Carroll, Erickson Comment On USC-Oregon State game

Sept. 24, 2002

USC-Oregon State Media Luncheon

USC Coach Pete Carroll

'This is an exciting time for us to start the conference season. We've been looking forward to it for a long time. Everyone anticipated that the Pac-10 would have a great schedule that you'd have to play and it looks like that. Everyone has got off to great starts. There's no telling what will happen with the conference.

'We start against Oregon State that's just on fire right now. This is a team that is just loaded. (Steven) Jackson at tailback is averaging about 130 or so a game and is not even playing very much. The quarterback has got off to a fantastic start and statistically, you can't expect a guy to have much better stats than 183 QB rating and 15 touchdowns and 1 pick and 300 yards a game. Just remarkable numbers.

'I feel like coming off the first three games that we're better. We survived it physically for the most part. That was a big concern, what would happen playing the tough schedule. We didn't get the win at KSU we were hoping for to make it a fantastic start. But I feel all and all we're ready for the Pac-10. Glad to be back at home. Seems like a long time since we've played at the Coliseum.'

(On CB Ronald Nunn's status and the backup situation)

'Ronald's going to have to have surgery to repair his knee. He had trouble on his knee before and re-injured it. The severity will be determined when they get in there and check it out. But he's going to miss the season and will battle to come back next fall, and it will be all the way to next fall before he approaches 100%. That will be a long road back for him. He was doing a nice job. We were comfortable with him as a starter. Fortunately we had a chance to play Justin Wyatt early and William Buchanon in this last game. I wanted to leave him out there and make him have to play and grow him up in a hurry. Now we have four guys that have been in the front line and that includes Marcell Allmond as well. So that's how we'll work it out. As far as who starts, that will be determined later in the week. Right now they're all competing.'

(On applying what happened against KSU's defense to plan for OSU)

'Kansas State had a unique style. They're extremely determined to challenge everything you do and get all over the line of scrimmage. Athletically, they're so talented, it works really well for them. Some teams would be vulnerable. I think as they go down their schedule, they'll be very difficult for teams. We did learn some things. We got back in a mode where we were under attack and had to find a way to get the ball down the field. It took us a long time but finally we found a way in the fourth quarter. It did take us a while. That didn't surprise me. I thought they could be very hard on us. I thought we could get them early with a couple plays, but we didn't handle the ball very well. It was a difficult night and challenged the young kids, and they'll grow from that. They'll realize how difficult it can be when the place is going crazy and the guys are as jacked as they can get. Hopefully we'll be better for that. I think our experienced guys handled it, but our younger guys struggled a bit. It was even more obvious than in Colorado. We jumped on Colorado, so we kind of took the crowd out of it. I'm certain they learned from this experience and I hope we're better for it ... 'I've been there before,' is what I hope Winston feels and Michael Williams and Tom Malone feels. It can't be a whole lot different than that and they'll be more comfortable next time.'

(On gauging how good Oregon State is)

'It's like Kansas State. I feel the same. They've played so well, if you beat a team, it shows in the scoreboard and tilted 59-19 or something. Fresno State got dumped. They're playing really good football. You have to play well to do that. They're not just doing it with offense. They're doing it by scoring on defense. They're special teams are solid.'

(On Justin Fargas)

'This is the first time Justin Fargas is really ready to go. He wasn't last week. I told him if we could get 15-20 plays by the end of the game, that would be a goal because he hadn't done anything in a long time. We accomplished that and now he's ready to play. He's got his confidence back and that's really important. The nagging hamstring on a fast guy can linger, but he thinks he's over it and it's behind him. We'll see a lot of Sultan and a lot more of Fargas. Sultan has played well and is making plays we thought he'd make and we need to get the ball in his hands more.'

(On USC's punt returners)

'We've worked a number of guys back there. We're developing some choices. Greig Carlson went in there. He's got good hands and is a secure catcher. If you noticed, Kareem caught the first one to get us underway and we put in Greig right after. He handled the ball well. We're developing depth there to take the heat off Kareem. We're not settled there, but I think Greig can do a good job.'

(On WR Keary Colbert)

'He was really clutch the other night. He kept coming through and made big catches. When guys were struggling to catch the ball, he made plays. I thought Norm Chow did a nice job to go to him and get him the ball over the middle in tough situations. He was impressive the way he came through under the circumstances, because other guys weren't doing so well. Keary has been a guy, going into the season, that we felt we'd use a lot in all of those type of underneath, difficult, in traffic (situations). He really comes through there. He's a very good transition guy, catch to run. He really turns up the field well. I was really pleased he came through. He led the come back. He was a standout guy in the game.'

(On WR Kareem Kelly)

'He's got explosive ability and can give you great games. I think he's played very well so far. Aside from the times he put the ball on the ground, he's been explosive. He's catching and running, taking off with the ball better than he was last year. We split some time bringing Michael Williams on with Kareem and Kareem is still making his catches. It's made our depth better. Now it's Pac-10 time and you'll see the guys we really need out there on the field. We've taken the time to develop guys that will help us, but Kareem needs to play big for us, as well as Keary and Michael. But Kareem's on pace to have a big year. He's playing fast and running with the ball well. My concern is he's got to hang on to it.'

Oregon State Coach Dennis Erickson

(Comparing this year's squad to ones in the previous three years)

'It's hard to compare them at this point, only because we haven't started playing in the league. This league is so difficult, I don't know anyone in the league, without having played anyone, even knows how good we are or who is the best. I'm happy I'm where we're at as far as non-league. It beats the heck out of last year.'

(On QB Derek Anderson's early success)

'The first three games, the opponents weren't quite like what USC has played. But Derek is 6-6, sees really well, has a good arm. Physically, he's very talented. But he's what I call a gym rat. He really likes the game, studies the game, spends a lot of time looking at video and has made some good decisions. Last week, he wasn't quite as good as he was in the previous weeks, but he just likes playing the game, is smart and has some physical talent.'

(On tailback Steven Jackson)

'Steve played a little last year and spelled Kenny Simonton and did some good things. However he came in when Kenny softened them up a little bit and now he's had to deal with being 'the' back. Steve's got good feet. He's got bigger. He's probably about 225 now and 215 last year. He has good speed. He likes playing. He's a very physical player and has good vision and has played well so far.'

(On Oregon State's defense)

'We have a lot of experience coming back. Our secondary is one where three out of the four have played a while. Dennis Weathersby is really a good cover guy. He can make things happen. Terrell Roberts on the other side has played a lot. Mitch Meeuwsen has started. Lawrence Turner, a JC transfer, has come in and played real well. Calvin Carlyle is back. That's a start for us. Defensively, we have two tackles, Dwan Edwards and Eric Manning, who have been around and that's a key to what we do defensively if we can get a push there. We have good speed at linebacker in Nick Barnett and Richard Seigler who have made a lot of plays. We run around well and can do things but we can do some things with man coverage that helps the whole scheme.'

(On if he thought that when he was hired at Oregon State, he'd have this much early success)

'I don't know if anybody would have thought that. I just felt that when I left the NFL - not by my choice, but when I did leave - that there was a lot of parity in college football. With the 85 scholarships and being around it as much, I felt there was a chance at a lot of places if you did the right things to at least compete. And we're at that point. We can compete in this league and things are happening. We have a new indoor facility, we're putting a big addition on the stadium. We're selling every game out. Did I think that would happen (this early) four years ago? Probably not and we've been fortunate that it has.'

(On USC)

'USC is, in my opinion, probably one of the better teams in the league. I guess we'll all find out as time goes on. But Pete's done a fine job there, getting these guys playing. Defensively, they're very similar to us. They've got great speed. Their front four, Shaun Cody, in my opinion, is one of the better players in the country at his position. You look at the linebackers they run, and Troy Polamalu is as good as there is. They make things happen. They're aggressive, they play hard, they get to the ball. They're very similar to our defense as I look at them and very difficult to move the ball against. On offense, Carson Palmer is playing like everyone thought he would. He's such a talent. He's not making mistakes and has a great arm and throwing it well. With (Malaefou) MacKenzie and (Sultan) McCullougfh playing, and (Justin) Fargas, this is the first time we've played them with all their backs healthy. McCullough can make so many things happen. (Kareem) Kelly and (Kareem) Colbert are making a lot of plays. The other thing I've been impressed with is the athleticism of the offensive front. Watching Winston Justice play as a freshman the last couple weeks, he's really an impressive guy. They're a team that has a very good chance to win the league. It'll be a heckuva dog fight on Saturday.'

(On USC WR Keary Colbert)

'He's getting open a lot and making plays. He had 11 catches last week. But he's done that. He's been the go-to guy. He's made a lot of plays in the last couple years. He's a person that just makes catches. He gets open and makes plays. He's a guy that you have to deal with. When you look at their offense, he's a guy you have to deal with, except you have Kareem on the other side that you also have to deal with. It's a pretty good situation for USC.'

(On if Oregon State has earmarked this game after the tough loss at the Coliseum last year in which Oregon State dominated the statistics)

'We all know what statistics mean. Nothing. The bottom line was last year, and our players know it, is they made plays when they had to. They got it into overtime, made some kicks, and Carson made that great run at the end. I think you get disappointed, all of us do, coaches and players alike, when you lose a close game because you can go back and think about something I should have done or calls that I made or plays that you make as a player. That's what makes the game so hard. I've been in games when you've been beaten badly and you don't really worry about it because you got your rear-ends kicked in. That game was a close game and we just didn't make the plays. But it's like I've mentioned before, we were 5-6 and if you have to try and get revenge each week, that's a lot of revenge. This is just the first in eight games we've got to play. It's going to be fun. We always enjoy playing in that venue. We're looking forward to coming down.'

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