Erickson Meets The Press

Oct. 22, 2002

(On California) 'California is playing extremely well right now. They've had a great season, a great turnaround by (first-year head coach) Jeff Tedford and his coaching staff. What they've done is unbelievable. They've done it a lot of different ways. From the very start, they've played extremely well; they went back to East Lansing and beat Michigan State back there, which is no easy win, having been back there and played before. Then to go down to the Coliseum and almost beat SC; to go to Seattle and beat the University of Washington; to dominate, pretty much, UCLA - they're just playing really well, with great confidence.

'Kyle Boller at quarterback is playing extremely well; he's thrown 19 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. They've only turned the ball over nine times, I think, all year, and they've got 25 (turnovers), so they're plus-16 - which leads our league and is one of the best in the nation - in terms of turnover ratio. Their offensive front is playing really, really well; Jimmy Michalczik is coaching them, he was with us (at OSU) and he's done a great job with them. (Tailback) Joe Igber is running the football. But they're not making very many mistakes on offense, they're not turning the ball over.

'Yet on the other side of the football, they're creating turnovers. That's been the big difference. They're running around making plays. Their defensive front, they play seven or eight of them, and they're playing extremely well. Tully Banta-Cain at defensive end is their sack leader and he's playing extremely well for them. Their linebackers, their secondary play very similar to us; they come up and bump and create some problems for you as far as routes are concerned. They've very solid in the kicking game.

'They're well-coached, they don't make a lot of mistakes, they give themselves a chance to win. I think the most impressive thing is, in the first half they've pretty much dominated football games. They come out ready to play and come out and understand what they're going to do. I can't say enough about what they've done.

(On Oregon State) 'With where we are right now, we've got our hands full. It's nice for us to get back out on the football field and play after a bye. We healed up a little bit. (Offensive tackle) Brian Kilkenny has a chance to play; whether he'll play or not is questionable, we'll have to see how he practices this week. We practiced Sunday and he was out there and moved around, but whether he can play or he can't remains to be seen - we just have to see how he operates this week during practice. (Free safety) Mitch Meeuwsen is probably at least another week away and maybe two. (Offensive tackle) Lee Davis, I doubt that he'll be back the rest of the year. We've got bumps and bruises, but that week did heal us up, physically. We're probably as healthy as we've been in the last month.'

(On California quarterback Kyle Boller) 'As you watch him, Jeff (Tedford) has done a great job and George Cortez, their quarterback coach, has done a great job. Fundamentally, he's so much better. His feet are better. His release is quicker. As far as the strategy of the game and knowing where to go with the football and where not to go with the football, he's so much improved. He's getting it off quicker - all of those things. He's always been a tremendous talent; now he's taking advantage of his talent. When there's somebody open, he throws it to them and he hits them. Fundamentally, he's better, but I think the scheme they run has made a big difference for him, also.'

(Prior to this season, had you seen signs that California could be a pretty good team?) 'I've always said Cal was as tough on defense as anybody we've played every year since I've been here. They've had guys that could play; they still do. But the mixture of the whole team wasn't quite there, for whatever reason. Coach Tedford has brought that to them. He's brought a good staff that's outstanding and brought them all together as an offense, defense and special teams. They're just playing really good together as a team, and that's why they're having their success.'

(With the bye week, have you seen improvement in the play of Oregon State's offensive line since the position shifts necessitated by injury?) 'We improved during the bye week. We'll get better all the time. Any time you switch positions and you have guys who are new starters at different positions, they get better every day they practice. Whoever plays - whether it's (Mike) Kuykendall at left tackle or (David) Lose at left guard or whether it's (Brian) Kilkenny in there at left tackle - will be better just because of the experience they've gotten the last couple weeks and the opportunity during the bye week to continue to play together. That's a group that has to play together. You'll see improvement each week as the season goes on in the offensive front.'

(Did you see any surprises in the Pacific-10 during your Saturday off?) 'I watched part of the USC-Washington game; that surprised me a little. You just never know. Arizona State's win over Oregon was somewhat of a surprise, but that's just how this league is. The Cal-UCLA game didn't really surprise me, the way Cal is playing. The league is kind of what we thought it was going to be, and I still won't be surprised if nobody goes through it undefeated. There's a chance, maybe, but you're looking at two teams now and they play each other, so that's a real problem. Who knows what's going to happen as far as a champion? Right now, Washington State and Arizona State and then you've got Oregon and USC right in the hunt for things. Washington State, schedule-wise, looks like they've got a pretty good shot at it but you never know what's going to happen. It's interesting, but my concern right now is just for us to get a win and then we'll go ahead and go from there. But the Pac-10 is an interesting race, like we thought it was going to be.'

(Not to detract from California's players, but how much of the Bears' success this season is due to their coaching staff?) 'You can give them a lot of credit, but all they can do is get them in the right direction and get them in an atmosphere that is a very positive atmosphere. Once you start getting that and then you have some success in that atmosphere, everything starts multiplying and you start having success. In my opinion, they've got a great staff and they seem to get along together. The players seem to be playing together as a team, and that's a credit to the coaching staff and they believe. But once the ball is kicked, it's up to the players to execute all that stuff.'

(On Oregon State's practices during the bye week) 'It was a good week of practice. We went three days - Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday - and went against each other, our 'ones' against our 'ones' - kind of like spring football. We felt we had to do that. And then there were some (players) who weren't involved as much because of injuries and we wanted them to heal up. We had a very good week of practice; I thought it went very, very well. I thought we made a lot of progress. We're looking forward to playing the game on Saturday and we're looking forward to getting back on the football field.'

(What do you think of the idea of using instant replay in officiating college football games?) 'If you're going to have it, you've got to have it with everyone in college football, and to me that's impossible - financially, physically. You can't just have it in the Big Ten and not have it anyplace else; you can't just have it in the conferences that have enough money to deal with that stuff. You've got time constraints. It's not like dealing with 30-some teams; you're dealing with 100-some teams. To me, you'd like to see it to make the corrections on bad calls - obviously, it would be used a lot. But I just can't see it logically being done.'

(If offensive tackle Brian Kilkenny plays, how much might he play?) 'It's really hard to tell until we see him this week. Could he play the whole game? I doubt it, but we'll know more today and tomorrow exactly how he comes through during the week. My concern is, can he play period, physically. Once we feel he can play, physically, and be able to do the things we're asking him to do, how long can he last without playing for five weeks? Is that a question? (If he plays, does Mike Kuykendall move back to guard) Yes. He's been playing it (guard) forever, and we had him inside with Brian on a little bit on Thursday, so that shouldn't be a tough adjustment at all. The tough adjustment is when we moved him out to tackle after not being there for two years.'

(When you prepare to face California's offense, is it similar to Arizona State's and Oregon's - does it make it easier with the head coaches coming out of Oregon's system?) 'They're similar, yet they're not similar. I think Oregon and Arizona State are probably more similar than Cal - Cal is a little more formation-oriented, changing formations. But they're basically doing the same thing, all three schools. Does it make it any easier? Not really, because you've got to defend personnel. Cal gives you a lot of different things - they probably run more trick plays than any other team.'

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