Pete Carroll Discusses The Trojans Upcoming Game Against Fresno State
Nov. 15, 2005
'We have come off of a very satisfying win. It sends us back home, when we have had our opportunities they seem special and rare. Our players feel like that again. We are very excited to come home and finish out our schedule at the Coliseum. The Cal game allowed us to finish off our season winning all of our games on the road, in a very challenging and almost dramatic fashion at times. There were very rewarding experiences for all of our guys to get through all of the hardships and problems and issues. To get it done it seems like this is a bit of a reward. This match up with Fresno is an extremely interesting match up. Right in the locker room after the game I mentioned to the guys that we will be playing one of the best teams that we have played all year, maybe the best team all year. I say that because they are such a well rounded football team, in any statistic that you pull up, any area you investigate, you are going to see this team has excelled from the quarterback to every phase of their game. They have a very good special team, and a very experienced team, with tons of starters coming back. It makes for a very good match up and a difficult match up with the opportunity to play at the Coliseum where it will be jam-packed, and rocking and a night game, it is really exciting. It is unusual to have a game other then the Notre Dame game that is out of conference this late in the year. It is different this late in the year, and I don't think it is a distraction, I think just is what it is. It presents us with another opportunity where we must be focused, we must be cued in and have a great week in preparation to have a chance to win this football game. Which will send us into the bye and finish out our conference schedule the week after. So it is really an exciting time for us, we are having a blast. Guys are having a great time in practice and working and all of that.'
On the leadership among the linebackers
'Oscar was ready and was doing that and Dallas was ready, but he left early. Oscar has really kind of given the guys a sense of security and really set an example of how to do it. I think if anything you have to look at the coaching. Rocky and Kenny (Norton) have really taken them under their wings and have done a marvelous job preparing them, mentally and tactically and technically on how to get this done. It is a lot to ask of these guys. Early on you would ask me if it was possible for one of these linebackers to start, and I really doubted the fact that they could do that, just because there is so much stuff going on. The outside backs spot is a little easier, in Mike's spot, possibly. But now that we can see these guys play, and it has taken some time, they are ready to play. They can play full time basis. That is a great asset to us. We didn't realize it would be this necessary. They have turned out all right and now we are ready to go.'
On scheduling the Fresno game, would not give USC the three weeks off that UCLA has
'I think that is more time then you need. I think having the bye is advantageous but I think three weeks is more than you need to gain that advantage. We had a chance to schedule a worthy opponent that is going to fill the Coliseum up again, which is going to challenge us and make us that much better. Fresno has wanted this game for a long time, and a lot of people didn't want to play us, so it seemed like a good match up. So after all of the alternatives I think it has turned out to be a tremendous game. It is going to be exciting and challenging and all of that. The two weeks we will get in preparation with the holiday break in there really comes at a good time. That will be plenty for us, and will give us extra opportunities to prepare and also give our guys a break, and let them get home.'
On Fresno's offensive line
'They are very athletic and very well schooled. They are a very balanced offense that counts on their offensive line not just to run block but give protection. They have held up against everybody and they have dominated almost everybody they have played. They did a very good job against Oregon which is a loaded and giant front. I don't see any issues about it other then they are well schooled and they know what they are doing.'
On Paul Pinegar
'He is really good, he has played forever. This is his fourth year starting; he has done everything you could hope a guy could do. Obviously a good leader, he runs a well balanced offense, he moves around well, he runs well and effectively. He runs with confidence, doesn't scramble just to throw the football. They have great confidence in him. One of the great attests to a quarterback is what he does on third down and he is one of the best of the country. They are a very good red zone team, which again goes back to the quarterback. They are fortunate that they have an experienced guy like we have. It makes them a tremendous asset for your football team.'
Pluses and minuses of rebuilding the Coliseum
'I don't know. That is a concern for the entire university it really isn't my concern. Any time somebody wants to build you a stadium you need to take a look at it. It is a very complicated issue. There is a lot of questions about it that the university is trying to figure out, what fits. It is a long ways down the road I think. I don't even know what the pluses or minus of it would be other then you get a new arena. I am sure if they ever were to do it, they would do it with great class and style and maintain the dignity of the Coliseum. We have to wait until we get closer to it.'
On Pat Hill
'He has always done a great job. He has captured not just a great football program but a great community. He has connected from the start with a really good vision. Bring the fans together, bring the following together. I don't know the history. He has done it with style and he has taken on all comers, just as he is willing to play us. Very good football. A lot of NFL players have come out of that program. He has done all of the things that you hope to do. They also have a very good academic record. I think all of the things a guy would hope to do in a program. I am sure he has had opportunities to leave, but he has shown loyalty to stay. I think it is a great marriage with a program and a coach with a vision.'
The thought that Fresno has everything to gain and nothing to lose
'What we have to gain is to continue to have to play at a very high level, which is extremely important to us. We have grown to this point where we need these match-ups, we need these kinds of challenges. It keeps us strong and directed. We don't need to have a varying degree of opponents. We need everybody to be tough, every step of the way. How much more difficult can it be to finish off this season. Two 9-1 teams coming at us. We have earned everything that we get this year. We are going to have to earn it this week and next week as well. I didn't even look at like we were going to avoid a three week break, we were just trying to find an opponent. Two weeks is plenty and that was really just the thought. Frankly it has worked out beautifully for Fresno, this is the best team they have had in a long time. They have an opportunity to do something that would separate them from the crowd. They are going to be as revved up and ready as you can get. This is a great opportunity for them and a great shot and it is beautiful opportunity for us to take our next step.'
How there isn't as much talk about the secondary any longer
'I think we have been alright. We have had some plays. I thought the Notre Dame game was the most challenging for us. I think throughout the schedule our guys have played pretty darn consistent. We are up there ahead of the crowd a little bit. We have some pretty significant statistics, in yards per game and turnovers. I think the only difference is we haven't been as effective in sacking the quarterbacks. Other then that issue, I think we are pretty much playing how we play. We have made it through the inexperience, even though young guys are playing, and they are playing like veterans. It is a good solid group. We played really good football that complements our offense. I am feeling pretty solid about these guys. I am pleased that the system has held up and that guys have been able to find their way to it. I am glad the Josh Pinkard thing has held up for us. We are in pretty good shape. There is a lot of areas we can still keep working on. It has been that comparison all year. The offense is so stacked with experienced quarterbacks, running backs and playmakers.'
If the Oregon game is a good barometer of Fresno
'Sure, we saw it earlier in the year when we played them. At that time we made note of what Fresno was able to do and the magnitude of that match up. Oregon is 9-1 also; they have had a fantastic season. It is a pretty even match up. We went into halftime at Oregon hurting. We were down at that game. So it is a pretty good barometer. They had no trouble matching up with them, none at all.'
What is it about Fresno that allows them to beat Pac-10 teams
'They have really good players. They do a really good job; Pat is a really good evaluator of talent. He is able to find guys that other teams don't take and make them really good players. Their football is at the highest level, as far as offense and defense and scheme wise. Their coaching staff has been really solid with good continuity. Look at the end result of their players over there. They have a lot of NFL players. You don't just make those kinds of players. You recruit those guys and then you help them become that. You find the right kinds of guys that can play up to that talent level. I don't know what their numbers are but I am sure they are just as many NFL guys as they have anywhere else on the west coast, maybe more. What difference does it make where they are from if they have the right stuff to play at this level.'
Fresno State Coach Pat Hill
On his go anywhere play anyone philosophy
'First of all when we took the job here, that was one of the things that we wanted to try to establish was that we were going to try to build a program a lot like Virginia Tech had done and a lot like Florida State and Miami had done in the past. In order to do that we knew we had to go on the road and play as many name schools as we could. But going on the road and playing those schools you had to beat them. The first three years we had nine of those games and didn't win any of them. We took a lot of flack for that and it was sort of a tough road, but we continued with it. In our last 17 of those games we are 10 and 7 with it. We continue to do that. It is a tough assignment because only three of those games have been at home out of 28 games. We took that approach from the start that we were going to play that type of schedule in order to put ourselves in position to play on the national stage. That is how college football has developed. It has turned into a situation where you have to go undefeated. That is why I have so much respect for the Trojans and what they have done over the last three years, in the arena of division one football. We have wne 20 out of our last 25 and that is really nothing in comparison to what USC has done as far as the competition they have played. Did I ever think I would get the game with USC, I didn't know. We have been trying for a long time. Only because we have also tried to play Cal and UCLA, we want to try to play as many games as we can right here on the west coast. If you look at the top 16 teams in the country three of them are right here in the state of California. Why travel to Tennessee, Oklahoma and Ohio and some of those journeys when you can bus right down to the Coliseum and hopefully help with the attendance at any of those venues. As always we are hoping to play a school like USC because they are the best team in the country and those are the ones that we aspire to play.'
On the 1992 Freedom Bowl
'It has nothing to do with this week's game. I wasn't here when it happened, I was coaching in Cleveland. That has always been a big game here in Fresno. It was a time 13 years ago, it doesn't have the same at stake as this game does. Both teams will be ready to play. SC has a lot on the line and we have a lot on the line. I don't know the situation because I wasn't there. It is a very big game still in the memories and tradition of Fresno State. Which doesn't have the same kind of tradition as many other schools including USC and Oklahoma, but we are trying to build a new tradition on a national level. There are a lot of memories and a lot of traditions here at Fresno State and that may be one of the greatest ones.'
On the offense
'It starts with Paul Pinegar our quarterback; he is a fourth year starter. Once again the bottom line in quarterbacks in my mind is wins and losses. That is what makes Matt so special at USC, he has only lost one game in his career, that makes him a very special person in my eyes, as a quarterback. Our quarterback is 32-9, which is a very good record here at Fresno State, the second best in the history of the school. It starts with the quarterback. He is the one that makes the checks and adjustments at the line of scrimmage, just like Matt does. On film it looks like Matt makes a lot of adjustments at the line of scrimmage and obviously you have to put it in the hands of the quarterback. We feel very comfortable with Paul in that position. In the wide receiver position we have a lot of young guys starting to step up. This is a very young team, we only have six seniors that play. We have a young receiving core. One of the key up and coming guys is a man named Paul Williams. At the running back position Wendell Mathis and Bryson Sumlin have shared the duties now for two years. Wendell is about 30 yards away from another 1,000 yard season. We do have a good fullback blocking for him, our tight end is a freshman. Offensive line has one senior, not big by any means in comparison to what USC has size wise, but we fee that we are very mobile, and athletic.'
On the defense
'Once again we only have two senior starters, Tyrone Culver is the leader of our secondary at free safety, and we feel we are good at the corner positions, with Richard Marshall, Marcus McCauley, and Ray Washington we feel very strong about our corners. Our linebacker core is not big size but we feel we have good speed there. Marcus Riley, Dwayne Andrews lead us there. On our defensive line we are lead by a former walk-on, Garrett McIntyre, he is not a giant by any means but plays very, very big. We have a couple of young defensive tackles that are getting better and better each week. Tyler Clutts is our other defensive end which might be a little bit under sized in some peoples eyes, but plays big for us. We try to recruit a lot of speed, I think our team speed is one of our strengths.'
On the USC game and USC's team
'I have made it really clear that I am a really big USC fan. I am from southern California, I grew up going to games at the Coliseum. In this country when you have lived in Baltimore, you have lived in Cleveland a lot like Pete has when he was with the Jets, there is always something about the west. That we don't play as good of football out here. USC has picked up the flag for the west United States, especially California, in bringing us national championships and greatness with USC football. I think that is important. I like their attitude of playing all comers. Their schedule is not like the other schools in the country. They will play everybody, I admire their attitude and they will back it up every week. I have a lot of respect for them as a team and their philosophy. I have a lot of respect for the way they coach them. I talk to pro scouts all the time, I am always interested in how other teams practice, I am not interested in what they do just how they practice. I know how USC practices, they practice very hard, they are very aggressive in their 9 on 7 drills, they go one on ones. There is a reason they are as tough as they are and they play as hard as they do. I have respect for them, I like to see tough hard nose football teams, and they are definitely a tough team. I don't need to go through and rehash their personnel everybody already understands offensively their personnel. I could go through them all if you want me to, I have studied them pretty hard. It all starts with their offensive line, I am a big Ryan Kalil fan, I really liked him out of high school. We recruited him out of Servite, I thought we had a chance. He isn't as big as people are looking for in this day in age, I think it starts with him. He is the leader of that unit. He is an outstanding, outstanding offensive center.'
What a win against USC would do for Fresno's program
'I know it would make the game the next week bigger. We just need to keep winning. Of course this would be a very big win for our program to go out and beat the number one team in the nation. If it was the last game of the year it would be more important. We still have two games left after this one. The big thing is that we have to be ready to play each week, just like USC has to be ready to play each week. The reason they are successful is because they take it one game at a time. Obviously a win would be big, and it would make the next two games even bigger.'
On the perception that Fresno has nothing to lose and everything to gain, and USC has everything to lose
'I think we have a lot to lose if we lose this game. I hear people say that all the time and I think we have a lot to gain by playing this game and I think we have a lot to lose. I think obviously everybody has a lot to lose in this day in age in football. USC obviously can not afford to lose that is just the way college football is. When people say are you treating this like a bowl game, or are you just letting it loose, no. we are treating this like a very important game to us, and there is a lot on the line every time we play also. I don't think people should think that we are going into this like we have nothing to lose. We have plenty to lose by losing in a game like this. This is a game that as a program where you have to go out and do everything you can to go out and try to win these football games no matter who the opponent is.'
Comparison of this team vs. other Fresno teams
'This team is the most mature team I have had. The 2001 team, we had a run there. We beat a Colorado team that ended up being the number two team in the nation. We beat an Oregon State team that was number one in Sports Illustrated in the pre-season. Then we went back to Wisconsin and won another game. We got up to eighth in the nation and then we lost two games, we went 11-2 and we went completely out of site. That team had never been through the hype that comes along with winning. This team has been together. The reason I use the statement of the last 25 games we have had 21 wins, is because it was really 25 games ago that I turned this team over to 14 red-shirt freshman. Essentially this group of young men that is juniors mostly has won 21 out of 25 games. They went through an opening win against Washington, then we went down to Kansas and beat the number 12 team in the nation by 20 points, and there was a lot of hype going on. That team didn't have the maturity to handle it, and then we went on a three game losing streak in games that were very close games that we could have won but we didn't win. We didn't get it done. Since then I think this team has matured a lot. They haven't let things get to them; they are handling things very, very well. A lot like you witnessed with that USC team. I can't even imagine the magnitude of the media presence around there. It is another great tribute to that coaching staff and to that team for keeping their heads screwed on tight and keeping their focus. It is a difficult situation right now that is the good thing about this team right now. They are more mature, they have greater focus, they understand what they have to do and the urgency in which they have to do it.'