Hackett, Snyder Press Conference Quotes
USC Head Coach Paul Hackett
Let me begin by saying that for Arizona State, that was an incredible football game. To have them stopped on the one-yard line at the one with 33 seconds left is pretty incredible. If there is a superior or best coaching at this point in my opinion from the people that we have played or have looked at on tape in the conference, I think it's Bruce Snyder. When you lose your running back and quarterback for the season and then you put up 55 points, even though it's a losing effort, against a team like Oregon, I think it's pretty remarkable and I take my hat off to him and his staff.
Going back for just a moment, we can talk about all the things we want to talk about, but when it gets down to it, if you are the team in the conference with the lowest takeaway/giveaway ratio, which we are, all of the other things we sit here and talk about are dull in comparison. This is a frustrated and angry football team. We have dug our own hole that way. We have continued to come out and improve some areas of our football team, but we continue even when we have some good things happen to find ways to be denied. One week ago when we had such a poor time of possession, I told the coaches we need to run some more and get that time of possession up. We have 33 minutes against Cal and they have 26 and we don't get it done. When I say we got to stop them and we give up 213 yards, it all goes for naught. When I say we have to give the ball to Sultan McCullough and he rushes for all kinds of yards and we get 200 yards, it all goes for naught because we couldn't cover punts. It's one thing after another and once again, frustration and anger, that's the best way to say it. But what you have to do is you have to focus on the positive. You have to focus on Zeke Moreno's play. He was superb in that game. He did every punt snap and made tackles on the punt team. He is playing great. Sultan does nothing but improve. Antoine Harris continues to be a force that he never has been during his career. Is it enough to get over the hump? No, it's not enough. Imagine we out-punted them, we out-punted Nick Harris, but once again it goes for naught. What we have to do is focus on the opportunity that we have right now which is to go to Arizona State and get a win. Arizona State is a formidable team, their offense is really humming. I think Jeff Krohn has done an excellent job for a young guy, I think Bruce said it best when he said he moves around when he has to do that. My biggest concern is the passing because our secondary is going to have to step up. Our secondary is going to get challenged against this team. The tight end, Todd Heap, is the best tight end maybe in the country. The outside receivers have tremendous speed. Richard Williams is the big-play guy, which creates some problems. The running part of it, they have done a remarkable job considerning that Mike Williams is a freshman has come in there and played well. Tom Pace is a guy now who has stepped to the front and has really excellent speed. The key to this offense is very simple. It's the best offensive line we have seen all year. They are big, physical, strong and they are experienced. That is what is driving a young quarterback.
On the defensive side, a lot of energy. They are an attacking, blitzing, pressuring kind of team. Adam Archuleta is probably the focal point of that team. He is really hot. They played well in the secondary until the Oregon game. That is the first time that a team has really been able to take advantage of their secondary because they are a physical secondary which I think is impressive. They have solid special teams and once again, it's just like every week I say in this conference, you look at how close every game is and how close everyone has a chance to win, the bottom line is you have got to win. That's what it's all about. The best way to describe me and the team is frustration is at a high level, it's about as high as it can be and the anger in that as we improve things here and there, something else is our undoing. That is where we stand, we have had 48 hours to think about it, now we have to focus on the Sun Devils. This team has always responded when the challenge has been there. They will practice hard, they will work hard and they will be there at that ballgame and be fired up, ready to get our first victory in a long time. I think there is a lot of enthusiasm, there's a phenomenal attitude because it would be easy to not have that attitude and I think that's a real tribute to, I've said from the beginning, to our senior leadership. I think once again I expect us to go out and be able to prepare and prepare better and go into the game and perform better whether it goes for us or against us early. We seem to find a way to not quite be able to make the plays when we need to make the plays. That's the development of the young people and ability of the veteran leadership to step up and the time is now.
(on philosophy of how a program is built over time has been shaken with recent losses)
You don't have time to look at it in depth. What you do is just react at a gut level about it. You say to yourself that there is no way in the world that we should be in this kind of streak. You don't have time to sit and analyze it in depth. We have got to prepare for Arizona State and if we spend time analyzing where it is, then we take away the time to prepare for Arizona State. Now, does it flip across your mind and say `gee, you know we thought we'd be in better shape?', of course it does. It hasn't happened that way. There will be plenty of time when the season is over to sit and contemplate that. The issue now is we have a four-game season, not really, we have a one-game season with Arizona State and that is the approach we are going to take. We are not going to blink, we are not going to change. We are going to go out there and get the job done.
(on possible warning signs during the season)
I think there was some concern about the youth on offense. I think the perimeter youth on offense and newness of some of the offensive line was a concern. Those concerns were there early in the season, if you remember the Penn State game and having to come from behind in the Colorado and San Jose State games, there was a concern. Defensively, the concern was our secondary was young, but that we would make up for that because of the front seven. Obviously the Kris Richard injury and now the Ifeanyi Ohalete injury where there is now no leadership back there or someone who is running the show back has shown up over the last few weeks. I think Kris is bouncing back and played pretty well last week. That is a concern. To be able to have the things happen to us that have happened to us, the turnover issue particularly. Imagine one year ago, we are leading the nation in turnovers at this time and this year, we are at the bottom of the conference. We got none against Cal, in what is going to be a close game. The ones that we have given up inside the 10 yard line three times this season. It's tough on the defense when that happens. All you have to do is look at one statistic. We can talk about we want about all the other things, but if you don't take care of the football, you can not expect to win.
(on possibility of playing freshman Matt Grootegoed, who has mono, in the secondary)
If the doctors gave him a full bill of health, we might consider it. As I understand, they will not do that. Contact is not something that is in his future. Being able to lift weights and run is one thing, but contact is not something at this point. I would say it is very unlikely.
(on quarterback Carson Palmer)
Early in the year, there were some judgment errors that I was concerned about. But I will tell you that since the Arizona game, from that point on, I have not felt that way. One of the things that you have to do when you look at the cause of turnovers is look at the culprit of those turnovers. Part of it is a quarterback making the wrong decision. In Carson's case, when you get blindsided and it goes straight up like he did in the Stanford game, or you throw a deep ball. When you throw a deep ball, you throw it out there as best as you can and there is a responsibility with the wide receiver in terms of catching the ball or knocking the ball away. You have to be careful when you put it on one person, much of the time it's not that person. If I felt that Carson was the cause of it, then we could make a change.
(on possibility of playing Mike Van Raaphorst and letting Carson watch)
That is a possibility. Carson is our quarterback and he is going to be our quarterback, but whatever we can do to give him a chance to settle and prepare to play the best, we will do. That is not out of the question, but at this point, Carson is going to be the guy playing. That is a legitimate question and certainly a possibility.
(on development of the program)
I think as you develop a program and you look at the period of time that it takes to recruit and develop, you always sort of gauge that in your mind. No one wants it to take that long, everyone wants it to turn around in two or three years. My feeling is that was what was going to happen. But the one thing about this group of men whether they were here when I got here or whether we brought them in, they are a very solid group of people. They are caring, they do not point fingers, they accept responsibility and along with that is their work ethic. Their work ethic is very, very strong. It was strong in the summer, it's strong because of the senior leadership. It is painful for me to see them go through this as hard as they work. That is the thing that makes me the most frustrated, makes me the most angry. But they have never shied away. They have never not done what we have wanted them to do. At times, we have made mistakes at critical times of the ballgame and it hasn't been just one person or one side of the ball. Everyone has had a part in that. I am proud of them in that they bust their tails for us. They work hard. Is it wearing on them? Yes. Is it difficult? Yes. We need to turn the corner here soon. That's why the focus can't be on everything that is swirling around. The focus has to be on them. On them and Arizona State. I'm going to spend my time on the special teams. The special teams part has to get us even or get us a plus. It can not continue to give us a negative because what happens is that puts too much pressure on the offense or defense. We are at a time of the year where we have a number of injuries. We are going to have to try some new players on special teams, but I have to motivate them, we have to get them cranked up to play as they are capable of playing whether it is the coverage or the protection team.
(on field goal kickers)
We have decided that in order to develop John Wall, who we think is going to be an outstanding kicker, that John will take the short field goals and David Bell, who has been superb on kickoffs, will take the long field goals. It's just a shame because I thought David Bell hit the ball really well against Cal. He will definitely be in the mix and somewhere around the 20 yard line is where we will make that determination.
Arizona State Head Coach Bruce Snyder
(on effect of playing two straight overtime games)
Well sandwiched in between the two games, we were hit by lightning twice on our airplane coming back so we have had an emotional eight days. We haven't been out to practice yet, other than a quick runaround on Sunday. This team has been a resilient team and hasn't given me any reason so far this season to believe that they will be anything other than really responsive in a positive manner. I think we are going to go out and have a good practice. This team has been great to work with. They are compliant to regulations and they are enthusiastic. Their feelings are hurt. It's like `what else could we have done', but I think we will bounce back fine.
(on playing with three different quarterbacks this season)
Ryan Kealy has been the starter here for the last three years. We were somewhat hopeful that he would be the starter at the start of the season, but that didn't work out. Jeff Krohn was a starter for three games, came down with mono and then Griff Goodman came in. Jeff came back after recovering from the mono, he played in the Washington game. We weren't effective offensively, but he played a little bit better in the Washington State game, particularly in the second half. I could see real progress in Jeff, gaining more strength and confidence, but I had no idea that he would perform against Oregon as he did. Had we had the fortune to win that game, he is clearly would have been one of the candidates for top offensive players of the week. He really has made a tremendous progress in the last three weeks. I can't even believe he could do that kind of performance like the Oregon game every week. We are not expecting that, but we can see him doing good which is why he will be the starter this week.
(on play of the tailbacks)
Our tailback situation has been as convoluted and up and down as our quarterback situation. Delvon Flowers, who we think is a terrific back, is out for the season and will return next year and is in good health right now. I am anxious for him to have a good season. Davaren Hightower came down with pneumonia soon after becoming a starter. The job became Mike Williams/Tom Pace with Mike being first. But Tom is a walk-on, did not attend training camp. We heard he returned to Tempe after we came back from camp and we had lost Flowers so he came strolling in one day and wanted to know whether at this late date if he could join the team. He was actually thinking that he was going to redshirt or be on the special teams. All of a sudden, he has worked his way up the ladder now where he is a starter. Tom is a strong guy for his size. He is fast and he played very well against Oregon. Mike Williams is the backup along with Hightower.
(on defensive play this season)
Our defense has really been kind of an interesting thing this season. They did a great job early in the season when everyone was healthy and we were making progress. I thought we played gangbuster defense the first three or four games of the season. After that, we played really well at times. In the Washington game, I thought we played great defense. We did let one run out in the fourth quarter which ended up being a decisive play because we only lost by six points. Our defense is now somewhat injured and that's really a concern for us. We are not really deep to begin with and any injury we get there influences how well they are going to play. But I think the one guy I want to mention and it may sound like I'm his agent in terms of publicity, but Adam Archuleta for us, a senior linebacker, in my opinion is playing better than anybody on our team in any position. He is playing better than anyone else in the league, particularly on defense. He is having a super senior season. He is the heart and soul of that defensive squad. By example, he doesn't say much, but everyone says `that's the way you are supposed to play.'
(on injuries in secondary)
It influenced our game-calling late in the game against Oregon. We have been a pretty aggressive football team. We felt like our corners Kenny Williams and Nijrell Eason, along with Machtier Clay, could do a pretty good job on some wide receivers if they were matched up bump-and-run and that allowed the rest of the guys to try to get the quarterback to throw the ball early. We lost Machtier early in the week before the Oregon game then we lost Kenny during the game, which changed how we could hope up in terms of really good corps that Oregon has. We were hopeful that we will not be forced away from our pressure package, but we also know that to ask a youngster who is not capable of performing at the job that we ask him to do is not fair. We are going to have to be a little more creative in our play-calling and design in terms of who is playing. Machtier, I have my fingers crossed, that he might be ready, but he was not ready on Saturday and Sunday. I did not see him yesterday, so I don't know his status. Kenny is gone for the season so that would leave Nijrell, Christon Rance and Josiah Igono as the three corners and our fingers are crossed that Machtier will be back.
(on thoughts about USC team)
My impression is that they are talented, but what I wasn't prepared to see how hard they are playing. I think they are playing extremely hard. I have been through what Paul Hackett is going through with a team who is trying to get over the hump, where you have a good attitude, you practice well. It's hard to get that breakthrough that gives you a feeling that you can be successful. I am impressed with their speed and hustle. McCullough, Carson Palmer, Moreno on defense...I think there are some good players and I think they are a dangerous team. We are such a team that all of our games have been a one score game in terms of we are either up by one or down by one. We are going to have to play as hard as we can in order to win this game.
(on going for two points in Oregon game in overtime)
We were down defensively in terms of personnel. Oregon had been moving the ball well against us. My thinking was along with that was my kicker, Mike Barth. Thursday night, he wrenched his back. He had treatment all day Friday, woke up on Saturday and had more treatment. He went out for pregame, could not kick in pregame warmup. He did do some kicking off, but as the game wore on, it become more of a problem for him. Would he have made the kick? Probably, but maybe not. He almost missed the previous extra point, so that was in my mind. Our defense were really on our heels. I could have opted to kick the extra point and continued to play, but I believe in my gut that I didn't think we would continue to match them. To get my team the very best chance to win was the element of surprise, which they were fooled. They came after the block. And two, we were throwing to our very best offensive player in Todd Heap. I know it was a gamble, but I think in the long haul, it was less of a gamble then to continue to play. I had a feeling that they had the momentum.
(on the emotions of the team after last week's airplane ride)
This has been a wonderful team in a lot of respects. All the way back to August when Ryan Kealy was such big news here in a negative way to when we had to break camp early because of a rainout to Flowers and Hightower. This team and staff has been through an unbelievable, emotional two months. The last eight days have been the pinnacle of all of that. We had to kick twice at Washington State to win that game, the lightning, this loss. This team prepared so well last week. I showed the team last Friday our practice tapes and I said `you know what's different? There are no assignment errors...none.' We were so well prepared and emotionally prepared. I thought our staff did a great job of getting our players prepared. Now can we continue to do it because it has been emotional? The only thing that I am banking on is that we have done it before. I have to bank that we will bounce back. It is a close team. They are kind of curious why maybe the three best teams in the conference that we have faced that we have played so close and not have won. There is that curiosity there that I don't like because it plants a seed of doubt. My take on it is that we are going to have a good practice and give it our best shot on Saturday.
(on changes on offense affecting system of play)
We haven't changed much really. The person that changes an offense the most is the quarterback. Our philosophy offensively is that we like to run the ball with a power running game, but I like my quarterback to be mobile. He doesn't need necessarily to run unless he has open field. That's what Jeff does, he is a mobile guy. He bounces around. With Griff Goodman, that's not his strength so we ended up drop back passing and throwing deep. Right now, we got a couple of good tailbacks, a strong fullback. Our line is playing pretty well and our mobile quarterback. We are playing pretty much where we like to be in terms of personnel and the style of play.