Carroll, Barnett Discuss USC-Colorado Game

Sept. 10, 2002

USC-Colorado Media Luncheon

Colorado Coach Gary Barnett

'We've played solid. I don't think anyone can watch us play and say we've been terrific. Our defense has been pretty consistent. Offensively, probably not as consistent as we want to be. Our offense is growing into itself and discovering itself. Our defense is sort of established. We missed a bunch of tackles in the first game, which was disappointing. We came back last week and played pretty well. We've had solid performances in two games and that would be about it.'

(On QB Criag Ochs' status and back-up Robert Hodge) - 'Criag will not play this game. He's still undergoing tests. I'm optimistic for a chance of him playing later on. Robert has not had a lot of playing time. We played him a little last year. He played more special teams than anything else. The first time anyone saw him play was last week in the second half against San Diego State. No one really knows. USC won't know and we won't know what Robert will do. In practice he's been very effective - in the spring and in fall scrimmages. He's had a lot of good work. I don't know that they're style is much different, but Craig has more experience in the game and throwing the ball.'

(On Colorado's running backs) - 'We've got two between Chris Brown and Bobby Purify that have had a lot of experience that played well last year. The third is a freshman. Chris has gotten off to a decent start, though he fumbled twice in the first game that basically did us in. he's got off to a solid start. Bobby's been OK. Marcus (Houston) will be out 3-5 more weeks w/ a torn PCL. So he's progressing.'

(On Colorado's defense) - 'Defensively, going into the season, we had a lot of confidence in Tyler Brayton, who's our defensive captain. Sean Tufts is an outstanding player who played well as a sophomore. He played average against CSU. In the secondary, Donald Strickland is probably the most experienced guy we have back there and has played well. We've had to move some guys around early in the season. Drew Wahlroos has been a solid performer. We had solid performances out of our front five last week. We're getting better. We have decent speed. Not USC speed, but decent speed.

(Thoughts on USC) - 'I watched them play Auburn and I was impressed with their speed. I was impressed with Carson Palmer. He played well against us two years ago. In a year he struggled, he played outstanding against us. Malaefou MacKenzie, I was impressed with him. Kareem Kelly was impressive, as was Sultan McCullough. Defensively, Troy Polamalu, what do you do, what do say? He's a great football player. Overall, we were impressed with their speed on defense, how well they ran to the ball. We thought they were physical against a pretty physical team in Auburn. Auburn was very athletic, but it looked to me USC was even more athletic. We've been really impressed with them.'

(On what impact the freshmen have had on the team) - 'Well, Jeremy Bloom probably won't play in the game. He's got a turf toe issue. We're going to have to see how long he'll be out. Anyone who's watched the first game, really the first two, can see the kind of ability he has. He broke a punt in both. It's up in the air as to whether or not we'll have him and for how long. We are playing a lot of freshmen, Jeremy's one. J.J. Billingsley is one that had an outstanding game last week. We just have to find ways to get him on the field. We think Brian Calhoun will be a really good player. We probably would have liked to redshirt him originally, but with Marcus' injury that won't be possible.'

USC Coach Pete Carroll

'We're looking at this game as a tremendous challenge. It's the first opportunity to go on the road in a difficult setting against a highly successful program. I'm concerned about the distractions of travel and the hotel and the whole transition process and going against an excellent team is doubly difficult. Our focus this week is to get our business taken care of as early as we can this week and turn our focus to the game as we travel to Boulder and give a great effort. I'm pleased how we've come back out of the bye. We're getting stronger. We still have some concerns with some injuries, but we're getting stronger. (The bye) worked well for our young guys. We set the theme of the week to try and develop our depth and bring them along and force feed them some football to give us an opportunity to play these guys as much as possible through the season to help us overall and maintain a good tempo and speed. We know we have a very difficult opponent, a team that runs the ball as well as Colorado does. They play a difficult style of eight-man front football on the defense that will give us problems. They like to blitz you and pressure you. We really have a difficult game. We're hoping we can build from the first week.

(On USC's injuries) - 'As far as our injury situation, we're working some guys back in. Fred Matua practiced some yesterday. Zach Wlson got on the field for the first time. Justin Fargas ran some yesterday. We're taking them one day at a time and will see how they come back. I think Aaron Graham is the only guy we're concerned about making the game as a back-up linebacker

(More on Fargas) 'We ran him early in practice, put him through the conditioning. He'll try to do more today and work him back to full speed where he has his confidence level and we feel good about him. It's been quite a while since he's had his work, so we'll be hesitant to give him a big load if he's available. But we certainly want to get him back and out there and start his return ... He's a tremendous competitor. He brings great attitude. He's a hardball player. He'll get after guys. Blocks hard and runs at you and really enhances the attitude of aggressiveness. I'm hoping he'll be part of our team soon.'

(On winning the Auburn game despite some miscues) 'A lot of things didn't go well, but what did go well was we played really good ball at the end of the game. We executed well, we overcame some adversity, we held onto the ball, worked the clock. That's a real positive and a plus for us. Now we have to come back and do it again. I'm pleased with our effort, conditioning and toughness. I say that because I really respect Auburn. They were a good team with good athletes.'

(Comparing Auburn to Colorado as far as style of play) 'They are similar in that they're defensive-oriented (with) a conservative offense. They want to run the football, work the clock, pound you if they can. Play good aggressive defense, not let you run the football. It's a good formula for success. In that, they're similar. They have good special team works, good kickers and returners, all the pluses that make you a good team. They show all of that.'

(On USC's offensive line play) 'We weren't as consistent as we need to be. But we did some very good things. We protected the quarterback very well, much better than we did last year. We were much more consistent with giving Carson time and space to throw the football. When we needed to run the ball, we did, and we were successful holding onto the ball, which is a plus. But we're not anywhere near where we need to be to be a good running football team. We'll just continue to hammer away at it. When you have a quarterback the stature of Carson Palmer, if you can create balance, he can be effective and we did that ... We have a little bit of a continuity problem right now with Fred Matua out and Zach not in there and until that settles down, we won't find out how good we can be. But we're working at it and we're developing some younger players that will help us in the long haul.'

(On USC's second-half success against Auburn) - 'I think we did it in the second-half of last season. We became that during the course of the year. It was pleasing to show those attributes of composure, the poise you need and the resolve and confidence to go ahead and carry out the game and finish it how you want to. Those are all positive aspects of a winning team and we showed them in the first game. We have to come back and do it again.'

(On whether it's difficult to prepare for a team that has a new starting quarterback) - 'Somewhat, but we do have some background. He's an extremely gifted athlete. He's tough. He was a linebacker in high school. He's a physical kid with great speed that can make plays. I know they used him in the spring and that he's running and moving around and doing the things he can do. He can give you problems. They're not a team that was relying on a big-time pocket-throwing quarterback. Ochs was a movement guy who created out of the pocket. Robert brings that as well. He doesn't have as much experience, but he's so fast, he can make a play out of a broken play, the kind of things that drive you crazy.

(on preparing USC to play against a back-up QB) - 'I've been around so many games that backups come out of nowhere and do what they shouldn't have been able to do. Sometimes guys can create off the bench. I'm sure Robert is dedicated to getting it done. You can think you're getting some relief with a back-up QB and the guy just sticks it to you. I'm hoping that's not what's going on. We saw him on film and saw him finish off a win and I think it's got our attention.'

(On keeping back-up QBs sharp) - 'We've had some struggles to being committed to one guy (as a back-up). It hasn't been obvious to us with Matt Leinart and Matt Cassel. They've worked back and forth. If it was clear, we'd make a clear-cut decision. Right now, Matt Cassel will go into the game first, but I think if we had to go to a back-up, both would probably play. They're both that close. Until they get game time, they'll be hard to separate. But we have two capable guys with Billy Hart pushing them from the back end. I'm hoping we can, in a control-situation, we can get them some playing time. But they have to prepare (to play). It's an ongoing process to get their reps, make a big deal about the turns they get, put them in difficult situations in practice and try to make it difficult for them so they're ready.'

(On seeing three run-oriented teams to start the season before entering the more pass-oriented Pac-10) - 'We're seeing different styles. These next two weeks, Colorado and KSU have a Big 12 style. They hammer the ball and really are committed to working the line of scrimmage. And Auburn too. I've said all along that for these first three weeks, if we can physically handle these first three opponents, physically we'll be ready. But we're not seeing the Pac-10 style. Not as many wide-open offenses that throw the ball and rely on the quarterback to make the plays. But I like that we're going through the physical part now, because we'll be ready for anything at that point. We have a young pass defense and we're working hard with these guys and it gives us a chance to get them in a game where they don't have to see 30 or 40 passes. We will make a transition when we go into the Pac-10 schedule, no doubt.'

(On Colorado's defense) - 'They've done a thing similar to what we did last year when we made a move to move our safeties to our linebacker spots. To get good football players on the field that they like and that adds to their speed. They have a nice system and they handle it very easily. Sometimes you can be limited when you sub, but they're not. They're able to base their base concept of eight-man front football and really make it difficult to run the ball with great speed on the field. That matches up well for them against us. It does cause problems, trying to identify whose who on the defense.'

(On versatile players like Malaefou MacKenzie) - 'Malaefou MacKenzie has a real NFL flair to him. He's so gifted that he can line up as a wide receiver and run intricate routes, but can come out of the backfield with a savvy. It's hard to teach a kid the things he does. You have to be a well-versed, natural athlete to do the things he does. Hershel Dennis does the things he does and we're excited that he can keep us in the style of offense. He can run routes, he can catch the ball and has a natural sense about him. I think you'll see guys, around the country, if they have a guy, you'll see him used like that. We were excited to use Malaefou like that last year, but it didn't work out. Probably my favorite play of the (Auburn) game was when he picked up the blitz and just dropped that safety in a physical fashion. He shown the ability to get out and run and do the dirty work as well. That's versatility and we hope to see a bunch more of that.'

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