball 43 times this week
If that’s what we need.
On recovering from the Big Game
Stanford’s a very physical team, especially on defense. They play smashmouth football. So when you’re going against a team like that it’s going to take you a couple more days than normal to recover.
On whether he’s noticed more attention on him since the Big Game
Yeah, a little bit. You get a little more attention, but I try not to pay attention to that too much. I try to keep everything focused and in perspective, knowing that we have a big game again this Saturday.
On how he’s been able to carry such a heavy workload
First of all, I think that any back that we have has the ability to carry the ball 42 times. It’s just in the game plan they didn’t get the opportunity. However, Coach G (Running backs coach Ron Gould) talks a lot about mental toughness, and I think mental toughness goes into a lot of this game, especially when you’re carrying 42 times.
On whether the Big Game was the offensive line’s best performance this season
I would have to go back and look just to make sure, but it’s definitely top three. They played phenomenally the entire game.
On trying to keep Cal’s streak alive of 1,000-yard rushers
I keep it in the back of my mind. I try not to focus too much on statistics and all that stuff. The biggest statistic for me is whether you win or lose. So with that said, it’s in the back of my mind but I’m just going in week in and week out trying to play my best.
On whether he’d like to play USC and Oregon again
I think those two games are some games that we’d like to have back. Especially with the way we’re playing right now, we’re playing with a lot more confidence, we’re executing a lot better than we did in those last two games. So another chance at them would be great, but we’re going to have to wait until next season to get that chance.
On whether there was any doubt the team could turn it around after the losses to Oregon and USC
I think we did believe. And I think after our two losses, in the first bye week, we really came together as a team, really came together as one and our common goal was to go 7-0. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that so far.
On finishing with a 10-win season
It’d be huge. Coach Tedford mentioned the 10-win season two weeks ago and that’s been our main focus as a team ever since because that’s a big mark for any team is to accomplish a 10-win season.