USC-UCLA Football Press Conference Quotes

Nov. 13, 2001

Football Press Conference - Nov. 13, 2001

USC Head Coach Pete Carroll

'This week, for us, is not about records. It's not about winning seasons. It's not about bowl games or even momentum at the end of the season. This game, this match-up, this rivalry is enough in itself. It's meaningful enough to us - and I'm sure to UCLA - that we're playing each other. I think it's fitting that we would have the memorial for Coach John McKay today because he has meant so much to this rivalry and so much to this university. I think it is in his honor - along with the rest of the stuff that goes with it - that we approach this week as a very special week. Coach McKay was a great competitor and he set the standard for everyone who followed here at 'SC. I'm well aware of it and I'm honored to have the chance to follow in his steps. He set the standard.

'We're really pumped about this week. We're excited about it and we can't wait for the game to get here. It's going to be a great match and we can't wait for it to get started.'

Re: Injury Status...
'We have some guys coming back right now. Some guys are getting stronger. This week, being the last week of the season, I'm counting on everyone to be in uniform, strapping on their helmets and getting out there no matter what they're feeling like. We expect to have a lot of guys on the practice field. Jacob Rogers is a little questionable right now. Keary Colbert is questionable right now. They'll both be dressed out but I don't know if they'll be at full speed. Some guys are still healing. Charlie Landrigan feels better. Sunny Byrd's in better shape. Carson Palmer is better than he's been. Frank Strong is better than he's been. Ryan Nielson, after not having practiced all last week did play. Guys like that will be out at practice. With the energy of this game, and the fact that it's the last home football game of the season, I think our guys are all going to fight to get back. We'll be pretty healthy for this game with a couple of exceptions. We'll miss Matt Grootegoed terribly. It's a terrible loss to not have him in this game. Chris Prosser and John Cousins will step up in his place. Grant Mattos is going to be going full speed. Him and Darryl Poston are two of the guys that might come back.'

In the difficult times of the season, did you ever waiver with your decision to keep Carson Palmer in the game?
'Even in the times where we were having trouble winning games, I never felt like Carson Palmer was the issue. I have always thought that he's the best guy to be out there for us. He's the guy who gives us the best chance to win and we just needed to support him better from all areas - whether it was running the ball or playing better defense or protecting him better. I think the guy has always given us everything he has had, he's given us every chance when he's been out there. He's a great competitor and he can make plays to win football games.'

Re: UCLA's Matt Ware...
'He did a very good job of coming in last week and making an impact on the game. We'll know when he's coming in. He could wind up in a number of different spots on their offense. There's a lot of stuff they can do with him.'

Do you always put your best guys on defense?
'Defense is one of the hardest positions to play. They are guys that can make plays and do special things. You can do more things to cover up your athletes on the other side of the ball. You get exposed athletically on the defensive side. I don't necessarily agree with that old adage across the board. You always have to take the athlete into account, you have to consider his nature. But if you find a great athlete you have to find a place to fit him in wherever. We feel the same way about Frank Strong. We played him on both sides of the ball last week and that's rare for a college athlete.'

Re: Importance of special teams...
'That's fundamental football. First off, you have to eliminate the negative things and then you try to create any way you can. When you get real consistent play on special teams it impacts the whole game because you're not taking steps backwards to move forward. We've been getting pretty good play these last few weeks. That's real good play when you can get good field position and take advantage. That part of our game hasn't been as sharp as we would like it but we're doing okay.

Re: Impressions of Robert Thomas...
'I think he's a fantastic football player. He uses his athleticism and speed. He's a very instinctive kid because you see him snap and attack things. He's not cautious in any aspect of his play. They have a structure that allows him to be the most productive tackler. He's a very, very good blitzer and will be a big-time prospect on the next level.'

Has this game always been important to you?
'Well I grew up in Northern California and I have always tuned in to this game. It has always been a great spectacle. The first time I had the chance to see one was between my college and high school years. I got in the car with some buddies and we drove down to see the game. The one where Jimmy Jones hit Sam Dickerson in the corner of the endzone. It was significant to me when I was growing up and I've always followed the game. It is one of those great match-ups where the weather is always good on gameday.'

Re: Preparation for UCLA's offense...
'Fortunately we saw them last week in a game of critical nature where they did everything they could to win the game. We had a chance to see the two running backs. They both have good qualities. Much like Deshaun Foster, they run big, they run through tackles, they're not guys who always try to beat you with speed. They've obviously recruited a certain style running back, which they like. Both of them ran well and they ran the ball quite a bit. They showed confidence with them and I think we got a good look at them. Foster's an extraordinary runner and he's so good once he gets in the clear. We don't know how these guys will do in every opportunity but they have a good running game, regardless.

Re: Tailback situation...
'We have a few guys that we played last week and we've had some good plays out of our guys. Sunny Byrd is going to pound the football for us and we'll mix our runs with other guys coming off the bench. Chris Howard will play again at running back. Eric Reese will play some running back... he did a nice job with the chances he had. Sunny will start the game and we'll try to make it through with the rotation of those guys. They're much different style runners and we'll just find a way to do it.'

Re: Recruiting importance of this game...
'There's no question that kids growing up in Southern California re tuned into this game. Those things are important factors, and it's definitely a product that comes out of the game, but right now it is not that important. It's just about this rivalry and my first opportunity to be part of it. There's no doubt about it that there's bragging rights that come out of this game.'

Re: Security measures this week...
'I just think that there is an opportunity for someone in the area that might want to see what we're doing. Whether it's 'SC or UCLA, that doesn't matter, but I'd rather have a little bit of privacy regarding our preparation. And obviously our guys did a great job spotting the guy in the tree.'

After coaching one of the rivalry games at Notre Dame, what did you learn?
'Don't fake the punt.'

Re: Importance of record and bowl games as a result of this game...
'I would think that people are interested in what this game could set us up for - a bowl game - but all that stuff happens after the fact. This is all about one great football game and one great opportunity. The rest of it takes care of itself.

What other rivalries have you also been impressed by?
'Of all the rivalries, the one I've been most impressed by is Ohio State-Michigan. That is an extraordinary event. The build-up during the week... the players... the people close to the programs that are the fabric of the institution... It was a great ballgame and it's a great atmosphere. That has been the best one in my career, but there have also been some tremendous ones in the NFL. The Vikings-Packers was a great rivalry. The Vikings-Bears was a great rivalry. The Rams-49ers was a good one. It's one of the real great aspects of our sport - the fact that the season often culminates in these types of matches. As soon as I got involved here people's conversations were always surrounding the Notre Dame and UCLA football games and it was clear that, that was the focus.'

Re: UCLA's defense...
'These guys are really good and they don't have to do anything special. They just lineup and play. They really did a great job in revamping their defense and changing their style and becoming so effective so quickly. It's really impressive. They're pretty basic and they just go out and play. They have good athletes that run real well and they're coached very well.'

How would you analyze your first year?
'It's been one of frustration. I can't help but go back to what would have happened if we had stopped Oregon... where would we be right now. If we had just found a way to get off the field in that Oregon game we would be in a totally different situation right now. The whole conference has come back to 5-and-2 seasons. To me, the thing to shoot for is to win the conference. We were so close to being on the other end and there's no telling what would have happened there on after. Regardless of what happens from this point on, I will always feel bad and be frustrated that in my first year we weren't able to get that done. We've carried a lot of frustration even through our great turnaround.'

Have there been any surprises in your first year?
'I'm very surprised at how much I love it. I never realized that I would like it this much and I didn't realize that I would fit in so well. I've had so much fun with the environment that I work in and the players I'm coaching. I had a sense for it, but had I known this I would have been coaching in college 10 years ago. I didn't realize it then, but it's really clear to me now. One of the things that did surprise me was how good the offenses are. The schedule has been difficult and the offensive players we've faced have been very good. It has posed a difficult challenge with each team. It is a really impressive conference in that regard.'

Re: Fifth-year seniors...
'I think it's really clear that young men that choose to come to USC do so to win championships. They come here to do special things and to be proud of being part of the legacy. This group has not had the fortune of seeing that end of it. They will always be frustrated about their time here and that's what bothers me about this season - that I wasn't able to help those guys get what they came here for. But I've said to them on many occasions that I can see that we're building a championship team here at USC and the guys that are part of this year - the seniors - are the guys that have layed the foundation. I hope as they finish their career, I can help them to understand and appreciate their experience here. There's no doubt - this is a new day for USC. This is a new style and it's a style that will give us a chance to really build something.'

Do you think the media has been fair to you?
'For the most part, yes. I think the media has had an opportunity to do and say and think whatever they want. Honestly, I really respect that people do say what they feel and think. In the professional arena, that's part of the deal. I do like it when people work hard to figure me out. I appreciate it when people take the time, give me the opportunity and ask the kind of questions to find out who you really are instead of just prejudging. But I think I've had my fair shot.'

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