Erickson Meets The Press

Sept. 11, 2001

(On Montana State in general) 'Obviously, with what has transpired, this really isn't all that important. But, to talk about Montana State, they're a football team that had their first win last week in 18 (weeks), I guess. That's a big win for them, getting that monkey off their back. They're coming in here excited to play, and we're excited to play at home. They've got some talent, and they've got a couple guys who played here in (quarterback) Tyler Thomas and (wide receiver) Junior Adams, who have both played very well for them. I'm excited for them because they've got an opportunity to go in and play and to go have some success, and they're playing pretty well.

'The biggest thing with this game is we've got to concern ourselves with us and continue to improve and continue to get better. I've spent a lot of time the last couple days looking at all of our games - the last two, and then some last year early - and tried to see where we are and what direction we have to go in to continue to get better. There are some things we're not doing real well, but there are some things that we are doing real well. I really believe we have a chance to be a very good football team, we've just got to take it to the next level and have some people step up. I'm also excited about some of the things we are doing.

'Again, this week for us is just to continue to get better, play hard, improve the areas we need to improve in, and hopefully get a win here at home and continue on through the season.

'Obviously, it's somewhat of a special game to me, having gone to Montana State back when. It's getting to be 'back when' a lot more now, but I've got great feeling for Montana State. I've competed against them four times as a head coach back when I was at Idaho, but having gone to school there and coached there, if it weren't for some of the things that happened at Montana State, I wouldn't have had some of the opportunities I have today, and the coaches and people I met there have helped me in my career. Playing them is always special, and it will be fun to see some old friends as they come back here.'

(What are some specific improvements you saw from Week 1 to Week 2?) 'I thought our offensive line played way, way better. It did some good things in the running game, and it recognized things a heck of a lot better than it did the week before. I thought against Fresno State, we didn't recognize things together, we didn't really work well together as a unit, and we improved a lot in that particular aspect against New Mexico State on offense. That's an area I liked.

'I think defensively, we ran to the football better. We had to play the option, and we had really good play from our defensive tackles. I've always felt Dwan Edwards and Eric Manning have got to be dominant for us to be successful, and they were. And our linebackers played a lot better. Again, we have some areas we have to improve on, without a doubt, but those are areas that I thought we showed the most improvement from the week before.'

(In light of Tuesday's events in New York and Washington, will you make any changes in today's schedule? Are there any OSU players or staff members with relatives in that area?) 'Not on our football team. (Assistant coach) Gregg Smith's brother lives in Manhattan and works in Manhattan, and they've been in contact and he wasn't involved in it. I guess he was at work at the time it happened. But as far as our players, we talked about that in our meeting earlier. I asked if there were any family members or friends in that area who could have been involved in it, and there weren't.'

(On defensive tackle Eric Manning) 'Eric can be a dominating player for us. In our defensive scheme, our tackles are very important because of penetration and the things they do, they free our linebackers up. Eric had a great year last year and really improved this time around. He's got to be a dominant football player for us inside and he was at New Mexico State on Saturday, and he actually played pretty well against Fresno State. Both he and Dwan (Edwards) have to step up in that area, because that's an you can dominate football games. If you're real good inside with those two defensive tackles, you can do a heck of a lot of things, and Eric is going to be a real key for us to have some success on defense.'

(What do you have to prepare for against Montana State?) 'Montana State is very similar to us offensively, they do the same thing. They've got some skill, and Tyler (Thomas) knows a little bit about our players, so that helps. Defensively, they play extremely hard. They change their fronts up a little bit, they play a bit of that Bears defense, so it's something different that we haven't seen. The bottom line is, it's like playing Eastern (Washington) a year ago, and we all know what could have happened in that football game, so we just have to get ourselves ready to play. We're worried about Montana State, again, we're worried about us improving as a football team more than anything.'

(You haven't pressured opposing quarterbacks as much as you'd like in the first two games - how do you remedy that?) 'There's no question, we have to get more pressure from our ends and our tackles. We got penetration up inside and made a big difference. We're going to have to blitz a little more. We couldn't blitz against the option, that's just hard to do, and we didn't blitz as much against Fresno State as maybe we should have. We've got to try to get five-man pressure and do some things with our linebackers to try to create some pressure as far as the passing game is concerned.'

(What role did you have, if any, in Tyler Thomas and Junior Adams transferring to Montana State?) 'Not really a lot, to be honest with you. When they decided they wanted to go someplace where they could play, there were some schools that showed interest, Montana State happened to be one of them. Having gone there and knowing the staff and the people, it was someplace that I would suggest for them to go. It's a very good school, very good people, and a very good place for them to go to get their education. I didn't tell them to go anyplace, but that was one of the schools that was brought up in our conversation.'

(Are you surprised Tyler Thomas has done as well as he has?) 'Not really. He's physically talented and does some darn good things, and did some good things when he was here. The bottom line with him is, he's got the opportunity to play now and once you start playing, you get better and better. He's really improved, he improved from that first game quite a bit.'

(Last year OSU improved greatly from the start of the season through the end of the season. Is this team capable of the same thing?) 'I would hope so. You either get better or get worse as a football team as time goes on - you very seldom stay the same. We know what we've got to do to get better, and that's the bottom line. If we can stay healthy and continue to improve each game - which I really believe we can - we've got a chance to be a way better football team at the end than we were at the beginning. Again, we made lots of improvements a year ago, this is a different team. But in looking at them and evaluating it, there are some little things we can do to get a lot better.'

(Is there any pattern to the big plays you've given up defensively?) 'The biggest thing is, first of all, against Fresno State there were a couple-three great throws that we were in perfect coverage and they were all on long passes. This past week, we broke down coverage-wise and gave up the big play. Those are things I look at that can be easily solved. We've given up 28 points on the big play in the passing game and we didn't do that all of last year, so those are things that concern us, that we have to deal with and get better at. We'll do that. We're a little inexperienced in some areas back there and that was one of them.

'But when you look back at the Fresno State game, Dennis (Weathersby) got beat on a streak, the guy made a great throw and great catch and he's an inch away. The same thing with Terrell Roberts, those things are going to happen. Last week, we broke down coverage-wise more than anything, which created problems. We've evaluated where we are in the secondary. Shamon Jamerson is going to get a start for us at the one corner along with Dennis, that's a change. Aric Williams will still play. We've got to give some people the opportunity to play and see where they are, and Shamon is going to get his chance this week. D.J. Coote is a guy who hopefully will get better as time goes on, along with Aric, and hopefully we'll get Terrell back. Those are all areas of concern, but areas where I think there's a tremendous amount of improvement. And we've got to see improvement this week, too.'

(On finally playing at home) 'It's a big advantage. We've been to two venues where it's very difficult to play, and Fresno State was very difficult - we ran into a buzzsaw, but they're not a bad football team, either. And then New Mexico State, two weeks in a row (on the road) was hard but I thought our guys rallied in the second half in that game. We kind of lost the momentum in the second quarter, we got things going then we lost that momentum and things were kind of going their way. Then we came out in the third quarter and the first half of the fourth and totally dominated the football game, which I think showed a lot, then we gave up some things at the end that made it close.

'Playing at home is nice. And playing at home at Reser Stadium now is a lot different than it was a couple years ago, because we're going to have a lot of people there and that makes a big difference.'

(On tight end Tim Euhus) 'Tim Euhus is improving a heck of a lot. I really thought, coming in, that was an area of concern at tight end because we'd lost Marty (Maurer) and Bennie Johnson, and Tim has come in and played very well. Not just in the passing game and receptions, but he's blocking well and he's getting better all the time. Tim is a very good athlete and a very good pass receiver and runs routes, he's really very fast for that position so we get some pretty good matchups with him there that make a difference. Tim is playing real well, Mark Walsh is playing well at tight end along with Tyler Ross, so I'm pleased with that area and we've made a lot of improvement from the beginning of the year and it's an area that's not as much of a concern as it might have been earlier.'

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