Erickson Meets The Press

Oct. 30, 2001

(On Southern California in general) 'It's a football team that I'm very, very impressed with. You watch them from Day One during the season, which I have on both sides of the ball, and watch the improvement they've made and watch them play, it's been very impressive to me. They've lost some close games very, very early against Kansas State and then a couple key games on the road at Washington and Stanford ... these were games they had a chance to win. Then they beat Arizona State very convincingly at home, and last week won one on the road in the last minute (at Arizona).

'I've been impressed with them. (USC head coach) Pete Carroll has done a great job with them. They're playing very, very hard and right now they're getting better offensively because (quarterback) Carson Palmer is picking up the offense. (Offensive coordinator) Norm Chow, in my opinion - and I've known him many, many years - is as good a mentor as there is coaching that position and knows as much about the passing game as anybody in football. But, it's like anything, it takes some time to learn the offense and they're getting better and better all the time. Any time you have a guy like (split end) Kareem Kelly outside, it creates a lot of problems for you with his speed. They're very, very good. (Flanker Keary) Colbert is a darn good receiver. They've scored some points and gotten some big plays.

'Defensively, they're playing extremely well. They're running to the football. Of course, that's Pete's expertise, as you know, when he was in the National Football League. Their linebackers, (Mike) Pollard and (Frank) Strong are playing very well. Their secondary as a group, as you look at them, are probably as good as anybody in our league when you have (cornerbacks Kris) Richard and (Chris) Cash, who have played a lot, (free safety Antuan) Simmons is back. Like I said, they're a football team that's been very, very impressive to me. They have a young freshman who was a very highly-recruited player last year, a young kid by the name of Shaun Cody who is now starting for them - or has, the last four or five games - at defensive tackle and has been very impressive.

'They're a team that has impressed me. They've done some good things, so obviously down there we'll have our work cut out for us. It will be interesting. They're in somewhat the same situation we are as far as an opportunity to win out and possibly go to a bowl game. It's going to be an interesting football game. We're going to have to go down and play well.'

(How many times have you coached head-to-head against Pete Carroll? What influence do you think NFL coaches moving to the college game has had?) 'We never played him when I was at Seattle. What you're probably seeing from guys coming back from the NFL - defensively, more than anything - are nickel, dime packages. USC probably runs more five- and six-DBs than anybody we've played. They're more of a situation defense than a lot of people we play. There are a lot of people - including ourselves - who play with regular personnel most of the time. In the National Football League, you don't do that. If it's second-and-10, you've got six DBs in there. So they're a down-and-distance team as far as substitution is concerned. That's probably the biggest thing I've seen.'

(On OSU's 31-21 win over USC in 2000) 'To finally beat them, in this program, was huge last year. It lasted about five hours, and it doesn't make any difference right now, but it was huge for the program to show that we could compete with one of the great traditions in all of college football in USC, and that we have a chance to compete against a school like that. That was a big part of it. Obviously, as far as this year, it doesn't make much difference. But last year, there were a lot of those things that happened - and the year before that, even - that were historic at Oregon State. Everything was historic two years ago at Oregon State, as far as winning. But that was a big win for us.'

(On USC's rushing game) 'They've lost Sultan McCullough, who is one of the better runners around, and that's obviously hurt them. They've run the ball very efficiently ... I don't even look at stats that much, I look at 'Are they efficient in what they're doing offensively in the running game?' I feel they are, because they're running the football well enough to throw play-action passes and get the big play. To me, that's what it's all about. People say, 'You've got to run the ball more, you've got to gain more yardage' or 'You've got to throw it more' or whatever the case may be. To me, depending on what your philosophy is, it's the efficiency you do it with. To me, they're very efficient. (Tailback) Sunny Byrd has been a hard runner inside and they've been efficient at running the football, or else they wouldn't have scored all the points and been in all these games like they are.'

(On OSU's defense) 'Our defense has played well, for the most part. There have been spells, and probably the biggest thing we've done negatively on defense is give up the big run or the big pass - more the big run, probably, the last couple weeks. That consistency - we've got to stop that. But overall, we've made a lot of big plays, particularly last week. And our linebackers are the key to what we're doing, with James Allen being the senior but with Richard Seigler and then Nick Barnett emerging this year as a guy who makes a lot of plays for us, a lot of tackles. Hopefully, we can continue to play defense like that the last four weeks and not give up the big play or the big run, which really didn't hurt us last week because we were able to keep them out of the end zone. The week before, it hurt us some. But if we can not give up the big play for a touchdown and continue to play like we're playing, then we are playing good defense.'

(On wide receiver James Newson) 'Early in the year, he made a lot of plays for us. Then the move we made about four weeks ago to move him outside, as opposed to being inside, has really freed him up to make big plays for us because he gets more one-on-one coverage out there. When he was inside, they started doubling him, which is a heck of a lot easier doubling him in our offense because we run the football a lot. What he's done, and what he did this last week particularly, is make the big play for us. We had to have somebody step up in the passing game and do that, and that's one thing we were able to accomplish. He's exceeded my expectations, but he's a great athlete who makes plays. You've got to have guys like that, sometimes they're hard to find.'

(On the Pacific-10 race being so balanced and tough) 'I'm not surprised at all. I said before the season started that's how it would be. I couldn't tell you who it would be, but I knew that I would be tight. You look at the teams like I did with people coming back - Stanford had a lot of people coming back, they really did, (quarterback John) Fasani is hurt now, but he's pretty darn good. Oregon, with (quarterback Joey) Harrington coming back, Mike (Price, Washington State head coach) had a lot of guys coming back, they've emerged with the play of (quarterback Jason) Gesser, Washington is Washington - they win, they make big plays at the end of games and it says a heck of a lot for their program. It doesn't surprise me that it's close. UCLA, to me after we played them, was real dominant, then you find out that they're pretty human.

'It's going to be interesting the next three weeks. I've always said this in this league, and it was like this last year, that what happens the last three or four games ... you look at the schedules, and every team has some plusses and minuses. It'll be interesting. It doesn't surprise me, and it doesn't surprise me that next year the same thing will happen. That's just how it is. When you have five teams in the top 15 in the BCS - I don't follow it quite like I did last year, for whatever reason - that says a heck of a lot about your league.'

(Is it because there are a lot of teams that really came of age this season?) 'I totally agree with that. You look at Stanford, I remember playing them the first year I was here, a lot of those players were playing. The same with UCLA for two years, it's the same guys and they've matured. Oregon is the same way with Joey Harrington. Gesser has been playing for a long time at Washington State. There's a lot to be said for it. I haven't really studied it, but I tend to agree with the guys we've played against.'

(Your record is 42-9-1 in November as a college head coach. What happens with your teams as seasons go along?) 'Let's hope we can keep that going. We'll find out - is it November yet? I think it's Halloween ... I don't know what it might be. We seem to improve, we have every year. A lot of times it's schedule and where you play and all those different things. But we seem to improve, hopefully we can find ourselves in November, starting Saturday down in LA. We have a lot of things to play for, there are some opportunities for us right now as a football team, being 3-4 and 2-3 in the league and having the opportunity to get to .500 and then go from there. It's kind of like it was two years ago, we'll see where we go.'

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