Pete Carroll Talks About Saturday's Game Against UCLA

Nov. 28, 2006

Pete Carroll Press Conference QuotesTuesday, November 28, 2006

Opening remarks
The Gauntlet Trophy is here for obvious reasons. There is a lot at stake with the challenge and competition of this with a lot of points riding on the football game. We are real proud to have the Lexus Gauntlet here for a year and hopefully we can keep it here. I am real pleased about the way we finished off our season in our home, the Coliseum. I think this was an extraordinary year for our fans and them partaking in this season. It was awesome to be at the stadium every game. We had a great opportunity to finish strong with some big games the past couple of weeks and the Notre Dame game turnout was exceptional. The energy around the stadium was extraordinary once again. It has really come to a point where we really have created a great atmosphere for our football program and our winning ways, but especially for all of the fans and the fun. We had a real successful toy drive and everyone turned out for that. That was great for the Christmas kids because they were helped out. That was really cool and it has just been a great year at the Coliseum, so we are real thrilled about that. As far as coming off that game, it was a big victory for us, as each one becomes more significant in terms of how you finish out the season. For us, the football team took it in stride very well. We didn't go crazy and lose our heads over it. We have a tremendous challenge coming up and we wanted to take that game in stride and not lose focus on what is ahead. We have a fantastic matchup with UCLA at the Rose Bowl. We love this matchup and we love playing it, whether it is at the Coliseum or at the Rose Bowl, it is a great opportunity and a great undertaking for us to do our best. We are very much aware that UCLA has played some great football this year. They have had a defensive turnaround that has been obvious and it has changed somewhat the climate of their team and the style that they play with. I know that DeWayne Walker has had a big impact on the program and it is clear. We understand that we have to be prepared and to do that we have to have a great week. This is so much fun. It is just a great time to be in Southern California with the sports and the football and SC vs UCLA. So this is just awesome, and we can't wait to get started. It seemed like it took forever to get to Tuesday. Sunday, Monday was a long haul for us and we are anxious to get this thing cracking as we get out to the practice field today and start working on the game plan and get this thing revved up.

On possible renovations being made to the Coliseum
There was a time years ago when the conversation was up about the NFL coming in and maybe doing this to the stadium and they would always want to downsize the stadium. There were times when I thought that if that would help us fill the thing up and get that feeling when you have a packed house then maybe that is something that we should do, but that concern does not exist anymore. We are thrilled to have 92,000 people in the Coliseum. It has been something that we have looked forward to feeling on a game to game basis and it has arrived. There is no reason for us to make the Coliseum smaller. If anything we have to go in the other direction. I know that there is a lot of conversation going on about who is going to be in charge of renovations and controlling what happens at the Coliseum. I would think that if we could just continue to make steady improvements and make the quality of the experience for the fans better then we are doing a great thing. To make it smaller would be absolutely a mistake now and there is no way that I can see anybody wanting to do that here.

On seeing this kind of success this year after losing so much talent last year
We knew at the end of the recruiting process last year that we had a chance to bring about a roster that was going to be different than what we have had at anytime. We were quick to point out to ourselves in building our energy for the season that this would be the deepest team that we have had and the most quality depth and competition at the most positions we have ever had. That alone led the coaching staff to believe that kind of competition and competitive scene might give us the opportunity to really improve beyond what people would expect. I think that is what has happened and it is clear that is what has happened. The battles that we have on the practice field on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays have generated a level of play that has rivaled the play that we have had in years past. Although it seems different because the marquee names that had developed and we had come to understand as the make-up of our team have shifted somewhat, but that doesn't mean that you can't play to the same level, you just do it differently. We have witnessed it all season long. We are a different team that has a different feel about it but that doesn't mean that we cannot win. We were very hopeful and thought that we had the chance to have a really good team if we could survive the first couple of games against Arkansas and Nebraska and get on a little bit of a roll, that was a tremendous challenge for us with the young kids and the transitions and all but that did take place and we felt pretty good about it. We started moving and we have had our ups and downs and challenges throughout the season but we have been able to survive primarily with the quality of depth that can come off the bench and fill the voids. We have not been though an injury free season by any means. We have had a lot of challenges and it speaks of the mentality of our players and coaches to get the guys to step forward on these challenges and play at the level that is necessary to maintain winning ways. So it has been a very fun and exciting season in that regard, to see it all happen. We did not know what we were going to be as well as we had known in the past. We had to become this and it has been very exciting to see it happen. This team has really grown and they are really starting to feel it, but by no means do we see that we have arrived in any way. We still fill like it is a work in progress and we shouldn't be surprised as we finish the season off by someone doing something or other to help us win.

On stockpiling good talent leading to current success
I think it is a lot of stuff. You couldn't do it without the talent level. There is absolutely no way that you can. You can screw it up too, regardless of who is playing for you. It is that saying that the best players don't always win. You can screw that up. I think without that as a foundation in recruiting and personnel, this has always been the foundation in building the program and it is the most necessary. I think you have to have a lot of other things too in order to keep the consistency at such a level and fortunately we have been able to have continuity in our program even though we have had coaching changes we have maintained the core values of this team and philosophy. Most of all, we have maintained a level of competition on a regular basis in spring football and fall camp and during the season each day we go to practice that just doesn't allow for us to step back. I think that is the greatest challenge to maintain that level of preparation and focus and it gives you a chance to play like you are capable. I don't think we are playing beyond are capabilities. I don't think we are playing great. I think we are playing like we are capable of playing and when we do that we are hard to beat. That is the challenge in itself that all coaches in all sports face and fortunately we have been able to be on this side of it and try and get it going just one more week, one more time.

On tailback C.J. Gable
Yeah, boy he has got a real nature. He is a really competitive kid. He showed this in high school when he played on offense or defense or special teams he did everything all out, every step he took. He was really an exciting guy to look at because we did not know what he was going to become because at one time we didn't know if he was going to play offense or defense. We did know though that he would be able to challenge at both. With his style he is reminiscent of Justin Fargas. Justin Fargas was just a tremendous competitor and a fantastic battler on the practice field and the game field and they are very similar in that regard. He is not an outgoing, outspoken, gregarious kid. He is very quiet, very subtle, but when he takes off he goes and he is going to get every single drop out of every single snap and squeeze it. He is really fun to watch. Fortunately we have needed it desperately here at the end of the season where we have been banged up and he has just risen and really given us a great boost.

On C.J. Gable's style of play
He has been this way the whole time. That is why he won the competition in camp. It was clear from the first couple times he was on the practice field he was all out. All coaches love seeing guys give great effort and finish plays out and give you everything they have got every single snap. That is what he did from the first day he walked on the practice field. Then we started to assess the talent level and see where it all fit together but we knew he had that from the beginning. Remember he started the Arkansas game and we felt very comfortable and were pleased with him doing that because of the impressions and manner in which he presented himself at camp. He has just continued and now that he has had more of a focal role in our football team he has even shown better. He was waiting for us to see it. It was there at the start. It was just us realizing that he could be such an impact player.

On preparing for the game without knowing if UCLA will start QB Ben Olson or QB Patrick Cowan
We have seen enough of both guys to have a good evaluation of them. Both guys have been productive, both guys have shown some great stuff and both have stature and arm and can get the ball down the field. They haven't changed the style of play considerably, so one side or the other is not going to matter to us. I can see why they have a controversy. They both are young guys, they have played about the same amount, they both have been pretty productive and they both have a huge upside. I don't know how they are going to do it, but it doesn't bother us one way or another.

On the rumor that Ben Olson will start and its possible impact on preparation
Only that the guy is left-handed and the other guy is right-handed, so there is a little bit of tendency in that regard. I have been working real hard on the left side here so I am going to give some guys a good look here. Duron Sylvester will have to jump in here at practice and we will give him a chance to throw the ball some. I don't know we are just going to go practice, to tell you the truth.

On possibly overlooking this game
The history of all sports says yes. That is why you are asking this question, because it happens. The history of this football team says no. We haven't had problems with that. We didn't have a problem with that at the Oregon State game. That is not what happened at that game, we just dropped the ball on that. So that is not the factor that I am concerned about at all. I am concerned about us preparing really well and not allowing anything to enter in to the preparation process that would change how we do stuff. That is a task in itself, on a weekly, day to day basis anyway. So I think the way the guys are responding and the way that the team is responding to each step as we close out the season and this whole kind of playoff run that we have been in they have been exactly on so I don't have any problem thinking this may happen.

On if the history of sports says overlooking the game can happen, how will USC defy it.
Just do what we do. I really can't answer that question for you specifically but I can tell you what we are going to do. We are going to go to practice today and have a heck of a practice. If we do that and we maximize that and then go to the next day and do it again. If we can do that day after day and the week will be in the bag and we will have it where we want to and we will expect for us to play really, really well. That is how we do it. Now that is not very profound or something you can write a book on but that is what is going on.

On UCLA's improved defense
There is no question that it is DeWayne Walker's influence. He came in and had a huge impact on them. Their style is different. Their level of intensity and energy that they bring to game day is different and he deserves a lot of credit for that. Karl [Dorrell] deserves a lot of credit for recognizing DeWayne as a guy that could do that for them. It has helped their football team. I am not surprised in DeWayne's ability. He is a terrific coach and I am just disappointed that it happened so fast. He could have stretched out this impact over a couple of years but he hit it right out of the chutes and they have had a big turnaround. That is the factor that has changed them and has given them the opportunity to play in any game at any time and create the turnovers and negative plays that they have. It gave them a great chance to beat Notre Dame at Notre Dame, and on and on. So it is obvious. It is so clear what has happened there.

On watching the UCLA vs Notre Dame tape and determining the more formidable opponent
I said to some guys on the side last week that this game [against UCLA] would be the more difficult game. I say that not because of the rankings but because of their style of play and what DeWayne has brought to them. That is not to make light of last week's team, I just thought this was going to be a great challenge. Being that this is the last game of the year, the last game of the year is a little bit different than other games and we have to not allow that to happen. We have to stay on course with our preparation and do what we need to do and make the very most of this great opportunity to be at the Rose Bowl against UCLA in this matchup. That is what we are going to set out to do.

On changes of UCLA's defense
They have had tremendous success and a product of the new system. They have been a product of the style with the way they pressure and the way they rush. They have been very active during the season and have had steady productivity throughout. It's not just the individual play, they take advantage of the scheme and the calls. It's the multiplicity of the things they do that gives them their opportunities. A lot of guys have played better than they have in the past.

On last year's 66-19 result against UCLA
If we were a team that talked about the past and how it affected us, maybe it would be an issue. We work really hard to control what we can in the present and leave what's happened in the past out of our conversation. I think we have dealt with it with the team. I think we are a different football team right now. We didn't have 50 points a game like last year. Both teams are different. I think it's a huge mistake to mess with conversations about what's happened in the past, we just don't do it.

On chances of possible letdown this week
That is present every week, no matter who we play. If I would ever forget, I know (the media) would remind me. That's part of sports and human nature to go up and down with the way you perform and act. We are trying not be normal, we are trying to do this in a different fashion. We are trying to find a different way to maintain a focus that separates us. I think it's a personal challenge and I love the fact that you ask the questions about it and try to figure it out. It's almost pretty easy.

On playing at the Rose Bowl
I love this opportunity. It's a great setting to play, a great matchup. It has an energy level that's very special. I always talk about growing up in California...this has always been a great matchup, the one that led you into the Rose Bowl on January 1st. This was always a classic. It remains a classic. It doesn't feel like an away game. We talk about this as our goal every year to get to the Rose Bowl. We want a chance to play in front of a Southern California crowd. We want to do real well and represent the way we should, play the way we are capable of playing. Frankly, I'm going to ask Coach Dorrell next year that they wear their home jerseys at the Coliseum. I hope they will do that. I think historically, it's an image that I hold as I'm sure a lot of you guys do too. That matchup at the Coliseum was classic. I don't think it's necessarily the case at the Rose Bowl. I am hoping when they come here, they will be able to do that. I asked the Pac-10 about that last year and there are some issues. I think it's silly that there are some issues that we are going to have to forfeit a timeout or something, but I will do it. I think it's worth it. We should continue to enhance the beauty of this matchup.

On possibility of playing in the BCS national championship game
It doesn't have to do with anything. I know you don't want to hear that, maybe you do want to hear that. It doesn't have anything to do with what's going on here right now. It's clear, it's a playoff run right now. You got to win this football game to take the next step. It has no bearing right now, it's about this game.

On if players buy into that attitude of playing in the title game
You bet they will. They don't know how to think any other long as you guys don't talk to them (room laughing). We will be on to the next challenge after this weekend.

On program's goal to play in the Rose Bowl and possibly not playing in it this year
I love the fact we are playing in the Rose Bowl this year. I love the fact that we get to go do that with young kids getting that experience. If they get to do it twice, they get to do it twice. It would be extraordinary to go there, play and win this ballgame and then have another game where we get asked to go somewhere else. That would be an extraordinary accomplishment. It just isn't time to be concerned about that right now. That focus will not help us. It would be wrong not to admit what the situation is right now. We have already done that, we don't have to talk about it anymore. I'm not afraid to talk about it, it just doesn't fit right now. What fits is to talk about Competition Tuesday right now. We have proven the value about focusing on the very thing that's right in front of you and maximizing every drop of the opportunity to have a great time today. If we do that, we are a little closer to where we like to be. Our ability and our mastery of focusing in that manner is what our challenge is all about. I'm not real worried about the conversation. The truth is there some voting college out there and when they tell us what to do, we will go out and do it. If I had control over that, I would talk about it...but I don't. What we do have control over is this day we are dealing with and our upcoming opportunity this weekend.

On if it's easy to keep focus since this is a big rivalry game
This is such a great matchup and setting for us. The entire Southern California region is jacked up by college football. We have accomplished something here and captured the love of this game and fun of college football where it's enough to keep us totally immersed in what we are doing. This is a fascinating opportunity for us. It draws us in and calls for a centering of focus, it makes it easy. This is a great game. We don't get to play another game for a long time, this is the last game we get to play this year. Next year, we get to play another game so we will deal with that when the time comes. It's so far off, it's not even worth worrying about.

On injury report
We are in pretty darn good shape right now. It's exciting to feel like we are strong at the end of the season. Emmanuel Moody is going to come back on the practice field. Anthony McCoy is back on the practice field. Chauncey Washington should practice some today. Chris Barrett practiced yesterday and he's back. All of those guys should all have a chance to play.

On play of the Pac-10 Conference
This has been a real statement about the balance of this conference. Playing the teams we have played, we go out of conference and play Arkansas, Nebraska and Notre Dame...our conference, all games were as tough if not tougher than all of those opponents with maybe one exception. The respect that we gained, we talked about it after the Notre Dame game, of the level of play that we dealt with all season long...all of these game were challenging and I believe the level of the players in this conference I think matches the level of the players around the country, without question. Unfortunately, we have to play each other and bang each other around and look at the way it went. One team you thought was going to get hot and finish off, got knocked off and that's where parity comes in. You didn't know who was going to win these games. Obviously, good athletes across the schedule, speed guys at the wide receivers, rush guys, defensive backs that teams matched up with those teams. That is the assessment that we came out with, the depth of these rosters keeps this level of play way up there. You look at our record out of conference, but I have a feeling that we made a pretty good statement that the Pac-10 was one of the top conferences, maybe the toughest conference. I can tell you why, there are a lot of good players around here and easily match up with other teams in other conferences. When you see us play, maybe you are surprised but we have recruited well over the years and we should be playing good football. You can tell in the matchups this weekend, I thought it was clear with the speed of our defense, our receivers against Notre Dame's secondary...we looked really good. I love the way we matched up. I'm proud of where we are at, we have a chance to maintain a high level of play based on the fact of the depth of our roster. I think that's a statement that coincides with the rest of the Pac-10. I think we are going to be very good and successful in the bowl matchups. It shouldn't surprise anyone.

On sensory experience between the Coliseum and the Rose Bowl
It is pretty similar with the old closed bowl feeling, kind of the old-school thing. I like that you don't see a lot of luxury boxes or the circus in the endzone like some of these stadiums with the add-on things. It feels old school in that we you play there, it feels like it used to look like in the old days. There is a nostalgic energy about that. It's unique and special. To me, it's always the fact you go into an arena in California and it's filled up...everyone is jacked up and tailgating. The excitement and energy level of California people to be that passionate about football makes another statement about how cool of a state we live in.

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