Erickson Meets The Press

Nov. 13, 2001


(On Northern Arizona) 'They're 8-2 and I think they are ranked No. 12 in the country in Division I-AA. They're a football team that's had a great deal of success over the years. Jerome Sauers, who is their coach - I've known him quite a while. They are a football team that is very explosive on offense. They're averaging 37 points per game, and they scored 50 points last week. They're very mixed - they run, throw and do a lot of different things.

'Defensively, they've struggled some but that's how their conference is. I coached in that conference for a lot of years when I was up at the University of Idaho. I have a great deal of respect for that conference and the teams in it. It's a game that we are excited about playing, that we need to play, and we're looking forward to it. I know Northern Arizona is right in the thick of things if they are going to be invited to the I-AA playoffs or whether they aren't. We don't see them very often, but from what I've seen on video they are very well-coached and they are dangerous. You look at us - all I can go back to is the two I-AA schools that we've played since I've been here. Georgia Southern our first year, we were lucky to escape out of that thing, and, of course, Eastern Washington last year.

'We just have to play - that's the bottom line. We have to concentrate on what we have to get done this week. We can't worry about the future or what has been in the past, I know that's what our players are feeling right now. So we just have to go to work, have a good week of practice, prepare like we always have, and go out and play the game.'

(Will you use OSU's tough games in recent years against Georgia Southern and Eastern Washington to focus OSU's attention on Northern Arizona?) 'I-AA schools have done it to people all over the country. You look at Washington State and Montana State - just before the half, that's a heck of a football game and then they (Montana State) throw an interception. It's a good opportunity for a I-AA school to have the opportunity to come and play. They don't have anything to lose, they get a chance to win and get things going for them. The difference between us and them, between Division I-A and Division I-AA, is 20 scholarships. They have 65 and D-I has 85. Obviously, they've been able to have success, so we have to be careful. Our biggest concern right now is practice this week, getting ourselves ready to play like we do, and then going out and playing.'

(On OSU's secondary play vs. Washington) 'We felt we wanted to be aggressive out on the corners last week. Those two guys are great receivers. Reggie Williams, in my opinion, is going to be one of the best to ever play the game. We really felt we had to be aggressive and force them to throw the ball down the field as much as we could. Coaching offense, that is a very low-percentage throw if you have to throw it all the time, so that's what we attempted to do.'

(Any indication OSU would bounce back from the loss at Southern California and play the way it did against Washington?) 'You never know how people are going to respond. I really felt that we'd respond well. There have been spurts where we played pretty well during the year, and I kind of had a feeling that if we ever got everything together that we could play really well. Starting with Arizona State - we had three quarters there where we played extremely well, against USC, we dominated the football game, in my opinion, and lost. We haven't been playing bad. I just felt if we came out early and played well that we could have a good football game. I've never had any doubt because we've got great leadership. We've got seniors and juniors that have been successful in our program, and when you have that it makes a difference.'

(Did Jonathan Smith's performance against Washington show what he's capable of when given time by the offensive line?) 'If you look at the game, there were some times he scrambled out and made plays - and that helps - but we had time. We were running the football, we were able to run play-action pass. We were able to slow the rush down, and Jonathan had time and was able to see people down the field, and then he executed extremely well. Any quarterback will tell you if you have time, you have a chance to execute.'

(What are examples of what Smith sees that other quarterbacks don't?) 'I don't know if it is see as much as it is feel, and to understand where somebody is going to be. If you get a pre-snap read of what is happening in the secondary, then you know where someone is going to be because you know what the coverage is going to be. You don't see it after the ball is snapped, you just know where everything is going to be. That's where he is so good. He understands coverages, what people are going to do. When a safety moves one way or another, he knows he is one-on-one on the backside. He gets back, gets set, and knows where he is going with the football. It's more knowing where people are going to be. If you look at the great quarterbacks that have played the game, they have a feel for where people are going to be because they know it, so they throw the ball accordingly. Not getting to Oregon (ahead of Civil War week), but Joey Harrington has that feeling. He understands and he knows where guys are going to be. The great quarterbacks have that. And Jonathan, what he lacks maybe in size, he makes up for with that.'

(Where does Smith rank among quarterbacks you've coached? Or among quarterbacks in the Pac-10 the last few decades?) 'I really haven't looked at it the last few decades. When you look at a quarterback, you look at the win-loss record and he has won a lot of football games. You look at Marques Tuiasasopo last year, he was a great quarterback. Maybe not what he did physically or with throwing the football, but he just won. Same thing with Harrington. Jason Gesser (Washington State) wins. Gino Torretta won the Heisman Trophy because he won at the University of Miami. That's the key - to take football teams and win. What Jonathan has done the last three years is take Oregon State to heights that it has never seen before. He's been the quarterback that's done that, so I don't know if you can say much more about him.'

(Were you surprised by the development of Steven Jackson?) 'You're always surprised a little bit by freshmen, but when we watched Steven in high school we knew that physically, he had some God-given talent, and when he came here during two-a-days and as he went through workouts, we felt we had a special player here. So now he is showing it on the football field. His performance the last few weeks doesn't surprise me at all. When I was surprised was how good he was when we watched him during two-a-days and how good he can be down the road. He has a long way to go, but he has a chance to be really good.'

(On Saturday's game being the final home game for seniors) 'We don't handle things differently. It's their last hurrah at home, and when you go through this group of seniors, like I said about Jonathan, it is a group that has won more football games than any class here ever at Oregon State. When you look at that group that has turned this particular program around - from 3-8, to 4-7, to what we have been able to do the last few years - they are special because they are an intricate part of getting this thing turned around, which has enabled us to recruit better, and has enabled us to get young guys in here to keep this thing going. To me they are a special group just because of that. It is going to be a special afternoon for them. You have a running back that has a chance to do something that has never been done in the Pac-10. You have a quarterback breaking all kinds of records. Those are two special things, but forget those and look at the other seniors - the Kyle Rosselles, the Chris Gibsons, the Vincent Sandovals - the guys that have been in the trenches. The James Allens, the Jake Cookuses. Those guys have done things you probably haven't seen in the headlines, but they've been as big a part of the program as the seniors that have gotten a lot of publicity. Those guys are going to come back for games every year, and they are going to be a real big part of Oregon State in the future as far as being supportive of the football program. It is a group that is very special to me, and it should be very special to Oregon State.'

(How important is it to you for Ken Simonton to get 1,000 yards rushing this season?) It would be special - the first time in the history of the Pac-10 (for a back to gain 1,000 yards for four years). I'm aware of it. I guess he was two yards short of Marcus Allen (for second on the Pac-10's all-time career rushing list) when I kneeled the ball (at the end of the game against Washington). Stats don't come into my mind. It's important, but I sure in heck wouldn't do anything to get him those yards that would ever hurt this team's chances of winning. The most important thing is winning, and then we go from there.'

(Biggest concern about Northern Arizona?) They are very explosive offensively. They have scored points against everybody. They are very talented at the skill positions. They have good running backs and their quarterback has been around. They can score points. We have to make sure we keep things in front of us and don't give up the big plays, because they've had a lot of big plays the last 10 games.'

(On the impact of last week's win over Washington going into final two games) 'It's a huge boost for us, without a doubt. What happens to you a lot of times is, you maybe go into the last part of the season knowing that you aren't playing as well as you should, or maybe you are better than you have showed. But until you do, that confidence level isn't where it should be. Beating them like we did here is nothing but plusses going into this game and then the first of December. We know what we are capable of doing if we do the right things. It is big, no question about it.'



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