USC-California Football Press Conference Quotes

Nov. 6, 2001

USC-Cal Football Press Conference Quotes

USC Head Coach Pete Carroll:'I was really pleased with what we did last week with the special teams. It was the best game by far as a group in all areas. It's kind of been coming on for us to have a chance to do this. Our punt team did really well. Obviously, we blocked a punt for a touchdown and made some real nice plays in coverage. Troy Polamalu, who continues to just make plays, led them. He's such a fantastic player. We have found ways to use him in the kicking game, where he can really excel. He's been a leader for us. That phase of our game is part of it. We had a tough defensive game. We needed something to give us and edge and the kicking game was certainly there for us. It's been a long haul. We have to try and do it again. I'm pleased overall and have gotten to the point where we rely on our kicking game to win football games as opposed to just hoping it doesn't lose a game for you. There is no question that (special teams coach Kennedy Pola) has done a great job with these guys and they have responded well even under the circumstances of losing a number of core guys on our teams with the linebacking problems we have had. I'm really pleased about that. We can count on that to continue to develop. The other side going into the Cal game, there are some emotional feelings about Tom Holmoe. He is a guy that I love and had such a fantastic time working with and have so much respect for him. I'm disappointed for him after the five-year shot and it hasn't worked out. But he's a fantastic person and he's going to be successful wherever he takes his next step. What I do know is that he is a fierce competitor and he'll get his guys revved up for to do something special these last couple of games. Unfortunately, his announcement comes this week and he may have a thought this will give his boys a charge to come after us. I'm sure they will rally and play a heck of a game for him. I'm sure his team feels strongly about him as a person and they are going to want to send him out on a high note. We are going to have to be at our best. We are struggling to get our wins as it is, so we are going to really have to play well at Cal.'

Talking about comparison of Troy Polamalu to safeties playing in the NFL...

'He's a dead ringer. He's a fantastic player. This kid's an All-American kid in every way. I have coached some of the best safeties around and Troy's as good as all the guys I have coached. He is creative, he can make plays, is fast and uses his speed. He is tough and instinctive. He has a great heart, which the great players have. He is as good of a football player as you will find in this conference and he has shown it week in and week out with fantastic consistency. I was hoping if we took on this group of guys, we could find a safety that we can highlight that I have been fortunate to have in other places. He does the things that our guys in New England did. He is right in the mold of good kids. It's exciting to see him play. You notice we feature him in a lot of areas. We ask him to do a tremendous amount, but he always answers the call. He'll be an NFL player and a high draft pick. He will be very successful.'

Talking about designing the punt block around Polamalu...

'That is exactly how we prepared it. We tried to make it very difficult in the width that the center had to cover to block him and Troy was ready as the center did come his way that he would counter any punch knowing that it wouldn't be a great punch. It was designed beautifully and Troy hit it perfect. The great part is he finished the play. Most times, guys get free in that instance and there is a big gap and they don't make the block. You put Troy in a good situation, he is going to make things happen.'

Talking about taking California too lightly...

'I think it is one of those opportunities that where that could happen. We are just not letting it happen. We addressed the guys, we blasted them yesterday and will continue to be on them. It's a matter of where we can't overlook anything we are doing and expect to be successful. It's really the coaches' job to make sure we are on task. I have to make sure that has to happen. It's no different than any other week. Every one of them is a chance not to be prepared mentally and physically. This week, knowing that you are coming to the end of the season, you just can't overlook anything.'

Talking about prospects of playing in a bowl game...

'We are a week closer to that and how we play will determine that. To me, it's the wrong thing to dwell on. We have to do everything we can to win games. If we get to the next game, we'll be sitting there and we should be in a bowl game. But that's a tall order right now. We are just trying to get a win this week.'

Talking about playing overtime against Oregon State...

'After the game got to that last second and we ran out the clock, I was thrilled to be in overtime. (Oregon State) had a chance to win the football game with a late kick, but I was more excited to be presented with that opportunity because we had prepared for a long time and I just had a feeling like we could really respond. That's the way I kind of look at things. I was looking forward for them to be pumped up and be excited about this challenge. They went out and had that exact frame of mind and executed real well. There was one play in the overtime that Oregon State outexecuted us and it was that third-down play. Other than that, we did exactly what we wanted to do. I was really pumped up about it. It was a great moment for us. We needed to do it. We had the opportunities over the season to do it and we missed our chances. It made this one that much more sweeter that we finally got it done.'

Talking about special kickoffs against Oregon State...

'We really have had to become resourceful on our kickoffs due our depth problem. Kennedy has done a very good job to find a way to do something each week to give us a chance. We struggled in the early part of the season on kickoff coverage team. We found a way to keep people from sprinting the ball back at us. It's not going to last forever. There are going to be some things that Cal will try to get done I'm sure and try to offset that. It's a matter of trying to find things that will work. When you squib kick the ball like we did, that can happen where you can bang it off a guy. Fortunately, we had a chance to get the ball and our guys scrambled and did a great job of coming up with it. We were lucky that it happened.'

Talking about Cal quarterback Kyle Boller being 4-0 in his career against USC and UCLA...

'You can see that he has big-time plays in him. He lit it up in the fourth quarter again just last week. There is no question about his ability and his playmaking. I'm sure he is coming into this game with confidence that he can beat SC and that will only help the rest of his players because they will feed off of that. He is one of the real leaders on the team and to have a guy with that kind of confidence, I'm sure we will get a really good game from him.'

Talking about Cal's dominance against USC in the last couple of years ...

'I have heard the background behind it with Kennedy and (defensive line coach Ed Orgeron). They have had a difficult time moving the football against their defense. You look at their team and their offensive coordinator, Al Borges, does a great job. They do all kinds of stuff which we have had trouble with in the past, scheme-wise. It's a very wide-open offense and gives everyone problems because they have the ability to score anywhere on the field. They haven't had the consistency that they would like, but they can still strike you. On defense, the scheme forces problems. If you are not able to catch them and make the plays that you need to, they can make it a really nasty game. We just have to hope we can make the plays on them. They have got some positive problems from their side of it.'

Talking about lackluster play of offensive line last week...

'It was a real step back for us. We were hoping to keep moving forward. We moved the ball and made some drives against Arizona that just didn't show up against Oregon State. They just had us. We couldn't run the ball and could not protect. At the line of scrimmage, we got whipped. I feel like we didn't prepare as well. The guys were battling and fighting, but the plays didn't occur. I'm expecting that they will play much better this week even though they are banged up. We will help them with the execution of getting the ball out of the quarterback quicker and do the things we need to do to be successful. We thought we could protect, but that was a mistake on our part.'

Talking about allowing sacks...

'We can't let Carson sit back there. If we are going to continue to play close games, the negative plays are the ones that can throw you off kilter. We can't allow sacks. It was a factor in this last game. Whatever it takes not to take the losses, even if it's throwing the ball away, we have to do it.'

California Head Coach Tom Holmoe:'I was pretty upfront about my feelings at the start of the season. I knew this would be my last season if we weren't successful. I truly felt we had a good team and could do a good job in my fifth year and do a good job and continue on. But early in the season, we had a difficult schedule with the two first games and got beat and beat pretty bad and that hurt. The writing was on the wall pretty early. The team never really recovered. Expectations were high and I've never really been around it before, but with the tough games, our team was wounded and we couldn't fight it very well. It was pretty apparent to me that I wasn't going to be back next year and it became important to make sure the team finished up strong and I could bring them through this year. I knew it would be tough because the Pac-10 schedule was looking real grim. A lot of people wanted me to resign early and walk away from it on campus, and I wasn't going to do it. There's no way when things were tough that I was going to walk away from our coaches and players. I was going to finish up the season unless they fired me. The chancellor and athletic director made the decision that they didn't want to fire me. They wanted me to resign, but I wasn't going to resign. I wasn't going to leave the team. I felt it would be too hard on the players and the team and the coaches if I resigned early to make it through. The emotions and the difficulties of having the expectations and not having a coach and looking toward the future is difficult. It's too hard. I didn't know what the time would be, but decided with three weeks to go and USC being a big conference game and rivalry and Stanford next week and a makeup game next week at Rutgers. That with three weeks, the team would have enough strength to try to be able to finish the season with dignity is important. That the players coming back would start to understand that these next three games would have a lot to do with their future and the success of their years at Cal. It took some pressure of the players and some of the coaches. It also gave the university a chance to start a national search, which I wasn't really in favor of if it had been early in the season. It would have been a huge distraction, but now it's in the best interest of the program. It's in the best interest of my players. I brought in every one of those guys myself and it's important for me to take care of them now and look to see what I could do for them in the future, and this was the best time in my eyes.

(re: reasons for the tough season): 'I've thought about this a million times and there are a lot of reasons. Publicly, I can say the expectations were high. There was a lot of pressure because of if we weren't successful, I was going to be gone. The players knew that. They were concerned about that. As things got worse for me, they didn't like it. It made it hard on them. They didn't fall apart, but it was a lot of pressure. Playing Illinois in the first game, a home game, was a big game for us to show what this team was about. We got blown out by a good team. Right now, everyone knows Illinois is a good team. But it didn't really matter back then. The fact was we didn't play well and it didn't matter who it was. And the next week it was BYU at home and as it turns out, BYU is a very good team and they tore us up pretty good. From that point forward, I was done. Not from my perspective, but from the people making the decisions at Cal. And then it became a battle to do the right thing and try to get some wins and do the best we could to improve players and finish and not coast in but to compete. I've got to give it to our coaches and players that they are battling. Under the circumstances, our players are doing a darn good job.

(how have players reacted and how will they react this week): 'I talked to the players in private on Sunday. I had a half hour, forty-five minutes to express my feelings about them and it was quiet. There really wasn't time allowed for feedback and I had to go off to a press conference. Sunday, after the press conference, the players were gone. A bunch stuck around and talked to me. Monday at Cal is our day off, so I didn't see anyone. Today will be our first practice. That will be when I'll get a chance to talk more on a personal basis with the guys. But I don't think there's any question in my mind that our players are great enough kids that they'll play hard. We're not a good team for a number of reasons and SC is a team that is playing very well. They're getting better and getting a feel for one another. But our guys will be excited to finish up for the reasons I explained earlier.

(re: QB Kyle Boller): 'Kyle will start. I'm very proud of him. He's one courageous kid. If there's anyone who will play with fire from his ears in the last three games, it's him. He's taken the brunt of the criticism as far as the players are concerned. And a lot of it undeserved. Obviously the quarterback position is one that you ride the crest of the wave when things are great and when things are not good, you take the unfair share of the criticism. He's been up and down. He started off the season much better. He had a great game at Washington, his best of his career. And then the next at Oregon, he probably had the worst of the year. He was hurt and didn't tell anybody. He had pain going all the way down his side. But he wouldn't tell anybody. Finally, I just grabbed him and found out he was hurting more than he led onto. I took him out and told him to sit out two weeks and relax. That he didn't have to save this team and he needed to look out for himself for a bit. When he came back, he's done a good job. Reggie Robertson has a lot to learn and a big future ahead of him. But I told Kyle I was going to ease him back in and wasn't going to put the pressure on him to start. But he had a great game. Not in the sense of statistics, but in the sense he answered the challenge. At the end of the game he was a bright spot for us. That created the decision to continue with him. There's no reason that he shouldn't be our starting quarterback.

(re: true freshman running back Terrell Williams): 'He goes straight down hill. He gets his yardage quickly. He's a tough kid and fast. But he's not a dancer. He's goes right to the point. He's made a nice transition. We didn't expect him to have to be a player. You know in spring ball, we had Joe Igber No. 1, Joseph Echema No. 2 and Muhammad No. 3. Echema was ineligible and Saleem Muhammad transferred to Portland State. Suddenly Terrell was No. 2. Then Joe got hurt and he was No. 1. He's been a champ with how he's handled it and we are thankful how he's done. He established a lot for his future.

(re: thoughts on USC and this week's game): 'I think that any time you take over a team, there's a transition. Sometimes people are lucky and have a couple magical moments and things click. But usually, it takes a little time to get the personalities together and the philosophies together and to get to know each other and learn how to compete with each other. I know Pete well from coaching with him. I've played for Pete. I love his style. I know some in the NFL criticized him, but that's crap. He can coach. He's a great guy to coach for and to play with and you can see it starting to come together. He's hard to figure out at first. People wonder where he's coming from. But you've just got to trust him. You've got to believe in him. He works hard and cares for the kids and wants to win. He's going to do it. He's got a lot of pressure on him to win the last two games, because if he can get to a bowl game this year, USC should be counting their lucky stars. If they don't it'll be hard. But if they don't he'll be fine.

(re: his plans for the future): 'I'll probably take a deep breath. I feel confident for the future. It's been a great experience at Cal. I've learned a ton and it's helped me grow a great deal. There are a lot of options. I can do a lot of different things. I might coach, but maybe not. I've always had a desire to be in administration. Whether it is in college or in the NFL in the front office. I've had experience at both levels. It has to do something with sports. I'm doing fine. It's a matter of making sure I do what's right for my family.

(re: Cal's recent success against USC and can that be used to build their confidence against USC): 'Well, you look at USC like you look at any other team. You look for certain weaknesses and come up with a game plan you think you can be successful with. You put pressure in those spots and try to expose them and try to get the crack to open up and go for the gusto. USC, we feel, has a few areas we can attack. We felt the same way every game. We did a good job of doing it, but we couldn't sustain it. Now USC has a lot of strengths and we need to be careful we don't allow them to use their successful traits at will against us. The main thing we have to deal with is not USC but ourselves. If we can come out and play with heart and hard for long periods of time instead of it being intermittent, we'll have a very good chance. It's hard to tell what our team will be like. We're kind of like a wounded animal now that can be dangerous and I hope we're that way this week.

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