Carroll, Koetter Comments On Saturday's USC-Arizona State Football Game

Sept. 30, 2003

USC Head Football Coach Pete Carroll

'We have a big challenge ahead of us. Saturday's loss hit us hard. We take a lot of pride in our consistency and I'm a little disappointed that we struggled so much early in the game and had to find our way to get back our team speed. We didn't do that, but we had a productive second half. In overtime, we made a couple of mistakes that were characteristic of the day and there was too much for us to be able to find our way to win. Our challenge this week is to get our focus back and get on track. We need to come out fast and play well as Arizona State will be gunning for us. It should be a great matchup. They have an explosive football team with a lot of great athletes. They have a big-time quarterback and some good tailbacks, so it will be a challenge. I thought there are so many obvious areas to fix and clean up that had not been problem areas before. I'm hoping through the awareness of how you can get beat and falter will get our attention in order. There will be a great sense of urgency to return to our style of play. We are working hard at it.'

(talking about effects of the bye week prior to the Cal game...)

'I think we were not right, it was obvious. Once we played the game and got up to game speed, we were fine. I had to admit it, but that's what happened. We have to be aware of why that happened. I do think there are some circumstances that I understand why that happened. I'm not concerned about it as much as you think because we did get back to game speed and got our game going. The errors are the things we have to make go away. In the preparation this week, I definitely think the game speed will be back.'

(talking about injuries...)

'(Linebacker) Lofa Tatupu has a good ankle sprain. I don't know how bad it is, but he has a considerable sprain, which I think will keep him out this week. His status is in question as well as (offensive tackle) Winston Justice.'

(talking about getting the team refocused...)

'It's already starting. It started in the middle of the first quarter. After the game, it was obvious what occurred. It's counting on good preparation and working against each other and playing hard. We have to remember that the game is a full step faster. This team is determined to do good things and be successful. I just want to make sure we are good and do the right things to give us a chance to win. The focus will be there.'

(talking about if Matt Leinart can not start on Saturday...)

'We had Matt Cassel going yesterday and also working with Brandon Hance and John David Booty. The first thing we do is that Cassel would jump in there and take over. He is going to prepare like he will be starting until we know Matt Leinart's status. He is taking a good turn and is in pretty good shape. There will be a sense of urgency with those guys to get ready to play.'

(talking about running game...)

'Most obvious to me is that we didn't run the ball enough. We need to take more cracks at it so that we get the runners into the speed of the game and facing the timing of the defense. There were not enough carries in spreading it out between two guys. We have to get the running game so it's a factor. It wasn't much of a factor in the Cal game. That helps all phases of the game as we attempt to be a balanced team. We didn't come out and get that accomplished which was one of the issues. We need more carries and everyone is asking about the rotation and that will be determined at game time.'

(talking about key for running game to help the quarterbacks...)

'That is the key for our team success, having the right mix. We are a 50-50 team, I don't mind saying that. We are not a passing team only. That has not changed from last year. This is one of those games that got out of synch. With us being down 21-7, it should not have affected us. You just have to keep on taking your shot.'

(talking about facing ASU's 4-2-5 defense...)

'They are an aggressive football team. They attack and come off the corners and have good speed. Their guys up front are stout. They push their corners to do a lot of work and work in one-on-one situations. This is a system that is familiar to everyone in the conference. These guys are doing well and creating turnovers. We are concerned about this, it's a hard defense to go up against and if they get any momentum, it will be difficult. We need to be able to defend against a balanced attack. You have to play the run and the pass.'

(talking about similarities between last year's overtime loss at Washington State and Saturday's Cal game...)

'Yesterday, our team responded well to the loss. There was a sense of urgency and what happened. It's very similar, being on the road in a conference game. We had a chance to come back in both games and didn't get it finished. I think we are clear on how we could have won the game. I don't think our confidence justified how we played so poorly. We have to come back and do something about it like we did last year. We just have to hang in there and wait. There is a similarity. Our conference is very competitive and it's where everyone will battle each other. You just have to go for it and try to win each one.'

(talking about college overtime versus overtime in the NFL...)

'I think it's much different, the fact that both teams have a chance. I don't have the stats in terms of the NFL, but I know it's about 50-50 in terms of who gets the ball first and ends up winning. I think it's more exciting in the college game. It's interesting how different it is. It has a different tempo. It heightens the excitement level. I like it a lot.'

(talking about play of the defensive line...)

'We were collectively off as a defense. We didn't tackle well and there were some technique issues. There were a couple of busts, just things that we haven't been playing with. Our defense has not played like that very often. It was disappointing to see that pop up out of nowhere. We just need to take care of business.'

(talking about tight end Gregg Guenther, Jr., and wide receiver Mike Williams playing on the field goal blocking team...)

'Gregg was the one who outjumped everyone for the block. It was something that we had been working on for a couple of weeks, specifically for long-distance attempts because of the trajectory. They did a great job. Shaun Cody had an incredible surge on the first block. It was a fantastic effort on the plays.'

(talking about Mike Williams and Keary Colbert and converting long third downs...)

'We noticed how they can make plays. We have to continue to get the ball to those guys. Mike does something special almost every time you hand him the ball. What happens is the lack of efficiency, which causes the issue. If you go back and run the ball better, the third downs are shorter and you have a better chance to convert. We have to take care of a couple of different areas, we have to move the football and make first downs. I hate coming out of a game when we don't run the football. That just bothers me in the worst way. It didn't give us a chance to mix the way we want to mix during the game. Turnovers and penalties affect all of that stuff. It's not just calling more runs.'

(talking about toughness of the Pac-10 Conference...)

'I think it's clear. I have been asked by media members outside the conference how two undefeated teams can get beat...that it means we are not as strong. I think it means that we are highly competitive and have excellent coaches, along with schemes and the ability to move the ball. In these kind of games, anything can happen. I don't like us being in the 34-31 type of games because of the volatility on the other side of the ball. Our conference offers that feature. We think that Arizona State is a team that has a lot of guys that can do many things. Washington is off to a good start as well and everyone is ready to go. We have no idea what is going to happen.'

(talking about team attitude during overtime period...)

'We were composed about it. Our mindset was good. We had a penalty and a fumble. It's hard to win like that. That game could have been much more difficult. We had four turnovers that the defense responded every time. We did not give up any points because of the turnovers or after the blocked punt. I'm sure the Cal coaches are thinking that it could have been a lopsided game. We played a poor football game. When you make two major mistakes in a critical time, it makes it difficult to win.'

Arizona State Head Football Coach Dirk Koetter

(talking team's slump in the last few weeks...)

'It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out if you turn the ball over six times in a Pac-10 game, three of them in your own end of the field, and you can't convert in the red zone to score enough will not win many games in a conference like this. I know people want to dissect our problems and make it complicated, but football never changes. It comes down to the basics. Turnovers...we always tell our players every week that the number one factor in any game is turnover margin.'

(talking about quarterback Andrew Walter...)

'Andrew got to a great start our first two weeks. He was sharp and did not play really well around him with some key guys out. I think what has happened to him the last two weeks is normally what happens with great players is as we struggle, Andrew takes way more blame than he needs to take. He feels the pressure to turn every play into a great play. He tries to do too much and it hurts him overall. I'm such a big fan of Andrew as a person and how he handles himself.'

(talking about tailback Hakim Hill...)

'We have known ever since we recruited Hakim that he was a very talented football player. He has had some inconsistencies both on and off the field that he has had to overcome. Going into this last summer, he really started to turn things around in all facets of his life. Now, it's showing up for him on the field. He has been practicing better. When he got his chance in the Oregon State game, he did a good job.'

(talking about ASU's defense...)

'Well everyone over here was worried about the loss of Terrell Suggs from last year and how we were going to play. Our defense is actually playing okay. The last two games, even though we have lost, our defense has gotten off to a fast start in both games. They have turned the ball over to our offense and put us in short field position. They gave us a good opportunity to get leads and unfortunately, we haven't been able to punch it in on offense. That is very similar to what happened with Cal and USC last weekend. Cal gets off to a tremendous start and USC plays catch up the whole game. That is what we have been doing the last two weeks. We are happy with our inside linebacker play. Other than being a little nicked up in the secondary, which I think will be a little better this week, our defense has performed okay.'

(talking about USC and this weekend's game...)

'I'm not going to tell you anything that you don't know about USC. They are obviously an outstanding football team. You look at their two wide receivers, Mike Williams and Keary Colbert. Williams is a great player, but I think Colbert is the guy that makes them go. I'm really impressed with him. With the offensive tackles they have, you don't see that quality on a team very often. Their tailbacks are explosive as well. On the other side of the ball, there are not many teams who can get a pressure with a four-man rush like they can. They are talented with that front. They have every zone blitz ever invented and they use all of them. They keep you on your toes. If you are not right on top of your protection schemes, you are going to get hit in the mouth. Great speed on special teams for them and what else can you say about their punter (Tom Malone). He's leading the nation and really booming the ball. USC is a fine football team and we have a lot of respect for them, but we are excited to have them come into our place for the game on TV this Saturday.'

(talking about encouragement of Cal's win over USC...)

'I tend to go more towards worrying about what we do. Our players are aware of what happened last week. I think what happened at a couple of different sites last week in the Pac-10 is indicative of how balanced this conference is and how you have to be ready to play every week. We have to focus on the things that we have to improve. We have said before that we have to focus on the simple stuff like turnovers and tackling. If we can keep getting better in that area, that is more important than worrying about if USC or any other opponent is coming off a loss or not.'

(talking about wide receiver Derek Hagan...)

'Derek is a guy that we have to get more involved. He came off an outstanding freshman season where he broke several school freshman records and he dropped a couple of balls early in the season and went through a week or so where he lost his confidence. He came back last week in practice and did a good job. He had a beautiful touchdown catch last week against Oregon State. He played well against USC last year. We have to find ways to get him integrated into the offense.'

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