Erickson Meets The Press
Oct. 24, 2000
(On Washington State in general) 'They're a football team that, the last couple weeks, they've lost some tight ones. But when you look at them, they're a vastly improved football team from a year ago. I can't see any difference between them and UCLA, Stanford, Cal, USC - any of those teams. They're all pretty much the same, they're all good football teams.
'Offensively, they've really improved. They've scored a lot of points and gotten a lot of yards the last two weeks. Jason Gesser is playing extremely well - he's a quarterback who creates a lot of problems for you. He can get out of the pocket, scramble and make a lot of plays. They're throwing it and catching it real well. Their three wide receivers are making a lot of plays - Marcus Williams and Milton Wynn have made a lot of plays, they've made a lot of plays on streaks and scored three or four touchdowns the last couple weeks and made a lot of plays. They're very scary as far as that aspect is concerned because they'll throw the ball up to them and they'll make plays. Their young offensive line is improving all the time. Their running back situation with Dave Minnich and Deon Burnett is a good one-two punch.
'They're playing really, really well. They could just as well be 3-1 as 1-3 right now in this league without a doubt. You can look at who's 3-1 in this league and who's 1-3 and I don't think there's much difference. They had a chance to beat Arizona in Arizona and that's not easy, they played extremely well. They had a chance to beat Arizona State and just couldn't do it, they got into overtime. (WSU coach) Mike Price gets into two (overtime games) in a row and I've never been in one in college football, so I hope that stays.
'You look at them defensively and they're getting better all the time. They play hard, they play with great intensity and run around. They're a good football team, they're a team that's very capable of coming in here and beating us. We're going to have to play well against them and do the things we've been doing in order for us to win the football game. Again, you get to a situation where you get your sixth win and now you're trying to get your seventh win. As I said before, there's no room for error. If we want to continue to compete in this league or win this league, we can't falter. Every week is just as important as the next week, every team we play in the next month is about the same. It's going to be interesting. We're at home, so hopefully things fill up again and it's a homefield advantage. That's the great thing, because we've got to go on the road for two weeks. It's just a game that we've got to play.'
(Is there any added emotion for you playing against Washington State) 'Not really - that was a long time ago that I was there, 1988 - 12 years ago. I think last year when I went back to Pullman there probably was a little bit more, but there really wasn't a great deal. Mike (Price, WSU's coach) and I go back a long ways. But really, now, not at all.'
(Would it be another step for OSU to take in defending your home field against a team that most people expect you to beat?) 'We've got to defend our home field, there's no question about it. It's the thing we've tried to do the last two years - make this a dominant place to play. We've been able to do that since we got beat by Washington a year ago, and we've got to continue to do that. This is our turf, and we've got to win our games here. I've said that if you can win four games in the league here every year, you've got a chance to compete for the championship and go to a bowl game. Hopefully, that's what we've got to continue to establish. Again, they're coming in and they're not out of it by any means as far as the bowl situation. They're playing well enough to be in a bowl, they're playing well enough to be in that situation. They're 1-3 and 3-4 overall, and if they come in and beat us, they have a pretty decent schedule from now on. They have a chance to accomplish some things, too. It's not like a team coming in here that doesn't have something to play for.'
(At the start of the season, you said you wanted to be a more physical football team. Do you feel you've established that?) 'I felt that's the kind of team we were going to be. As I looked at who was coming back, with our runners coming back and our offensive front, I felt that was the kind of offensive team we wanted to be this year. That could change next year, depending on what happens. But we are starting to do that, and becoming more physical. I really feel, in my experience - whether it's college football or the National Football League - that if you're a good running team and can pound it early and pound it, you may not get a lot of hay ... you may get some plays, but if you keep doing it, in the fourth quarter a lot of times all of a sudden you start getting big plays. That's what we've been able to do. Every game we've played, we've had a long run at the end of the game that has made a big difference.'
(On placekicker Ryan Cesca's development this year) 'The first year was a tough year as a freshman - for anybody. You look around, and I don't know that there are a lot of great kickers in college football who are going to come in and knock everything in. There are different personalities in a lot of guys. But Ryan has really continued to improve. His leg is stronger, he's kicking the ball off better other than the ones he's knocked out of bounds, which is obviously something he's got to improve on. The 49-yard field goal he made against Stanford has given him confidence. He kicked really well last week during practice in the situations we put him in. Shoot, he knocked those three in against UCLA that were keys for us to win the game, and they were right down the middle. His improvement has been unbelievable. The next word is consistency - to do it every week - and that's what the great kickers do, they do it all the time. Hopefully, he'll get to that point. He knows he can do it, he's doing it, he's making plays for us, now he's just got to be consistent in doing it because in the next month he's going to be a big factor in us winning and losing. I really believe that as you get into games at the end of the year, where they're close, that kicker becomes real instrumental in winning and losing. So how he's coming along right now is a real plus for us.'
(From what you've seen, why hasn't Washington State been able to pull out a win in overtime games the past two weeks?) 'They've turned it over, basically. You look at the Arizona game, and they had the ball at Arizona's 30-yard line going in with about 2 1/2 minutes left in regulation and threw an interception. They went into overtime, scored three times and then threw an interception at the end. Last week against Arizona State, they're down at the 25 with hardly any time left and miss a field goal to win it in regulation, and throw an interception in the first overtime. The turnovers, they've missed a kick - they're so close, which is really frightening, and they're playing well. The thing about them is, they're young and energetic, and you have some seniors but when you don't have a lot of seniors and you're losing like that, you can look forward to what's happening and get better and better all the time. They're going to win some games before this year is over, believe me, just hope they wait a week.'
(Does its youth give WSU a bit of naivetï¿½?) 'They just go out and play better, because it looks like they're having a lot of fun regardless of what's happened. They see themselves getting better, and I know that sometimes you lose and it's hard to see the silver lining at the end, but they've improved as a football team. I know they're pushing the positive, which they should, because there are a lot of positives in what they've done.'
(Defensive end Sefa O'Reilly's injury) 'He sprained his MCL on his knee, so he's very questionable to play. Other than that, we're healthy. We have some guys who might miss a little practice time, but they'll all be ready to go except for him.'