Pete Carroll, Mike Bellotti Talk About Saturday's USC-Oregon Game
Nov. 7, 2006
Pete Carroll, USC Football Head Coach
Opening remarks and thoughts
We are fired up about this. It is time to come home and play at the Coliseum and get the end of this season underway with a great opportunity to be here. We are thrilled about it. It has been a long season on the road and the second homestand coming up so we are going to try to maximize this by getting it started this week and have a heck of a preparation and get a team in here that hasn't been to the Coliseum in a long time. I'm sure it will be kind of fun for them. It obviously is nice to not have to go up there so we are pleased that this match-up his finally turned around and we get to play these guys at our place. The last time this happened I remember watching the film of it when we first got here [coaching staff], checking out the Oregon team, and that was the last time they have been here, so that must have been 6 years ago. I don't think that will have any bearing on the game in any significant manner other then we get to play a home game against Oregon for the first time ever in our brief stint here. We are looking forward to it and excited about this opportunity. We are pretty healthy right now, feeling pretty good, coming off of last week and it is time to take a big significant step in finishing off this year with this game.
On the importance of dominating against Stanford
It was real good. Just the benefits of playing a game like that makes you feel good about the work that you put in and your efforts. It bolsters your sense and feel for one another and confidence, so it is a good thing. It is not as easy as it seems to go out and play a real solid football game like that even though the team is struggling, but I am proud of that and I'm proud that we were able to accomplish that and bring our focus and preparation from the week to the game and not stumble around and miss the opportunity. It was a good game for us and a lot of guys felt good about it and it feels like it was a nice step for us to start this run here at the end of the season.
On playing Oregon this week, the first of three games against ranked teams
It is a really big opportunity to play Oregon this week and that is all that means. It doesn't mean anything more than that. We do realize that we don't have to travel any longer and that is a good solid feeling, but who ranks where, this that, the color of the jersey doesn't matter right now. We get to play Oregon and the rest of it will take care of itself in due time. We don't think any differently about it other than that. I have made an issue and I need to be careful about this because it does look down the road that we don't have to travel anymore.
On Oregon's balanced offense
They are just the most productive in the running game. They have balance, but the feature of this offense is really the spread out runs that they have and the dynamic nature of their quarterback production involved with that. He is averaging 40 yards a game, and he has plus yardage per carry which is unusual for quarterbacks. He is a big factor. The nature of the spread offense and the shotgun and all of that makes this is one of the classic styles of college football offenses that we don't see much in our conference. They are unique in that and it has been very productive for them and very successful the last couple of years.
On Oregon's quarterback Dennis Dixon
Dennis is a really good football player. He is real quick to get out and run and is very nifty. He is not a big strong kid, but a very nifty, quick kid, one that has quick acceleration and he uses that to escape. They have built in runs for him in the offense with the options that they run and the take plays that they have. What is more significant than even that is the fact that a pass play will start, he doesn't like what he sees so he takes off and runs and creates something. He has been very quick to do that and they obviously are championing the cause, letting him take off and go. He is not going to be in the pocket and he is not really getting sacked at all so there are very few chances for negative plays against these guys. He can make the throws and move the ball around, there is a lot of quick rhythm throws to the receivers and screens and things that allow him to get the ball out of his hands which I think is a really good style of offense. They are very difficult.
On the health of USC wideouts and the play of John David Booty with them
I think clearly the last couple of weeks they have been productive and John has fit well with the receivers and we feel very strongly that our passing game is in order. John is ready to do whatever we need him to do. Dwayne [Jarrett] is ready to play at his best again and is fully recovered. Steve [Smith] is fully recovered, Patrick [Turner] is at full speed and we had Chris McFoy on the practice field for the first time in a month and a half yesterday and he is challenging to return so we fill stronger right now. We feel like we are well equipped and we are ready to go. We have only good, positive thoughts about the fact that that everybody is here and ready to go for this challenge against Oregon.
On helping a young defense by having high powered offenses come at the end of the year
I think Arkansas and those guys think they are pretty high powered themselves. I think we have faced a tremendous schedule throughout. Oregon is the only team I am talking about today, as much as you would like me to talk about other ones. They are loaded. They have a lot of receivers, the tight-end is really good, both backs catch the ball out of the backfield, the quarterback runs. This is a great challenge for us. We are physically matching up alright in this game. We have a lot of speed, our guys can cover the field and get into coverage and pressure and all that. This is not something that we should be uncomfortable with. We are well-equipped to have a chance to play these guys and now you have to go do it. We are not out-manned in that regard, so I am anxious to see how the guys do. It is a new game plan, it is a new style and we have a lot to learn. That is the hard part with the new guys. Some of the guys played last year and did alright in the game but we have to get some guys to a whole different level of understanding this style of offense and that is a big challenge for this week.
On why Oregon has only given up seven sacks
They have experience up front, but I don't think that is basically the reason. I think it is their style of throwing. The ball is out of the guy's hands quick and he takes off in a heartbeat. He just doesn't sit in the pocket, he just won't sit back there, he will take off and go and make something happen. He is content to make five or six yards on a quick scramble, get down and not expose himself. He has a good knack for that. He just won't let you sack him is basically what is happening and the style that they have plays to that as well. They have a very fast rhythm in the passing game.
On Troy Van Blarcom's injury
He is fine. He is ready to go, as far as I know. We didn't do much in practice yesterday, because we do not kick in practice on Monday so I don't have anything for you. He says he is fine but he is going to compete this week for his kicking duties. (David) Buehler is going to kick with him, we will see what happens during the week. If there is something about what is going on we will try to detect it during the week and find out what is happening, but he is not on the injury list with a big problem so we are thinking that he going to be much like he was the last couple of weeks, and we hoping he can hit the ball well.
On signs of the defense maturing
Without question. The guys are feeling a lot better about what we are asking of them. We are cleaning things up, we are playing more consistently. Our numbers of missed assignments, missed tackles and lack of effort that we always gauge has been consistently down, on a downtrend. That means they are more sure of what they are doing. They are playing with more consistent effort. We are getting better. We are getting stronger right now. I say that and here we go against a wide open, can break your heart team but we feel pretty good about it. We got some turnovers last week, some sacks the last couple of weeks, things like that. The pass rush is improving all which makes us feel more confident about what is going on.
Mike Bellotti, Oregon Football Head Coach
On not having played in the Coliseum since 2000
I don't, I'm not sure I ever did [know how to get to the Coliseum]. I am sure that we will find it though. We are going to go by on Friday night and let our players see it so they don't come out for the first time when they have to play the game.
On many players being from the Los Angeles area, coming to the Coliseum to play
I think it is just a question of them controlling their excitement a little bit. Many of them have been there and watched a game, played a game or something, but we have never been there as a team. There is not one person on our team that has been there as a Duck, so we just want to go and take a look. We will walk the field, I will show them its 100 yards, has goal posts at both ends, hash marks and all that stuff just to try to take away some of the mystique of it.
On coming off two impressive victories and possibly their best play all year
I do think we are playing our best for two reasons. We suffered some turnovers in our losses to Cal and Washington State which are very, very disappointing. We really did not give ourselves a chance, and turnovers really were the key. We have done a great job the past couple of games. We had some turnovers last game but two were very, very controlled. They weren't on our quarterback and I think those are the ones that hurt you more. We are playing good defense and good offense and we are running the ball as good as we have ever done. I think we can present some problems to people and especially this time of year you need to be able to run the football. Certainly against `SC we are going to have to be balanced but yes, we are relatively healthy. We are going to be getting some players back. We are going to be getting back a linebacker and a defensive back this week that we have been missing for a couple of weeks. We had two defensive linemen back last week and we had a wide receiver back last week so again getting them healthy for the stretch run is very, very important.
On talking about skill position players
Dennis Dixon has done a very good job. I think this offense suits him very well. His mobility, his accuracy, his quick release, those are things that he can flourish within this offense. He has done a very good job. The two running backs I think complement each other very well. Jonathan Stewart is a big, fast guy that will try to run over you. He doesn't make people miss a lot. Jeremiah Johnson makes people miss and stops and starts, so a whole different thing you have to prepare for, and they complement each other and they challenge each other very, very well. Jason Williams has done a great job developing as a complete receiver. He is one of the biggest guys in the conference, although `SC has some big guys too, I think Patrick Turner is very similar sized to J. Will [Jason Williams]. J. Will can catch the deep pass, he can go make the tough catch, he can catch the screen and make positive yards, and he has become our go-to guy and his development has been very fun to watch.
On the defensive side of the ball
Our defense is playing well and again we are fairly short-handed over there. We lost four or five starters in the first three weeks of the season and a couple of them we got back or will get back but I have been very pleased. J.D. Nelson is sort of the heart and soul of our defense at free safety. He and Patrick Turner, safeties, were both starters last year. Blair Phillips has done a great job at inside linebacker. I believe he leads the league in tackles and his play is just getting better and better. Darius Sanders is sort of coming into his own at defensive end for us. He and Matt Toeaina are the seniors for us up there. We have a couple of other bodies back of the defensive line so we can rotate them and keep them fresh, but overall I have been very pleased. A.J. Tuitele has stepped in when Brent Haberly went down and has done a nice job. We have two redshirt freshmen corners and I really love those guys. They are playing their tails off and they have a great challenge this week defending guys like Jarrett and Smith and the whole crew, but I think they are up to it and excited for the challenge.
They lost one game where they turned the ball over four times and we know that when you turn the ball over you can lose to anybody, but I think they are very, very talented. They are somewhat young at some positions but they looked very, very good against Stanford. They look like they have turned the corner and recovered. They are very balanced offensively and very physical and fast defensively. I don't see a lot of cracks in that armor. I think you have to play very good football against them and we have to go to their house. This game has been sold out since before the season began, so I assume it will be loud and aggressive and a great venue for a football game.
On the new system of playing everybody in the Pac-10
I think it is good. We were the first proponents of that thought process many years ago. When it went to twelve games we thought it was very obvious that we should play everybody in the Pac-10 because that is as good a game or better than we could have ever gotten on a national basis. So I am excited because the champion now will truly be crowned by who they play not who they don't play.
On Jason Williams being recruited as a tight end by many schools, but playing as a 240 pound wide receiver
I think he is fifth or sixth in the nation in total yardage so I think he is doing very well. We never considered tight end. I think we could use him in that regard, he could come down sometimes and play from a tight alignment, but basically he has done a great job of making himself so valuable as a wide receiver we would never consider that.
I don't really want to talk about them. I think they are too good. Jarrett missed some games, but in his absence Steve Smith just took over and they both have the capacity to take a game over. The scary thing to me is the quarterbacks just throw the ball up and trust that they are going to go get it. They have speed, size and range, and they are tremendous. They are probably the best one-two punch in the nation at wide receiver.
On the importance of this game from a recruiting standpoint
Well it is always important and it wouldn't matter about the records to be honest with you. It is always important simply because the majority of our players come from Southern California. It is the best hotbed of college football talent in the nation, we all know that, we all recruit there, so obviously any opportunity to win there, especially against `SC or UCLA is going to make a difference to kids. We are also on national television, so that kind of opportunity across the nation will resound.
On what uniforms they will be wearing
Stay tuned. I am still working on that and it is one of those things you have to be there for.