Hackett, Price Preview USC-WSU Game.

Nov. 7, 2000

Quotes from Paul Hackett's Media Luncheon - 11-7-00

'Just to take a moment to go back to Saturday. I think it was a remarkable win. If anyone would have told me that that would be the way we would break this horrible streak and that would be the way that we would win the game, I'd say you have to be out of your mind. But I do feel as though for three quarters of the game and also in overtime, we played the best football we played this year and we showed all the things that I've been talking about are possible. I thought we were a dominant team for three quarters of the game and a team that showed signs of maturing and becoming the team we all thought it would become. The fourth quarter is a mystery to me like it is to everyone else. To have four different people fumble the ball when we knew how precious it was to keep the advantage. To have two interceptions, one a tipped ball, it's like everything that could possibly happen - happen. It's remarkable that we had enough of a cushion and enough of a lead. And they missed a field goal ... and all of those things. But I think what the game was about was a football team that has had its share of things go against it and had those things go against it again in the fourth quarter and how we responded.

'The whole game was about OT. In overtime - and of course overtime is the norm in our conference - it is quadrupally action packed and pressure packed because one tiny move, you lose. Washington State is in overtime with Oregon and they get a penalty on the first play of overtime and it costs them the game because they can't recover from it. When you look at overtime and you ask them to play in overtime, particularly when they score first with three points, and you're giving the ball to you're runner and you're asking your freshman kicker to kick the tying score, it was really a dramatic happening. I think this team really came together and was able to say, hey, no matter what happened, we're still that team that played the first three quarters and we're going to show you by playing in the overtime. I thought the overtime performance by Keary Colbert, the performance by the runners but particularly the overtime performance by our defensive line was really just a tremendous moment for us this year. What can we learn from the fourth quarter? That's the thing we've been racking our brains about. What can we learn from this game to allow us to play better against Washington State? Because that's the only focus. We're in one-game seasons and that's the approach we took last week and for this week. It's remarkable to me, in watching the tape of back-to-back games of the best team in our conference, which is Oregon, that they would give up 55 points (vs. ASU) and win and go to (Washington State) and have again, good fortune against a back-up QB and win. That's what happens. That team is winning and more power and credit to them. We had our chance and we couldn't do it. Right now everything seems to flow there way. But the teams I'm watching, Washington State and Arizona State, have moved the ball well on them.

'That brings us to Washington State. The most impressive thing about Washington State is this. They lose arguably the best quarterback in the conference, or at least the best passer. In that drive that they lost him, at about the 20-yard line, the new quarterback comes in and leads them the length of the field for a score. He does the same thing in the second half. He falls a little short in the overtime but it's a tribute to Mike Price and their system. I don't think they'll be much different. They've got the tallest wide receivers in the NCAAs. They spread you out. They'll be a real problem for our defense. For our offense, they're playing good defense. I think they're better than the statistics show. They've got good linebacking. They've got a couple of good corners and they've played three overtime games. What does that tell you? They're a very competitive team. We've now won a game and that's it. We can't get overreactive to the losses or to the wins. It takes away from what matters, which is the preparation for Washington State.

'What's going on in our conference with offensive football is spectacular. Then I open the paper and I see a 50s score with Northwestern and Michigan and I think things have gone crazy. Where's the old run-the-ball and win 6-3 ... I don't know where it is. It's really something to look at what's going on in the Pac-10. I feel we made a move offensively. It's the fourth game we ran for over 200 yards and have a young runner who now has 1000 yards and he's just a sophomore. We have a young receiver in Keary Colbert who played his finest football game. And my goodness, Aaron Graham. He hasn't played all year and he goes in and plays middle linebacker for 87 snaps. And Zeke Moreno plays a position he never plays. I take my hat off to this team. They stuck with it and hung in there. We had numerous opportunities to cave in and we did not and I'm proud of them.

(re: emergence of FB Chad Pierson): 'We've had a three-way competition at running back. Through no fault of their own, two of the three have had injuries that have affected their play all year long. We've continued to utilize all three, and what we felt last week was because we kept demanding of them that they be in the rotation, we were not allowing them to get healthy. We thought that was true of both Petros (Papadakis) and Malaefou (MacKenzie). Neither have practiced for the last month. We made a decision that Chad, who is healthy and has been the back up fullback, needed to have an opportunity to spell Sultan. He did it in practice a bit and in the ball game, he showed the kind of flash he has. He brings a totally different style of running. He's a power, between the tackle kind of guy. It turned out to be the best change up we've had all year. We'll continue to use that because I looked up and felt we were running the ball better than we've run it all year long. And we haven't run it badly.'

(re: improvements of Sultan McCullough from start of season): 'I think (running back coach) Kennedy Pola has done a great job with him in two areas. One of them is vision. Which comes from vision, practice and studying the tape. Every practice, we film from behind the runner. So that the runner, when he looks, can see the patterns and the reaction of the defense. As a young runner, you get a feel through the eyes and you begin to get confidence. This guy can run the ball. He can run it inside, which he's proven, and now he can go outside as well. This kind of development is what we hoped for for our entire offensive team at about the midway point of the season. Sultan has been the key who has carried the offense with him. We're becoming a pretty good offensive team and it was evident on Saturday and he is the catalyst.'

(re: what happened in 4th quarter at ASU): 'We all know that it's the responsibility of the ball carrier or the receiver or the quarterback to take care of the football. I've said all year that it is the single biggest failing this year of USC that we are dead last by a long margin in takeaways and giveaways. The mystery is how you can lead the nation a year ago and this year be dead last. We have given the ball to our opponents too many times and it has cost us a number of games. Part of it is the lack of coaching emphasis, which is something I continue to talk about all the time. The other is the focus of the people carrying the ball. Some of it is the luck of the draw. But it happens far too much to us. My concern is that it happens to different people. Four different people fumbled the ball in the fourth quarter. Four different scenarios. You can drive yourself crazy trying to figure it out. All you can do is try to understand when you get yourself in that situation is to call everybody together and re-emphasize all the good that has happened and don't let yourself get distracted. We've also learned from experience that you can't quit playing no matter how big your lead is. But this is a mystery to me.'

(re: punts): 'Ever since the 23-yard punt at Stanford, our punter (Mike MacGillivray) has been booming the football. And he has been kicking it much better and different prior to that. Not as consistent as we'd like, but he has improved. There is an opportunity to get someone else in there, but we've done a fine job in protection, but was has suffered is coverage and coverage lanes. We have some people who have been on that team who are playing a lot on defense. We have to examine if we have the right guys on the team. This continues to be a very concerning area. We'll search to find the best coverage people and will strive to improve the consistency and quality of the punting.'

Quotes from Washington State Coach Mike Price (11-7-00)

(On why the Cougars have struggled at the Coliseum): 'I think sometimes we might be distracted because half the team is from down there and relatives come by the hotel and try to see the players, so it's a distraction that way. Like I said before. We're not playing Azusa Pacific when we go down there, we're playing the USC Trojans. You're chances aren't as good as if we were playing Azusa Pacific.'

'We're excited. We have two games left. We're going down to the Coliseum to play the USC Trojans. This is awesome to finish the season playing these two games (USC and the Apple Cup vs. Washington). You're telling me Matt Kegel isn't excited about going down there and playing and starting. We can't wait to get down there. I don't think we'll be too excited. But a lot of times, the kids want to play so bad ... I've seen so many Southern California kids go down there and stink it up because they want to win so bad and show their family and friends how good they are and that the Cougars are better than you think. We don't have to do that. We want to be excited to play, but if we're too excited, I'll be surprised after what's happened this year.'

(re: will the play calling be changed with the change of quarterbacks): 'It will change a little bit. I wouldn't say conservative, but it will change a little bit. Not in a conservative way by any means.'

(re: RBs): '(Dave) Minnich will start again and I think Deon (Burnett) is ready for a game. He had a great game against them last year. He had some tremendous runs. It's been a tough year for him. He's a good kid and it's been unfortunate. He hasn't had the opportunities and when he has, he hasn't played great. He's capable of playing much better. He's concerned and wants to do good. He's better physically than he was a year ago. There are a lot of things (why he's struggled this year). He missed the Cal game completely. Hurt his knee bad for three weeks where he wasn't 100%. He missed a couple things during two-a-days and wasn't on top of it there. He hasn't run on all eight cylinders from the beginning. He's still a good player and we still want to play him.'

(re: USC's struggles this year): 'You look at the teams that are winning and how they are winning, particularly the Northwest schools. Good things are happening to them and balls are falling in the right spots. For USC, gosh, they have a tough time buying a break. One example is when (Matt) Nickels (vs. ASU last week), he makes a great catch and kind of bumps a guy with his right arm and lays out for it and they call him for offensive pass interference. Technically, technically, maybe yeah. But a lot of times it goes as a no call but they get it against them. It went all the way down to the end because of penalties and freak turnovers and a returned punt. And they're in control in overtime and score a touchdown and they get the PAT blocked. If it isn't one thing, it's another. The momentum is going against them. Where as other teams, it's going for them. We're the same way (as USC). If it isn't injuries, it's turnovers at inopportune times.'

(re: sense of pride in Northwest football this year): 'All those high school coaches and all of those high school players should (feel pride). And all of those players on those three teams (Washington, Oregon State and Oregon) should feel good about their decision to come north. Their decision to go to the schools that aren't the biggest and do a good job and prove you can win in Pullman, Corvallis or Eugene and that you can get it done in the Northwest.'

(what does he expect from QB Matt Kegel in his first start): 'I don't know. It's going to be fun. I'm excited. I'm tickled to be around him. He's confident. It runs in his family, I guess. He's certainly not shy or timid or afraid.'

(re: Jason Gesser's role in the next two games): 'Not much this week. He's still so sore. He's going around in crutches. He will help Matt as much as possible. Almost too much. I've got to get him away because he's coaching everything.'

(re: OL): 'Derrick Roche is hurt and I don't know how much he'll be able to play. We're not going to hit a lot again (this week). We're paper thin on the offensive line. Man. I didn't want that to get out because I didn't want Matt Kegel's mom to know about.'

(re: kickers): 'I'm probably going to look a little at Drew Dunning. We'll have competition this week. Anousith Wilaikul did not kick terrible. In all essence, he could have made that last kick last week. He's not falling apart at the seams. He's competing and doing a good job. But I'm just looking down the road at the future.

'Jason David might play a little more at DB. He's good at blocking punts and field goals and he might get in and do a little more of that. We're going to play more first team players on special teams.'

(re: both teams coming off OT games and how WSU will deal with it): 'You need to address it. We are. You need to make sure you get lots of rest and drink lots of fluids and get off your feet and not wear them out on the practice field but get them fresh for the game. We'll be leaving 35 degrees and getting to Southern California, so will be fired up to get down there.'

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