Erickson Meets The Press
Nov. 5, 2002
(On Washington) 'They're going through some of the same things we've been going through, so I know it's not a lot of fun, either place. They're a talented football team. You look at them offensively, they're probably as talented as anybody in our league. (Quarterback) Cody Pickett, to me, is like a Carson Palmer (of Southern California), a Jason Gesser (of Washington State) - that type of player at that position; good arm, very accurate, very mobile, a tough son of a gun that just hangs in there and plays the game the way the game should be played. I've got a lot of admiration for him; he's a heck of a football player. They've got a lot of skill. You start with Reggie Williams - I don't know if there's a better receiver in all of college football. He's dangerous, he's big, he's fast, he makes all kinds of things happen and he's just a great football player; you've got to make sure you account for him. The difference now from maybe a year ago is that they've got some people to go with him. (Wide receiver) Paul Arnold is making a heck of a lot of plays; and (wide receiver) Charles Frederick, who adds a lot of speed at the other side, is a talented young guy out there. The tight end, (Kevin) Ware, is making a lot of plays. They've got a lot of weapons; that's why they're leading the Pac-10 in total offense and scoring a lot of points. We've got to be able to handle their passing game; that's what they're doing right now. (Tailback) Rich Alexis looks like he's going to be back; (Chris) Singleton is back, he's a very good back who we recruited out of high school and he's playing pretty darn well for them. They've scored a lot of points regardless of who they've played against and create a heck of a lot of problems for you, so we've got to make sure we play as good as we can on defense. It's our biggest challenge, defensively, in the last five or six weeks, without a doubt.
'Defensively, they've got talent. They're very good against the run; they match up very well against us as far as that aspect is concerned, because we've been running the football pretty well the last couple weeks. I'm sure they're going to put people down there and force us to throw the football - that's what people are going to start doing. I thought our passing game picked up quite a bit last week. I thought Derek started throwing the ball a lot better, (wide receiver) James Newson again started to make the big play. We've got to continue to do that. That's our personality, and that's what we've got to be able to do. They're talented up front. Ben Mahdavi is one of the better backers in the league, and (linebacker) Marcus Cooper can run. They've got a lot of talent, there's no question about it. They've had some injuries in the secondary that have hurt them a little bit, but (cornerback) Nate Robinson is getting better all the time; he's a true freshman out of the Seattle area who is a football/basketball player. The key, to me, is what can we do as far as our running game against their run defense? And then we've got to be able to stop Cody and those receivers - that's a real key - and try to get some pressure on them. It's going to be an interesting football game, and one we've got to win if we want to continue what we're doing. And playing on the road; we haven't played very well on the road and we've got to play on the road. We've got to start playing well on the road, and that's a tough place to play. Playing at Husky Stadium ... I've been there a few times, and their fans are great fans. It gets noisy in there and it's a tremendous setting to play a college football game; it's fun to go in there and play, so we're looking forward to going there and having the opportunity to play them.'
(How do you defend a wide receiver like Washington's Reggie Williams?) 'You have to change it up - you can't give him the same look all the time. You're going to have to play him one-on-one sometimes and you're going to have to double him sometimes. You've got to change it up. Like I said earlier, they've got some other guys out there now who can get the big play. Paul Arnold made a lot of plays last week for them, real critical plays. Charles Frederick is a guy who makes some big plays. They've got some people, so you can't double him all the time. You've got to change it up. But again, you can't let him get going and start making plays, because once he does, that ignites everything that happens to them offensively.'
(Is Oregon State's defense playing as well right now as you thought it might when the season started?) 'We're playing better the last month, probably starting with the Arizona State game. I know we played pretty well in that football game and we've gotten better as time has gone on. We haven't faced an offense as productive or as explosive as the one we're facing this week, no question about it, but we're playing well. It's like I've said before - we can play better, I really believe we can play better defensively. And that's what we have to be able to do this week - we've got to play better than we did last week.'
(On Washington tailback Chris Singleton) 'Chris Singleton is a heck of a back. We tried to recruit him out of high school, we thought he was very impressive and he's getting an opportunity now and taking advantage of it. He's got good size, he's got good feet and he makes you miss, he's a very strong runner, and he has added some stuff to them. You'll have him, and then (Rich) Alexis back, so you'll have a combination of both of those.'
(Is Washington's defense improving?) 'I thought they played better - they're running around, they playing hard. They've made some changes in the secondary because of injuries, and those guys - like maybe us in some areas - have played now, so they're a lot better with time. So they are playing better, without question. I think they played very well against Arizona State, which, as we know, has been very explosive against everybody; they played well against UCLA, which is a good offensive football team. They've played very well against the run, so it will be interesting to see what happens.'
(On Oregon State defensive tackle James Lee) 'James has really come along. Ever since he's been here, two years, he's gotten better and better. Right now, he's playing as well as he's ever played. He's obviously a big body who is playing very, very well. He's playing with great emotion, he's playing very physical, he's in shape and making a lot of plays. He really makes a difference in that rotation for us at tackle, so that Eric (Manning) and Dwan (Edwards) don't' have to play all the time. It's made a big difference in our defense.'
(Are you shocked at Washington's record right now?) 'I'm not shocked to see anybody in our league go up and down a little bit. I just think that's kind of how the league is. You go back in the four years that I've been here - and maybe even further back than that - and you've seen the USCs go back down and come back up, you've seen the UCLAs go down and come back up. You've seen pretty much everybody in this football league do that. You get some injuries at certain positions, things don't go right - it can happen to anybody in this league. Does it surprise me? Sure, any time that happens. It surprises me that we're 6-3, also. But those things happen in this league, and that's just how it is and that's how it's always going to be. We'll never see a team that's going to be a totally dominant team in this league, year-in and year-out. I'd be more surprised to see that than anything.'
(Tailback Steven Jackson had fewer carries last week than the week before - is that how you wanted it, more success from the passing game to not put the entire offensive load on Jackson?) 'As I've said all along, we've got to be more efficient in the passing game, whether Steven carries it 35 times or whatever he carried it last week ... 27 times? That's still a lot of times. We've got to become more efficient in the passing game, there's no question about it. We were more efficient in the passing game. And that's not just Derek (Anderson, quarterback) - that's protection and catching the football. And we've got to become more efficient. We dropped too many balls the other day, without a question. But I'd like to see Steven carry it 25 times a game; if I was going to say a number, that's what I'd probably say. But we've got to become efficient at throwing it. If things are going in the running game, he might carry it 40 times if we're winning, I don't know. You just don't set a number like that, but I don't think people are going to let him do that.'
(With wet, windy conditions a possibility in Seattle, how much will having a strong running game help? And how much did similar conditions affect your offense last season at Oregon?) 'I hope that after they score, the sun doesn't come out like it did in the Civil War last year. I've always said that in November or late in the season, I don't care what level you're at - high school, college or the National Football League - things change the later it gets in the year just because of the weather. Offenses change. I don't know that you see as many points scored, because of the weather and throwing the football and those kinds of things. I believe teams that can run it real well late in the year probably have a better chance to be successful than teams that depend totally on the pass - if you run into that kind of day. There's no guarantee, as we all know living around here, what kind of day it's going to be Saturday. You can read the predictions in the paper and I'm not sure they're right all the time, either. But if you do have bad weather, you've got to be able to run it. Hopefully, our success running the football will help us in these late games. But I do believe you've got to be able to run it if the weather's bad. And when I talk about bad, I mean a downpour. You can throw it if it's raining a little bit and it's wet out there; sometimes it's an advantage to the passing team in that kind of stuff. But when it's a downpour, you've got to be able to run the football.
(Having played at Montana State and coached at Wyoming and Washington State, do you have more confidence coaching in bad weather because of that experience?) 'I'd like to think so, but you're talking about a couple of places that I don't know if rain is a real key - it's whether you can move your toes or not. But yeah, when the weather is different, you've got to do different things. If you're stubborn enough to try not to ... it's a lot easier to hand it off than to take a snap and throw it and catch it when it's a downpour. But weather is different. It's a little different when it's cold and snowy and not wet; that's different, you can throw it and catch it. But when it's a downpour - downpour and wind are probably the hardest to play in; they're the hardest to throw the football in. When we were at Wyoming, we played in cold weather all the time and threw it up and down the field, it was just windy a little bit.'