Rose Bowl Press Conference: Day 4

Dec. 31, 2006

2007 Rose Bowl Quotes
Pete Carroll Press Conference
December 31, 2006

USC Head Coach Pete Carroll
Opening Statement:
This is an exciting time. We finally get to the point where all the excitement and all the build-up and all the talk and the rhetoric are over. Our guys are really pumped up about it. We've had a terrific week. The whole preparation has been solid for us. The last week has really been fun, we've had a very good time. I know you might be wondering how could it be fun when you've done it before, but this was just better. Our kids had a great time, the Rose Bowl really set things up and was run perfectly. The events were all good, the food was awesome, the stay at the hotel was terrific, so it's all been perfectly orchestrated. As we get, finally, to New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, it's rolled out just right. We're looking forward to a big explosion on game day for our team, and I know their team will be loaded and ready to go, too, so it's going to be a great football game I hope and we'll do everything we can to make it that way. We're looking forward to it.

On health issues:
We're doing pretty well with guys coming back. Chauncey (Washington's) had a great two weeks. We finally kicked him out of the knee brace. He's really just moved a whole lot better. He's had good preparation, but it still isn't the kind of preparation that you would like to be in to get him in shape and play with normally. It's been a very frustrating year in that regard, but he's ready to go. Everybody else on the offensive side is in good shape. On defense, both Dallas Sartz and (Brian) Cushing had some issues this past week, coming out of the week before Christmas, and Cushing's practiced the last couple of days. Dallas got some work in, and both those guys are going to play and we'll see how they handle it. But they're both ready to go and we'll see how they handle it.

On expectations for the start of the game:
I think it's going to be as you expect. I mean, this is the Rose Bowl. As you drive down into the little valley there where the stadium is, and all of the build-up and you finally get to the field and it's finally time to kick the thing off, and we feel like they'll make us wait a long time for the TV and the whole thing, it's a great build-up and it should be incredibly high intensity ball game in general. The place at the beginning will be crazy. So some of the great excitement and the great crescendo effect we'll look forward to. It's going to be just right. All of the people in the media that are trying to figure out how these two teams don't want to play this game, you're nuts. You just don't get it. I know you have to ask the questions and all, but these players are jacked up. The coaches are, the fans will be. That's the story that you want to keep pounding away at but really that's not what's going on. Had you not kept asking the questions, we really would have left it behind well. But I think this has been just what you're hoping for, just what we're hoping for. A great event, a great opportunity to play in the greatest bowl game you could ever be in, in a perfect setting, the weather's perfect and it's going to be awesome. So I wouldn't expect anything less than that, and it's not going to happen any way other than that. I hope we play well, that's what I'm worried about.

On appeal of the game:
I would love to have been in that situation, yeah. But that is not what happened. We didn't earn it. They did and so good luck to those teams that are playing in it. Without question, when you get down to the end of the schedule and you have an opportunity and a position where you can get there, then it becomes an opportunity to really focus on. That's a great moment, those are awesome football games. But they're not better than what this is. The day that you play, the game that you're playing, the team across the field from you, that's the whole world. Everything in the world is right there. It doesn't matter what trophy they hand you. I know probably you guys don't get that, but when the kids are playing and the coaches coaching, that's the whole world. Just take a look at the bowl games we've seen--and I haven't watched all the games but I've seen the highlights--and look at the explosion of the Boston College victory, you know? During that game that kid kicks that field goal and they win and that team goes crazy. You might think how could they be that excited for it? Because it's our life and it's the world that we're in and on that moment on that day it was the biggest thing in the world and it doesn't matter what they're handing us. It's just the challenge and the competitiveness that generates that and brings it out.

On if the Rose Bowl is lessened in stature due to the BCS:
With the BCS changes that have happened and doing the national championship game, there has been an effect on the games and how you can posture these games in terms of importance and all that. I can't tell you I've got an answer for that and what that's all about, but that has shifted from the positions, but is that bad or has that taken away from it? Again, I think that's your guys' work, and you guys have to come up with stuff like that. I don't think it lessens the significance of the game. If the format was shifted around and there was a way to have the traditional match-ups and play the way they were always set up, and then have another series of games that would be pretty cool. I don't think anyone's figured that out yet, I mean obviously they haven't to anyone's satisfaction. But it would be nice if there was a way to play the games out. I don't know who's worried about the conscience or the stature of these games. Somebody is, and they get hesitant to affect them, but you're talking about does the National Championship Game affect the Orange Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Rose Bowl when it's not your game? I don't know. These are great events. The committees are fired up, the people are fired up. The parents that are coming and the kids that are coming to watch the game and the people watching on TV, they're having fun watching it. There just happens to be one other game. So I don't get all the concern but I know you guys have to write about it.

On the offensive line rebounding from the UCLA game:
We have to bounce back every game whether you win or you lose it. You can't let a game that just happened affect what's going on next week, it's going to compound sometimes in the wrong direction. So this has not been a big issue. You're asking the question how could they ever get back, well we got back the next day at practice. We worked really hard and had fun doing it and ran around and were jacked up and competed and I haven't seen the effect of that on any of those guys. The issues that we deal with are the constant questioning and asking them, and inquiries about, `How you feeling? How you handling it?' and all that. These guys, they would have bounced immediately back just because they have to at practice to compete the way we do. But I think they've handled it well. I've watched them practice hard and have fun doing it and getting in the process of studying Michigan and the conversations about the game and the match-ups and the guys they're going against and all that. It's just the way it's supposed to be. So I think they'll play great. They're ready to go. This is a challenging game for some of the kids playing in their last game ever. The challenge to me is to don't get too emotional, that they don't over-try, that they don't try to do the things that they never may have done a game and they try to create some new way that they play and then they don't play effectively. So we try to harness that as we get to these great match-ups, but I think they're pumped up and ready to go and I think we're going to go out and perform really well.

On controlling emotions:
Yeah, (Matt Leinart) just about fell apart in the UCLA game last year. You can't play with tears in your eyes as a quarterback. Matt Leinart can't, maybe a defensive tackle can, but a quarterback can't be crying when he's passing the football. And it showed as a matter of fact, I don't mind telling that. But we have to put this in the right place, so these final days talking with the kids tonight and in the meetings and tomorrow again to emphasize that we have to consider this, as we always do, the biggest game of our life and give it everything we have. But also we can't over-go that.

On Michigan`s improvements:
I think their front-seven could be a whole lot better. They have great speed on the edges, they're big up inside, great experience at the linebacker spot and they've proven that they're legitimate. They've gone through a whole season and been incredibly effective as a front-sevenversus the run and rushing the passer. So I think they had a really good defense before, it was one of the conference's leading defenses when we played them last time, but this one just has more firepower, more star power. They have the best player in the country playing on one side and other guys that can fly. (Shawn) Crable and LaMarr (Woodley) are ridiculously talented football players. That's enough to change a team and make it a little bit better, but they've got all of the ingredients. A couple years ago they had a quarterback, they had a tailback, they had an offensive line, they had a tight end, all of that was intact. They had a really good defense, and they have all of that again, plus they have this really high-level defense. So I think in that regard they're even more complete than they were before and they were a great team the last time we played them.

2007 Rose Bowl Quotes
Beverley Hills Hilton
Sunday, December 31, 2006

Michigan Head Coach Lloyd Carr
Opening Statement:
Good morning. It's great to be here and great that it's getting closer to game time. We've had a wonderful week, the weather has been probably better than any I remember and we've had great facilities at the Home Depot Center to work out. I think our players have really enjoyed the festivities that the Rose Bowl has provided for them. I think we've had very good preparation. We are healthy and ready to go.

On the game being a springboard into next year:
Well certainly, I've always said that going to the Rose Bowl and losing is better than never having got there at all. But with that said, there is a tremendous difference in winning this game and losing it. It's never as fun to lose and start the new year when everyone in the country will be watching. I haven't given a lot of thought to next season other than the fact that we have had some players who have eligibility remaining announce that they will return to Michigan. But this is about this team, they have one opportunity left to achieve some special things. They're a wonderful group of people to be around. I've had a lot of fun this season and I just hope we can go out with a win.

On if it helps having players that have been to the Rose Bowl before:
I think our senior class and junior class, they've been here. Probably half our team, a lot of the guys that will play a pivotal role in this game. Our captains have done a great job of trying to explain, before we came out here, the importance of maintaining the focus on the game because even though its our third time out here in the last four years, we have not won and they want to make sure they do everything they can to help us win.

On his if he's concerned with where they may finish in the polls:
Well as you know, polls are pretty unpredictable, so I haven't given it a lot of thought.

On quarterback, Chad Henne:
Well I have always measured a quarterback. I think first of all he has to be tough mentally, as well as physically, and Chad Henne is a tough guy. He has to be intelligent, he has to have all the understanding to communicate and our offense, in my opinion, takes a special guy and that's before you get the ball in your hands. Then when you get it in your hands, you've got to know what to do with it and I think he's done a great job with that. He's an extremely poised guy. He is not a guy that's very emotional, but he is a fiery, intense competitor and you wouldn't necessarily know that unless you've been around him. Those are the things that I think. He's got all the measurables. He's big, strong, he's got a great arm and he throws the ball accurately and makes very few mistakes.

On the challenges they face against USC:
I think offensively, there's a lot of similarities in what we do. But defensively, they give you so many different blitzes. They're going to blitz the two inside guys, the internal fire zone. They're going to bring, at different times, all of their safeties, all of their secondary , with the exception of maybe the wide corner, but they're going to bring corner blitzes, safety blitzes. Then they're going to drop eight, rush three, so they give you so many different blitzes, different looks. A lot of different personnel packages defensively and of course, they're very, very talented. Very, very quick defensively. So they give you a lot of challenges.

On how he feels about being in a classic Big Ten - Pac-10 match up:
I think when you look back at the history of college football, the Rose Bowl, 1901, there is a history of the tradition. Michigan has always been intertwined with the Rose Bowl, so the tradition of it is very ,very special. I can remember my Mother, always on the morning of New Year's Day, wanted to watch the Rose Bowl, the Rose Parade and of course I was always looking forward to the game. I've watched every game of the Rose Bowl since the early 1950's. I know, from a recruiting standpoint, that every kid, certainly in the Midwest and probably the country, wants to watch this game. So there is something special about New Year's Day, there's certainly something special about the Rose Bowl, about going into that incredible setting. It's about the colors and just the pageantry of that game. You know that you have an opportunity to play in a very, very special game.

On if he has had to motivate the team on playing in the Rose Bowl:
I haven't really had to sell it. I think certainly there was a point where before we knew we were coming here, we knew we weren't going somewhere else. But the fact that we've had so many players that have been here, they know what a great time they're going to have here. They knew it was fun. They knew they were going to have great weather. They knew they were going to have to play against a great football team, which was closer than probably we were to being in this championship game. I think it's from a competitive stand point, the game itself, the match up is something I think our players have looked forward to since the moment the pairing was announced.

On if there are any injuries:
No. We're healthy. We're ready to go.

On USC's success:
The record speaks for itself. Four BCS bowl games, the rankings. I think when you look at two Heisman Trophy winners in the course of two years, and all the great players that they've had speaks to totally complete that. They've done a great job recruiting, and certainly, they've done a great job coaching.

On the differences between this team and their 2004 Rose Bowl team:
Three years ago, that's a long time. I think this team, at least offensively, we're a very different team. With the zone scheme, with that team (2004) we had a great running back in Chris Perry, and I think our passing game on this team, this season, marries up with our running game better than that team. I think this team, defensively, is much better team than we were three years ago.

On switching to the zone:
Mike DeBord, who had been the head coach at Central Michigan University, we played them I think in Mike's third year at Central Michigan, and they ran for 200-plus yards against us. He was a strong believer in the zone schemes and when he became the coordinator, one of the things he wanted to do was to scrap the gap schemes. The offtackle plays at Michigan has always been a staple to our running games, so it was not an easy decision, because whatever you're trying to do with running the football it comes down to being able to separate the defense, to create creases in there. After the discussion we had, we went back and looked at our running game and I had great confidence in Mike DeBord as he convinced me and made that change, and I think it's been a great change for us. We went from ninth in the Big Ten in rushing to first. But I think the big thing is Mike Hart, early in the spring, we had a couple of scrimmages and one of our first Saturday practice, and I can remember one day after practice somebody asked Mike how he liked it and he said, 'I love it!' So I think it's been great for him, and I think it's been great for our team.

On Bo Schembechler reaction to switching to the zone:
Well, Bo wasn't around nearly as much the last four or five years except for in the fall to watch the game, so he wasn't around in the spring. But he was surprised and I just told him that the problem with trying to run the gap scheme, and the other schemes, and the zone scheme. Which we had run some zone, but we just didn't run it very well, and the beauty of it is the repetition that you get . You get your widemen, your backs, they're running the same schemes day in and day out, and I think all of our players have embraced it and I think in the end, Bo liked itpretty well.

On if he worries about losing Ron English to a head coaching position:
It's something that excites me quite honestly. I think when you get an opportunity to be a coordinator at a place like Michigan, you're going to have to learn about pressure, you're going to have to learn about making decisions. You're going to have to be able to go in on a daily basis, in front of a team, a group of men and motivate them, and inspire them, and teach them. You're going to have to go into a staff room everyday and run the meetings and make decisions that are going to weigh heavily on whether you're successful or not. I think its a great proving ground for a head coaching position and there is no question in my mind that Ron English is going to be a great head coach someday, and with the exception of he and his family, nobody is going to be happier for that than I am because that's part of the deal. You'd hate to obviously lose a great coach, but when you have the opportunity to see one of your guys move on and get the challenge, it's all part of it.

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