Pete Carroll Talks About Saturday's Game Against Notre Dame

Nov. 21, 2006

Pete CarrollPress Conference Quotes - Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Opening remarks
Sorry I'm a little late. I was reading Charlie's press conference quotes (room laughter). I'm sure he was cordial. What a great thing this is--to have a football game of this magnitude and this style and class coming up...two winning football teams, this is really cool. Everything about it is good. We're really pleased with where we are right now and with a chance to play Notre Dame here at the Coliseum, it's just a great opportunity for our guys to be in a big time match-up and have a lot of fun with it and see if we can play another good football game and keep this season going. I feel like we're continuing to grow as a football team. I feel like we're still reaching for our best...we're maturing still. It's interesting that it feels that way because clearly, we're still very young but we're seeing some really mature things happen on the football field as a team. Guys are playing really smart, they're doing things well, they're working hard at it, they're enjoying what they're doing, and they're learning and growing and all of that. I think with that, our confidence has grown in the last month or so and to the point where we're ready for this kind of a matchup coming off the Cal game. I think it's going to be real interesting to see where this one goes. I think it's going to be a fantastic opportunity for our fans to enjoy a last game at the Coliseum this year. It's been a great season for the following...they've been fantastic. The game last week was extraordinary in the way they responded and cheered and went nuts and I'm sure they had a great time, but this is just one more great opportunity. With that, we need to play up so that we're worthy of the moment. And so we're going to work real hard to get that done during this week. So we look, very much, forward to this.

On Allen Bradford starting at fullback last week
It wasn't really a statement of appreciation. It was just the plays in the game that we're going to run and that he was taking part in. I wish I could say that it was gratitude all over but it was really just the plays that we were running and he was part of them. He has plays that he takes part in each week and he continues to grow in the things that he can do and stuff. I really had gone through the week thinking that he would play more than he did. C.J. Gable went crazy in that game and really played well and took some snaps away from some of the other guys.

On the difference between this November versus past seasons
Well, I hope that it can continue. This means a tremendous amount to a team of any sport...that can finish and win at the end of the season when everything is on the line. You play your best and all of that. Anybody that's ever competed would like to say that about your team and you ability to play I think. I'm really, really proud of it. I just wish I knew better when it happens. I wish I could coin it. I don't know--it's just been something that's been part of the nature of this team and I'm thrilled about it and hopefully, we can keep it going. It's only as good as your next game you know. But it has been an outstanding characteristic of our program and I'm real proud of it. I'm loving it and would love to see it happen again.

On qualifying for the Rose Bowl and wanting to be in the BCS title game
Sometimes, it's a little confusing in my head because the Rose Bowl is like the greatest game you can play in...growing up. So when we had the chance a few years ago to play Michigan in the Rose Bowl and still be playing for the national championship, I don't know if it can get any better than that. Our team, our sights are always set on the Rose Bowl so that's something that we're focused on. We don't have any control other than the ability to win over what's going to happen in the next couple of weeks. So I'm not going to set our sights and our goals in that manner because it's not up to us. It's up to the system to choose us to be in the championship game. If that happens, that happens. If not, we're going to have a great time at the Rose Bowl.

On possibly winning the next two games and deserving to be in the BCS title game
Well, I think it's pretty hard to keep us out of it because of the strength of schedule that we've had to play during the season. I think from start to finish, it's been an extraordinary schedule. I don't know if anybody compares to it--you guys would know better than I would. But have never figured it out or added it up. I don't care to but I know it's about as hard as you can get. So if that's the factor, then you know...I don't know what the factors will be otherwise...honestly, I don't know how to figure the thing out. We're going to play these games and at the end of it, we're going to have a chance to have an extraordinary season and if that's worthy of the selection process for the BCS game then we'll pack up and go. That's okay...we would like that.

On the improvement in the defense and maturity vs. technical changes
I think it's been a combination. The reason that the maturity has shown up is because we've trusted in them a little bit more and we've allowed them to show who they are and what they are. This is a very physical, tough-minded, hard-nosed group of guys. This whole defense from (defensive coordinator) Nick Holt to the whole staff and everybody in there is just a bunch of hard-knock guys and they like playing in that kind of a mode. We might not have tapped into it well enough earlier in the year the way we have achieved later on. I think it's just kind of come together and it's been really exciting to see it. They're having a blast playing football. Nick is doing a great job leading these guys and all the coaches are doing a terrific job. It's working out like we had hoped. Maybe if we had hoped it one game sooner, you know.

On whether or not the physical aspect of players bring about technical changes
Sure. Sure--we're always trying to figure out...and it's a baseline philosophy for us in all phases of our football...we're trying to find things that individual players do in a special manner. Then we try to fit it in and allow them to demonstrate what's unique about their nature and their style and their abilities. It doesn't matter whether a guy is running around or setting up for pass protection or carrying the football. We try to use them in ways that they can best express their ability. I think it took us a while to get the experience behind us and the breadth of stuff from the notebook that we can really start to display and exhibit the true nature that this group has. I think they got a lot of pump early on and I didn't think it was deserving to tell you the truth. We had a lot of attention paid to us early in the year because of the linebackers and all that stuff but I think it is deserving now. I think they're playing great football...and to go week in and week out, it looks pretty much the same. That's the consistency that can win you championships obviously. I can't compare them to anybody. I can't tell you who the linebackers compare to...I don't care to but I do know that these guys are playing really, really good ball. The fact that Lawrence Jackson has elevated now and started to be more active and more productive has really made a difference but it's all these guys. It is Keith Rivers and Brian Cushing and Dallas Sartz and Kevin Ellison and Terrell Thomas. It goes all the way to Sedrick Ellis coming back once he got back. I mean, all of those guys are all playing really good football. What's really exciting is all of those guys...and Oscar Lua is too...but only a couple of those guys are seniors. We have a lot to look forward to.

On how USC matches up with the Notre Dame team
I think we match up alright. We know them; we know their personnel; we know their style some now after a year of playing them and seeing them during the season. We're going to not have any issues that we can't match up I don't think. I think their defensive line is really stout and really good. Victor Abiamiri and Derek Landri are really, really good football players. And these are number one draft pick guys. Those guys can be a factor that can change the game for them but I think we can handle it and we're surely going to try to find out during the week.

On when he starts watching tape of Notre Dame
This week. I didn't look at them other than when we crossed over at Stanford with any earnest other than what we normally do. I don't have that mechanism to do that. I stay with the team that we're playing. You can't help but see highlights. You see highlights on TV at times and you see things happening and stories of the games and things. They've had some extraordinary games you know. I was anxious to see the UCLA film because I had heard about it. I was listening on the radio while I was watching a high school game. I was sitting out in the car trying to keep track so I was interested to know. But I don't go ahead and look at stuff ahead of time. But you can't help but see things when you are crossing over. That's logical and naturally, it happens in that manner.

On Brady Quinn's progress in the last year
I don't know that he's that much different. I thought he was great last year. I think he's just continued on...probably what generally happens is that he's just minimized the bad plays. Five picks for the year is phenomenal for all the throws that he's had. But I think he captured their system last year and he's just continued to grow. I don't think he's that much different. I think he's a great football player. He might be the best guy in the whole draft coming out. The top guy you can pick because he's got the back run and he's got the stature and he's a tough guy and he's been highly productive. He's done about all you can do.

On what makes Brady Quinn a great quarterback
All of the things I just said. He's classic. He's a classic thrower. He's got a strong arm, he's got good feet; he has vision down the field, he's resourceful. He's hard to sack, hard to get down because he's such a good competitor and such a good natural athlete. He shakes guys off and finds a way to make another throw or another play of it when he gets hit in the backfield. He makes good decisions; he plays a high style offense. You can pull out the New England Patriots film and see him make the same kinds of plays that Tom Brady's the same notebook. He's ready for the next level, as ready as he can get in college. Everything about him is good. He's got good touch and he takes care of the ball and moves well also. He's got all the elements. He's a great quarterback and he's going to be a great long time player in the NFL too.

On how he defines last year's of the greatest or just another win
I think it was a pretty special win because of the heroics at the end and the 'against all odds' kind of situation with the clock and all. And then it had a little bit of flare to it too. You know, they take the field and it's not over and all that kind of stuff. Plus, you're at Notre Dame and every single person there was screaming at the top of their lungs for them to win on the fourth and nine play. Matt Leinart stepped into that moment and quieted the whole crowd down in his mind and executed perfectly and put us in position for a very heroic win. And he sneaks it in and you know the whole thing. So that stuff is very, very cool and very unique that it happened in that setting. For us, it enabled us to be in the national championship game by winning that game. It's the kind of heroics that happen sometimes when you're very lucky and fortunate and in the right place at the right time.

On whether this is the same Notre Dame team
They're the same team. They have all the same guys playing. They are a very senior-laden football team so all those guys played last year. I don't know how they were so fortunate to be so healthy. I mean, they made it through the whole season with almost everybody there. They lost their fullback and their tight-end but for the most part, all those big name guys on both sides of the ball have been there and played really good football and they have had a fantastic season and good fortune.

On stopping Notre Dame's wide receivers
Well, they've got a couple guys you know. Rhema McKnight is a fine football player as well. It's going to be hard. Jeff Samardzija is a great played--he's really fun to watch. This is a classic guy who makes all the plays...makes the big plays. He wins the UCLA game catching and running to do that one...and can make big plays on the football. We're challenged by these guys because you can cover them as we did last year...we're standing right next to them and we're jumping up and they're making the plays so that's an issue for us that we have to deal with. But we're going to try. We always are trying to make somebody beat you the other way...some way other than the way that they'd like to and if we can do that, we will. The last couple weeks, we've been able to do that. We've been able to take the essence of the offense--the things that they want to do out of their game and made them play differently. That's a real good accomplishment when you're playing against Oregon and Cal--great offensive football teams. It's hard to do that but it did happen in those two weeks. If we are so fortunate to do that this week, it would be hard on them. If we could get Samardzija not to have a big game and get running back Darius Walker not to have a big game. I don't know how we're going to slow the quarterback down. I just think he's too good but we'll try to do those things.

On what makes USC-Notre Dame a special college rivalry
Well it's all of the rich heritage and the history of the match-ups...the classic arenas to play in and just the cross-country aspect of it too. They bring so much following from the middle of the country and we have tremendous following here and around the country but primarily set in the west. I think all of those things...the great names of the people, the coaches that have been in this rivalry and have accomplished so much through schools and after they've went on. It's just a who's who of college football and tremendous accomplishments. All of those things and the colors look good when you play together...I mean you name it--it's all just very, very rich and very special.

On difference of USC-Notre Dame programs with both coaches having NFL experience
(Charlie's) from New Jersey. I was born in San Francisco. I'm damn proud of being born in San Francisco. I just think it's the totally different backgrounds. Totally backgrounds growing up--totally different backgrounds in coaching with different mentors and all that. There's a lot of ways to do it--you don't have to do it the same way. We're totally different in the way we approach our game. I saw Charlie Weis on TV wearing a coat and tie around campus. I haven't done that very many times since I've been here. There's just a big difference between us but hopefully in the history of our times going against each other in the NFL and all, we've both turned out pretty good and stuff. I think the contrast is obvious and it's broad. I don't know that--to tell you the truth--I really don't know that much about how they do stuff on the they talk and all that. But I do know that we just come from a different background...kind of a different lineage in coaching and all.

On NFL coaches wearing suits on the sideline
Yeah, big Jack (Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars head coach) looked pretty sharp. I don't know what that was all about. Yeah I'm thinking about it. Nah--you've got to keep me from putting my sweatshirt on as it is.

On his treating every game like any other and Notre Dame's way
I think difference is good. They can do it any way they want to and however they see fit. I was asked today on an interview `how are we going to counter the revenge factor'? I don't know. I have no idea how you do that. I don't even want to think about that. To do what we've done over the years, I don't know any other way than to treat every opportunity as a tremendous championship challenge. When you have that mentality, every game is enormous--every game calls for everything you have and that's how we approach every game. To beat Stanford 42-0 was a huge accomplishment for us in the way that we did it and that manner that we accomplished that for a variety of reasons. To win this Cal game and to do what we did to put ourselves in the Rose Bowl--to win a conference championship--it's a huge game but so was the Arkansas game and so was every other one and every game we've ever played. And this is another opportunity--it's got special flavor to it--I'm not going to stand here and play to it like we're going to do things differently. We figured that out and we don't do that. If we do what we always do, it will be good enough and we'll have a chance to win a football game. That's what's more important--I don't want our guys to play harder this week. That's the last thing that I want them to try and do...I want them to play like we always play and if we do that, we win for the most part. To try something in the manner that's outside of what we normally do--that gets us championships and wins games for years and years and years would be a horrendous mistake on our part. We've figured that part of it out and I'm really proud of that. So I don't really play to the alums in the sense that I'm telling them that this is the biggest event in the history of the world. I think it's the greatest football game in America on Saturday and then next week will be that same thing again. That's how we're going to do it. We're going to talk that way and approach it in that manner and I'm not worried one bit about having a championship game last week. This is a championship game this week. We're so lucky that we get to play another one this week. We're going to get up again. We're not going to come out with some other mentality if I can help it.

On how playing a game up can backfire
I personally believe yes. That can work against you. I'll give you a great contrast. Now, I don't know this because I didn't hear this and I didn't read it but somebody told me that coach (Ohio State) Jim Tressel said to his team that he wanted them to play better than they are. I don't know that. I want our guys just to play like they do at practice everyday. There's different ways to look at stuff and whatever it takes is okay. However you want to go about it is alright. You just have to find your own way and that's why Charlie Weis and I are totally different. And we have totally different outlooks on some things but when it comes down to football, we want our guys to exactly what we're telling them to do every single play and to execute no matter what the situation or setting is. In his manner, and in our manner, we're both able to do that...we're quite able to do that and totally talk differently and approach differently...different notebooks, different all of that stuff. It's a wonderful part of this game--you can do it in different manners and still get great and similar results.

On the last time Trojan players looked at a single game differently
Yeah--the first time we played Notre Dame. We screwed that up. I went right along with exactly like you guys would want me to--talking about all the old guys and all the history and showed them the film and the footage and the whole thing. In my opinion, it had nothing to do with playing that day. That may not have had any bearing on that game, but I'm using it forever that way when I coach. I don't do that anymore.

On running back Chauncey Washington's availability
He's going to sit out today at practice but he's going to play in the game. He's going to be alright--we're going to rest him one more day. He's in pretty good shape...much better than he was last week so we're going to rest him one more day.

On the Cal game and difference between first and second half
Well, we just had a couple of penalties that offset us. Sometimes those penalties don't even affect us at all but they did. A five-yard penalty messed us up. We missed a touchdown opportunity and then we wound up kicking the field goal so there's four points. A couple of those things happened--we didn't turn the ball over. We didn't make the big mistakes but it just offset our tempo a little bit and we weren't quite as sharp early throwing the ball as we ended up being. So we cut it loose and didn't hold anything back in the second half and weren't worried about what happened in the first half and everything worked out just fine. This is a very, very good football team you know. We were very concerned about their ability to take the ball away from us. They had 20 interceptions coming into our game and so we were very careful to not give them that kind of play that would fuel them, ignite their football team; give them that good old feeling that everything is like it always has been. We shut them out on turnovers by approaching it in that manner and that really was the factor in the game I think. So we just played the game. 9-6 at halftime, I didn't care. It didn't matter. It was what was going to happen at the end that was what was important. We felt like we had figured out what we needed to do and how we could find out ways down the field on offense and stop them on defense. Fortunately, we came out in the second half and shut them out and outscored them 17-0 and won a terrific football game for us.

On whether it will take more than 23 points to beat Notre Dame
I have no idea. I don't know.

On Ohio State and Michigan playing a rematch for the national championship
It would be awesome for the Ohio State and Michigan people (laughter) and the Big Ten would love it--cash-in, in a big way. If that happens, that happens. It was a very close football game. Michigan just would not give in to that game. They kept fighting all the way and made it as close just about, as you can make it. Two really good football teams obviously--so it would be a classic if it came out that way.

On whether BCS should not allow non-conference champions into the title game
I don't know. I don't know what the impact of that would be. I can't even follow it. Whenever you talk BCS, I get confused.

On players' emotions running high for big games (Matt Leinart/UCLA last year)
Yeah he was a mess last year and I'm not letting that happen this year. He was crying and all this stuff. He couldn't throw the ball in the friggin ocean for us in the first half. But he finally came back around and played pretty good--he had the teary eyes and all that stuff. I hope it's not like that. We need to be a little more composed than that. But for Matt, I understand it totally. He had put so much into his career here. He had given himself wholly and accomplished so much and everything. He loved it so much, he was going to miss it that much that he couldn't control it in that regard. He'll never have another moment like that. In essence, it was Matt Leinart at his very best. Fortunately, everybody played well around him and we got a nice win but he was a basket case in that first half.

On wide receiver Chris McFoy
Yeah we're still waiting today but it sounds good. Sounds like he's going to practice again today with us and by tonight, we think he's got a great chance to get cleared. He's been practicing for the last couple of weeks...he's ready to go. He's chomping at the bit and we'll certainly play him if he's cleared.

On wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett's injury
They need to talk to him tonight again to make sure everything is absolutely okay. He feels great and he'll be fine. I hope we can get him to practice today so he can get his work and get ready.

On Senior Day and playing as many seniors as possible
Well, we'd like to do that. We have never set that as a guideline for us but I'd like for that to happen. We would like to get guys a chance to do something and be a part of it. It's more difficult than you'd think. But we'll see. We'll see if we can do that. I don't think it's just the fact that they play. It would be cool if they did. But our guys have done a tremendous amount in the time they've been here. It was wonderful in the locker room after the game last week to recognize the guys that have been there for five straight championships. It was just a handful of guys but it was special to recognize that that's all they've known. All they've known is championship football. And as they go out, they have accomplished something that hasn't been done before and they'll always be able to carry that with them and take that as they go. This game, the fact that so many of our former players return, and come back and do the tunnel and all that makes it really, really special for these guys. That's really the recognition and the tribute that I think separates this game from another game. I hope everybody can have a chance to play though.

On Desmond Reed's recovery since last year's Notre Dame game
It's been nothing short of miraculous. It's been startling to see what he's been able to do with what he's been dealing with right now. None of you would really be able to appreciate unless you saw him with his shoe off and what he deals with. His foot still doesn't work but he's found a way to overcome it and he never ever doubted for a moment that he wouldn't be able to do that. In that, he's been a tremendous inspiration for our football team and for everybody that loves football...that loves SC ball. For him to overcome and be able to play and to get into games at all. I mean, he can get into a uniform and get onto the practice field but he's been able to play and perform and help us and all that so, I'm very excited. I couldn't imagine that he would be able to figure it out or that the doctors would ever let him do it and all of that but he just kind of willed it to happen and just proved it to them. He said come out here and watch me and watch what I can do and after while, they just said, well, let him play. If he can do it, let him go. He's done a remarkable job. He's a great addition with the spirit that he brings and his nature about competing and playing. He's very special to our team.

On the annual Champs for Children toy drive
We have our annual toy drive going on at the stadium this weekend--so we'd love for you to help us get the word out. Thousands of kids get presents they wouldn't have received otherwise by the Champs for Children foundation ( They did a great job--they sent presents to New Orleans and the kids down there and the kids in the area. They did a great job and so we hope that people can bring presents...unwrapped presents. There will be places to deposit them at the Coliseum and it's really a good cause and they did a good job last year so I hope you can support that Saturday night at the game.

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