Pete Carroll, Walt Harris Discuss Saturday's Game At Stanford
Oct. 31, 2006
Pete Carroll, USC Football Head Coach
Opening remarks and thoughts
I'm looking forward to getting this week underway, with our focus on Stanford. We dealt with our focus yesterday, dealing with the truth of the game as we always do on Monday and what happened. We went out and had a very good workout in the afternoon to finish off that game and made adjustments. Today, we get back after it. The guys came back very serious, and very determined to get back on track. I'm looking forward to getting the game plan underway and installed so we can get rolling. Going up against an old friend, Walt [Harris] up there at Stanford is something that I always look forward to. We go way back, so personally it will be fun, but we need to get this football team back on track and play good football, and get a game under our belt and see if we can get a win up there. It is very important for us to do that and it is a good challenge for us to deal with the situation that happened up at Oregon State, and the loss and then come back and get rolling again. I am hoping that we can do this really well, and I am looking forward to it.
On how USC responded in the locker room after Saturday's loss
It was pretty quiet. We were anxious to see how the coaches would respond after our meetings. We set the record straight in the locker room and we have been consistent with that. Our players were determined to put that behind them and focus now. It doesn't do us any good to dwell on what happened. You still have to talk about the game when you look at the film and they are serious about the corrections and making sure they didn't miss on what we need to get done. The work on the field was very energetic and upbeat like it always is. We did return to normal and that was good.
On perception that USC was vulnerable in recent weeks
We have been dealing with narrow margins, that has been clear. That means that a couple of plays could turn a game here or there. It didn't change my expectations of winning games, but we know we have to be aware about the narrow margins so our mistakes would be amplified if they occurred and that's precisely what happened.
On if USC has the ability to pull away from opponents during a game
Certainly, we do. We scored 21 points in the fourth quarter of a game that we didn't win and we will continue to grow. It's a matter of being consistent and as always in this game of football, if you turn the ball over, you offset your rhythm and give the other team momentum and an advantage. We gave (Oregon State) them too many in this game and anybody can beat you like that. Oregon State was ready and they did a good job.
On paying attention to the BCS
(Laughing) I'm not going to start the first week it comes out until the very end of it then it becomes interesting to see where you are settling. I think the BCS has a life during each one of these seasons and to bounce around with it, you can't do that. We just don't worry about that here.
On feelings about the Oregon State game
We were not in control of this game at all. We were in control of our comeback and our ability to come back into the ballgame and get a chance. We did grasp that on both sides of the ball, but we came up short. We did not have time to finish it.
On if a big win is needed at Stanford
We have to win and play good football. If we play well, the outcome will be fine. We have proven that so I'm not worried about who we are playing or what the situation is, we need to perform well and if we do that, we will win. We know that. When we don't play well, then sometimes you have to overcome your miscues which this year's team has had more of that. We are trying to grow out of being a young football team and if we can do that, I think we can pull away from people the way we like and feel confident about our abilities. We are still working.
On reason for close games this season
We have been consistently close. There is no question that we are different than we were last year or two years ago. There are different guys in key positions. We are growing up from these experiences. I hate learning the hard way, but we had to do it this time. It makes us stronger and more aware and confident in how to deal with situations. It helps us to stay committed towards our philosophy of protecting the football. The lessons for our program could not have been clearer. We get better through these experiences and somewhere, you turn the corner and get better. We will find out when that happens. This was a chance, but it didn't happen.
On current expectations for the program
I think as a competitor, I don't want to lower our standards and expectations. I'm okay dealing with everyone else, having expectations like that because that's what is in my head and waking up with it every morning. I don't mind that at all. If you are trying to rationalize stuff and (the media) are in the business of trying to figure out why and show why that happened, then you have to work with us a little differently than I do. We are going to continue to expect to play great and do things right, see our players make great decisions and play with the intensity and other things that we built this program on. We are so close. We looked at the highlights of Saturday's game and we measured our effort as we do every week, our consistency was very good. It was just that the ball hit the ground a couple of times and we didn't come up with it. That makes a difference on a game when a team plays really well and (Oregon State) has good players and coaches. We gave them enough opportunities to beat us. It's really clear in the three games that we have lost over the past few years, they are almost all the same. We couldn't get out of our own way when we needed to. There have been a lot of times when we struggled and had issues, but then we worked out of it and took over a game. We just started too late on Saturday with the surge of a comeback. We did it with two minutes left in the third quarter and that's just not enough time. This is life in sports, this is how it is. Stuff happens and you have to deal with it. What we are dealing with right now is getting back the focus and back to the things that we do know how we win, how we perform and get back to our expectations. This is an exciting challenge. We were faced with this challenged a few years ago and we went through a couple of years without it happening. Whether or not we can do it again, who knows? That's what we are shooting for and it starts with winning this game on Saturday and performing well. I'm really clear about that. I need to teach real well and lead real well so that the kids know what we are doing and get this done. It's a very methodical. It's about today and I'm feeling good about our chances to do this. I never do say by how much (we are going to win), which what a lot of other people are concerned about. I don't care about that and that's never an issue. It's fun one way when you get close, it's fun the other way when you get out ahead and it's a different feeling, but it doesn't really matter because you are out there just trying to get the win.
On John David Booty
All quarterbacks get balls tipped, he has a marvelous release. He has a quick, natural, lightning release. Some great quarterbacks who have played this game, the ball wasn't right over the top in classic fashion because they didn't want to take the time to do that. John David has had some balls knocked that and that might be just what happens with he plays, but he throws a bunch of balls right to our receivers. I'm not concerned until it's the play that makes the difference in the game. It's always been whether you are Fran Tarkenton or Roman Gabriel throwing the ball, you have to find spaces in the pass rush...you have to find windows and that's how guys do it. I think John is pretty good at that. Sometimes, it just gets knocked down.
On emphasis for running backs in protecting the football
It's the same emphasis it's always been. It could go that way if we emphasize and turn the focus to the wrong stuff, but the focus is about the technique it takes to be secure and that's always been the way we have done it. I think there are ways that you can make guys go over the top the other way and I'm clear about that, but that's not necessary to go into a point where you stress it improperly.
On Chauncey Washington practicing
He is very technique sound, but he had a moment when the ball got knocked out by one of our own guys. He had a moment where he was lax about it and we hammered him on it. He's a tough kid and I like challenging him because he likes to take on the challenge. We were very up front with him and we used him as an example with the younger kids. We have a lot of kids on this team that will carry the ball in years ahead and they all have to learn this lesson, sooner the better. If you looked at our field yesterday, those guys were awesome in taking care of the football. The coaches were all over it. It's about the habits of it and Chauncey took a real leadership position in showing that he was willing to make sure that he adjusted to it and was right on it. It was real important for us.
On team's health
We are actually in pretty good shape. We had some guys who were bruised and things, but most of the guys that were out there in the game were ready to practice yesterday. A couple of guys were hobbling a bit, but I think everyone will be available to us on Saturday that we had available last weekend. That's a good thing.
On turnover margin being lower compared to past seasons
There is some of it where there are a number of issues. We were told the Oregon State guys that the mantra for the whole game was not to turn the football over and I don't know how the opposing coach talks about that game in and game out, but I do know that's how we preach it...that's what our philosophy is. If other guys realize that's critical against us, I think they are right. It's critical in every game to me. There are balls that bounce and they had to their chance to get it, you can't predict it at times. It was interesting that at this time last year after seven games, we had five fumbles recovered and we have five fumbles recovered right now. We are not off track there, we are behind on interceptions. We had 11 last year and we are at five now. The margin is different. We are not that whacked out about it, we just have to keep working at it and relentlessly continue our pursuit in getting the football.
On reasons for change in the turnover margin
Part of it is the ball factor. Our margins that we were ahead on last year are extraordinarily different than where we are this year. That forces teams to throw in a fashion where they have to take more chances and throw the ball down the field and become more vulnerable. For years, we have had some good margins and people have to throw it more to become more vulnerable in the pass protections...we have been able to take advantage of that. Teams play closer to the vest because the games have been closer, but I'm not giving up on that. We need to play good football and keep going after that.
On the effects of a loss
I don't know how people have been different than other times. It affects me. I don't want to get beat and I'm more tuned into it. We are controlling the mood of a lot of people and we have to make sure the direction is clear and that we don't lose some guys in the translation. That's why they were quieter yesterday. They instinctively knew they had to make sure that we don't miss a trick. There is always an ebb and flow with how we do things. We are a very young football team and there are a lot of lessons to be learned as well as taught. I'm really tuned into the fact that I have to do a really good job communicating with the kids because this is building for the future. This is a dramatic occurrence for us to grow from and I'm trying to be right on it. That means we have to analyze the individual nature of our kids and the coaches are looking carefully at each guy to make sure that they are tuned in.
On wide receiver Steve Smith's performance at Oregon State
He was phenomenal again. Steve had such an incredible offseason. He thought about coming out (for the NFL draft) last year and he considered his options and decided to stay. When he did that, his resolve about making the most of his preparation for this season and the season itself has been extraordinary. We always used to talk about (former USC and current Carolina Panthers' WR) Keary Colbert, who was one of the great champion guys in the offseason and dedicated in the weight room. That's the guy you want to live up to and Steve has taken over that role. He is showing the young guys what it is to work, what it is to be a competitor day in and day out. He is playing the best football of his life. He is an enormous factor on this football team and it was evident when he was hurt, how the team struggled with the passing game. This game, in particular, when you needed it most...he was there, he played well the whole game...big plays, big catches and big-time execution of the routes that we were running in the game. He did the things that guys on the next level get paid to do. The result is that he has had huge games in the last month when he has been available to us. We are thrilled to be watching him and can't wait to see what he will do next.
On sideline passes in Saturday's game at Oregon State
The rule in college is that the defensive player can drive a guy out of bounds. It's where he lands, not where he would have come down like in the NFL. It happened a couple of times. The one that was reviewed in particular, on our game film, it looked like Dwayne (Jarrett's) elbow touched the ground before anything else. I haven't seen the television copy of it, they may have had a better angle on it. That was the situation that if they called the ball in-bounds, they would have left it but they called him out-of-bounds.
On how USC will perform next year
There's no question we will be better just because of the experience of it. There will be so many players coming back next year and new players emerging that are tapping into roles that will grow. I'm really excited about the future of our club. There are so many guys in key positions and such depth that with the new guys coming in next year, this is going to be a very deep football team. We will still be young, but with some experience. The future looks very bright.
On linebacker Thomas Williams playing as a fullback
Right now, we will work him over there and see what happens. He is excited about it. He's a really bright football players and has given the coaches in short-yardage situations the reason to believe that he can pick this up quickly. The knowledge he carries from his defensive experience really helps out a fullback. He is a very smart defensive player for us and has played all three linebacking positions and done a lot of stuff so all that savvy is going to help him. He's also a high-spirited kid, he's got a lot of energy about him. We like him being on the other side of the ball. That will be fun to see. He certainly could play both ways. He's big and strong, catches the ball well. The fullback position is a unique one in college football, only a handful of guys come out as classic fullbacks to get to the next level. Thomas could be a tremendous prospect just like Ryan Powdrell has shown. David Kirtman was the first fullback picked in the NFL draft last year.
On Booty's play during the comeback attempt at Oregon State
John David played great with the time constraints. The tight coverage that Oregon State played, he threw ball after ball and made some awesome throws. He really felt it, he came off that field just shocked that we didn't win that football game. He felt like we were doing everything you could do to win. I think that's going to help him a lot. It's interesting that he is at 16 touchdowns and five picks right now and that's where Matt Leinart was at after seven games last year. That's great football for a young quarterback breaking in so we are really excited about it. He's ready for anything right now.
Walt Harris, Stanford Football Head Coach
On team's injury situation
I think the injuries have taken away a lot of guys that had a lot of experience and we thought were pretty good players. We have had to replace them with very inexperienced players who, in time, we think will be competitive players.
On bye week
We will find out here what we accomplished. Hopefully, we got a little healthier. I think we were like a lot of people who go eight weeks in a row, banged up. I don't think we are getting anyone back other than one person who was sick and not injured. Other than that, we tried to take a little time away from football. The coaches were out recruiting. We are back now and hopefully we are working hard to have a good battle this weekend.
On losing starting quarterback Trent Edwards
You lose a guy that is a tremendous leader for us. You also lose a guy that has a tremendous amount of talent and had a tremendous amount of practice and game repetitions. That is a hard loss, for anybody at anytime. T.C. Ostrander, I think he has a chance to be a good football player. He is just inexperienced in our system, but he is getting it quick.
On team's defense
I think our defense is very young in certain areas, and it has been difficult for us. I think we have some talent on defense, and I like our defensive scheme. I think it is different than what a lot of teams normally see. We have been inconsistent at executing it. I think the youth and inexperience and lack of depth have really accentuated our troubles. I see them playing hard, and we are close to stopping them on third down, but we are still making mistakes, and we can upgrade that this week.
On playing a USC team coming off a loss
It doesn't matter what time you play them, coming off a loss, or coming off a win, but most of the time it is coming off a win. They are a very talented football team, Pete [Carroll] and his staff have recruited very well. They have got players on both sides of the ball, and they have depth and experience. I think that last week was a tremendous football game and I'm sure it was a difficult game for them to lose. They also played well enough to win, but when you turn the ball over, it comes back to haunt you, as it has done to us all season long.
On Pete Carroll as a player
He was a very good player, and he loved to play, as you can imagine. He was excited about playing, excited about practicing. He was a ball-hawking face defense, on that eight-man front, but he would come up and hit you too. He was a thrill to coach, and has always done a great job as football coach throughout his career.
What's the challenge to coaching a team that is 0-8
I don't think you look past the next play. You teach your players to focus on the next play and that is what we have to do. We can't be worried about what happened in the past, and we can't worry about what will happen in the future. We just have to take care of business and continue to get better. We have good guys here. They are really a lot of special young men that have had a lot of adversity. We have had probably more than our share of adversity this year, and we don't have much to show for it, other than hopefully we are a lot tougher, and hopefully we are a lot smarter. We are waiting to put together a game where all three phases play extremely well for all four quarters, and that's our challenge, and that's our goal.