Pete Carroll Talks About Saturday's Rivalry Game At UCLA

Dec. 2, 2008

THE MODERATOR: I know you're all disappointed this is the last Pete Carroll press conference of the year. Despite all that, we'll continue.

COACH CARROLL: We'll continue serving lunch here for the next few weeks, just so you guys can get over it (smiling).

On the heels of a big win over USF last night...the basketball team, fired up, Trojans are on a roll here, getting going.

This is a really cool week to finish off the season. Last week, when you have a chance to play your big rivalries at the end of the season back to back, it just adds to the excitement and the fun, the buildup to the finish of the season. So we look at this opportunity now as truly a conference championship opportunity for us. So, as we have done, we're going to go at this with everything that we have and put together a great plan in all phases and try to get ourselves a win here at the Rose Bowl and see if we can't finish on a really high note.

I love the way we got the chance to finish here at the Coliseum for the seniors. This is officially their last time out. We're going to try to do everything we can to make the very most of it.

I think all of the normal issues about playing your crosstown rival and all that are up this week. I think all the questions and stuff that our players will be asked are all legitimate. This is a great rivalry. This is one that is so close to home, even in home rivalries, with people who went to both schools, all that, I think it makes it really fun. It's a thrill to be part of it. We hope to make it a great event and have a lot of fun during the week as we prepare.

Q. Can you talk about wearing the (cardinal) uniforms.
COACH CARROLL: Yeah, for a number of years I've been hoping to get back to this tradition that stood a long time ago, of both schools wearing their home jerseys when they played here in town. It just didn't work out for one reason or another. Honestly, the first time I had the thought was the very first year. I thought it would have been not a classy deal to just surprise UCLA and wear our home jerseys. I just wanted to get back to it.

In conversations over the years with other coaches, it was there, but it never really happened. So there's an issue, you know, in that you have for whatever reason, there's a rule against doing this. We're going to get assessed a timeout in the beginning of the first and second half to do it.

But to make this move, you know, I'm just willing to go ahead and make the statement that we want to go for it. I hope everybody understands. This is also an invitation of course to UCLA to do that when we play here as well. I don't know how they'll handle that, but I would think they're considering it.

Also it's a statement for us for other rivalry games around the country. Maybe this fits their setups, too. They might like to do it.

It always looked awesome. It was just a part of the matchup and the spectacle, kind of playing for rights here in Los Angeles and in Southern California. So hopefully everybody will get something out of it. Maybe I'm getting in trouble by doing this. I don't know. But we're going to do it anyway and we'll see what happens.

Q. Have you actually talked to Rick (Neuheisel) about that? He was talking about the timeout situation, that he thought it was fine that you would get penalized and he would take one immediately to offset it. He said if you were going to do it in the second half, it gets a little dicey.
COACH CARROLL: That's their decision. I did talk to him a long time ago when he first got the job about it, and he was in favor of it. I didn't want to spring it on anybody. I didn't think that was the right way to do it. So he thought it was a good idea, and I'm willing to do it. Whatever they do, they do. I don't know. I'm not asking them to do anything. We're just going to do it and see what happened.

Q. If they did, would you do the same next year?
COACH CARROLL: Yes, we would. If they don't do it, I'd do the same anyway.

Q. Do you normally take all your timeouts allotted to you or not?
COACH CARROLL: No, not often do we do that. You need 'em when you need 'em. It's unpredictable. There's strong opinion in the coaching circles you always save your timeouts and guard them with your life, all that, because when you do need them, they can be critical.

It could be a problem, obviously. But we're going to try to do everything we can to avoid it.

Q. Why would there be a rule against it since for TV it would be nice to have the two color uniforms?
COACH CARROLL: I don't know. I'm sure there's reasons. You know, maybe when the colors clash or something in a manner that somebody doesn't want to look at them, the jerseys are both dark, have the same shades or something like that. I don't know. I don't have the answer there.

Q. Is this something the PAC 10 can petition you don't get penalized through the NCAA?

COACH CARROLL: I don't know that. I don't know the answer to that.

Q. Are there any other obstacles, say a yardage penalty you're expecting UCLA to decline or...
COACH CARROLL: I checked with the league office. You're assessed a timeout each half, so...

Q. Obviously it didn't have a great effect on the Notre Dame game, but what happened to the plan to let the tailbacks play?
COACH CARROLL: No, that's what you guys talked about. (USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian) mentioned we liked doing that. We never had that plan. That's something we like do when we can. That's not a written in stone thought. I tried to make that clear last week when it came up. It happens at times because we like the way things are going or calls come in correctly to get that done. We totally understand that guys would like to stay out there, but that's not part of the blueprint.

Q. Does this game remind you at all of two years ago, 10 1, so much to play for? Not too many people saw that upset coming.
COACH CARROLL: No, it doesn't remind me of that one. It reminds me of all these games. They've all been the same. I think any time you have an experience like we had when we lost to those guys, with everything that was going on riding on it, that fits every situation that comes at the end of the season. I mean, all of these games, anybody can beat you and can win. No matter what everybody thinks is supposed to happen, you got to go play the football game.

That's been in my mind from the Texas game, from that game, the Stanford game, any games that we've lost. You know, so you do everything you can to work to not allow that to happen, try to play your best.

Q. In the last couple years have you ever really figured out what happened in that game? No one really saw that coming.
COACH CARROLL: They played great defense on that day. We couldn't move the football. You know, that was the first time in a long time we scored that few points, however you say that. You know, played really well on defense that day. They had a couple plays that put them in scoring position, and that's all they needed.

You know, if you remember back to that game, like some other games when we've struggled, we struggled early. We didn't convert on a couple third and shorts, third and short, fourth and short. You know, you make those first downs, it's first down on the 30 yardline, whatever, the momentum of the start of the game allows you to get maybe on the board and get some points and it changes everything.

You know, really, the format of that game was reminiscent of the Oregon State game. Same kind of thing happened, although we played much better on defense that day. That can happen any time. DeWayne Walker is a really good football coach. He knows what he's doing. He has had tremendous success. He's got a lot of stuff up his sleeve he can pull out. He's got a great background in style of defense that can give you problems. They played great last week against Arizona State. You can't tell by the score, but the defense played like crazy in that game. They looked loaded up, fired up, well schooled, great intensity, all that. That's what gives any team a chance to beat somebody. So we have great respect for what they're doing over there and what they're capable of doing and know they have it in them to put together a game that can knock us off. We're going to do everything we can to not let that happen.

Q. You mentioned the phone call with Rick Neuheisel earlier in the year. How long have you known him? Do you have any relationship outside of football?
COACH CARROLL: I've known him just through coaching. I don't know him well at all. We had an event we went to with Nike, we were there for a couple days, so I got to know him a little bit then. That's all.

Q. Do you think people will start to look at this game as a rivalry between the two of you?
COACH CARROLL: I don't know. They can do whatever they want. I would never sign off on that. You know, I think this is we're fortunate to be at these universities that the rivalries stood way beyond us. I don't think it's about people. I think it's about the universities, the history, all that, certainly the location and all the natural things that fit into this. I don't think it has anything to do with one person versus another.

Q. You mentioned the other day after the game the seniors won the Pac-10 Conference every year they were here, beat Notre Dame every time they were here. They didn't beat UCLA every time they were here. Is that the rallying cry?
COACH CARROLL: I didn't mention that about Notre Dame that night. We did talk about championships.

We don't need rallying cries. We don't need external stuff from the past or any of that kind of stuff. We don't operate that way. This is a chance for us to finish off a season in great fashion and it's a championship opportunity for us to win our conference outright. That's what our whole design is set up and structured to pursue. So we've fortunately put ourselves in position to get that done, and now we got to capitalize on it. We won't talk about last year, years in the past, when Gary (indiscernible) was playing, all that stuff. We're not going to that...doesn't matter. Those were great games at that time. We love them, respect them. I loved watching them when I was growing up. But this is not what this is about to us. This is about right now.

Q. Marc Tyler came in and ran so well. Would he have been that effective at first?
COACH CARROLL: No, we were coming off the ball well at the end of the game. That's the time when we love to run the football, in the fourth quarter. You know, Marc has kind of an attitude about the way he runs. At this time, that's a great role for him to play for us, because he established himself, gets his game right. He's going to be a tremendous player for us in the future. I'd love to see him get to play again this week.

I think he would have been effective early on, too. He's a really good player. He's just getting going. You know, Marc has had a tremendous amount to overcome with his injuries. He's full speed. He's been healthy for about, you know, almost two months now, which is the longest stint that he's had in the two years.

You know, he's making the pitch for himself, for the competition that comes up in the bowl preparation time, in the springtime for next season. He's going to be right in the middle of it. He's the biggest, strongest guy that we have, and he's just getting started. I'm really excited about him.

You can see, he's got the shake 'n bake to him. He's got style to him. He's a really good catcher...he's got great hands. He's more than a willing blocker. He's a very capable blocker already at this stage. He's a well rounded football player that's going to figure in. I'd love to see him play more in the last couple games here.

Q. What makes Taylor Mays so effective? Where does he rank on free safeties?
COACH CARROLL: First off, he has tremendous athleticism. He's the biggest, strongest, fastest guy that you're going to find. His numbers are enormous. That's nice to have that. But what makes him who he is, he's really a diligent competitor, man. He works so hard at doing things right. It's so important for him to be the best he can possibly be. He applies himself in every way that he knows. He eats right, sleeps right, takes care of himself, does his schoolwork, does everything. He studies the game of football as much as any pro studies the game of football day to day during the course of a game week.

He brought in some great attributes. He learned a tremendous amount from Kevin Ellison. Kevin taught him how he could study the game, how he could carry himself as a football player here. He's benefited from that. He's caught up with Kevin. They play side by side now. He's a vicious hitter, as well. When you run that fast and you weigh 230 something pounds, he's over 230, and you're a willing hitter, you're going to bring it. And he does that.

There's a lot that goes on in his position that you don't see that he deserves credit for. If you think about the last two seasons or the last three seasons, how many times somebody's taken the ball, thrown it over our heads down the middle of the field, you can't remember because it hasn't happened. He's been incredible at giving us consistent play on the deep end. It goes quietly in some regards, but people don't even try.

So that's a big factor for any defense to have that aspect solidly in hand. So he's been a great player for us. And he knows, too, he's still learning, he's still growing as a player. He's really picked up his play making here in the second half of this season. I think he's really confident in letting it out. You're seeing great play from him. I can't imagine anybody playing better middle safety, deep safety than he is anywhere in the country.

Q. Is he the fastest guy on the team?
COACH CARROLL: He is. There are guys that want to race him. Joe is not backing off of that. He's run the fastest 40 times for us.

Q. What does he run?
COACH CARROLL: I don't know. Don't even want to say it. You won't believe when I tell you.

Q. Interceptions aren't the only thing?
COACH CARROLL: No, absolutely. He's a big us a tremendous consistency. We have had really good safety play over the years. It's something Rocky has done a great job of schooling our guys at. But he's the most effective and the most dominant player back there.

Q. Talk about where this game ranks in your eyes about the great college rivalries, a game that you look forward to every year?
COACH CARROLL: This is a classic. We talked about a different nature about the rivalry last week when it's across the country. This is the classic crosstown rivalry. You know, I don't know how it ranks. I know in California it's as good as it gets. It's an awesome spectacle. Everybody loves it. Everybody talks about it all year long. Both schools take great pride in owning the upper hand. It's worth everything to our fans and our alums and all of that.

All of that taken into account, you know, as well as just it's championship time, it just makes it a beautiful event for college football and for our area in Southern California.

Q. Can you talk about what you've evaluated of Kevin Craft?
COACH CARROLL: He's been a very accurate short range thrower. They've featured a ton of short and midrange passes. They've tried to move the ball and control the ball with that. Norm has done that for years, knows how to do that. He's brought Kevin all the way from the bottom of the depth chart all the way to the top of it, found a way to get him to contribute. He has good legs, runs well with the ball when he takes off and runs. They use him out of the pocket on the nakeds, contain passes and stuff, and he's effective out there. He's still a young starter for them, learning the game. They've had some problems with their turnovers.

But, you know, they're trying to find a way to get him to fit into the offense and complement the rest of it. They're working hard at it.

Q. You had some great defensive performances in individual games through the years. When you look to tape, the game against Notre Dame, is this as good as you've had?
COACH CARROLL: It was pretty close to. It was almost a perfect game. We gave up one explosion play in the game, which is really hard to get through a college football game without giving up one of those plays. I think they had four first downs and one of them was by penalty or something like that. So it was a huge effort by the guys.

So I don't think it's that much different than other games that we played. We've had a few shutouts during the year and all. I think respecting Notre Dame, Coach Weis, all his background, all that, I think it's a great accomplishment for our guys.

Q. How do you handle the two straight rivalry games?
COACH CARROLL: Really well, really well (smiling).

Q. Do you have trouble with the emotional impact of the Ohio State game, the emotional impact of the senior's final game? Are you going to spend any time dealing with that aspect of it?
COACH CARROLL: A little, yeah. In every way we're trying to deal with all of the aspects to what can cause you to be distracted, particularly in a chance here to finish off your season. There's a lot of stuff that starts to add up at the end of the year, elements that are not that aren't so obvious during the regular part of the season.

It's the last game for the seniors. It's the last game for the whole team, the last time to go out for the next, whatever, almost two months. In that, guys can look at it like this is their last opportunity to do things, make plays they haven't made, all kinds of things can come up.

The fact that there's a lot of personalities on the other team that our guys know, they grew up with, all that, that always adds to the kind of relationship of the game with the other team that's different than other teams.

So all of these issues, plus coming off a big game, going into a big game, and it's a championship opportunity, I mean, all of those things start to add up as added elements that, even though each game is a championship game to us during the season, this one now is the last one of them. So it has some additional issues that we have to deal with.

So I started yesterday right in on it. I'm going to try to make clear to these guys so that we can practice really well. That's the whole point, practice really well. If we get that done, we're most of the way home to having a chance to perform really well. We have to keep the conversations out of our heads and be in the competitiveness of the day's work. That's what allows to you add up the elements that give you a chance for a good performance.

But there are some issues with this, yeah. It's a unique rivalry and all that. We can't ignore that. We have our ways of dealing with it, and I hope we do it really well. We'll find out.

Q. What is the status of fullback Stanley Havili?
COACH CARROLL: He's going to play. He says he can go. The trainers think he can do it. He's going to be slowed down during the week here. We'd love to get him some work at the end of the week. But in the meantime he's going to have to get some rest to make sure we maximize the recovery time.

Q. What is the status of safety Kevin Ellison?
COACH CARROLL: He's going to go today, see what he can get done. We'll see how he responds on Wednesday, the next day, see if he can take the pounding. He rehabbed all weekend, did all of the right stuff to give him a chance to do this. It will be limited today, but we want to get him out there, see what he can do. We'll kind of wait and see.

Q. Were you pulling for Oregon last week? Were you aware of what was going on while you were playing?
COACH CARROLL: I did see the score on the scoreboard. Our new scoreboard looked great, so I knew.

It didn't really factor into anything that was going on. I was kind of surprised at the magnitude of the score. I can only think about Mike Riley up there with a great chance at home, all that, they just couldn't slow them down. It must have been so disheartening to them, all that was riding on that thing.

Yeah, you know, so... It didn't really sink in that, okay, something had happened with that till we got in the locker room, to tell you the truth.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

Now on Pac-12 Network
8:00 PM PT

Airing on:

  • Pac-12 Network
  • Football: Inside Pac-12 Football
    TODAY | 11:30pm PT

    Airing on:

    • Pac-12 Network
  • Football: Nevada at Washington State
    TOMORROW | 1:00pm PT

    Airing on:

    • Pac-12 Network
  • Football: Football Pre-Game Show
    TOMORROW | 2:00pm PT

    Airing on:

    • Pac-12 Network
Get Pac-12 Networks
Pac-12 Networks Channel Finder