Pete Carroll-Jim Harbaugh Talk About Saturday's Game At Stanford

November 11, 2008

An Interview With:

COACH Pete Carroll

COACH CARROLL: First off, we wish happy Veterans Day to all the guys out there with care and consideration, talked about it in the meeting today. We'll make sure that's not the veterans from the NFL, make sure they get it.

This is like another great challenge for us. This is our last real time we're leaving town here, road game, and I hope that what we have learned on the road during the season we can carry over into this game and make sure we bring a really great effort.

I see Stanford as a team that's really, really coming. They're physical, they're tough, they have an attitude about running the football that kind of pervades all of their team. Their defense is aggressive, and it's obvious that Jim Harbaugh is doing a good job of getting these guys on the same page and bringing the program together. They're very competitive obviously at home, undefeated at home, and Bowl game is at stake and there's a lot riding on this from their end, as well, so should be a great match up.

We go in feeling pretty good about our health, pretty good shape. Kevin Ellison says he's going to try to go tomorrow, which would be a miraculous recovery. Whether he makes it or not, his attitude is perfect. Other than that, our guys are in pretty good shape, and hopefully by the end of the week we'll have a full complement of guys ready to go up there.

The fact that we're coming down to the end of the Pac 10 challenge, this is right where we'd like to be. We're playing for championships each week, and we're going to take it as such and put together a fantastic week and hopefully we can get right again.

We would like to function really well on both sides of the ball, really counting on defense to play solid again, and hopefully we can get good rhythm on offense. We know we want to run the football again, we do every week, and it's going to be hard to do that. It makes a lot of looks as matter of fact, their defensive coordinator, Ron Lynn, is a guy that I worked with at New England; he was our secondary coach there, so we go back and have fought a bunch of battles together, as well. I have a tremendous respect for what Ron does. He's really brought an NFL approach to their defensive style, very complicated and challenging and aggressive.

So they're improved from last year, they're tough, and we had all we could handle last time around. So we're going to try to get right and put together a great game here.

Q. Do you think you'll be able to match their intensity at the start of the game, their fans?
COACH CARROLL: I think it always is particularly on the road, you hate to have to give up the crowd to them by their ability to do good things and capture their crowd and take advantage of that. You hope you play well and consistently early so you don't give them the advantage. We saw that very clearly weeks ago.

But that doesn't necessarily settle the game, but you'd like not to have to deal with that if you can help it.

Q. Does what happened last year work for you guys, for them, or for nobody?
COACH CARROLL: I don't know, you'd have to ask them how they feel about it. But it's anytime that we get beaten, particularly in the conference, it's just a reminder of how critical every game is and how you have to get ready and right every single time you go, and you have to play well and do things right, and not do the kinds of things that can beat you.

Turning the football over gives you a great chance to lose every time you go, and it doesn't matter where you're playing or who you're playing. So that game was really a turnover football game in particular, and so those are really good reminders of how you want to play, and you want to play well and do things right and give yourself a chance instead of hurting yourself and giving the other team their chances.

Q. Will you continue with extra officials this week in the battle to cut down penalties?
COACH CARROLL: Yeah, I'm scrutinizing the officials heavily this week. As a matter of fact, they're on a short list. If they don't call the right penalties and enough of them, I'm getting rid of them. We've got so many guys out there, they're stumbling over each other right now, but they're doing everything they can to make us aware. I'm asking them to throw everything they see and asking them to teach and understand and help our guys understand how they interpret stuff.

We're very sensitive to it. We're on it. I'm asking for everybody in the program to commit to cleaning things up so that we don't have to deal with this as an issue. We're holding down the fort in the most penalties here in the Pac 10, and that's something we'd like to get rid of if we can. We've got three weeks to do that, and we're going to try to get that done.

Q. Talk about your defense. Is there more talent this year? Are you guys doing anything differently as far as coaching them along?
COACH CARROLL: We're really coaching better (laughter). It's been a process to bring our guys to this point. The leadership of the older guys, the seniors and the linebackers and Kevin Ellison and Cary Harris and the guys that have been around for a while, Josh Pinkard, they bring a level of confidence and also of expertise that you can only get through experience. They give us the chance to play this consistently and to this kind of level.

You know, we've also played some teams that have been struggling, too; that's helped us. But we've been able to take advantage of that. So we've done just about everything we need to do right now at this point, but it won't mean a whole lot if we don't finish right. So the big challenge remains, and our guys are very determined to play great defense again this week and see if we can get that done.

It's fun watching these guys. They're really tough and really aggressive and really working hard to do things right, and when you have all that going in, you have the terrific speed that our guys have, then you can play really good defense. We're kind of maxing it out right now. Hopefully we can hold onto this edge and keep it going.

Q. I hate to remind you of last year.
COACH CARROLL: That's okay, I kind of figured you might.

Q. They didn't do much on offense the whole game until right at the end of the third quarter when it was like 16 to 7.
COACH CARROLL: Yeah, I don't remember the whole game that well. I remember that they converted a 4th and 20 by 20 yards and an inch, and that was really the play of the game, I thought, for them, and gave them a chance to win the game. Then it was four shots and I don't know if it was 11 or something like that, and I thought we played pretty consistently. We had some field situations that were shorter because we turned the ball over. But all of that, they came through the made the plays they had to make, and it was a great finish for them. It wasn't for us.

Q. Taylor Mays seems to be hitting almost as hard as Troy Polamalu.
COACH CARROLL: Yeah, his deep middle play and his play on the deep end, which is more of something we feature with Taylor, Troy was more a player that we played close to the line of scrimmage. He played more as Kevin Ellison plays in our system. Taylor is doing the best job of anybody that's ever played for us in the years I've been here. He's all over the field, he's making impact plays, he's doing what a true free safety does. He kind of covers for everybody, and somebody makes a mistake or somebody gives up a yard on the coverage, he's there to help you out and all that, and he's just done a great job, and he's doing it with statement plays, as well.

We love the physical side of the game that he brings. When you're that big and fast and you're willing, which he loves to hit and get after guys, it makes for some colossal collisions for us.

The receivers that have to come down in our secondary, they're going to be watching the film, and he's back there. Interestingly, the plays I thought a couple of the plays were phenomenal plays because the guys were open and the ball was going to get there, and then it just didn't. He just closed so beautifully at the end that he's got to be playing as good as anybody is playing in the country at that position. I don't know how you could do better than what he's doing. He's really fun to watch and he's working at it and staying really humble about it and put together another week. Since Kevin went out, he's really even had his best games, and I think it's just brought his focus even keener and his preparation even more so in trying to match up for the loss of losing Kevin out there.

Q. Kevin Ellison really thinks he can play this week?
COACH CARROLL: He does. He's talking like it. We'll see.

Q. It's such a delicate line between aggressiveness and carelessness. How do you drill them in trying to
COACH CARROLL: Yeah, right after the game, you know, my feeling was that we had just played really hard and really tough and just would not give up anything, and we were battling on every single snap to make something happen. That's great stuff. You don't want to lose that, and I don't want to overemphasize in the wrong way to our guys so they get cautious in any way because we're not cautious; we're on the other end of the spectrum which is awesome about the way we're playing. So you have to hold onto that edge.

But also it's the clear thinking in the moment that allows you to make good decisions right at the end on the few plays that are like that. There's only a couple. The two roughing the passer penalties, both could have been avoided. Cush didn't have to shove the guy, and Everson was a step late. Those could have been avoided.

The little bit of desperation in the pass interferences on two of the three, not all of them, were guys over trying a little bit. And they're in great position, they're all over the receiver, and they could have finished off the play without making the contact. The one on Kaluka Maiava, the guy turned into him and he couldn't even help it. That's just what happens sometimes.

You have to objectively look at the situations and make sure you know what's going on, but when you collectively come up with six penalties on defense that are all basically major penalties, you just have to keep working to address them. The only way you can get those penalties is to be really close to making plays. So you try to find that good balance in there and make sense of it and still maintain the aggressiveness that has made us who we are.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh

Opening statement

'Our team is much improved from last year and the beginning of this year. Our team plays very hard. They compete. I'm excited about this week playing against USC. USC is at the center stage of college football. Our team needs to understand how good USC is as a football team. They have the coaching, they have the personnel. So our guys understand the challenge, but that doesn't diminish our expectations of our ballclub.'

On tailback Toby Gerhart

'We have very good backs that have been productive for our team this year. I expect all of them to be available for this game. How much they play will be the gameplan.'

'Toby is a very good runner. He has good vision and balance. He is very competitive. He is a good football player with a great attitude.'

On development of quarterback Tavita Pritchard

'He is playing very confident, very poised. He is playing the game which shows up in so many regards for your football team in a positive way. He knows the system and he saves us a lot during the game. He has a great mental understanding of the game with what we are trying to get done offensively. He has been very athletic in throwing the ball extremely well, even in some real adverse conditions. We have played three games in pouring down rain and it just never seems to faze him or bother him. He doesn't get rattled. He is very calm, cool and collected. He is very well-respected on our football team. The players like him.'

On team defense

'We have a veteran group of linebackers returning from last year: Pat Maynor, Clinton Snyder, Chike Amajoyi. Our defensive line has been very effective for us. We have excellent ends and good up in the middle in our tackles. In our secondary, Bo McNally, is the leader of our football team and captain. We have veteran corners and our defense is like the rest of our football team. They are improving from last year and improving from game to game. They are a very competitive group.'

On last year's win at USC

'Well I remember in talking with some of our players how they remember the week of practice and how good the week of practice was...everyone was really locked in and how those practices went. We need those same type of performances in practice this week. I'm looking forward to our guys hitting the field this week with a lot of enthusiasm and mental preparation for this ball game.'

On using last year's game as motivation for Saturday's game

'We will look at last year's game in terms of preparation, but as far as motivation, you know...both teams will have fire in their eyes to play this football game. I would expect nothing less. It's a very big game for us.'

On playing well at home

'I think everyone in the Pac-10 has been successful on their home field, this year compared to last year as a conference. For us, our student section has really been enthusiastic and supportive this year, being right behind our bench. Our team has really fed off that and I would say they are much improved from a year ago as well.'

On this year's USC team

'There are so many things about them. It's difficult finding a weakness with this team...offensively, defensively, special teams. They have only allowed two touchdowns in their last six games. Like I said, they have the coaching and the personnel. I think they are an improved ballclub as well. I'm just very impressed.'

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