Erickson Meets The Press
Oct. 31, 2000
(On California in general) 'They're a football team that, right now, is really starting to peak and come together as a football team. They've always been a very good defensive team, but they've had to put some new players in there early in the year along with the veterans they have coming back, and they're really starting to gel. You look at them defensively, and they're playing better than anybody in the league.
'They've got two players who, to me, are as good as anybody in the country at their position. Andre Carter might be the best defensive end in football right now, might be the No. 1 draft pick at that position in the upcoming draft. He's that good, he's that impact, particularly in the last month. You watch him on film, and he's something special. We've got to be able to find a way to neutralize him some, because he makes plays all over the place. The run, the pass - everything. He's really an outstanding player. Jacob Waasdorp, the defensive tackle, has been a starter there for three or four years is almost as dominating. They've got him inside and Andre outside, and they create a heck of a lot of havoc and have created problems for everybody they've played.
'Their style of defense - (defensive coordinator) Lyle Setencich runs a defense that's very aggressive. They take the running game away from you, they blitz you, they do a lot of different things. We've got to be prepared for that. We've got to find a way to move the football and get some big plays. Their secondary is playing better, that's probably the biggest difference in the last three weeks. Jemeel Powell, who is a sophomore at corner, is playing really well. Their whole secondary is starting to play better and cover, because there are a lot of times they put them on an island by what they do. Their football team, defensively, is playing real well.
'Maybe the biggest difference is that they're playing a lot more consistent on offense. Kyle Boller, who everybody thought was the best quarterback coming out (of high school) a couple years ago - they kind of threw him into the fire last year as a freshman and was embattled a little bit as time went on, but he played pretty good at the end. He's playing real well right now. He's not making mistakes. He's real talented. He's physical, he's 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, he moves around, he's got a great arm and he's not making very mistakes now. They're doing things offensively - philosophically - that are really taking advantage of him. Their backs are protecting a lot more, they're running more play-action pass. They're doing things to put him in position. (Tailback) Joe Igber is really a guy who is playing well, he's made a lot of plays for them. So you get that running game going, and then the play-action pass and not making mistakes, and they're winning football games. They dominated USC last week in the second half, they had a real good chance to beat Washington but turned it over two or three times in the third quarter, they beat UCLA down there ...
'It sounds like a broken record, but I guess when you get into this position in the season, everything is important and they're a football team that's playing very well right now. It's not like you're playing a team that's 3-5 that's not playing well. They're at the other end of the spectrum. We're going to have to play very well down there to win the football game.
'One other thing is their punter, Nick Harris, who was all-conference last year. He really creates field position problems for you. What they're doing right now is, they're playing great defense, not turning it over, and winning it in the kicking game, and they're winning football games. We've got to go down there and find a way to beat them - that's the bottom line.'
(Do you worry about a letdown from OSU as the stakes get higher?) 'That's good, that's why there shouldn't be a letdown. We're in a position right now where we have a chance to have a tremendous season. We're 7-1, so now we've got to win our eighth. Our players know exactly where they are, what they have to do. They know there are three weeks left, they'll put everything into the last three weeks to be as successful as they can so you'll never see a mental letdown. If there was going to be a letdown, you would have seen it last week, in my opinion. But the same thing kind of occured last week, where they knew what they had to do. The thing this team has done is kind of be different each week. Against UCLA we didn't play great on defense but played real well offensively and scored points, this week we played great on defense and didn't play real well on offense, we played well enough. We keep picking each other up, and hopefully we'll put it really all together here shortly, like in the next four days, and who knows what will happen? It's a real team effort. Everybody knows what they've got to get down, they're real focused on what they've got to get done. We've never been in this position before, and it's fun. It's fun to be able to sit back as a team, as media, and as fans and be able to say, `Wow, we've got three games left and there are a lot of things that can happen to this football team.' Our players know that. It's a heck of a lot more fun than being at the other end of it - as I've been.'
(On OSU's effectiveness in the fourth quarter of games) 'I don't know that physically we do a heck of a lot of things different than anybody else, to be honest with you. Trent (Greener, OSU strength and conditioning coach) does a great job with them, we lift and do all those things, but we've done that at other places, too. We've stayed pretty healthy. I've mentioned this before - we've been able to run the football pretty well, so we get after people pretty good early in the game. In my experience at other places and in watching football all my life, people who can run it successfully and hammer at you, physically, some good things happen for them in the fourth quarter.'
(What has the experience of winning at OSU this year been like compared to winning at a perennial national power?) 'If you've been to any of the games in this stadium, that tells the whole story. This place has been packed. It's been a mania, I guess is the best word to use, and I don't even know what it means. It's been unbelievable. You stand on the sidelines Saturday at 7:30 at night and the wind is blowing about 50 miles an hour and it's cold and it's raining and all the things you don't want, and I look up there and you couldn't see a place to sit. It was unbelievable. It was overflowing. I think we oversold tickets, and that's a pretty good deal for us. I think that kind of tells you what it's done. It's been like that the last month. Then on campus, and we're getting some national publicity ... I know there's a huge population of Beavers out there that hasn't experienced this, whether it's in the State of Oregon or California or wherever. It's been a lot of fun. It's a source of pride for everybody involved. I think it's a source of pride not just for the football program or the athletic department, but just for alumni in general. Hopefully, having success like this helps your enrollment, it helps you financially other than football, it just does a lot of things to make things exciting. That's really kind of what it's done.'
(Personally, winning at OSU any more exciting for you than at, say, Miami?) 'Well, winning a national championship is kind of fun. I enjoyed that. But I'm having so much fun here with this team and with the people in general. It's a great experience for me. You win (memorable) games wherever you are ... somebody asked me the other day, what games stand out? I remember when I was at Idaho, we beat Boise State the first year I was there, we hadn't beaten them in 25 years, that was a great win at that time, then you go on and win a national championship. But this season, as you put it in perspective right now, is a lot of fun. It's not over with, that's the problem. I wish I was sitting here and we were 10-1 and I could answer your questions a little better. But we've got our work cut out for us right now.'
(Has California improved as much as any team in the Pacific-10 from the start of the season until now?) 'Probably more than any other team, when you look at them. They've always been good defensively, but they weren't doing as many things on defense as they had before. Because they've had those guys in that scheme for seven or eight games now, they're doing the same things they did a year ago. What they decided to do early was kind of the decision I made after Washington a couple years ago - they were turning the football over because they were opening the formations and doing some different things. Now, they're a little more conservative offensively. They're really protecting the quarterback and not turning it over, and letting the defense play, and the kicking game. That's why they've been a lot more successful the last five weeks. They're a good football team. They're young and they've got some good players, and they're on a confidence roll right now.'
(Does the announcement that you're working on a new contract with Oregon State remove a distraction?) 'It hasn't distracted me or the program. It's distracted everybody else, I guess - particularly you guys. It wasn't anything big to me. I'm coaching football games and we're getting ready to play 11 games and go to a bowl game, and it's amazing in my opinion that people can write things - I hope you didn't get it off the internet, because I'd be upset - that are totally not truthful. That's what amazes me. Mitch (Barnhart, OSU athletic director) right now is working on some kind of deal in the next month or so. But my focus and concentration, and the players - that's never, ever on my mind or anybody else's mind. Somebody puts a rumor out there ... better that than some other rumors.'
(Was the announcement made to quite rumors?) 'I don't know. You'd have to ask Mitch, and right now he's gone. But to be honest with you, Paul Hackett is a good friend of mine. Paul Hackett has done a good job, and he's a hell of a good coach. To me, it's unfair. I've been there, I went through that for a year, and it's no fun. It's no fun for your families and the people who love you, and to me it's a bunch of crap. I just hate to see it happen, and I don't want my name linked with anything like that. I'm happy here, as I've said many times. We're getting things going with this program and hopefully we can continue to do that. For that to happen to a guy like that, who is a good coach, that's ... that's why some people don't coach.'
(Last year vs. California, linebacker James Allen had maybe the best game of his career. How big is it to have him back?) 'It's a huge difference for us right now. Nick (Barnett) has played real well, we still played Nick a lot. Nick is a little light in the rear end, and James gives us a more physical presence at linebacker against the running game and he's made a big difference.'
(Is Allen playing in pain?) 'He's playing in a little bit, but not near what he had before. He's actually pretty near 100 percent.'
(OSU has been remarkably injury-free. Is there anything to which you can attribute that?) 'Knock on wood, I guess. Some of it is luck, but we haven't had a lot of injuries in two years. I think a lot of it is how we practice. I really believe that. I learned that a long time ago. We practice hard, we practice full-speed a lot of times. We go against each other, ones against ones, every week in two different aspects of our game to make sure we keep the speed, that we understand what the speed of the game is all the time. And we stay on our feet - that's the biggest thing that we preach, stay on your feet. Because you can practice hard, you can do whatever you want, as long as you stay on your feet and people aren't hitting guys low or falling off blocks. That's how you get people hurt in practice. The games? I don't know. We've just been very, very fortunate. And I really believe the old saying that if you're playing hard, your chances of getting hurt are less. If you're not standing around a pile, or if you're not loafing, then you're not going to hit. Sometimes we have a tendency to go a little too far as far as not standing around is concerned. But we play hard, and I really believe that has a lot to do with it. There's going to be injuries where you twist something or somebody hits you or something like that, that's just the nature of the game. They can talk about turf/field and all that stuff - we've played on this (AstroTurf) how many games now - 11? And haven't had a serious injury. Sefa (O'Reilly, defensive end) hurt his knee a year ago. So there goes the old turf debate.'
(Are you taking another kickoff tee to Cal?) 'We're going to take five and have them measure them all. We were using the same tee for seven games, we get into this last game (against Washington State) and they say the tee is too tall. So I'm going to have to bring a ruler with me to every game now. Your tee can only be so high ... but when they did that, I said, `What in the heck is going on here?' And it cost us a timeout. They started the clock, and we're screwing around with the new tee. It's obvious we don't have one, so the equipment guys are falling all over each other trying to find a new tee. Finally, we come up with a new tee, we bring it out and then we push something down, and the referee says, `Naw, this is okay,' so then we have to call timeout because there are 10 seconds left on the 25-second clock. Truly interesting. It didn't have anything to do with the officiating, because I don't want to be reprimanded for the kicking tee incident.'
(On being 11th in the Bowl Championship Series rankings) 'It means something, because you're there within striking distance if something were to happen and you could possibly win some games. But to me, to be 11th in that or to be 14th in the other two polls, kind of says where we are today. But it's like I tell our guys - I've been here before, and there is no room for error. You lose one and they forget about you pretty fast. You slide down that ladder real quick.'