Erickson Meets The Press
Nov. 6, 2001
(On Oregon State wide receivers coach Eric Yarber being hospitalized) 'He's been in the hospital for a little over a week with a liver ailment, an infection in his liver, and it hasn't gotten any better. Right now, it looks as if he's going to be in the hospital for at least another two weeks. The infection has spread a little bit, there was some water on his lungs. That seems to be under control. It's not a life-threatening thing by any means, but obviously any time you have a virus in the liver, you have some problems. It's something that you've got to be unlucky to get, I guess, and He has it. It's two weeks right now, but that could change - it could be longer than that, it could be less than that. He won't be back for the rest of this season, by any means. Once he gets back, what he can do as far as recruiting and all that is up in the air, but that's not a concern. Our concern is his health. It's been tough on Eric and everybody else. Hopefully, it will get better as time goes on.'
(On Washington) 'They're a football team that wins. They're a football team that's very well-coached, that makes plays. When you start with them on offense, you start with (quarterback) Cody Pickett. He's a guy who has really improved as the year has gone on. I've watched every game he's played. He was hurt there for a little while, but he's a guy who is very talented, he makes plays, he can throw it, he can run it, he's tough, he's a winner. He played with a separated shoulder for a couple weeks, so obviously he's the leader and has the respect of everybody on their football team. A guy who has really been a pleasant surprise for them has been Willie Hurst at running back - he and Rich Alexis are splitting time, but Willie has come in and probably been the main guy in their running game and has made a lot of plays for them. We've all heard of (split end) Reggie Williams, a freshman who is an extremely good player and makes a lot of big plays for them. Offensively, they've been very productive. They do a lot of different things, they've made big plays in the passing game, they run the option, and they've been very balanced.
'Defensively, they're a football team that makes a lot of plays. You start with (defensive tackle) Larry Tripplett - when you look at their defense and who's a guy that you've got to try to block to start out with, and it's Larry Tripplett. He's a big-time player, one of the best down linemen in all of college football right now. He's a guy you've got to try to control in some way, people have doubled him and he's still made plays. But he's the kind of guy you've got to control in the running game and as far as pass protection is concerned. Ben Mahdavi, who is their middle linebacker, is really kind of the leader of their defense. They've got (defensive end) Marcus Roberson - they're a good defensive football team that has played well.
'Their kicking game has been very impressive. They've won games in the kicking game by blocking a punt or blocking a kick or returning, so they're very much a threat there. The bottom line is, they win and they're well-coached and they make plays when they have to. And they believe they can win, and when it gets down to the end of the game with them, they find a way to get it down. They've done it very time but once. We've got our work cut out. It's a challenge for us, and it's something I know our football team is looking forward to, playing them here. It's getting toward the end of the season and it's a game we're excited about playing. We just have to wait and see what happens. Again, I know our seniors are looking forward to this game, I know our underclassmen are and our coaches are.'
(Is there any aspect of Washington's game that concerns you most?) 'The biggest thing is that they're a team. Every aspect of them has won games for them during the year, so they've come together as a team. That's the biggest thing. The running game, at one time they'll run it with Hurst, then they might play a game where Pickett has to throw the football. They've very balanced. Or they'll play good defense and win a game that way. They're just very balanced. They've won games in all aspects of the game, so I don't know that there's any one thing you can focus on.'
(On Oregon State running back Steven Jackson's game at Southern California, and whether he'll see more playing time) 'He will. He played extremely well, and he gives you a little different look than Ken (Simonton) or Patrick (McCall). He's a little bit bigger and a little different. We decided last week that we'd give him some playing time early in the game and see how he would perform, and he performed so we kept him in the game and alternated him with Ken. So you'll see him play quite a bit this week.'
(On Oregon State's offensive line this year, with just two starters returning) 'It's been a learning process there. But again, we can talk about who we had coming back and who we didn't have coming back, and you can talk about youth and all that stuff, but it's to the point in the season where all that stuff is a bunch of crap. We have a football team that's been together for a long time. We had some new starters, but you're talking about eight football games right now going into the ninth football game, so all those guys who weren't veterans in that offensive line have played eight games. That shouldn't be an excuse. We've got to play and play together. There are a lot of different things, each team has that, every team goes through that. Washington went through that, they lost a lot of starters, too, and they're playing well. That's part of the game.' (Has it affected your running game?) 'It's affected it a little bit, yeah. There's a lot of aspects that have affected our running game, including that and maybe not running where we should, maybe letting people stack up inside against us because we're not getting a big play in the passing game - it's a combination of things.'
(On which players have led the improvement by OSU's defense the past few weeks) 'I believe our linebackers - Nick Barnett and Richard Seigler - have stepped up and played, but they've been freed up because our front four is playing better. I believe we're getting better play out of our defensive ends, that's been a key and it's freed our linebackers up to make plays. We haven't given up the big play in the last couple weeks on defense, which had kind of been a thorn in our side in some other football games. We're just starting to play better as a defensive football team.'
(On what it takes for an offense to be good in the red zone, and whether being inside the opponents' 20-yard line limits your offense) 'As the field condenses, your playbook condenses. As you get closer to the goal line, there are some things you can't do. Part of our problem has been inside the 5-yard line more than it has been from the 30-yard line or the 25. We've turned the ball over a couple times in the red zone, which obviously doesn't help. Your playbook condenses, but then again, there are some things you've got to do. We haven't been bad in the red zone, but obviously last week we weren't very good. You've just got to find a way. I don't know that you change a lot of things. Safeties are down there because they don't have as much area to cover, so the running game becomes a little harder. There are certain routes you can't throw, there are certain things you've got to do down there depending on what they do. To me, it's a matter of making plays, you're down in there on the 5-yard line, you throw the ball and the guy drops it - it's not a matter of what you do in the red zone, you have to execute in the red zone.'
(On playing another school from the Pacific Northwest given your background with the region's schools) 'It's like playing Washington State and Oregon - they're all the same. We're in the Northwest, so those games are always kind of special, there's no question about it. The Oregon State-Washington game has always been special. We haven't won very many, so I don't know how special it is to them, but it's special to us. They're a program that has been very good over the years and is very good now. You get down to the end of the season for us and you take Washington and Oregon, and those are two very big games for us every year, win lose or draw, as far as what our season is like. Those are always big games for us.'
(How much have you thought about Oregon State's 1999 loss to Washington at Reser Stadium?) 'I've been more worried about what happened at USC than what happened in 1999, to be very honest with you. But I've watched that, and that was a matter of us turning it over seven or eight times, something like that. That was a nightmare, one of the few we've had here in the last few years. That was a sleepless six-seven months.'
(On Oregon State placekicker Ryan Cesca's difficulties at Southern California) 'To be very honest with you, I know nothing about kicking. I don't say that I do. The greatest thing I ever did in the kicking game was to hold for Jan Stenerud (as a player at Montana State), so obviously that doesn't make me an expert. I did get him into the Hall of Fame, but ... I think it's a combination. I really believe in kicking it's confidence. He's kicked well for us, he kicked well in practice during the week, he kicked well in warmups. The snap was good, the hold was good - he just missed the kick twice. Again, he kicks it in overtime from a further distance, from the same place, and knocks it right through. I don't have the answer, and I don't think Ryan does. Obviously, there's nobody that feels worse than him. You're out there on stage, and in his particular position, you either do it or you don't and he didn't do it. But he's made a lot of kicks for us, and I expect him to bounce back. As far as the technical aspect of it, I don't really think there was anything. Obviously, there was on those two kicks, but he's been kicking the ball pretty darn well for us all year.'
(Has Oregon State found some on-field leaders in recent weeks?) 'We have a lot of leaders out there. I think what's happened is that some of our young guys have played a lot better. I wouldn't say that's leadership, but the Seiglers and the Barnetts at that particular position have been playing with a lot of emotion, which carries on to everybody. But we've had good leadership, we've got good senior leadership. It's not that. But we are playing with a lot more emotion the last month than we did early in the year.'