Quotes From Head Football Coach Dirk Koetter's Monday Press Conference
Nov. 11, 2002
'I think it's important for our team to keep everything in perspective here. We've had a fine year, we've exceeded expectations and when expectations are exceeded, the bar gets raised, and rightfully so. The fact that we've lost two in a row, I don't think you'll see our guys quit, I don't think you'll see our guys go in the tank. They'll battle it out right down to the very end. These are two very important games we have left and we still have an excellent chance to finish high in the Pac-10 standings.'
Could you comment on giving up so many points in the last game? Was it your defense?
'There were probably 35 points we gave up the other night that were not attributed to the defense. The defense had nothing to do with the blocked punt, the defense had nothing to do with the interception and we gave them those two fumbles inside the 20. That is 28 points right there. The play after the onside kick attempt, they beat us on that play; that's the one play I say our defense gave up in the first half. I think I know how hard our defense is playing and we are a much more banged-up team on defense than on offense; we're healthier on offense. We have several guys on defense that are playing on guts right now. It's pretty well documented that our depth at linebacker and safety-which in our defense are important positions-is something we don't have right now because of injuries.'
Could you comment on your secondary and Brett Hudson in particular?
'Well, Brett [Hudson] played 40-some plays at corner last week and 20-some plays at safety. Brett is another one of those guys that is playing with more than one injury right now. In this particular game [against USC] we're going to need Brett more on the outside to match up with [USC receiver] Mike Williams, what a player he is. Just the way things have evolved, I think Brett is playing better on the outside. I think his strength is more in playing like a true defensive back, whereas our up safeties have to be part defensive back and part linebacker and we blitz them a lot. Being a blitzer is probably not Brett's strength. In the safety positions, that's where we need Matt Fawley and Joey Smith. Joey Smith, in his 25 snaps against Cal, came in and did a nice job and it's his time to come in and play now.'
How do you decide on how to play your defensive backs?
'What we've been trying to do the last few weeks is decide, based on what type of receivers our opponent has, whether we start Josh Golden, or Brett Hudson and Mike Davis. USC has three really good receivers and they all present different problems. I think we're going to have to use all those guys. Mike Davis is a player that has a tremendous future ahead of him. I think he reached a point in the season where his body wore down on him a little bit and we haven't been able to use him as much the last couple weeks. Hopefully he will recover and kind of get his legs back. I think another example of that is [right tackle] Chaz White, another true freshman who is playing. About the time Adrian [Ayala] got back, I think Chaz was worn down a little bit. Chaz played much better against Cal and you could see an improvement in his game from where he was three or four weeks ago.'
Comment about USC's running game.
'Sultan McCullough-I was fortunate enough to coach his brother at Oregon-he's just got world-class track speed. He's had difficulty staying healthy over his career but he's had a very solid season for USC and anytime he breaks into the secondary he's a threat to go all the way. As [USC Head Coach Pete] Carroll just mentioned, [USC tailback Justin] Fargas is a big, fast strong guy and really hits the holes hard. He's more of a tackle-breaker type of a runner rather than one who jukes. USC uses Sunny Byrd as both a tailback and a fullback. They do a nice job of mixing in their running backs and then they tie that in with their passing game. They use much more of a controlled passing game rather than a vertical passing game. Their offense fits together and when it's flowing nicely they are a tough team to stop.'
Comment on having such a huge game this weekend. Could the loss this past Saturday be attributed to breakdowns?
'We've played a string of games here where every game is a huge game. When you're picked to not win very many games, they're all big. That's just the nature of college football right now because the talent level is fairly even out there. We did have our share of breakdowns. On that screen to Frank Maddox, he caught the ball with three blockers in front of him and Cal only had one defender and we didn't get the guy knocked down. We had to settle for a field goal on that drive. Our kickoff return team struggled all night. We had six alignment errors on our wide receivers, which is the first thing we teach on the first day of spring football. A case could be made that we're tired, but I don't really but into that. I think on Saturdays you have to show up and you have to compete. I think our guys have done that.'
How is your running back situation now and the situation on your return teams after Cornell Canidate was hurt in the last game?
'Right now, we plan to start Mike Williams at tailback, backed up by Hakim Hill. We still have our fullbacks Mike Karney and Mike Talbot who play in single-back sets just as easily. On kickoff returns, we used Daryl Lightfoot a little more last week and Josh Golden was kind of the blocker/returner when Cornell [Canidate] went out. Most teams, by the way they lineup, you can tell where they will kick it, so it's easy enough to have one guy who will return it and one guy who will be a blocker. Basically Golden replaced Cornell and we've had Daryl and Hakim as the featured returners. We'd considered putting Shaun McDonald back as the feature return guy, but we ended up deciding against it, but he's the other guy that works back there at practice. Jason Shivers has also taken reps as the blocking returner, but Jason is on so many special teams that we try not to wear him down. Actually Josh Golden will do a good job there but he hasn't had much of an opportunity to play there yet this year.'
Does it look like USC safety Troy Polamalu is playing hurt?
'If he's not playing at full speed right now, I'd be scared to see what full speed looks like, because that guy can go. He is a fine, fine player. He's what we expect Riccardo Stewart and Jason Shivers to be when they're seniors.'