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How did it feel...you came out off a bad game and everything seemed to work right. Was that kind of a relief?
"Yeah, I was just talking to some of the guys and it was great see some of the guys respond after coming off a loss like that. It's just the character of this team. Whenever there's adversity, find a way to dig deep and respond."
How about having three weeks off for the next game? You went through this last year.
"Yep, we went through it last year so it's nothing new to us. I'm sure we'll have the same routing as last year. It gives a chance to focus on ourselves for a couple weeks before we really start taking a hard look a SC. In a way there's a lot of good to it."
In what way did it help last year?
"Yeah, I think the preparation, I mean; we were just totally prepared for that game. It's kinda like bowl game in a way. The guys are just more and more fired up. The longer you wait you're just more antsy to play, and I think when it finally comes guys have a ton of energy. Obviously we played well in that circumstance last year."
Since you've done already once, you've had two weeks off…. Does that help when you have a routine?
"Yeah, I think going through it last year and seeing how we've played… we've played pretty well against them last year. I think that will…. Going in there mentally I think that just helps us, and knowing we can come from a three week by and playing good football. I think guys will remember that."
Is it too long of a break?
"Yeah a week is too long of a break. That's why we do it to play not to sit around for three weeks. But there are other schedules that I guess are more important than playing next week."
You've had it both ways since you've been here. Would you rather just play next week?
"It's kind of fun to have it built up. We're kinda playing for a championship Saturday. Anytime you play this game whether it's a two week bye or three week bye it's a lot of fun, but it's fun with all the buildup."
What do you think about playing in the Coliseum?
"It's a fun environment. It's definitely an intense atmosphere. There fans are right on top of you and yelling at you the whole time. It's hostile, but that's what we like in these kinds of games."
Does the way you played against them last year, almost beating them and the fact that this team is so much better make you….. Indistinguishable.
"Well, they're a different team this year too. We both are. I think you've just gotta go based on….. You can't go based on last year at all. You've gotta go based on how we match up this year, and how each team's playing going into the game."
Do you remember that game two years ago in the Coliseum?
Take us back to that game.
"No" (laughter) "I don't want to do that. That was just a miserable game. They just beat us in every way possible. It wasn't a fond memory. Mentally and physically it was rough"
Did anything come out of that game for you though? That was the game they decided not to put Matt in. At that point it became clear that you were going to be the guy in the future. Did you realize that?
"I don't know if I realized that at the time. I always felt comfortable coming out of that season with how it was going. I was motivated to get better for next year. That's about it."
Coming back did you realize it?
"Yeah maybe. I haven't really thought about it. It was two years ago."
What's it feel like breaking Cade McNown's records?
"It's cool, it's fun and it's fun to uh… anytime you get a chance to break records it's a joy. Obviously you're having success when you have a chance to be up there with the Aikmans, and Cade, and some of those caliber quarterback. It's pretty much an honor."
Did you think realistically that you would have the best season ever of any UCLA quarterback?
"I knew it was possible. I didn't know how realistic it was. If I didn't feel like it was realistic we wouldn't be here. We wouldn't be in this situation right now."
How many times have you voted for yourself for that… Indistinguishable.
(Laughs) "No. None. I'll leave that to other people."
"No I haven't. I haven't voted at all."
Are you making Ben Olsen to vote for you?
"Yeah I'll ask him."
On a personal note. You've had such a down time. It must feel particularly good then to have the kind of season you and the team have had.
"Yeah, I think I've enjoyed it more coming through lows and ending it on a good note. My career here….. It's been a fun ride this season. My joy is really trying to get this program back to another level. It's what I take pride in. It's what these seniors take pride in. It's not so much about the individual accolades. It's more about building respect in this program. That's the biggest goal we had going into this season."
Do you think no matter what happens this game... Indistinguishable.
"Well I think we've come a long way. I think we're on the right track. We can still do a lot of things, but it's definitely getting there."
You said after last game that it was OK that nobody thought you could beat SC. Why do you think you can beat them?
"I just like how this team responds in big games. Obviously we feel very
confident as a team, and as a whole. We're gonna have to play our best football
by far. This is the best team we're gonna face this year, by far. It's gonna be
a challenge, but this team responds to challenges. I think these guys are gonna
be ready and prepared."
This senior class seems to have a lot of things wrong with it. Talk about what you do after a loss. I know you talk to the team a lot.
"I just think there's just more interaction with the older guys and the younger guys. More so in the locker room and off the field just trying to get em, you know….. just showing them the opportunity they have here, and how to take advantage of it. The biggest message we send to them is to just take advantage of it. I don't know how much guidance there was from the older guys in the past. Obviously we're trying to change that now."
Where did you… I know about football 101and all that stuff. How did you develop your leadership skill this year.
"I don't know. I don't really feel that I've changed that much as a person"
Are you doing anything different?
"Yeah, I'm probably more vocal this year."
Where does that come from?
"Gee I don't know. It's just feels right. It just deep down feels like something I felt responsible to do for this team, and for whatever reason obviously it's changed. Something needed to change. Somebody needed to grab this team… A couple guys needed to grab this team and take it over. It's been a lot of fun doing that."
Did you it in high school?
"It's how I was in high school how I've been this year. More vocal with the guys."
Do you need to have success to be the way you have?
"I think it helps. I think you're more respected the more success you have. If you look into any sport, the biggest leaders are the ones that are most respected."
Did you try it at all last year?
"Yeah, but not to this extent. There's a difference between trying and leading. When you try to lead and actually do lead. That's the difference actually leading the guys not instead of just trying to do it."
Along the same lines I hear they've been hearing this from a couple of the other quarterbacks…..
"Yeah I think a lot of it came throughout the spring. Guys saw how much I wanted to get back and cared about this team coming through the injury. I think that had a lot to do with it."
You say you and a couple other guys took charge of the team….
"Well I think Spencer, Justin London, Jared Page, Marcedes, Ed Blanton, McCloskey….I mean it's really those fifteen seniors. It a collective group trying to mold this team into the way it's playing right now."
Do you think playing
"Not so much. I think it was pretty much the same. I think we pretty much go into every game with the same mindset on intermediate to long throws. A couple of those throws broke for some good yards, but we didn't throw it downfield more than we usually do."
You're three interceptions… Do you remember them?
"Yeah, all of them. Vividly."
How many were tipped?
"One my hand was grabbed, and the other one was deflected by a linebacker."
And the other one?
" The other one was just a bad throw. A bad read."
Are the seniors doing anything extra over the next weeks outside of practice?
"I'm sure we will. I'm sure we'll get together this week and talk about that. SC is the only team our senior class hasn't beaten. That's a big thing for us. This game is already the biggest game. It doesn't need to be built up anymore. There will be a lot of things done amongst the team before this game is played."
"I'll let you know. When they happen I'll let you know."
Are you gonna get together as a team and watch USC play this weekend?
"Yeah, I'm sure guys will. I don't
know. Guys get together whenever we have byes we always get together and watch
football. Guys will be tuned into the
Let's go back to spring, and working with the other quarterbacks. Did you feel that was your responsibility even though you were almost skipped over?
"But I learned a lot doing that. I think anytime you try to coach or teach somebody you learn so much more, and that's how I took it. If you're explaining the reads you're gonna know it that much better come the fall. I think it helped me out."
Did you kind of have time to do homework in the spring since you weren't out there?
"Oh yeah, tons, I mean so much more time studying. A lot more energy went into film and this offense… Learning this offense."
At this point of the season, are you hoping
for a trip to
"That's out of my hands completely. It's been fun so far, and whatever happens, happens. That's how I'm looking at it?"
I think I read that you're leading the nation in passing efficiency. Does that feel good?
"Yeah, it's fun. It's kinda what this offense can do if you're on the same page as it. I think that's what this offense is – It's efficient. That's what we've always been looking for the last two years. Finally we're on top of it and producing the way it should be done."