Hackett, Bellotti Press Conference Quotes
USC Head Coach Paul Hackett
I think what happens in the course of the season and you can look around the country and see, you know you hope you can start off fast in a season. With the aspirations and excitement and enthusiasm you have, you want to get out of the box as fast as you can and I think we did a good job of doing that. You know at some point of the season, you are going to stumble. You don't know when, you don't want to admit as a coach, but you know at some point you are not going to play your best. The whole key to the season in my opinion is that how you deal with that. How you deal with the stumble, how you deal with the setback and how quickly you can come out of that setback to begin to get back on track the way you know you can. I think that is essentially where we are now. We have had two games where we got behind in the game and didn't really manage being behind very well. We got a little bit away from what we wanted to do and found ourselves pressing. The turnovers got us, the ineffective ability in the red zone, the ineffective opportunities when we had them being behind simply got compounded. At some point, you start to sort of say 'hey, I can make every play' and of course it just spirals and you throw the ball too much, which is what we have been doing. The issue here at hand is not what's happened to us and where we are, it's trying to learn from that the best we can, figure out what it is to put our finger on that has put us in this position and then figuring now what do you do to get it turned. We are not even at the halfway point, there is a lot of football to be played.
This team needs to get back in the race and get back going again. The way you do that is focus on the job at hand. You can not let the distractions affect you and that is very hard to do. There are distractions everywhere at this point. Now it's a matter of saying we have the best team in the conference, the team that is undefeated, coming into the Coliseum and we now have an opportunity to put our best foot forward and we certainly have not done that the last two weeks. Getting behind the way we have has hopefully taught us something in terms of being able to play a little smarter, a little better instead of feeling like we have to catch up overnight. That's basically where we are, we have stumbled, we are out of sorts. There's no question about it. There's a lot of reasons for it, not one particular reason. There is no excuse for it, but there is not one thing that you can put your finger on. I have said from the beginning that you have to be able to stop the run and you have to run the ball to win and we are not able to do either of those things well enough right now. The turnovers and the red zone compounds that. We have a lot of things to work on today and tomorrow as we prepare for Oregon. This Oregon team with the balance between the run and the pass is probably their biggest strength. Their ability to run Maurice Morris and then come back and throw the ball. Last year it was A.J. Feeley and I thought he played well. Now it's Joey Harrington and we haven't seen him before. This is a team that we have played very close the last two years. Basically, the same kind of team, there are a few little wrinkles that are different, but the same good solid football team. Solid special teams and they are just playing well. The biggest change at Oregon to me is the defense. The defense has stepped up and really been in the position to stop the run and aside from the one game at Wisconsin, they have basically shut down some very good teams, especially Washington and UCLA. Obviously, this is a formidable opponent and obviously, we have a lot of work to do and expect to be out there doing that today. Once again, you have to clear the decks and focus on the job at hand. Play Oregon, play them well and get back into the direction that we are headed.
(on chances of playing in the Rose Bowl)If you go back, you will find that winning the conference with two losses is near impossible. It's not impossible, it's been done six times. It's not something that you are really excited about and I don't really think that we are even to that yet. As I said, I think that with our team, we are about to hit the halfway point. There is a lot of argument to say the season is destroyed, but there is an argument to say we had a good start, we had two stumbles and have not played well in any phase of the game and let's don't dwell on that. Let's dwell on we have Oregon and then we have the rest of the Pac-10 Conference and Notre Dame because once you come out of this funk, you need to finish strong because we know at the end of the season, you are playing UCLA and Notre Dame. We know we got to get out of this funk as fast as we can. The way you do that is concentrate on Oregon and don't focus on the other things that are on the outside. We need to get healthy, which is a concern at our receiver position. Our running game is a concern, we have to get recommitted to that.
(on Oregon running back Maurice Morris)He is a very good runner. We have had the opportunity this year to play against a number of good runners so we have a pretty good sense that number one, we are going to have to tackle. The thing about Maurice is that he is an elusive runner once he gets out in space. He's got sort of a niftiness to him that is very effective. We are going to have to tackle him and number two, we are going to have to be sound in our gaps. We gave up one 80-yard run last week and the rest of the day, Arizona did nothing running the ball. The ability to prevent that one big play or two big plays is really what has gotten us. We have to look at how much gambling if you will that we do and how much just plain standard way. With him, you have to mix both of those up. What you don't want to do is get him off and in a rhythm. When he gets a rhythm, he can be very effective.
(on Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti)I think that Mike's philosophy and his coaching background is very solid. Build the program for the long term has always been what he has looked at. Looking carefully at the coaches that he can get, that can be there at Oregon and want to be at Oregon for a long time. He has stabilized some of the things and he has had the support to build the facilities. The biggest change from when Rich Brooks won the Rose Bowl has been from that point on building the facilities woke peoples' eyes. Finally, you can't talk about Mike Bellotti without Autzen Stadium and what Mike and his teams have done there. Just watching the Washington and UCLA games, the first two or three series of the game, the opponents are called for an offsides or fumbling the ball. The place is very hard to play in when you have the kind of win streak they have. Those are sort of the things he has done. He's just been very steady, he's recruited better and there has been a lot of success. He just does a great job.
(on bringing pro experience to college in order to focus on goals)I think you have to be careful to not overreact. You have to look at the foundation that you built in the spring, through training camp and through the season because it can be very dangerous to overreact to a loss when there are some glaring issues that need to be resolved. You have to stay the course. You got to keep working and keep improving to get better. In college football, you have a youth issue that is slightly different from pro football. If you stumble along the way, put it behind you and keep making progress and finish strong. As you finish strong, going to a bowl is the reward and from each year you need to build on that.
(on team accountability)The one thing about our team is that everyone feels accountable for what has happened. This is not a football team that does not stand up and say this is my fault. The fact is that defense is played as a team. There are gap responsibilities and when you are going to put pressure on a quarterback, the hope is that you are going to indeed put pressure on him and not get blocked. We felt on Arizona's first touchdown that their quarterback had a little too long to throw and that Kris Richard was in reasonable shape to make it, but it just went over his fingertips as we all saw and that's just part of the game if you are going to be a pressure, blitzing team which we are. There's never been any uncertainty on this team, this is a team win and a team loss. When you look at the special teams, you look at the kicking game, offense and defense, everyone has a part.
(on coaching mental aspect of game)You have to be disciplined and demanding perfection on every play. The concept of saying this play I can get away with not being at my best because I will be at my best the next five plays is something that you can not tolerate in coaching. You have to be of a mindset and a focus that every single play is important because you never know when the one play comes that will change the tide of the game. That's the thing that we have talked about. We've done a good job on focusing on one game at a time, now we have to a better job of focusing on one play at a time. That was the whole theme on Saturday because we wasted some very good efforts, particularly defensively on a few little plays that got us. Statistics don't help us at this point, what we need to do is focus on how do we discipline, how to know exactly what to do and do it well even if you are behind. You've got to play with a sense of confidence no matter whether you are ahead or behind.
(on kicker John Wall becoming a starter)We talked about it last week, on the sideline and at halftime. I told John that I didn't know it was going to happen this year, we originally intended to redshirt him this year. He also was starting to get back into the groove of kicking and competing. John has a demeanor, he's got quite a history. My biggest concern was the transition from the tee to the grass. As I watch him develop as a kicker, I think he has made the transition. Now he just has to make the transition in games and it's going to make him a better player down the line. David Bell right now is the best force we have on special teams because he's not allowing to return the ball on kickoffs.
Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti
(on play of team this season)We are playing okay. We will have to see how we survived the bye week. I think we needed it at this point of the season to get healthy. We had some guys that were dinged up, but I think they are back healthy now. We have played well at home. We are 4-0 at Autzen Stadium. We stubbed our toe on the road, literally and figuratively, probably let that game against Wisconsin slip through our hands. We dropped 10 passes, three of which were sure touchdowns, two of them in the endzone and one that should have been caught. We gave up some big plays defensively and did not protect our punter. In some regards could have won, but also in some regards, we should have lost because we didn't play well enough to win. We have to make sure that the opportunity to go on the road and prove we can win against a very dangerous USC team that started off very strong also and has stubbed their toe a little bit lately. I think we have played good defense, probably inspired by good play at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball because we have running the ball and defending the run well and it's certainly something that you have to work on every game. I'm pleased with where we are at right now. We have a good group of kids that are working hard. Offensively, we have been productive, maybe not as productive as I would like sometimes, but I think by running the football that has helped us to play things a little closer to the vest.
(on running back Maurice Morris)Maurice has been the answer to our question at tailback. We were concerned because we lost three senior tailbacks. We recruited Maurice with the thought in mind that he could step in and give us the same kind of performance. He has done a great job. He has speed, runs tough and is getting more comfortable with the offense every day. He is the type of back that can get stronger as the game goes on, so I have been very pleased with his performance.
(on quarterback Joey Harrington)Joey has been playing well. He really took over due to progressive injuries to A.J. Feeley last year where A.J's productivity declined at about the sixth, seventh or eighth game of the season I finally made the change. A.J. is just finally now healthy. He has sustained, unfortunately, a strained abdominal muscle from the fall camp and has not been completely healthy this year. What I perceive to be great competition in the first week of fall camp never really materialized after that and A.J. is healthy. We have no plan to play both of them right now, but I do feel really good about both of our quarterbacks. They have proven that they can win at this level. They are great leaders and great kids. Joey, just to this point, has been more productive as a quarterback, but it's very close and I feel comfortable with either of them in the game, especially now that A.J. is healthy.
(on strong defense)Well one of the reasons has been the return of Rashad Bauman, our best cover corner. He missed all of last season, was out with a knee injury. The development of linebacker Matt Smith and Saul Patu as a defensive end. Those three guys are the leaders of each of our groups on defense. But really it has been a bunch of kids stepping up. Our kids play fast. I don't know if you put them on the watch if they would be the fastest group, but they play fast and they play hard. They take great pride in what they do. I think Nick Aliotti and his defensive staff have put together some great defensive schemes. Our kids have embraced that and done a good job of execution. It's something where we are pleased where we are at, but we must continue to improve. I think there are some little things we can work on, but I do think the team that is left standing at the end of this whole thing is the one that continues to improve over the course of the season.
(on last year's USC-Oregon game)That was a game I said at the end of it I can't imagine having played that game and not won the game because it certainly took great effort on both sides. It wasn't an overall well-played game, it was more of a survival game. I think it cost both teams. We went on and lost our next two games because we were so depleted. We lost four starters in that game and I know SC lost a couple. When you play that physical of a game and play three overtimes, at the time I didn't realize it, but it took us a couple of games to recover. Now certainly, having won that game it was a huge boost because like I said, I can't imagine playing and putting forth the effort and the energy in order to lose the kids and not having won the game. We really don't talk much about that game. There are games last year, we lost a tough game at UCLA. We came up a foot short from winning that game and I think that game probably is one that we talk a lot about. After that game, we won six straight and found ways to win coming from behind. To come back to that game, it was a war and we were fortunate to win.
(on thoughts about the USC team)As I watch them, they are very talented. Certainly injuries have played a factor, last game being without their leading receiver and tight end. I think they have tremendous athleticism, great speed and obviously have proven they can beat anybody in the country when they play well. Seemingly, they have made mistakes and have been their own worst enemy at times. They are very scary because obviously their backs are to the wall and I have to have my kids play with the same kind of intensity.
(on playing on the road)It always concerns me. I would rather play every game at home. We have to go on the road in order to compete in this conference, you have to prove that you can win on the road. I do think that we learned some things from the Wisconsin game about what we have to do to win on the road. You have to play a complete game, you have to finish plays. You have to finish the game. You can't have a breakdown or lapse in any aspect, offense, defense or special teams, which we contributed in all of those areas to our demise at Wisconsin. We were as good of a football team, if not a better team, but again the final score is the final score. This group of kids proved they could win on the road last year. I'm not worried about that, but I think every year you have to re-establish the ability to win at home and on the road, the mindset that it takes.
(on increasing the visibility of the Oregon program)I think a combination of things. Certainly being the winningest program in the Pac-10 in the last six years, I think that certainly has a nice ring to it, that gets peoples' attention. I think our uniforms gets peoples' attention, I think that was part of the whole deal was to create an image that was attractive to young people and was distinctive. I think our being in bowl games and winning bowl games and being on television. The world is a very small place nowadays with the Internet, media and various television channels and stations. The ability for us to be seen and to be seen winning and to be in bowl games, I think allows us to get into the homes of better players. Eugene is a great place to live, it's a great college town. I think it's an environment in which a young man I think can really focus on being the best student-athlete that he can be. That cycle of building facilities, win games and recruit a better player hopefully can continue to spiral for us.