Dec. 25, 2011
On bowl week: We’re off to a great start. The players have had a really great attitude. They came out and worked hard yesterday, which is always tough the first practice because there are usually so many distractions. You worry a little bit, but they handled it like pros. Everything else – the bowl, the hospitality – has been outstanding. The weather couldn’t be better, so we’re off to a great start.
On the challenge of practicing on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day: You have to remind yourself it’s Christmas, which is really crazy, but we consider ourselves family, and that’s what we’re doing. We’re here amongst family. You have to find a way to make it special. You have to find a way to remember what this day is all about and why we celebrate it, but at the same time, we have to get ready to play a football game that the nation will see in a couple of days time. So it’s a unique situation.
On the challenges Cal provides: They’re a very balanced offense. They run the ball well. They’ve got backs who run hard, and they’ve got a passing game with a group of wide receivers, and we’ve played some good ones, but the group they’ve got is as good as anyone we’ve played against. They challenge on the ground and in the air, so you have to be sound in what you’re doing because they’re a very well coached offensive football team. It will be a challenge to our defense, but one we’ll be looking forward to.
On the difficulties of facing a left-handed quarterback: It just changes things like scramble angles, which way he prefers to go when he goes on the run, things like that. But the field’s still 53 yards wide, and they’ll still come out with 11 guys and either run it or throw it, so schematically, it’s not too much different. But it’s certainly something you need to be aware of.
On the bonding that takes place during the bowl experience: It’s so important because so many of our guys have not been in a bowl game anywhere. To get here, to understand what it’s all about, to understand how the travel works, how the hotel works, just silly things like finding a way to practice. You’re moving a massive operation to another place. I know this will benefit our younger guys in future trips, because they can understand how you prepare for this setting and the reward you get for the bowl game, but they understand the best way to finish this week is with a victory. All of the stuff like Sea World and the zoo is great, but we’re here to win a football game, and with everything we do, we have to make sure we’re preparing for that outcome.
On the family atmosphere of the team being together for the holidays: If you can’t be with your natural family, your 100 teammates is the next best thing. It’s not ideal, and I think Christmas should be with your family, but they say we need to be here. And I told our guys that if we were Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, we’d be in some hotel getting ready to play a basketball game the same way as we are. But one thing is we do spend a lot of time together, and we have a bond that’s more than just getting open for one another or rushing the passer for one another. These are guys who’ll be lifelong friends, so as a coaching staff, we have to make today special. We want to make today a special day, and we can understand why Christmas is special, and we can celebrate with people we care a lot about.
On this being the last game for the seniors: They’ve been great. Their leadership, because we have so few players who have been to a bowl, the younger guys have looked to them for how to do things. They practice with a great attitude, and we talk about this being our bridge. For the seniors, it’s their bridge to the next step, to the NFL, one last thing they can put on their resume to help them in that job interview. For our non-seniors, this is a bridge into the next football season, in terms of setting the tone and the tempo for what kind of football team we envision ourselves being in the next calendar year. So we’re all looking forward to using this game as a stepping stone to the next thing, which we believe is going to be greater.