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September 23, 2008With the rough start how does coach Tyrone Willingham get his players to believe they can still make this a successful season with nine Pac-10 games remaining?
"The schedule does that for us really and all we have to do is make that visible to our guys. In our first three games we have played some very good football teams and yes we have some good teams yet to play. But when you look at the nine games remaining the guys can understand that just on a numerical basis that nine is greater then three and there are still some good things we can do. It doesn't mean by any stretch that what we have remaining is easy but we have played some of the best teams in the county."
Is it different playing a team that you used to coach?
"It is and it has to be. I don't try to down play that but I do try to put it into its proper place. I have good memories from the places I have been - wonderful people and wonderful relationships that were developed over time and that are still maintained. The connection is still there but at the same time you want to do well and you want to win. It is kind of like playing your brother. It is very intense and fierce in the competition but you respect each other and when it is over you hug and move forward."
Did the tough schedule harden the team or made them tougher?
"What I'm seeing is that the difficulty of our schedule has the potential to harden us and prepare us for the games we have remaining to play. We wanted to win those ball games because winning the games would have put us in the upper crest of the country and that is always what you are shooting for. Hopefully we will be a better team and a more mature team and some of our players will look up and say I have played some of the best players in the county. At time I held my own, and at times I did well, but at times I didn't do what I was supposed to do, but I now know I can get it done."
What is coach Willingham's general feeling on how the defense has played this year and who has done well?
"If you would have coach Ed Donatell sit and speak with you right now he would not be pleased with the way we have played defense. At the same time we have done some things well at points. But we still have to improve and get better in a lot of areas. Hopefully we put pressure on a lot of young guys to get better and step their game up and that is hard to do without experience. Right now the leadership of our defense falls on Donald Butler and we have counted on him to do some things. We have also had a carousel of players in the secondary especially at the safety spot and hopefully we get people healthy there. The real leader of our defense besides Butler has been Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. He has been a real strong player for us - a real leader - and a guy that we depend on to get things done. Hopefully he will be a guy that can win some of those one-on-one battles that will help us play defense and improve down the stretch.