Carroll Discusses Saturday's Game At Notre Dame

Oct. 16, 2001

USC Head Football Coach Pete Carroll

'We regrouped for this week's game. We had a good outing against Arizona State. I'm really happy...we had a chance to have some fun in our win. We played a solid football game in a lot of areas and put back-to-back weeks of pretty good football. We didn't get the win at Washington, but we are showing some consistency. I like that we are developing a style of offense. We continue to get after the football on defense and created some turnovers. A couple of things that were notable. I thought Carson Palmer had a great football game last week. He really has put back-to-back weeks of solid ball for us. He ran the ball well and made some really good choices with some audibles at the line of scrimmage. He made some big throws. The explosion of Sunny Byrd on the scene really helped us out. He gave us a different style of a runner. He attacked the line of scrimmage and showed he can be physical. It's a real plus to see that change. We are in a transition with Sultan McCullough and we don't know if he's going to make it back this week. We will still try to use Darryl Poston, Chris Howard and Sunny in that mix so we get a little change up in our style. We will put that together to make it an effective part of our running game. We look towards this as an exciting week. It's a big, big deal. It's why we come to SC. It's a tremendous matchup. It feels a lot better after coming off a win and feeling like we have accomplished something. It gives the kind of confidence needed to put together a big-time win in South Bend. We get some guys back off injuries. Joe McGuire and Derek Graf will be back. Bobby DeMars comes back today and Chad Pierson will practice for the first time in awhile. We lose a couple, but we get some strength back so we will see how it all comes together. I know there is a lot of enthusiasm.'

Talking about the impact of last week's win...

'It's considerable. It was a hard streak that we had to deal with...we had to endure it and hopefully we can make some positives. I hate learning the hard way. I am really pleased that we were able to maintain our attitude through it. We played very aggressive through that whole portion and it looks like we are coming around and playing better football.'

Talking about the atmosphere playing at Notre Dame...

'I have never been there so I don't know specifically. Everyone has had a lot of advice for me and how to deal with the it. We are going to make it a first-class trip. We are leaving on Thursday to make sure we can adjust to the time change. We will practice back there and we have an opportunity to see the College Football Hall of Fame. It will be fun to see all of the SC guys in there. We are planning on really embracing the opportunity. This is the first time for me and I know for some of our other coaches.'

Talking about style of offense that is tougher for Notre Dame to play...

'I think Coach Davie would tell you that they struggled a little bit, regardless of what was going on. They had a little bit of trouble with the offense in turning the ball over early. They have really settled that and adjusted. Their offense is their emphasis and I think it's less risky now. They are not throwing the ball quite as much, using the option more. They are highlighting the quarterback's abilities. I don't think it has had anything to do with the other guys and I think they would probably tell you that.'

Talking about impact of this week's game...

'I will never give you a number one through 10, but this is the first time to play our opponents on our schedule that we take advantage to make a good first impression in our favor. We haven't done as much as I would have liked, but here we are against Notre Dame. It's a matchup that we would like to continue to have. I want to make sure that we come and play really hard and give them a good football game. It's significant in the first time, but more if we can make a great first showing. This is the biggest game that we've had in a traditional matchup and we have another big one at the end of the year. We look forward to it.'

Talking about Notre Dame when he first took the job at USC...

'I don't know if it happened in the interview, but I did get a lot of emails. Talking about it with Mike Garrett and Daryl Gross, it was topical from the start about how significant it is and how much weight it has carried over the years. There are a lot of people who say we don't care what you do on the rest of the schedule as long as you beat Notre Dame and UCLA. That is referred to regularly and that shows how important it is to us.'

Talking about progression of the offense...

'For a few weeks we talked about if we could get our running game to a point where we got something going, we found some plays that we are comfortable in calling. We are repeating the plays and getting some continuity there. That has taken some pressure off in trying to move the football just by throwing it. It makes football better for your team. The clock is moving, the quarterback doesn't have to make big plays every series and we can set up our play passes. It has made us a more balanced offense. We are seeing that Carson is benefiting in his individual play and that's why we do it. I think we are spreading the offense a little more and we are more difficult to deal with. In that, we don't have to try so hard to be as fancy. We did a lot of hitches and fade routes last week where the protection was not needed. The game became a little less complicated for us and that's a good thing. It's why we went back three weeks ago and cut back on some things.'

Talking about not playing another quarterback at the end of last week's game...

'In the future that will happen, but right now we needed to win the game and put it away. I like the way we finished it. I was pleased that Carson was in there handling the clock and the team and doing the things that he had to do. I think we need to feel comfortable with how to finish a game. We played some guys at the end and I would think in the future we will be more liberal with our substitutions.'

Talking about best comparison for a past opponent and Notre Dame...

'They are probably more like Washington and Kansas State than anyone. We prepare in similar fashion and we haven't done what we wanted to in either game in handling the run. We are getting better at stuff as they are. It will be interesting. Their quarterback, Carlyle Holiday, is a physical guy where he can run through tackles like he did against Pitt and Texas A&M. He has some real nice plays on his own. That means you have to be deployed well and make a play on the kid because he is not going to go down. He has really found success and it will be difficult for us.'

Talking about throwing fade patterns last week...

'That was part of the plan that we would end up in a lot of one-on-one, bump-and-runs. It was clear that we had that situation and we would like to feel that we can win it on situations like that and force the defense to do something different. What happened is that they did back off a little bit on the corners and we were able to play underneath which was wonderful to see. We actually came back with a hitch-and-go to Kareem. I was pleased with the whole unfolding of the plan and the orchestration was really well done. We like to think that we can go to our guys on either side and find a matchup that we like and wear it out.'

Talking about the difference of a losing streak at the college and pro level...

'I don't think the football part of it is different. I think the difference is the avalanche part as far as an NFL team is concerned when they are having troubles. We weathered this well here. The players get inundated with the questions with an emphasis on the negative in the NFL and that's a very difficult part about coaching in the pros in a difficult town. It can compound and grow faster. I thought our players here held the line very well during a bad streak. The mental side where the players get hammered is much more directed at the players in the NFL.'

Talking about which position Sunny Byrd will play this week...

'He will play at both spots. We need the flexibility because we don't have enough depth right now in the fullback spot. He will play tailback all week. He's a blue-collar guy. He will do the workload and will be involved on special teams. During the game, he will probably be substituted more. Last week, that was probably the greatest 63 yards I have ever seen. It's a great story and I'm thrilled for him.'

Talking about Sunny Byrd's style of running...

'I love it. I was thrilled to see it happen and I was pumped up for it. There is intensity that gets expressed in his running ability that gets carried through to a lot of facets of this club. He ran over a safety in the fourth quarter and did all but knock him out. That's physical football. We handed the ball to Darryl Poston and there was no one that could even touch him because we controlled the line of scrimmage so well. Any football team takes off on that kind of style and I'm anxious to see him do it again.'

Talking about special teams and the kicking game...

'This is a game where it could come down to which team is kicking better. David Davis is in synch right now, his timing is good. Our protection has been solid. We will keep pounding away. It's such a nice thing that when you score a touchdown and it gets kicked in and you can count on it. He hit the ball last week the best he has hit it. Every kick he hit this week was right on the money. We went into the season knowing that was a big question team with that and turning the ball over. I would have like to have thought that the way we adjusted those two facets would have given us more wins for us at this point. I think it will be instrumental for us down the stretch. Keeping the ball and taking care of it is such a big plus...I think it will win some games for us.'

Talking about status of tailback Sultan McCullough...

'He is listed as questionable. It's a day-to-day thing with him. I'm not going to rely on him starting for us. It's been difficult for him and I admire him for sticking it out since he has not been 100 per cent.'

Talking about the thing to worry about with Notre Dame...

'Not being able to control the run. I think they ran the ball over 60 times against USC last year. Their defense has been strict. They hold onto a game well. Now that they are not turning the ball over, they are a really good team. I think they complement the running game well.'

Talking about having former assistant coach Marv Goux talk to the team this week...

'I don't think there could be a more obvious reason than getting Marv here. Marv is everything that SC is all about. He has been a pillar of all the history of this program. He couldn't wait to get here, he is so fired up about this week. I knew he would find a way to get out here to talk to us. Part of it is going back and sharing the stories and making sure we create the right atmosphere in what is going on this week. He is a great friend of the university and our program and I like to see him get jacked up.'

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