Erickson Meets The Press

Oct. 2, 2001

* Listen to Coach Erickson's comments

(On Washington State in general) 'Obviously, they're playing extremely well right now - as you know, 4-0, and 2-0 in our league, and scoring a lot of points. I'm not sure exactly what they're averaging, but they're making a lot of big plays. Jason Gesser is playing extremely well at quarterback, (slotback Nakoa) McElrath is the leading receiver in our league, and Mike Bush is an ex-basketball player - still playing basketball, I guess - who has made a lot of big plays for them. David Minnich at running back is one of the mainstays of their offense. They're just playing well, they're making plays, moving the football, playing with a lot of confidence. Their offensive line is playing extremely well, a tremendous improvement - they've done a good job of coaching them. They're doing a lot of good things offensively, creating a lot of problems for everybody. They scored a lot of points on the road against Arizona, which is a good defensive football team and always has been. When you can go down to Tucson and do that, you're playing real well.

'Defensively, they're playing well, too. They're getting turnovers, they got a couple picks in that game that really turned the game around early - one for a touchdown by Lamont Thompson that was a key play, another one that put it down on the 4-, 5-yard line and they're playing very opportunistically. They're a defense that's playing hard. They're led by their two safeties. I've always thought Billy Newman was one of the better players in our league at safety, and now they've got Lamont Thompson back who didn't play a year ago because of an injury. But they've playing very well together as a defensive team, and very well together as a team totally. They're playing well on special teams, they're a team that's playing with tremendous confidence. Mike (Price) and his staff have done a tremendous job coming back from what happened last year. They're just playing really, really well right now, they're believing they can win. To me, that's the key to the whole game - believing that you can get it done.

'Playing in Pullman, it's their homecoming, and I'm sure they'll have a full house. It's a tough place to play, I know, I've been there coaching on the other side of it. I've been on both sides of it, in fact. It'll be interesting. We've just got to go play better than we've been playing.

'I look at us against UCLA, and obviously it wasn't a great effort by any means. However, defensively, I thought we played extremely well, particularly in the first half, and had opportunities in the first half to score some points to make that game even at halftime and offensively just weren't executing and doing the things necessary for us to take it down and score. We had a couple opportunities on long balls where we had George Gillett open, once there was a rush in his (Jonathan Smith's) face and he couldn't get it off and the other time he underthrew him. You try to take advantage of some of the things they were doing, when you don't execute those kind of things for whatever reason, and you don't get points, then all of a sudden instead of 7-7 at halftime, they make a play and it's 17-0.

'I can't fault our defense early in the game. I thought in the second half, defensively, we got a little sloppy. We didn't tackle well, we gave up some big plays. As I look at it, we've just got to become a more consistent football team. We're a better football team than we showed Saturday. We've just got to come out and start making plays on both sides of the football. We haven't had an interception, we had a bunch last year. We're not getting a lot of turnovers, though we got two fumbles. And we're giving the ball up too much. We're not running it like we need to run it. We're not making plays at the skill positions. I'm concerned, but I really believe we have a chance, starting Saturday, to continue to get better and to become a good football team. We've just got to keep working at it, and I see some good things and some good young players. But I also see some seniors who have spilled a lot of blood for this program, and we want to have a good season for them. We're 1-2, we've only played three football games. We've got eight games left, I think people forget that. We've just got to do things that are necessary to start having success and winning football games. That's the bottom line.'

(How are the Beavers feeling right now?) 'We met Sunday after the game and looked at the film, obviously, they weren't feeling very good - they just got their butts kicked the day before. We don't meet with them on Monday, so really this is the first day back and we'll find out this afternoon. We've got great leadership on this team and a lot of character on this team, and I know our players know they can bounce back and that's what we're going to do.'

(On Mitch Meeuwsen's play at strong safety) 'He played very, very well. I thought he played the best of anybody on defense. He made a lot of plays, he's a good athlete and he'll continue to get better as he plays.'

(What changes can you make to get the offense producing?) 'We're going to look at some different combinations in the offensive line this week. It won't be mass changes by any means, or changes - but we're going to look at some different combinations. We'll look at different guys at different positions, and just look during practice at what is the best combination. That's one area.

'As far as what we do, obviously we're a football team that a year ago ran the football with great success, we're not running it quite as successfully right now so maybe we've got to rely a little more on some of the other things in our offense where the passing game is concerned. Those are all things we talk about during the week. And I mention this, every year your team is a little different depending on what your strengths are on offense, what your strengths are on defense. I don't know that we know exactly where are strengths are after three football games. We've got to sit down and talk about that, see what we've got to do within our scheme of things to move the ball more consistently.'

(Could you see Washington State's improvement coming?) 'They played pretty darn well at the end year last year, I thought, until Gesser got hurt against Oregon. They lost some tough overtime games. They really improved as the year went on, and any time you've got a quarterback coming back with his ability, you've got a chance. They made a commitment to get better, and they have. They've had some pleasant surprises as far as their receivers. McElrath, you knew was a good receiver, but Bush comes off the basketball court and is playing football and playing it very well, and you don't see that that often - where a basketball player all of a sudden comes on the field and has the impact he's had. He's making a lot of big plays, and I don't know if they were expecting that when they went into fall camp but it's sure as heck happening. But they've got some confidence, and when you have confidence, things happen for you.'

(After some OSU players labeled UCLA a 'make-or-break' game, how concerned are you about their confidence?) 'I don't think there's ever a make-or-break game, period. You go through the season and try to impove and you're aware where you are, and you go to the next week. How do they feel right now? We've lost one game in the league, and we can take it however we want to take it, is my opinion, and that's what I'll talk to the players about. We've got a chance to make improvement this week, we've got a chance to go to Washington State and play another game in the Pac-10, we've got Arizona at home ... we've got a lot of games left. I'm not like a lot of people, I guess, who feel it's the end of the world because we're 1-2, and that's just how it is. We've got some good football players, some good leaders, and I know they're excited about playing. Sure, it's disappointing because it was a big game, and when it's a big game like that and you get beat like that it's disappointing. But then again, you've got to bounce back and see what you can do and continue on, because there are a lot of good things that can happen to us this season.'

(On WSU quarterback Jason Gesser) 'He seems like he's throwing it more accurately. He's getting rid of the football. He's not running out of the pocket near as much as he did when he was younger, so he's sitting in there and making some good decisions throwing the football. He can still create problems for you by scrambling, that's what he does, he gives himself a second and third chance and gets out of the pocket and makes some big plays down the field. But when he sees immediate pressure now, he's not bailing out like he did when he was younger, he's sitting in there and making throws, and because of that he's much more effective.'

(Is center Chris Gibson's leadership a key for the offensive line?) 'He and Vincent Sandoval (right tackle) are the keys to our offensive line. They're both seniors who have played for a couple years, and have played pretty darn well this year. At center, you're making a lot of calls with the guards, so his leadership is real important for us down the road as far as bringing that offensive line together. Again, we've played three football games, two going into that one last week against an awfully good defense, and I look for us to improve in the offensive front. That's an area where we've just got to get better, and it's an area where you can improve as time goes on during the season just by playing games. But Chris' leadership will be a real key to that.'

(How is wide receiver George Gillett?) 'I saw George yesterday, and he's got a sprained jaw, but he'll practice today from what I understand. He'll be ready to go.'

(On problems in OSU's passing game) 'It's timing, it's throwing it and catching it together in game situations. We can sit out in skeleton in practice and the timing is pretty good, but the timing is a little different when there's pressure in your face and people are defending you. That will get better as time goes on. Jonathan made some good throws in that game, he made some bad throws in that game. He wasn't unlike everybody else on our football team - there were some good things, there were some bad things.'

(Anyone out for WSU game?) 'Tyler Ross is questionable at tight end, he's got a sprained MCL and he's day-by-day. But he's really the only question mark we've got right now.'

(On OSU's pass rush vs. UCLA) 'I thought we got pressure on him (Cory Paus) pretty good, but they made some good throws and some good catches. The first half, they hit the wheel route one time when we blew a coverage when it was 7-0 to get them to 10, and of course the one at the end. The (Brian) Poli-Dixon made a great catch in the end zone over the top of a guy who was covering him pretty well. But to answer your question, I thought we got decent pressure on him, we made him move around and we put some heat on him. They got some big plays, but really I thought we got decent pressure on him. Again, it comes down to how consistent are you on both sides of the ball, and we weren't consistent on either side, and particularly on offense.'

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