Coach Carroll And Mike Riley Talk About Saturday's Trojan-Beaver Match-Up
Oct. 24, 2006
Press Conference Quotes
Pete Carroll, Head Coach, USC Football
Opening remarks and thoughts
It's obvious that coming off the bye, we had a chance to get back to football again and back to game planning and the specifics of all of that. Everybody came back rarin' to go yesterday. This is the most challenging start. Here we go, going up to Corvallis to get going. Oregon State won a couple games... They're fired up and doing well. We've got to get on track and start this second half of the season and get going. The kids are enthused about it and feel a little better, getting a little stronger and healthier than we've been. We rested guys last week that helped us feel a little bit better about ourselves and hopefully, we can hold on to that and get going and get a little momentum going here in the second half beginning with this Pac-10 match-up. We didn't play Oregon State last year but of course, we saw them all last year and we know this team and we know Mike and his style. They're able to beat anybody at anytime. They got a wide-open offense; they have a very balanced attack. Yvenson Bernard is a heck of a running back and just a terrific football player and they use him exceedingly well in the run and the pass game. Quarterback Matt Moore is doing a nice job throwing the ball around. It's the same style offense that we've seen and has put up a lot of yards on us in years past. So we're tuned in to that. Defensively, they're playing really good football. They might be playing the best defense of anybody in the conference right now in the last few weeks. Very solid and didn't give up a touchdown last week... tough against the run, under three yards a carry and all that stuff. This is just another really tough, challenging match-up for us. But we're pumped up and ready to get going again so we look forward to this weeks' preparation and to get on the road to take it up to Oregon and go see if we can go and get something done in that state. Get a win.
On how USC utilized the bye week to improve
Practice went really well. We had clear objectives about the young guys, about resting some people and about working on schemes in all phases. You do have an opportunity to do that and we did. We've done some things. Obviously, I can't tell you all of the stuff that we did. But there are some obvious things that we're working on. We're working on our pass rush and want to make sure we get that cranking and get ourselves some more opportunities to get after the quarterback. Some of that comes by pressure, and some of that comes from the mix of guys that will rush in passing situations and a number of things. That will lead us to get the football more... that has been an issue of concern for us. We've got to get the ball going on the defensive side. And on the other side of the ball, we've been working on getting our ball down the field and making sure we're making our big plays and taking advantage of the opportunities that we've had that we've just missed on at times. Those are really the things that I've been talking about. The specifics on how we did that, I'm not going to go into. But those have been issues for us and hopefully, we can see a change there as we come out of the bye.
On players emerging during the bye week
We've worked hard at expanding the young guys' roles. Particularly, the young wide receivers with the concern that as Dwayne Jarrett comes back to full speed and Steve Smith comes back to full speed, that maybe they're not quite full speed. So we worked a lot with Travon Patterson and Vidal Hazelton in particular and Anthony McCoy at the tight end spot. Those guys, we really did feature during this week. They have definitely improved. We feel more confident about them. In the event that they are called on to the kind of duty that they've had, we've got to get the ball in their hands, which we didn't do much in the last couple weeks. We were kind of wishful thinking a little bit that Dwayne was going to be alright, Steve was going to be alright and we suffered with that a little bit. So we just took a proactive approach to that and tried to develop these guys and get more feel for John David Booty throwing to them, their confidence, and doing things right and all that kind of stuff. That's really been the focus and those are a few of the guys that you might be able to single out in that regard.
On how to get more turnovers
It's all about emphasis meaning that your attention and focus is tuned in to getting the football when you get your chances. We've mishandled some interceptions... maybe five or six in the last few weeks. We've thrown the ball a lot in these couple weeks just getting the guys confidence. I've thrown some 7-on-7's at the DB's to make sure that they get a lot of turnovers in that drill... just giving them opportunities to make their plays. So you just want to make them comfortable with the things they have to do. It really comes back to and always has been a question of emphasis. Their focus and attention has to be on the ball if you're going to elevate your chances to get it. A big area of that comes from rushing the passer. It's kind of gone hand in hand... along with these issues here. We haven't gotten off the quarterback as well as we'd like to. A very vulnerable part of the offense is the quarterback getting hit or balls that come out when he's affected. Those are all things that we can specifically work on.
On lack of turnovers being attributed to the defensive formation
I think it's a logical question to ask in that regard. I don't think it has anything to do with it. If it did, I'd switch it. I don't think that's the case at all. But we have looked at that. We've added up some numbers and taken a look at our rushes and things like that to make sure that we're on it. We've been working hard and that's why I've talked about the combinations of guys we've rushed mostly on passing downs and third downs and things like that. It's an issue for us to evaluate. I think we have a pretty good feel for what we're doing and what we're trying to do from this point forward.
On progress of wide receivers, Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith
They practiced really well yesterday. They were flying around yesterday. It's a matter of them surviving the week and not having any accidents or falling on any of their sore spots. We try to take care of them and make sure that happens. We really won't know until we're playing if they're feeling confident. Dwayne Jarrett is well ahead of Steve Smith. He's had a couple weeks to be playing and kind of in and out of the lineup and surviving it. Steve hasn't been back officially yet but he looked good yesterday on the first day of the week. We'll continue to take care of them, and make sure we're monitoring. We're not going just overwork him and just ignore the fact that he's had a problem. It will certainly make a difference for us in our confidence and our ability to get the ball where we want to get it. The numbers of things that we like doing, those guys are very unique and we like to use them in that fashion.
On patience with the teams progress
I think I'm always impatient. That's characteristic. We're always trying to find better ways to do things and do more and all that. I think that's just part of it. I have been pleased with our ability to win the games that we've won. I've looked at the match-ups and the games and how they were played and what happened. I don't think we were lucky at all. I think we were able to finish games the way we want to finish them. I think we're doing it well and I think that's part of what this game is about, is winning. The margin isn't there because the big plays aren't there because we're not creating them and that's frustrating. I'm impatient about getting the ball on defense because we've been so accustomed to it and we've played with that style. I think it's been more subtle than people realize. Everyone looks at the focus of the offense making the big yards and the big plays and all that kind of stuff. But so many opportunities are set up by turnovers and by field position and things where you can take advantage of those people on the offensive side. We need to set our offense up more and make it easier for them. That's part of a winning formula that we've enjoyed and that's how ball works. The game works that way. So we try to play to that. It's made it a little harder when that hasn't happened.
On talking to Matt Leinart and losing more NFL games so far than at USC
He's been hit more too. Steve Sarkisian talked to him last night. I talked to him after the Monday night game. He's in a difficult situation for him. He's unfamiliar with it. Even through his high school years, he won all those games too. He does know what it feels like when things are going good and you have the confidence to finish games and you take on your opponents with a real air, that you know you're going to win. It's hard for them right now, for the whole team and what more so for Matt. He does understand it and he'll know when it starts to change and shift and I think he'll be able to lead them very well if he continues to get his opportunities. The classic deal for them last game, coming off a huge Monday night event... come up short, all of that and then go against a team that hasn't won a game. All of a sudden, they look like the world champs. That's kind of classic and it's unfortunate but it's the ups and downs of how it goes. You have to struggle through it. He was very frustrated by it. That's why they call it the 'no fun league'. It humbles you.
On paying attention to other teams' injury reports
We pay attention. We watch what's going on and try to read between the lines sometimes and try to figure it out. It tests us out in how we look at it competitively, trying to understand what's going on. But yeah, we watch it. It's not as defined as the NFL supposedly. They have terms used to describe injuries and situations and stuff that we just have to read between the lines. Ultimately, it has nothing to do with us so we just wait and see.
On looking for a shift or change in the USC team
We'll have to look back and see later on. We don't know right now. This is a young team. Like I've said, it's a new season, new team. We're learning how to deal with this... with what our team is like and who we are and all that. We have to take ownership of it and get better from that point. I think we're very solid and I'm trying to lead the charge on the truth of what's going on in games and how our players should react to it. Unlike maybe what the media says and what other people say, we have our own way of looking at it. That's really important, to get to the essence of really what happened and not be misled. And then from there, you go about improving where you need to and where you'd like to. I would love to see us finish the Arizona State game as we started it where we really were in command of the game. We were doing well on both sides of the ball in all facets and then just continue that, and we would have had a real nice victory where we would have been out ahead throughout the game. But we made some mistakes that gave them easy opportunities and before you know it, you're in a dog fight. There's a chance that there will be another time during this season that we see things differently than we do right now. We're working for that. We're working towards that. I don't remember in other years specifically when it happened but it's always somewhere in the middle. It's not early in the year. I remember a couple of years ago, at the Stanford game, we had a real difficult game against those guys on the road and we were down and out it appeared. And then we came roaring back and won the game real late in the game. That was a real significant game for us, much more than maybe a match-up that other people would have cherished more. That was one that meant a lot to us and you don't know which game it's going to be. Arizona State was important though. That was important finish for the offense and an important finish for the defense as well. We'll see. I don't know if that's the one. I couldn't have told you that that Stanford game or the Arizona game years ago, that's the time until you look back and then you find out later on.
On seeing things differently than the media at this point in the season
I think it has been pretty prevalent, predominant that we're not achieving the same kinds of numbers and separations in games that happened last year. People are frustrated, or they're concerned or they're worried which is all fine. I'm feeling like we've been in control of our games. I felt like we have controlled the games. Even when Washington was coming down on the last drive and Arizona State had the chance to do something at the end of the game, I felt in control of those games - which is different from when you feel out of control of a game and you're just hanging on for dear life. It hasn't felt like that. There was a lot of games this weekend where teams had their chances to finish games and to win them... to do the things you do to win games when they didn't and they're very frustrated by that and I'm sure they're sick about it. We've been on the other side of that. Those are accomplishments that are important for your mentality. I don't know that the media cherishes that as much as I do as a coach. The way our guys are clear-thinking at the end of games, they can make the right decisions and the right choices, I feel very good about our football team being in difficult, tough situations on the road, at home, scores, time running out, all that kind of stuff. I think we can do the things that we need to do to keep winning those games and I feel very good about that. I don't know that our fan base is as in love with that thought as I am but I understand that too... a different way of looking at it.
On defense missing tackles by going for the ball
That's what everybody always thinks. Everybody always thinks that. That's the standard assumption that you tackle the football, you miss tackles. That's wrong. That's a mistake in thinking. That's an excuse I think when you look at it that way. I know--I've been doing it for a long time. You can be a terrific tackling football team and you can be a terrific defense and always have your focus on taking the football away. We've proven that. That's just somebody that doesn't trust guys' decision making. You have to train them how to do it. You have to train them how to think it, how to use the opportunities, how to recognize the opportunities within the play itself and to make the tackle and still play the ball. You have to train them how to do that. The angle that you're approaching his vulnerability, the opportunity, you have to continually point out so that they recognize it. Some guys, it comes very natural to and they are always going to the next level of the opportunity, but other ones are just hoping to get the guy down. You train guys beyond that, is what the effort is. It takes a long time and they have to believe in you and you have to believe in the whole approach.
On Beaver quarterback, Matt Moore
He looks good. He's a good strong-armed guy like the guys they've had in the past. He runs the offense like they want to run it. They can throw the ball down the field; he throws deep comebacks, and corners and ends and seam routes and things like they do. They're a very down the field oriented football team and he fits right in. He moves around well. He's not a guy who is going to run to kill you but he's going to run resourcefully and he's not afraid to get out and try to make a first down. His 61% completion is a good percentage for the quarterbacks in their system because they do throw harder throws than other teams. I think he's doing a really good job and he gives them the style that they've had over the last four or five years that we've looked at.
On the Trojan secondary situation
We're where we've been without Kevin Thomas now. Cary Harris starts, Terrell Thomas and the safeties that have been going, those guys are all healthy and ready to go. This week was really important for Mozique McCurtis to get up and encroach and to come back into the nickel roles and the third corner position. Also, Shareece Wright and Vincent Joseph were battling all week and Shareece kind of came out ahead as the fourth corner. We had a really good week of concentration with the thought in mind knowing that Kevin wasn't going to come back. So those were guys that benefited. Dallas Sartz continues to work at safety for us in case we need him. He had almost the entire week playing at safety in case we need him in a backup situation for us down the road. So we took care of some problems that we have to address in the second half. I feel okay about it. I think the guys are playing really well. Completion percentage and passing efficiency against this group is pretty good for us. Again, we just go back to getting the turnovers that we're reaching for right now.
On Shareece Wright possibly gaining more playing time
He did. We had competition last week and he came out a little bit ahead of Vincent in that regard after the weeks' battles. He's playing in the fourth corner spot right now and would jump in a game if we need him to. But Vince is not far behind but we had to just make a choice and that's where we are right now but that could change.
On Chauncey Washington leading the depth chart alone at running back
It's a big step for us. That's just the way it's turned out and at this point, in this game, we're pretty clear Chauncey is the starter but that doesn't mean the rotations are going to change at all. We're going to continue to move our guys in and out of there and use them accordingly. But we're pleased with Chauncey's progress. He's really had the kind of return that we were hoping for now that's he's back. Again, Chauncey should be at his best at the end of this week as he's been so that's a real positive for us.
On giving Chauncey Washington more carries if he gets into a rhythm
Sure. That's how we've always done it. We've always been that way. We're trying to find out what's working and who seems to be on a little better than the other guy and we'll go with him. We've done that for years and the thinking now is no different. We're just trying to win so we'll just try to go with what feels right as we assess what's happening in the game.
On playing at Corvallis
The last time, we couldn't see it. I really can't tell you much. I don't know anything about the area and you couldn't see a thing. This should be different. It's supposed to be sunny, and nice and beautiful and all that but you never know. I really feel like I don't have an experience there that I can recall other than you really couldn't see anything and it was very mystical that night and kind of interesting and all that. That was a heck of a football game. They were really ready to beat us that night. They were prepared to do it. They had a senior club and a bunch of guys that were ready to get that done. That was a heck of a match. It took everything we had to get the win last time we were there. The stadium should be done now and it should be really sharp. It was not completed last time. They told me... you couldn't see it but that's what they said.
On Allen Bradford having a larger role at fullback
Well he's quite large. He's quite large. He's played all over the place. He's got a lot of place moreso in this game plan and the week really helped him. We're anxious to see him. We've always liked to run him with the football. He can do a little bit of everything in this game plan. He'll continue to grow. He's a very talented football player and we're trying to keep him involved as much as we can.
On Thomas Williams at fullback for the game winning touchdown
We were having some fun with that. That was a carryover from a couple weeks ago when we were a little bit more banged up. Thomas did a nice job and went up very aggressive. He did a great job of cheering after the play was over and we liked the enthusiasm so he's got a chance to do that again.
On quarterback John David Booty losing confidence
I think he felt the absence of his guys and it made it harder. It's obvious. It only makes sense and if somebody doesn't want to realize that, then they're just not looking at the truth. Dwayne Jarrett has been playing hurt and Steve Smith didn't play. And then Dwayne didn't play when Steve did play when he got hurt. And then Chris McFoy left the game three weeks ago and hasn't played since. I mean it's obvious, those are our three top guys and they haven't been playing. Patrick did a beautiful job... caught 17 or 18 balls in those three weeks and did a good job for us. But there's a difference--otherwise they wouldn't recognize guys as All-Americans and hotshot players and all that kind of stuff. There's a difference when those guys aren't there. John had to work through that and it was difficult. I don't think we helped him as much as we could have because we kept hoping those guys were going to be able to make their plays and all that. But the good part, that phase is behind us right now and we're anxious to put our guys back on the field and get going. You could tell at practice yesterday, it was different. It was different with Dwayne and Steve catching balls. John was all over everything we were throwing and he was right on the money. We were looking very good yesterday. That's a good sign and we'll see if we can bring that to the football game on Saturday.
On wide receiver Vidal Hazelton comparing to other great receivers
He has a terrific upside. He's a real talented natural athlete. He's very explosive, he's got real natural hands, and he's really good off his feet, getting up in the air. He's very aggressive. He's a tough blocker. He's already shown that he's got as much toughness as anybody we've had like Chris McFoy has been. So that means he's a really good competitor. He runs well with the ball after the catch... all of that stuff. When he came in, he had to sit a while behind Dwayne Jarrett and Patrick Turner until things started to get shaken up a bit. But he's come along. He's going to be a big factor in the offense, I don't think there's any question about that.
On fullback Stanley Havili coming back or red-shirting this season
It's a really good question. We need to see how fast he comes back once he does. If he really jumps right back in--in a week or so, then we'll talk it over. But we'd like him to play. There are a lot of games left in the schedule. I think he can be a big factor for us if he's out there. We really liked what he did in the Arizona game. We weren't surprised by it because he had shown it in practice but we were thrilled that he was able to bring it to the game as a freshman and not be thrown out of whack or whatever. It would be five games left on the schedule and another game, six games left. He could have a big factor if he gets back a week from now. I think another week from now, it gets a little more tenuous. But I know he wants to play and so that's part of it too. We'll figure it out when the time comes. I wish it was now.
Mike Riley - Head Coach, Oregon State Football
On bringing a fog machine into Corvallis for this Saturday's game
They're going to bring it in on Thursday. It'll start filling the valley again so it should be good and thick by Saturday.
On what he remembers from the 2004 match-up in Corvallis
Unfortunately I think in coaching sometimes, we don't always remember some of the good stuff. I remember the Reggie Bush punt return and the great play that he made that really gave them momentum in the second part of the game. It was a different kind of an evening and a hard fought game. We're looking forward to another one.
On satisfaction with the Beaver team
Well, from where we were, yes I am happy. I don't think we've come close to what we want to be yet but I've been really pleased with the growth. I've been really happy with the attitude and the practice habits. Especially when things were down, these kids just kept working. I like the character of this team. We've broken in a lot of new guys and have a lot of young guys and a few very stable seniors that have been really helpful in bringing this thing back and playing better football. I really feel great about the growth and the character of this team.
On Beaver tailback, Yvenson Bernard and his ankle injury
Yv is a really good player. One of the most fun guys I've ever coached. He's just so versatile and so tough. He played last year and gained 1,300 yards. He'd get to practicing well by Thursdays and then go gain his 100 yards in the game. He's an amazing young man to me. If anybody can come back and be ready to play, it'll be him. But I think his ankle is pretty bad and at best, I can say it's day to day for him. We're still going to try to run the football. We've got a good runner in Clinton Polk who has backed Yv up and played some. I think he doesn't have any more than 30 carries--something like that but he's talented. We've upgraded our depth there. I don't want it to change what we've been able to do too much in the first part of the season, which is to try to be balanced. I don't want to get into a one-dimensional game with the Trojans. I think that'd be very hard.
On Beaver quarterback, Matt Moore and his progression
I'm really glad he's here. He came in as a new comer last year. Matt's a great competitor--he's a hard worker. I think he's gotten better at decision-making. His numbers aren't as big as they were. He threw for some big numbers at times last year. We're not quite the same kind of team right now. The thing I like most about him is that he's a competitor and the thing that I think is growing in him is his decision-making. He's got a nice percentage going, not throwing nearly as many interceptions as he did a year ago. I think he's growing in that way, although not perfect, but has absolutely grown. He's a good, hard worker.
On the Beaver defense
It's been a very nice transformation. We were horrible in a couple of games early. We have not played defense at Oregon State like that ever before. Boise State and Cal, it was bad. We just started playing better. We lost to Washington State in a tight game but the defense really had an outstanding game... a bunch of sacks and decent coverage and started turning that thing around with a lot of guys contributing. We have some new guys that have kind of found their way to be more effective players since the beginning and we have some older guys who have paid a little more attention to detail of playing. We've had three very good defensive games in a row and so I'm excited about that growth and I know we have a tremendous challenge in stopping USC but I think our kids are fired up about it.
On thoughts on the current USC team
Oh gosh, I've been impressed. The fact of the matter is, when you're like USC... been undefeated and been up at the top of the nation for the last few years, everybody is going to give you their best shot. I think sometimes, people forget that they've been in some closer games but they've withstood the challenges and won the games and that's the key. They do it impressively. I thought that the drive after Arizona State tied the game up was really impressive. Their defense played extremely well at the end of the other ball games to basically secure the win. I think that's an admirable quality in a team that is winning all the time. The pressure to keep winning is hard and the games are hard. It sounds like coach-speak, but I think it's really going to be interesting. I think we get surprised every week by scores and we'll continue to do so.
On how to defend against USC without Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush
Reggie Bush was just a unique athlete and he could do so much whether it was receiving, running, punt returning, and the whole deal. I think that probably, you always had to pay extra special attention to wherever he was or what he might do whether it be out there as a receiver or motioning out of the backfield or coming out of the backfield and then of course, running the football. This is a much more balanced team to defend. I like how they run the ball and the bootlegs they run. They have very big play wide receivers. You just have to play a great, balanced defensive game. You've got to try to get pressure when it's passing. If you don't stop their running game, then that's probably all you're going to see for a long time. You've got to play balanced football to compete with SC.