Carroll, Bellotti Discuss Trojan-Duck Game
Sept. 18, 2001
USC-OREGON FOOTBALL MEDIA LUNCHEON
USC HEAD COACH PETE CARROLL
'Oregon is on the verge, in their eyes, of a great season and this game is a tremendous challenge for us in many ways. A road game, in the Pac-10 and the level of play (they are at). With all that's going on, we take this game very seriously. It's one that's caught our attention and our focus and I'm not concerned about our ability to focus this week. We'll tune in quite well. This is a big-time opportunity for SC right now. It's going to take an excellent game to get these guys. We'd love to get started on the right note in the Pac-10 and we couldn't make a bigger statement.'
Re: The defensive line's task of containing Oregon QB Joey Harrington and the Duck offense and the line's play overall. 'They have really come out throwing the ball really well the first two games. He's a great player. He's a pro player without question. They build the offense around his ability. They move him a lot, they play action. They do all kinds of things that really challenge a rush. The defensive line will have a big play in how we do in the game. It doesn't mean they won't run the ball, but if you can't contain Harrington, they'll have a big day ... We've been ok. Our pass rush that we hoped to see, against Kansas State, they ran so much, it wasn't an emphasis for us. But I think we're capable of playing good football. I'm counting on a good game. It's important they play well this week.'
Re: Returning to the field. 'This is challenging times for everyone. It's dividing your focus for obvious reasons. It seems like it's been forever since we've played. If you can remember how long last Tuesday and Wednesday seemed, those days felt like weeks. It has been a long time. We're ready to go to get back to it. It'll be good to get in a football game.'
Re: Dealing with the Autzen Stadium noise and the ability to call audibles. 'You always have to wait until you get there to see how you deal with it. But we've prepared. We spent time in camp and we spent time this last week. But you can't overemphasize it either. We have to take care of business and make sure we can communicate. That's basically what we're dealing with. Now we just have to handle it and maintain our poise and play good football ... You can still (call audibles) and Wisconsin did it. How effectively you audible is what's important. So you have to be very careful and it will restrict you in some regards.'
Re: How good Joey Harrington is. 'He's really good. He's big, he can move around. They run him with the ball, so he's got some ability to move in the pocket. He's got a strong enough arm to make all the throws and they throw a lot of downfield stuff and comebacks, routes where you need a strong arm. This guy is really well equipped. He's obviously a very bright player because they do so much. He can manage all the offense they put out there. I'm preparing as if this is an NFL quarterback because of the things he can do and the kinds of ways that he can read. We'll have to take care of business on our end of it, because if you don't, he'll tear you up. He's got a very good command of their system, which helps their whole program.'
Re: USC's wide receiver depth. 'We're thin in experience at wide receiver. No question. Our guys have got to come through. The guys that just came in, Grant Mattos and Devin Pitts, just arrived in fall camp so it's a lot to ask them to take a heavy dosage of the plays. We spot play those guys because they just haven't been around long enough. That calls for Kareem Kelly and Keary Colbert to do a solid job. Steve Stevenson will be back so that helps. We do not have experienced depth, so it calls for the starters to come through.'
Q: With Malaefou MacKenzie out, does that mean Sultan McCullough has to take most of the load. 'He has to really take the bulk of the carries. Knowing that Malaefou is out for this game and maybe next game, Sultan's duties have to be expanded. He has to do more and has to hang in there and be the guy that takes us through the ballgames. But Chris Howard is getting some work and we expect he'll be able to give us some quality plays as well as Charlie Landrigan and expanding his role.'
Re: Frank Strong and how his return will help. 'Frank has practiced at full speed and he's ready to go. He'll help us. He's had most of the preparation time with the first group up to his injury. But the problem is that Matt Grootegoed is banged up now and we don't know if we'll have him available to us. So we get one back and we lose one.'
Re: If Grootegoed can't go, who would replace him. 'John Cousins.'
Re: How he prepares his team for playing at Oregon 'I've been talking about playing on the road for a long time. It's not something you just break on them. It's a mentality about how you prepare. It doesn't matter who you're playing. You just have to take care of your own business. We're ready to do this. We have our procedures of how we're going to do it. We have to go to Oregon and see where we are. The crowd can prey on your confidence. Things don't go quite right and (the crowd) over-reacts to everything that they can. If you get into listening and reacting to them, they've done their job. Our ability to hold our focus is as big of a challenge as we'll face this time of year ... You don't know how anyone will react until you get there. So that's why you play and we'll find out where we are. But our guys have played in a lot of big games and difficult settings, our experienced guys have, and their leadership will help with the younger guys ... Our travel plans haven't really been affected.'
Q: Is it good to get back? 'Without question. From the President on down, he's calling for everyone to get back to business and back to work. The world will forever be changed, but we have to get back to business as usual. In college sports as much as anything, it's such a spectacle and there is such a build-up for it. For all of the people that follow it, we have a duty to carry out a first-class event and allow our fans and the people who watch he sport, to have their free time and be involved and have fun and have that sense of normalcy. I feel like we have a sense of added responsibility in that regard. We do need to put forth a good game and there's a lot of people counting on us for their enjoyment and fun. I think we have a role in bringing us back.'
Re: On dealing with the past week with the players 'We have addressed it and have made ourselves available and spent time, just small-talking with guys on the side and making sure they had a chance to talk to somebody. I want our guys to (realize) that this isn't just a one-day event. It's something that will change our lives and will affect us all. We have to work toward being prepared in whatever we do. But our guys have had an open opportunity to share their thoughts about whatever they want.'
OREGON COACH MIKE BELLOTTI
Re: How has the team handled the events of the past week. 'I think they've handled it pretty well. It's been easier for us to a degree because we had no game and we knew we had a bye all the way and there was no question whether we'd play. That made it a little easier - not to handle - but to focus on the outside world and the tragedies that happened. Our kids are anxious to get back on the field. Last week, we actually had a good practice on Tuesday, the day it occurred and practice deteriorated the rest of the week. Our kids had the weekend off to go home, though many could not get flights as they planned. It was a time for them to be with their family and friends. Yesterday was a good practice and we're looking ahead and forward to getting back on the field.'
Q: Can you give an early assessment of the team. 'I can and it's not quite where I want to be yet. We have the potential to be a very good team. We're not there yet. We have a lot of work to do on both sides. Our defense in some ways has played better than some people might have thought, having only three or four starters back and only one in the front seven. But we got exposed a little at Utah and we need to shore up the run defense. That will be tested every single game. We're not as consistent as we want to be offensively. We have great weapons and you can start with Joey Harrington and Maurice Morris and Onterrio Smith and Keenan Howry and Justin Peelle etc., but I don't think that on a consistency basis we're playing a like a team ranked No. 7 in the nation. I've challenged our guys to put up, live up or shut up. We've got to get going a little bit and when you play a league game, everything changes. And with USC coming here, it's got our players attention.'
Re: Joey Harrington. 'I thought, for our first game this year -- first game, huge crowd, playing Wisconsin -- he played well, but not as well as he's capable of. He forced a couple of passes is the best way to put it. It was borne of a tremendous confidence in his wide receivers, but they're throws he learned to not make in the second game. Joe is the guy who makes plays happen all over the field. Whether it's by throwing, running or making the correct read at the line. He's done a tremendous job. He's the most knowledgeable quarterback I've ever coached. He's special. As he goes, so goes a lot of our opportunities for success.'
Re: Running back situation. 'Maurice Morris is the starter, Onterrio is the back-up and Allan Amundson backs them up. Allan is the fastest guy on our team, so it's nice to have that speed on the depth chart. I think we have to try to get those kids on track and part of that starts at the line of scrimmage. We have to be more aggressive with our run game and look at our play calling. Though I don't worry about how yards come, but how points come. If you throw it or run it in, you get the same amount of points. So I don't worry too much about that. I do think there will be a time when you have to run. Those are the plays or situations that I evaluate more in terms of the success of our run game. We improved from game one to game two, but we're not where we need to be.'
Re: USC and its game vs. Kansas State. 'That was a whale of game USC played against Kansas State. Kansas State is very good and SC had a chance to win. To me, the scary thing about playing SC, they're a team with a two-week bye, like we had. They can improve dramatically. With a new coaching staff, it takes a while to get everybody on the same page and if and when they do, watch out.'
Q: In light of the past week, does he have any concerns about the team's readiness mentally and their focus on the game. 'No, I don't worry about it. I do think that there will be times, maybe in the game, or in their life, where they'll reflect on what's occurred, what's happened and how it changed their life or affected a friend or family. But once the game starts, it's the thrill, the enjoyment of physical participation. Some of those things where they can let the other stuff go. I don't think they worry about injury. I don't think kids at this level can. They've got to play and cut it loose. But I know when they play the anthem, I think the kids will have a different perspective. Not that it's good that it occurred this way, but maybe they'll appreciate what they have and take greater stock in what we do as a nation and a world. But I think the kids, once the game starts, the focus will take care of itself.'
Q: Will there be extra security precautions at the stadium. 'Our operations people have met several times. They will beef up security. They have had several meetings dealing with those issues.'
Q: Evaluate the offensive line. 'We're still searching for the right combination. And I'm not sure what it is today. The next two days will tell us a great deal. But Jim Adams and Corey Chambers and Ryan Schmid and Dan Weaver, Joey Forster, Phil Finzer, possibly Mike Belisle, will all factor into the mix. The offensive line is unique. It's not always the best five players. It's the best five players in a sense. The guys that play together the best. We have two returning starters and three guys that have significant experience. We need to put them in the right places and fill in the gaps with somebody that is physically talented enough `to play and understands the system or can piggy back on the guy next to him in terms of the calls. We're still trying to figure out which group is best. I've not been pleased with performance of the line. Potentially we can be very good. And we've found ways to win those games. I feel very fortunate to say we've won two games and say we're not where we need to be. We had 282 yards at halftime against Utah, but only had 16 points. I think we show flashes of the team we can be, but we have to be more consistent.'
Re: Joey Harrington and if he saw the spark in him early in his career. 'I saw the spark in him when I recruited him. It was a look in his eye or the way he looked you in the eye when you talked to him. I saw it on the field. He has the tangibles and the intangibles. He has the physical ability to read a defense or throw a ball or make a decision at the line to gain the yards necessary to move the team. But he has the enthusiasm and the leadership to get the best out of the people around him. Joey is the guy that wants the ball when the game is on the line and the guy that the coaches want to have the ball when the game's on the line. He also elevates the play of the people around him.'
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