Erickson Meets The Press

Oct. 9, 2001

(On Arizona in general) 'They're in somewhat the same situation we're in right now in our conference. We're both 0-2, so it's a critical game for both football teams as far as the league is concerned, as far as any chance to compete for the championship - but probably even more than that, to stay in the race and have opportunities to be involved in bowls and so forth as the year goes on. It's a critical game, and it's really critical for us because it's at home. Obviously, we want to play a lot better than we played the last time we were at home. We've created some great things here as far as our crowds are concerned and our fans, and I thought we pretty much disappointed them against UCLA so we want to play well at home. Play well against Arizona, play well at home, have a good crowd - and more than anything, get a win. It's huge for us this week, as it is every week, but more so now with where we are. You can talk about all the things and not moving the football and making mistakes on defense and all those things, and once you get a win and get some confidence, you can start going in the right direction. That's got to happen for us. We've got to get a victory and get going in the right direction.

'As far as Arizona is concerned, you know this is John (Mackovic)'s first year. I've been around John a lot, I've seen him coach - he's an outstanding football coach. They started out extremely well, like us, they've had some problems the last couple weeks. Offensively, they're quite different than they've been at the University of Arizona over the years. He's opened it up quite a bit. They're throwing the football a lot more than they have in the past. They've got some great skill at wide receiver, Bobby Wade, who is one of the better ones in our league, Clarence Farmer is one of the better running backs. So they have a lot of skill on offense and they can score. They've had some big plays the last couple weeks against Washington State and Oregon. Defensively, they're doing the same things they've done in the past. The defensive staff has changed a little bit, but at times they've played extremely well on defense. Again, our concern is to deal with what they do, their scheme is a little bit different than a lot you face and creates a lot of havoc and headaches with people trying to deal with that defense.

'More than anything, it's about us and coming into our place and playing well and doing the things I still believe we're very capable of doing. The bottom line is getting a win, once you get that, get some confidence and who knows what can happen down the road? But it's a key for both teams to get a win.'

(The positives of OSU's second-half play against Washington State?) 'We played a lot better, defensively. I thought our intensity level and the speed of the game was a lot better for us. You look at the video of both halves, we played a lot quicker on defense than we did the first half. Why that was, I'm not exactly sure. We just played with more confidence, got to the football a lot better, and looked like the defense I thought we were going to have as far as running to the football and playing with intensity. We've just got to carry that on this week in practice and play that way Saturday against Arizona.'

(Any encouragement in seeing that the three teams beating you are a combined 14-0 and appear to be high-quality teams?) 'They are, and obviously they are good football teams that are playing well. I don't know if that's encouraging, but I guess it's better than them only winning one game and that's against us. But they were good football teams and we didn't play very well against them, but they're all playing well. We'll see what happens. Like I said, there's seven football games left for us and six for a lot of them, and it will be interesting to see how this all clears out in the next month or so as far as who is the best in our league. There are a couple key games in our league this week that will separate guys, too - Washington State and Stanford, and UCLA and Washington. They're good football teams, I'm more concerned about ourselves, really. We've just got to get better. We're not playing like we're capable of and our players know that, and hopefully we can start doing that this week.'

(When you saw the preseason Sports Illustrated cover, what went through you mind?) 'That they were crazy. That thing is obviously a jinx to everybody, but looking at what we had coming back and the players we'd lost, when I saw that - there's nothing you can do about it. It's good as far as publicity is concerned, I guess, but as far as playing the game and me knowing where we were and prognosticators knowing where we were were two different things. Obviously, I'm disappointed - we should be way better than we are right now.'

(Was too much expected of Oregon State? How much has losing the large number of outstanding players from the 2000 team contributed?) 'We lost some quality players, but we had some good players coming back. I guess it's kind of in-between, as far as I'm concerned. We should be better than we are right now, there's no question about that. Are we as good as a lot of people thought going into the season? Obviously not. But then again, when you lose players, you've got to have players step up at that position or those positions and play real, real well. We've had guys step up who have played okay, they have to continue to get better for us to get to that point where we were a year ago. We just haven't done that yet. Can we? Yes, we can. I really believe in this team, I really believe we'll get better all the time, I really believe it will have an affect on what's going to happen in this league before it's all said and done. But like I said earlier, you've got to get a win. Of all the things you can talk about, getting a win builds confidence and gives you some opportunities down the road. We can sit here and talk about it from now until the end of the season, but until we get a win and get going the right direction, it's all talk.'

(With a limited number of changes you can make in personnel - no waiver wire or trades in college - is it down to just having to have the guys you've got perform better?) 'I remember those days. Those guys who were on the wire weren't too damn good, either. But we've got to do what we've got to do. We've got players here who can win and who will win. We've just got to get better, that's the biggest thing. And I can see that happening. If I looked at our team and said 'We don't have a chance to be any good this year and win games and get going the right direction,' I'd say that, but I don't believe that. I believe that with the group we have right now, in a lot of areas we'll continue to get better. As time goes on down the road, there's going to be a lot of good things that will happen to us. I really believe that.'

(Jonathan Smith will start at quarterback, but if OSU gets behind will Derek Anderson be called on to give the offense a lift?) 'We're going to play Derek every week, regardless of what the score is. Our plan right now is to play him sometime in the first half, we haven't made a decision exactly when. We are going to start playing him regardless of where the game is, whether we're ahead or behind. Obviously, he's shown he can do some things and has some talent. We're going to play him, and he's going to get better all the time. He gives you some things that can really help us. The bottom line is helping us win and be successful, and Jonathan is still the guy. Jonathan spent more time helping Derek on Saturday as far as information and what to see and so forth, but you'll see more of Derek Anderson in a role earlier in the game.'

(How have outside forces affected OSU's change in fortune from last season?) 'I've said all along, you never know what's going to happen in this league from year to year. As you go through and evaluate teams and look at who they've got coming back, and where they've got them coming back, and then you try to evaluate them - there's nobody in this league that can't beat somebody else in this league. And that will continue to happen as this league goes on, there's a lot of parity. The league is pretty good from top to bottom, there are six or seven teams in this league that are playing well, four or five are unbeaten right now - that's pretty incredible at this time. But that's how this league will be all the time. I don't think you'll see a dominant team year-in and year-out in this league that will win it every year. There's a lot of good football players, and with parity there's not much difference in the recruits you get and the recruits somebody else gets, it's in how you bring them together.'

(Is the running game your main concern, and what more can you do to get some holes for backs?) 'As I look at our running game, and everybody looks at the changes in the offensive line - it's not just the offensive line. When you're running the football, there are receivers involved blocking, there are tight ends involved blocking, there's a runner - there are a lot of things involved, and we've got to continue to improve in all those areas. We've got to be able to throw the football with some success to back people off of us a little bit. We're all very frustrated, I'm very frustrated. You go back and look at games of this year and you go back and look at games of last year when you ran it pretty well - and I've spent a lot of time doing that the last couple weeks - and there's not very much difference. We broke some long plays in the running game.

'As you go to Washington State, and early we didn't run it - but when you're behind 31-0 or 31-3, you're not going to be able to run it much in the second half regardless of what happens. I think one of our biggest problems is how we've started the last two weeks. You can take all that other stuff out of it, but when you start like we did in our first series the last two weeks with interceptions - the last one for a touchdown - and now you're digging yourself a hole so it's a little different to even give yourself a chance to run the football. Last week against Washington State, we ran it some but we didn't really give ourselves a chance because when it's 31-3 or 34-3, you've got to throw on about every down to have a chance to get back in it. So we'll just keep plugging away. We've looked at some things we think we've got to do, some people are doing things to us defensively that we've got to do some different things offensively to get it going. We've just got to keep them off of us, and you keep them off of you by being able to complete the long one and trying to threaten those people so they can't keep bringing those safeties down all the time. I don't care who you are, when they've got nine people down in there, it's hard.'

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