Quotes from Coach Dennis Erickson's Weekly Press Conference

Oct. 29, 2007

On the health of QB Rudy Carpenter's thumb:
'It's fine. It swelled up a little bit. He'll be able to throw tomorrow some. We'll be careful with it. We just want him to be able to play and be 100 percent Saturday, but he's still got to practice to see the different things that we see. He doesn't necessarily have to throw the football during the week, but as long as he sees things, that's the biggest thing.'

On the wide receiver corps:
'They've played well. We've got depth. They're making plays. They understand what we're doing. You can start with Mike [Jones]. Chris McGaha has probably been as good as anybody as far as catching the football. Kyle [Williams], Rudy [Burgess] and Kerry [Taylor], we've had a lot of them step up in certain situations and make a lot of plays. With Brent [Miller] back, it's going to help at tight end. They were all young. That was probably some of the problem last year, because they're talented. They just hadn't played. They hadn't worked together. They spent a lot of time together this summer, and it's starting to pay off. When you know what your receivers are going to do, it really makes a heck of a difference. That has a lot to do with the success we've had offensively. We've run it, but then again, we do have some weapons out there. The combination of both really makes a big difference.'

On the defense:
'They're not thinking a lot. They're just playing. We're taking advantage of some of the things that we have. I think defensively you've got to look at what are your pluses and what are your minuses and take advantage of that. We have linebackers that run pretty well and our ends are playing very well. Our tackles are doing what we ask them to do. They're playing smart. We're not getting a lot of penalties. We're staying in our gaps. To me, defensive football is about staying in your gaps and if you've got a responsibility to not look to try and make a play out of your gap. We're playing great team defense. It's simple and we're running to the football. We have confidence in what we're doing. That doesn't mean we're not going to get blocked and that people can't knock us off the football, but if we make a mistake, we know where that mistake is at, and they don't have to guess. It's the same way in the secondary. We don't play a lot of different coverages, but they understand where they need to be. They'll make plays. We're not making a lot of mental mistakes.'

On whether he is surprised by the defense:
'I'm not surprised, because I know Craig Bray and the defensive coaches. I know that what we teach defensively is very solid football. What we've accomplished, I think you're always a little surprised. I'm a little bit surprised with this whole team, because I didn't know how good we are or how many games we're going to win, and I still don't know. I do know we're going to win at least eight, so you go to the next one and see what happens. When you start having success, you gain confidence, and that's what's happened. Starting last week and going into this week against this outfit, we're going to have to play our best on defense.'

On the emotion of the win over Cal:
'I got caught up in the moment. I was excited. Every game is a big game. I'm an emotional person and I enjoy the game of football. I love coaching it. It was a big win for us. When you see the stands full and all those people there that are supporting our program, to have success on that particular night was exciting for all of us involved. You won't see that every week. You just get caught up in the moment sometimes. That's OK, isn't it?'

On dealing with this week's hype:
'Our players just deal with it. These seniors, I've talked to them, they haven't had these opportunities. I told them at the beginning of the year, one of my goals is to have them have the same opportunities that I've had in my coaching career, to have the opportunity to play in big games or coach in big games like I've had. If we're successful, that opportunity will come. Last week was one. They've all been big for us. But here you go against Cal, a big game on TV, sold-out stadium, and now all of a sudden, you're on TV again, going up to Eugene to play one of the better teams in the country, getting a lot of national attention, so that's exciting for our players. However, you can't forget where you came from and how you got there.'

On going for it on fourth down:
'When you go for it on fourth down, there are a couple things. First of all, it's how are you moving the football? Are you running the football with any success? If they were stoning us and we weren't moving the ball, I wouldn't have gone for it. I would have kicked it, but we had been running the football pretty successfully, so that had a heck of a lot to do with it. Had we not, we probably would have the three, but I just felt like we were blocking them well enough that we had a chance to continue to keep the momentum at that time. We were behind, and we needed something, but I wouldn't have done it if we hadn't been moving the football with the run pretty good.'

On turnovers
'You don't know when it's going to come. We've been a team that's been pretty opportunistic as far as turnovers are concerned. The only one in the game up until that first interception by JT [Justin Tryon] was on us. So you never know if it's going to come or if it isn't. Did I have a feeling we were going to get one? Not really. I don't know that you ever do. We were beginning to put some pressure on the quarterback at that period of time, and any time you can do that, your chances go up. There was pressure on the quarterback, and he was hit as he threw it. Then, Robert James made one right after that, made a good play on the other one. We've been able to get turnovers. That's why we're in the plus column. I think we're leading the league in that category, which as you go through football, regardless of where it's at, that's probably one statistic that jumps out as far as who wins and who loses more than anything is the turnover margin.'

On comparing Oregon QB Dennis Dixon to Washington QB Jake Locker:
'They do some of the same things, not exactly [the same]. Dennis Dixon is fast, he's shifty and he's a little bit different than Jake. Jake's a big, strong guy, so it's a little different. Dennis has been in that offense a lot longer. He's got a guy by the name of Jonathan Stewart that makes a huge difference. That guy is as good of a running back as there is in college football. So, when he puts that ball into his stomach, you better make sure that he's got your attention. Dennis scrambles around and throws the ball probably more down the field, so they're the same, yet they're different. Dennis Dixon, to me they probably have two guys on that football team, in him and Jonathan Stewart, that need to be looked at as Heisman hopefuls if they continue to win, that has a lot to do with it. Those two guys probably have more impact on a game than anybody I've seen in a long time on offense. Then when you put them both together, and they're running that read option stuff, you've got to make some decisions defensively.'

On Oregon coach Mike Bellotti:
'I've known Mike for a long time, even before I was at Oregon State, competed against him a lot of times. He has done a lot of different things. Mike and Jeff Tedford were together at Oregon at one time, and that's basically what you saw with Cal last week is a lot of the things he did most of his career. He felt he needed a change, brought [Gary] Crowton in a year ago, and then he left and brought in the new guy [Chip Kelly]. I just felt like he felt they needed a change offensively. They wanted to make it exciting, and they wanted to move the football in that particular fashion. So it's changed and it's pretty successful. They're one of the best teams in the country on offense.'

On Oregon's Autzen Stadium:
'There are a lot of places that are hard to play, particularly if the team is winning and you've got a full house. There are a lot of hard places. That thing is enlarged. I've been in it when it was smaller. I've been in it when they haven't had a lot of success. I've been in it when they've been winning. It's a difficult place to play. I don't know that there is any place tougher, hopefully Sun Devil Stadium. It's hard. It's like any stadium you go into. It's loud. It's louder because it's dug down, and the noise does not escape. You just have to be prepared for it. My concern isn't the fans or the people in it; it's how you operate. You've got to be able to operate. You've got to be able to hear a snap count or use another means to do that so that you get off, because what happens, when the game starts, if you can't hear the snap count, you're slow in getting off. So you've got to prepare yourself during the week. Now is it like playing at home? No. It's hard. Our players know that, and we know that as coaches. We just have to give our players the best chance to be successful as we go in there, game plan-wise. When you game plan, what can you do and what can't you do? We've got to be able to give our guys the best opportunity to win on the road in a tough environment.'

On the offensive line personnel:
'We're going to start with the same group that we had. We didn't have any penalties this last week. It's going to be tougher this week. As I've said many times, we have seven starters on the offensive front, so they all practice. Any time you go on the road in that kind of environment, you're going to have some penalties like that. There's no controlling that. It's just going to happen, so you've just got to deal with it.'

On the importance of having a healthy quarterback:
'To stay healthy and consistent at any position is obviously important. You have your guys that are hurt, like we have Ryan [Torain] hurt. Quarterback is huge that you stay healthy, because he's the guy that runs the show. Rudy [Carpenter] has been around and understands what's going on with what we do offensively. Any quarterback does, and when he goes down, it hurts you. I feel very confident, and Rudy would tell you the same thing, I have a lot of confidence in Danny Sullivan if that ever came about. You better have a couple guys, but if you keep your first quarterback healthy, it makes a heck of a difference.'

On the keys to defending Oregon's spread option:
'You've just got to keep things under you, in front of you. You can't panic when they get plays. You've just got to continue to play hard. You've got to be able to run to the football. Mentally you've got to be very clear as far as assignments are concerned, because he'll pull it and hand it. It's kind of like when we played Washington. He reads some of that stuff, so you've got to be very disciplined in what you do and not make a mistake. If we could slow Stewart down, that would help.'

On Oregon's defense:
'In all the talk about the offense there, the defense gets lost in the shuffle. They're an extremely good defensive football team. They're very physical and very big up front. They can run like heck at linebacker and in the secondary. They've played well defensively. They played extremely well against SC. They're really a good defensive football team and that's why they're winning games. If you move the football and score points; that's great, but they're good enough on defense, you can take a few more chances offensively in what they do. That's something that really gets lost in the shuffle, because they've got good football players that have been around there.'

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