Carroll, Koetter Discuss USC-Arizona State game

Nov. 12, 2002

USC-Arizona State Media Luncheon

USC Coach Pete Carroll

'This is a very big game for us. It's a big opportunity to keep it going and make progress with Homecoming coming up. This month of November, each step of the way is staged in a way that is really bringing a lot of enthusiasm and excitement around the team. We know how much is at stake. Our guys are really enjoying it. They like the fact there's so much ahead for us and are trying to put a good finish to this. The Arizona State match-up is really something that has caught our attention. We've seen them on film quite a bit and they've been unbelievably productive this season. We've quickly turned our focus to this match-up. We're looking forward to playing at home. We've been away a long time. This is a big deal to us.

'We've got a couple guys who are a little hobbled and we'll see how they do. Lenny Vandermade is doubtful for this game. We'll know more tonight about his injury to his bicep. Mike Williams is hobbling this week and we'll see how he recovers from an ankle sprain he re-injured in the Stanford game. But basically we're moving forward. I liked that Troy Polamalu played his best game in a couple weeks and he looks to be coming back from his ankle. He won't be 100%, but he was very effective last week and that's a positive on defense ..... He's still not all the way there. I just know him too well. He's having trouble laterally, in space. When he gets going, he can real bring it. He had some tremendous plays in the Stanford game. But he also missed a couple plays he'd normally make. He really improved last week, so we'll see. He's really primed for some great ball down the end. I just hope his ankle doesn't hold him back. But with my experience with high ankle sprains, it won't go away until after the season is over. He'll show you glimpses, but it grabs him and he can't make all the changes in directions he wants.

'If Lenny doesn't go, Eric would jump in. He jumped in yesterday. That's a bonus that we have a guy who has started a lot that can jump in and play. He's moved around and has been very versatile. We've got some other combinations if we need.'

(Re: ASU QB Andrew Walter)

'I think he's the real deal. I've watched him very carefully. I've got tremendous respect for him. He's got great physical tools. He can throw the ball a ton. He's thrown more balls over 55 yards than guys should throw in a season. They use him to get the ball down the field. He's like a statue, 6-5, 220. He looks like Carson a lot. Probably doesn't run as much as Carson. I'd compare him to what Drew Bledsoe probably looked like as a young kid. Just a fantastic natural arm. They know what they've got and they're going with it. The running game, I know they'd like to do it more, but they understand if they keep throwing it, they'll put up a bunch of yards. Shaun McDonald is a terrific receiver with great speed. I've got a lot of regard for them. This is a difficult game to deal with their offense. Even if you know they're throwing, they continue to get it done. He has four games over 400 yards. It's remarkable.'

(Re: Terrell Suggs)

'I think he's a tremendous player. He's fast, very explosive. He plays with a very big motor. He's exactly what you're looking for from an outside rush guy. I don't know how fast he is, but it's too fast. You can double him and chip him and do all the tricks and he keeps coming. This guy must have a great passion for rushing the passer because he really gets after it. This is as good of a pass rusher as has been around in a while. He'll get a lot of attention from the NFL. He's got a lot of our attention, that's for sure.'

(Re: USC WR Mike Williams and the keys to his success)

'I'd say his ability to be consistent. That's pretty special. For him to splash and have a big game and then be quiet would be understandable for a young guy. Outside of Kansas State, he's been a big factor in every game. That's what you look for. How good is a player? Well, how consistent has he been? The great players continually do great things. I'm real concerned with all the attention on him because it's a lot for anyone to deal with and handle. It's the kind of story that we talk about sometimes in recruiting, why a young man would come to Los Angeles and play his football on this stage: Because of the following and the attention. Well, this is a prime example. Everyone wants to talk about him and see what he's all about. With the tests that lie ahead, it will be significant if he can stay up and answer them. What I want is for him to be a factor in these games. I don't care how many balls he catches or how many yards he makes or if he catches TD passes. But I want for him to be on the field and be a factor you have to deal. It's a lot to ask. I don't even know if he'll play this week. But if he does, and plays well again, each time makes a statement about what he's all about.'

(Re: About looking ahead to the big rivalry games after this week against UCLA and Notre Dame)

'I talked to them in general about the hype and bowls and polls. It can be a distraction. But I was really excited about the fact that our team is looking at Arizona State as a huge game. They know these guys, they've seen them on film. We've started out in an attentive way. Last week we were tested with the same issue at Stanford. I was so pleased that we could focus and put together that type of game. It's indicative of our ability to hold focus. I'm not one bit concerned about guys looking ahead.'

(Re: Carson Palmer's season)

'If you put together good game after good game, you are rising. The numbers he's put up, it's a lot to ask. I don't care what he gets, as long as he does good things and makes good decisions. I think the fact that opponents are so difficult and the schedule is what it is, he's been so consistent. He hasn't had a bad game at all. Each time you put another good game behind you, you're moving ahead. I don't see any reason it would change. This is such a wonderful story. Everyone that follows USC football has watched him grow up.'

(Re: Malaefou MacKenzie's involvement in the offense)

'We just continue to try to find ways to get him the ball since he always does something good. He just has big plays in him. We popped him in for a pop sweep and he gets 40. He had a great sequence (at Stanford). He's a really good football player. We have a lot of plays for him in every gameplan. Sometimes we have a chance to get the ball to him and sometimes we don't go to him as much as we'd like. You could go to him the entire game.

(Re: How USC would fare in an NFL-style playoff)

'I'm excited about playing whoever is on the schedule now. I'm very confident in our team and their trust in what we're doing. We have the weapons that you like and we've got some consistency on defense. We've had some question marks in kicking game that have held us back a bit. All in all, though, we're kind of numb to the competition level. Every game is a challenge. That's how you like it. I don't want our focus to change depending on who you're playing. I want it to stay the same and see if someone can beat us. Whoever we're playing is not a big deal right now. We just have to get our game right and get our attitude right and focus on what we do.'

Arizona State Coach Dirk Koetter

(Re: Pinpointing what went wrong in the last two losses after the 7-2 start)

'It's plain and simple. We've turned the ball over way too much in the past two weeks. We've put our defense in horrible shape. We've allowed both Washington State and Cal to play on a short field too much. We were something like +9 in turnovers before those games and we're minus-5 in the last two games. We've done a lot of nice things, but against the caliber of teams we're playing, you can't turn the ball over and expect to win.'

(Re: Terrell Suggs)

'Terrell Suggs is one of those guys that doesn't come around often. He has huge talent, there's no denying that. But to go with it, he's got a great motor that never quits running. He plays with a lot of heart. He has evolved into a tremendous leader. This is only his third season playing the position. He never redshirted. He came in as a high school tailback. He's gained 15-20 pounds. He's much stronger now. He still has the great speed and is a tremendous one-on-one pass rusher and has improved in all phases of the game.'

(Re: QB Andrew Walter and WR Shaun McDonald)

'For the USC people, Andrew Walter is a guy who is somewhat similar to Carson Palmer. He's a big guy and won't scramble around like (WSU QB) Jason Gesser does. But he can make all the throws he needs to do. He has a very strong arm and can throw the ball way down the field. That's maybe the one big difference. Coach Chow has sort of taken the USC offense - I guess you'd call it West Coast - where they throw the ball underneath a lot. And we throw it vertically a lot. It's just a different way to do it. I think Andrew would remind fans a lot of Carson. Shaun is tiny, but very explosive. He's got tremendous speed. But he makes all those spectacular catches because he has great body control. He can have both feet off the ground and have his body twisted in all kinds of crazy ways and still catch it and a lot of times land on his feet and keep going. He's a very good competitor. He finds way to get open. The fact we throw the ball a lot, and Shaun is getting double-teamed a lot, our other receivers have started to play well. Daryl Lightoot, Skyler Fulton, Derek Hagan. We feel real good about the receivers.'

(Has the success of the passing game kept the running game in the background or has the running game not been effective?)

'We're not getting the kind of the production out of our running game that we'd like. We're starting different tailbacks and we've got a whole new offensive line this year with only one guy that had really played at this level. We're not running as well as we'd like to. It's something we'll continually try to get better at and to get our program where we want to, we'll have to run it better. You can only do what you can do.

(Re: ASU's tailbacks)

'We've basically rotated three tailbacks all season. Cornell Canidate, a redshirt freshman and younger brother of Trung Canidate, Hakim Hill, a redshirt freshman, and Mike Williams, who has the most experience and will probably be our starter this weekend. Those guys are solid players. They've all been banged up at different times. We've just gone through several stretches where we never really had all three of those guys healthy at the same time. The fact we've rotated so much and had to change because of injuries has probably detracted from the running game as well. Cornell has an ankle sprain and is questionable for the game. Right now, as we practice, Mike is No. 1 and Hakim is No. 2.'

(Re: USC)

'USC is playing as good if not better than anyone in the league. They're playing well on both sides of the ball. They've had a tough schedule and played through it. They have good depth. They're sound in all phases. We certainly have our work cut out for us but are very much looking forward to the challenge of coming to the Coliseum and competing against the Trojans.'

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