Erickson Meets The Press

Oct. 29, 2002

(On Arizona) 'They're a football team that's kind of like we were a week ago - a team that hasn't had a victory in the Pac-10, but has played pretty darn well and has some darn good football players. We looked at them last week, and I'm sure some of you watched their game Saturday night against Washington State where they had a tremendous chance to win that football game and played extremely hard on both sides of the football - particularly defensively, against a high-powered attack like Washington State's. They held them down quite a bit and forced them to do some things they didn't want to do. They're a football team that has played very well defensively, particularly the last couple of outings against Washington State and Stanford.

'Offensively, any time you have a quarterback like Jason Johnson that can throw the ball down the football field ... and Bobby Wade may be as big a threat as there is in college football at wide receiver; he makes a heck of a lot of plays. They're going to come out throwing the football against us.'

(On Oregon State) 'The biggest thing with us is, we've got to continue to improve this week. We've got to continue to improve defensively; we've been playing very, very well but we're going to face a different kind of an ofense this week. Offensively, we've got to continue to improve. Particularly, the area where we have to get better is our passing game; we have at times, at times we haven't. (Tailback) Steven Jackson isn't going to have the opportunity every week to run it 35 times for that many yards. We're going to be forced to do other things in our passing game, and we've got to become more efficient in throwing the football, which is what has to happen against the University of Arizona this weekend, because I know their style of play. They play that Flex defense, which is basically built around stopping the run. That's what that defense was built for a long time ago when (former UA head coach) Dick Tomey was there. That defense, just the scheme of things, forces you to throw the football so we're going to have to continue to get better in that area.

'But last week was a win that we needed badly. Now we just have to concentrate this week on getting that sixth win. Like I said last week, it's a five-week season for us and we're 1-0 and now we're trying to get that second win in a five-game season.'

(Is there an optimum number of carries per game for a running back in Oregon State's offense?) 'A lot of it depends on what they're giving you. If they're giving you the run and the game is close and he's got 35 carries, he's probably going to carry it 50 times. I don't know that there's any number of carries. The thing that has to happen in our running game - and Dwight (Wright, tailback) was involved in some carries - is that if people are giving us the running game and he's carrying it that many times, we've got to get Dwight involved in carrying the football a little more than he did Saturday against California. Steve is a great back; Dwight Wright is a good back, too, so we've got to get them both involved. Any time you start getting over 30 carries, that's a lot of carries.'

(On Arizona linebacker Jason Briggs, particularly against Washington State) 'Lance Briggs is one of the better linebackers in our league and in the country. In the defensive scheme they use, they pretty much free him up. They've got the linemen covered; he plays a little deeper than most backers and runs to the football. He's made more tackles than anybody in our league for the last couple-three years, and he's the guy who is the heart and soul of their defensive football team, there's no question about that. We've got to find ways to block him, different ways to block him, because of the scheme that they have. You've got to do some things as far as bringing receivers in on him, tight ends in on him. The thing about him, regardless, he makes his plays. He's going to make his tackles; he's just an outstanding football player. In their scheme, he's the key to their scheme, particularly in the running game.'

(Is OSU tailback Steven Jackson the sort of runner who gets stronger as the game progresses?) 'We probably haven't seen that as much as you did last week. I believe that the great backs do get stronger as time goes on, particularly the big, physical backs, which Steve is. He's 225 or 230 pounds, and when he starts getting the feel of it, I believe he gets stronger. I also believe that if you run the football for a long period of time and have success, your offensive front gets stronger, which enables you to run the football a little better at the end of the game. We did that early in the year; as I said last week, maybe we gave up on the running game in some games a little too soon. Then again, we've got to realize that it's not going to be like last week all the time, either. It's going to be interesting to see. But Steve gets better as the game goes on; again, he hasn't carried it 30 times (per game), so it's hard to tell.'

(On Arizona quarterback Jason Johnson) 'He's been around football all his life. His grandfather (Frosty Westering) has been the head coach for many years at PLU (Pacific Lutheran) up in Tacoma, one of the great coaches of all time. He's been around football all his life, so he's very smart; he understands the game really, really well. He knows when to get rid of the football, he's got a very good arm, he's very athletic and moves around and gives himself a second chance. You look at him and you look at Carson Palmer (of Southern California), you look at Kyle Boller (of California), you look at Cody Pickett (of Washington), and Jason Fife (of Oregon) - those guys are all very similar in a lot of ways. The thing I like about him at quarterback is, he doesn't make a lot of mistakes; he understands the game pretty well.'

(On the Pac-10's leading rushers, OSU's Steven Jackson and Oregon running back Onterrio Smith) 'I haven't really watched Oregon play much this year, to be honest with you, but I've watched Onterrio in the past. I think they're a little different. I think Onterrio is more speed, he's got tremendous speed and quickness, where Steve is a little bit bigger and a little different physically. That's probably the biggest difference. Again, I haven't seen Onterrio play a lot this year, so I'm going on what I saw last year.'

(How does a successful running game open up OSU's passing game?) 'No. 1, any time you can run the football, they've got to play run up front and the linebackers have got to play run. Two things happen: It creates less of a pass rush because they're not pinning their ears back and coming up the football field because all they've got to do is play pass; and secondly, because of the running game, it controls the linebackers and the secondary a little bit, particularly when you run play-action pass, which - if you run the football - that's what you need to do. When we have that kind of success, we have to be able to do that. People will force us, I'm sure, to throw a play-action pass a little more than we had to last week, because when you go into a game and can run it and run it and run it and have that success, you don't have to worry about throwing it. Although we only threw it for 80 yards (against California), Derek (Anderson, OSU quarterback) made a couple of real critical throws on third down that kept drives going. It just opens things up for you, it slows the pass rush down and controls the linebackers a little bit more.'

(Evaluate the play of OSU's offensive line against California. Did the bye week help?) 'It's a couple things, in my opinion. No. 1, that's the third or fourth week, counting the bye week, that we had Mike Kuykendall at left tackle and David Lose at left guard. To me, I've always said that it takes a little time to get things together and they're both playing better at that position right now. The bye week helped that a little bit. Plus, the other guys picked it up. What we probably did better in that football game than the others was, we finished blocks. To me, in anything - whether it's run or pass - you've got to finish blocks. We hadn't been finishing blocks quite like we needed to, and if there was one thing that really jumped out at us in that football game, it was that we finished blocks better than we had before.'

(Are you concerned with OSU quarterback Derek Anderson's completion percentage?) 'I don't know that it's a concern. We've got to get better at that. It's a concern when you lose, of course; when you win, it's not a concern. We've got to become better at that. There's no question that we've got to become more efficient at throwing the football. To me, efficient means that when people do things to you that force you to throw it, that you complete it and execute. I don't know that there's a percentage involved. Ideally, you'd like to be 60 percent if you can; we're not there right now. But when people give us the pass, we've got to complete it and take advantage of it and get the big play, which isn't just the quarterback. There's a lot of other people involved in that - the receivers catching it, the protection, all those different things. Any time you talk about a passing game, you talk about all phases - protection, catching the football and throwing it.'

(On OSU's defense against California) 'We're playing great team defense now, and that's what it's all about. We've been playing really good defense all year. Is that as good as we can play? I don't think so. I think we can be a great defensive football team, which I really believe we were in the second half of that football game. When I'm talking about great, I mean, don't let them breathe. We're capable of being like that, and hopefully that's how we're going to be - a real dominant defensive football team as this year goes on in these last four football games. Because if we can, then we have a great chance to win very football game we're in. If you're great on defense, you can beat anybody, and we're getting to that point; I thought in the second half of that football game, we were. If you look at the first drive of the second half after Steve (Jackson, OSU tailback) fumbled, we kept them out of the end zone. Then we had the punt blocked, and we got a turnover. Those are two scoring opportunities where we came out on defense and just dominated, and that's the kind of defense I really believe we can be. Our secondary made a lot of plays. I thought (California quarterback) Kyle Boller threw the ball real well, that they were on target a lot of times and our secondary players - particularly Calvin Carlyle and Dennis Weathersby - made some plays that knocked balls down that had a chance to be caught. It was a great effort. Again, we're very good on defense; we've got to continue to play like that and we're capable of playing like that.'

(On OSU's blocking downfield by wide receivers and tight ends against California) 'Any time you talk about the offensive line, you're talking about our tight ends because our tight ends are so involved in our running game - particularly when you're dealing with the perimeter and pass protection and things like that. I thought our tight ends probably had their best game; Tim Euhus probably had his best game and I thought our receivers did a good job down the field. You don't break long runs without those guys blocking the perimeter. I thought Cole Clasen and Kenny Farley and James Newson did a good job out there.'

(On OSU linebacker Erik Tuma against California, particularly in pass coverage) 'He covered a wheel route a couple times in the particular defense that was called, that was his cover. We wouldn't have put that coverage in if we didn't feel he could cover it, and he did. But Erik played real well; that's probably as well as he's played since he's been here. He had an outstanding game.'

(On Oregon State's injury situation) 'All those injuries will be judged as we go through the week. Brian (Kilkenny, offensive tackle) practiced last week and as we evaluated it, we didn't feel he was ready to play. Hopefully, we believe he has a chance to play this week; we'll have to wait and see. Mitch (Meeuwsen, safety) is the same way. He's going to try to come out and practice today and we'll see where he is and play it by ear. Other than that, we're fairly healthy.'

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