Pete Carroll Talks About Saturday's Game Against Arizona State

Oct. 7, 2008

THE MODERATOR: We'll get going with a proud and happy member of Red Sox Nation.

COACH CARROLL: We're really way behind in our game planning because of the activity last night on television. The Red Sox going all the way to the final shot there, and Reggie (Bush) was going crazy last night. So we're way behind. But had a good time watching them. Can you imagine if it comes out to be the Dodgers and the Red Sox? Are we waiting for that or what? Manny (Ramirez) will go freakin' crazy.

Anyway, we have some question marks coming out of the Oregon game in terms of some guys with some injury situations obviously. We accomplished a tremendous amount by coming back home and getting back on track with the Oregon game. I think that was a very good team we played...proud to have accomplished it in the manner that we did. We played a very dominant football game in all three phases. Really felt like we like to feel about our football. We ran the ball well. We owned the line of scrimmage on the defensive side. We protected the quarterback for the most part. We were real solid on special teams.

We're hoping to carry that kind of performance obviously forward into this week. We do that by practicing really well and taking care of business.

The issues are, you know, of course with Mark (Sanchez) coming off another really good football game, you know, we don't know. It's day to day with Mark. We'll wait and see how he's going to do.

Rey Maualuga ran well yesterday. We'll know more each day. Surprisingly he felt very comfortable, all of that. There's a chance he makes it back. We won't know for a couple days. Just have to play it out.

In the meantime getting Mitch (Mustain) ready to play quarterback for us starting this football game in the event that's what we need to do. I know he's really pumped up about the opportunity. He did a nice job last week, which helps him kind of lead into this week. So we'll get it all cranked up and see if we can put together a good game.

I think Arizona State is solid as can be in a lot of areas. I know they haven't won their games last couple of weeks, but they look very much the part of the same team they were a year ago. The same guys are making plays for them on offense, Rudy Carpenter is a fantastic football player. I watched him all the way through the Cal game. He finished the game looking fine. I heard he's hobbled a little bit. Certainly didn't bother him in the game where you could tell.

Their receivers are really good. Their runningbacks are good. They've got a lot of firepower. They've run up against a couple tough opponents in of course Georgia and Cal. We all know about the Mountain West.

So we're getting ready for a big opportunity for us to answer the call here in the PAC 10 again this week, and we're very fortunate to be playing at home. I like it's a day game situation, to get a good feel for playing them in the middle of the day like college football is supposed to be played. We look forward to that, get all cranked up for this week.

Q. If Carpenter won't go, do you know who might go?
COACH CARROLL: Well it sounds like (Danny) Sullivan is the guy that's going to play if Rudy can't go.

Q. Do you know anything about him at all?
COACH CARROLL: Not too much. Coach Holt recruited him and knew him a couple years back. He's got a real strong arm kid, big kid. Kind of a classic pocket type of quarterback.

So let's talk about Manny (smiling).

Q. Do you have any sense when you're going to know more about Mark Sanchez? Maybe today?
COACH CARROLL: No, I don't have any sense for that. But we'll know. Let me say this, yes, we will have more information today, but I don't know what that's going to mean, how much that will tell us. We're very fortunate, and he's very fortunate in this injury, that he didn't have any damage other than the bruise. But it's still very sore and he's stiff, you know.

He'll come back as soon as he's able to get full flexion and all that, run around on it. That may be tomorrow, it may not be. I don't know. We'll wait and see.

Q. The horse collar rule, why didn't the guy get called?
COACH CARROLL: The horse collar tackles are allowed on runningbacks and quarterbacks inside the tackle box. I'm sure that the rule is written that way because it just happens. Sometimes things are in such close order that you can't avoid it. I think also the fact that guys aren't out in the open field running where they can really get flying is a reason.

Obviously that tackle in particular is, you know, a statement itself of why that should be an illegal tackle. It was a vicious tackle. Nothing wrong with the kid that did it. Nick (Reed) was trying to make a good play, all that. But, you know, it's just a hazard for the kids, you know, when you get yanked like that. The NFL recognized it a couple years back. Now that we've adopted I don't know what the NFL rule is in the pocket.

Q. Your rule is the same as the NFL rule.
COACH CARROLL: Okay. So it's obviously still very dangerous and subject to be looked at again I would hope in the off season just because of Mark's tackle if nothing else. It's a very scary situation.

Q. So the speed of the guy getting tackled may be a factor?
COACH CARROLL: Maybe. I think it's more in traffic and stuff, just grabbing. You really don't have an opportunity to do otherwise. In the open field, I know that the officials feel like you have a choice how you're going to tackle a guy.

Q. Do you feel like there's a time where Mark has to practice to start to play?
COACH CARROLL: I'm just going to wait. Not really. It just depends. See how he does. You know, if he's not able to go full speed but still take some snaps, do some walk throughs and things like that, it will weigh into all that. But I don't know that at this time.

Q. What happened with ASU? They lose at home to UNLV?
COACH CARROLL: They haven't run the ball as well as they balanced it out last year. They're averaging 80 something yards a game rushing, which is below what they were doing last year. So the balance isn't there. They did lose some guys up front in the offensive line that were really good football players. So that might be a bit of a factor.

But they look the same. They have a great offense. Rudy is all over the place, throwing the ball everywhere. He's just a really, really good player. This guy is going to be a good NFL player. He's going to be a high draft pick I think when guys take a look at him. He's well equipped. He's a good battler. He makes things happen.

Looking at that, we know there's that ability to make things move and throw the ball all over the field. That always is a threat for them. So we're going to consider them just as much as we did last year when their record was a little bit different.

Q. Talk about Stafon Johnson.
COACH CARROLL: Stafon has been great. He's run beautifully every time we've given him a chance. He continues to be really effective in traffic. He's got great feet, great vision. That one play, the toss that he bounced back, it's a marvelous cut getting back against the grain. He had plenty of speed to run everybody down. Whether or not Mark blocked for him, I think he would have made it. He showed great sense for making a big play. He's been very effective. He's averaging probably close to like seven yards a carry, something like that, for the year.

Q. What changed from that freshman year when he was a disappointment to himself and staff? Just started working harder?
COACH CARROLL: He wasn't ready. He just wasn't ready to practice and compete at the tempo that we demanded of him. And he just, you know, couldn't express his ability at the time because he didn't get it. It took him about halfway through the season, probably about game eight or nine, he started getting the sense for what we were talking about.

In the bowl preparation, if you remember, that's when he started to flash and started to practice to full tempo and understand what was going on clearly. Unfortunately, he had to get off season surgery, miss all of spring football. Remember, we started over with him in fall camp, and he was a new guy. He was a redshirt freshman. He wasn't a redshirt freshman, but we started him like he was a freshman just to give him a new opportunity, a new evaluation with kind of like his new mind. He's never looked back. He's been a very effective player ever since.

Q. Any update on Allen Bradford?
COACH CARROLL: I just talked to him. He feels better. He's going to try to do some stuff today. He's still bothered. He still has this nagging hip thing that's holding him back.

But there has been times where he could get back, but he can't last. We'll see what happens today. We're going to be very careful with him. We need to try to get him well and get him over it instead of just kind of limping his way along.

This could be an injury to him that could last a long time. So we have to take care of him there.

Q. And Vidal Hazelton?
COACH CARROLL: He's okay. He's fine. He's ready to go. Michael Morgan is not going to practice today, I got the word...he did some stuff yesterday, he can't have any contact today. So we'll have to wait and see what happens with Mike, too.

Q. Saw a game on TV, not sure which one, the announcer said the coach said, I'm using three runningbacks because it's a long season and I don't want to wear out my runningbacks. Is that essentially your philosophy?
COACH CARROLL: Well, that is not our philosophy. Our philosophy is to play the guys, to do the things that they do really uniquely and do well, whatever the combination that takes. And then as the game develops, we'll make a game time decision to feature one guy or another if we think there's reason to. Sometimes there is and sometimes there isn't.

It's already shown up exactly in the last few weeks that one guy gets more carries than the other. You can see in the critical time of the game that we're featuring somebody because we feel like they have a sense for making the plays, they have the timing and the tempo about them.

If we had a guy that was just a dominant player that was better than anybody else, it was clear, then we would do that, because we're just trying to win. There's no other way. We're trying to win. We try to play the best guy for the plays we're calling and try to be flexible enough to adapt as the game shows itself and tells us, you know, what we need to do.

Q. How do you organize the decision making process?
COACH CARROLL: We just do it during the week. We pick plays out. We know things that we like to do with the guys. We just look for our opportunities to kind of mix it in there. And then as we develop the calls, we knew who we're calling plays for. There's crossover in there, as well. Like all the guys might run the same play, some of the plays, but some of the guys will only run certain plays. We track that, so it isn't something that your opponent can get a lock on. We know all of our situations that we're demonstrating so that we know how our opponents look at us.

But basically it really goes back to an old NFL philosophy, you try to allow guys to do what they do well. You don't just because you want to coach a certain a play. We coach plays that we think fit the guys. You tailor your thoughts and the design of your concepts to, you know, demonstrate and illustrate, you know, what your players do effectively.

And so we have to have a very big notebook. We have to have a lot of flexibility and a lot of vision to try and find the best ways to show our guys.

I thought it was really interesting last week to see Stafon and CJ (Gable) carry the regular tailback stuff, and Joe (McKnight) got his chance to do a little bit of everything. Joe was very effective in this game. I think he had 90 yards receiving. I don't know what he had rushing, 30 or something like that. He got over a hundred yards total offense in the game. He did it in big fashion, you know.

So that could adjust some, but we've already done that in I guess the Ohio State game. But that's a nice way of looking at our offense. I think we have a lot of flexibility in doing it that way.

Q. Which day of the week do you say, this is going to be my guy for punt returner, something like that?
COACH CARROLL: We go all the way to Thursday on the punt return team. Guys catch punts all day long. Thursday is the day we focus on it. We already had a punt return day yesterday. We'll come back to Thursday. So we'll make our final decisions going into that day.

Q. Is Curtis McNeal redshirting?
COACH CARROLL: I don't know that yet. I don't know. We'll have to wait and see.

Q. Hasn't played in a game yet?
COACH CARROLL: No, he hasn't played yet. He's done some really good stuff in practice, so we're excited about him. But we've got to wait and see what happens. It's too early to tell that. I know it might not seem like that to you, but we still have a couple more weeks before we really put a guy on ice and not play him.

Q. What did Mitch Mustain do so well to all of a sudden accelerate to No. 2?
COACH CARROLL: I know you guys keep questioning that. There's a couple things that happened.

Mitch looked really good. He looked good in practice for a couple weeks' time. He had a particular day last week that he just looked like he really was in command of stuff. He looked like the best guy. But you couple that with the competition and Aaron Corp and Garrett Green had chances to do as well and didn't show as well. So it was kind of a combination of things that happened.

It was really a sense that both Sark and I had independently. It just made you know, it seemed logical to go with what our impressions told us. He was playing well. He was looking good, looking strong, throwing the ball well. I think he showed it in the game. Confidence, strength just showed up in the game, too.

It was unfortunate he chucked that ball to Anthony McCoy in the corner, thought Anthony could make a play on it. The DB made a great play and took the ball away. Other than that, he played excellent football for us for the quarter that he played.

So I think he supported our claims that we thought he was the No. 2 guy and looked good in the game.

Q. There's obviously a world outside of football, with the economic crisis, election coming up. What are your thoughts? Has it been brought up with your team? Has it affected any of the players?
COACH CARROLL: As a matter of fact on Friday night Jeff Byers gave a little short dissertation to the team about the economic situation around the country, helped us all kind of come up to date with really what the crisis is all about. I thought he did a very good job, as a matter of fact.

We demonstrated that we all needed a little catching up in a teachable moment. We kind of had our heads buried in the sand for a while. Now we're all well versed with the economic situation going on in the country.

Other than that, the presidential election, we've done a few straw poles, but I'm not going to let out the results. Don't want to play our hand too early. A big debate tonight. Our guys will be waiting with baited breath, I'm sure.

Q. Who do you think will get kicked off Dancing With the Stars tonight?
COACH CARROLL: Well, I really don't know who's involved other than Warren Sapp I heard was. I'm sure he's going to steal the show (laughter).

Q. Coming off another game where you beat up on a ranked opponent, how do you prevent another Oregon State?
COACH CARROLL: Well, I think the circumstances of the game before the Oregon State game were extraordinary. As much as we tried to deal with that effectively, I don't think we did. I just think it's different.

I think this is a different situation. We're right in the middle of the conference right now. I'm hoping that we're going to find out if we can elevate to the kind of level and consistency that we've played with for years around here. That's by taking every game so darn important, strictly a championship opportunity, on and on, in the things that we do. I'm anxious to see if we're able to do that. I'm anxious to see how we practice today in response and on and on.

I think that the circumstances and the buildup, we didn't deal with it as well as I'd like to think we could have and should have. But we'll see. I don't know. We'll see what happens.

Q. Did you have a clue going in that you wouldn't play your best?
COACH CARROLL: Are we talking about two weeks ago still?

Q. Yes. Sorry about that, but we are.
COACH CARROLL: No, all I can say about that is I thought months ago it could be a game that could be like that, for all of the obvious reasons. You put so much into it. There's so much about it. Then we have the extra time to kind of maybe you're, whatever, gloating in it, however. It just had an effect. We didn't play as well. We didn't play the kind of football we're capable of.

It's amazing. That line is so fine. I really believe in the Oregon State game had we made a couple things happen early in the game, everything would have been fine. Look at this game last week. It was a game that started slowly. They did well early. We didn't score a touchdown the first time down. Took us a while to get going. We turned the ball over on a snap. A lot of things could have gone the other way. Then it just didn't, you know. I don't think we looked great in the first quarter of that game. We just were playing and getting a feel for things. Then we just took over. That didn't happen in the other game. I think we created our own spark, our own energy for the game by the play. But for whatever reason, we couldn't find that sequence that allowed us to elevate where we weren't otherwise as sharp, so...

I think that's pretty common. It's what happens in games. But we were a little bit more vulnerable in that sequence up there.

Q. Looking down the schedule, there's not another one you have circled?
COACH CARROLL: Every game is huge. Every game is huge always. The numbing repetition of me saying that is probably hard to take (laughter), but they're all like that for us. That one just had, you know, special circumstances. With all of our efforts, we still came up short.

Are we done with that one now, guys (laughter)?

Q. Do you have a theory as to why you've been so successful in conference, but the PAC 10 has been struggling?
COACH CARROLL: When you play teams and coaches year in and year out, there's a familiarity. It isn't just you know what plays they're going to run, but the players are accustomed to playing you. They have a style not a style so much, but a sense of what it's like to play against us. And I don't think it's as unusual as it is for a team from out of our conference. Whatever that factor is, it seems there's something going on.

We've been in great shape wherever we play out of conference. And we know, it's the facts, we've proven it again, that the conference games are the most difficult. So I think it's the sense and the familiarity that doesn't allow for the separation of sorts.

So, I mean, this game, we played this game against Oregon kind of like an out of conference game. Came out just how we like. But, you know, there will be games during the course of this march through the season in the schedule that will be very, very challenging.

Q. (Question regarding penalty calls.)
COACH CARROLL: Remember, I'm not saying that about the whole statistic thing. The statement I make about that is our opponents don't get penalized as much. That's the facts. I think this is five straight years of that. I can't gripe about it because there's nothing to gripe about, it's just the facts. I like that fact being out there because I just think it's an unusual stat.

We have been remiss in controlling our penalties. We're not doing a good job. We've had a number of situations again that we need to avoid. We found ourselves we've had three penalties in the last couple weeks I think in both of the last two games, downfield blocking situations, or perimeter blocking situations way out exposed out in space, that we need to fix because the officials are calling them extremely tight. We don't see the penalties necessarily play after play after play, then it's happening to us on the same kinds of positioning and all. So we have to adjust. That's a big part of understanding what the officials are calling, all of that.

I thought the hit that Fili Moala had, the official had a very clear thought about that, that with the added emphasis about protecting the quarterback in helmet to helmet contacts, he made that call without any question in his mind that it was the right call, even though Fili was trying to pull out of the hit. There was helmet to helmet contact, but he was stopping. He even put his hands up to try to not allow that to happen, but not well enough.

That's a case of an emphasis call we have to make sure our players are tuned into. Again, this downfield blocking, we're losing some huge yards.

On the play that Joe makes downfield, Patrick makes an extraordinary block. Knocks the guy over backwards, rolls over, there's a penalty on that play. I don't know what the penalty is. But I do know they're calling stuff down there. So we're just going to be extra careful and really work to keep our hands inside the framework of the defensive backs, try to avoid that from happening.

We learn as the season goes on. But we have to be better. We had 12 penalties last week I think it was. That's a terrible output for us. So it's a huge emphasis again this week.

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