Pete Carroll, Mike Riley Press Conference Quotes

Dec. 2, 2003

USC Head Football Coach Pete Carroll

'This is really an exciting time for us. This is a great ballgame that we are going into with everything riding on this game. There will be tremendous focus about the outcome of the game. It's a great match up. Oregon State is a good team. They have great firepower and defense. They have experience. They will definitely be freewheeling it and going for it on Saturday. Our football team is challenged to maintain a level of play and come back and play good solid football. We have taken that approach each week that you have to go after it again. We are hoping that we see the kind of execution that has given us a good run at the season so far where we take good care of the football and play solid defense. That's how we will go about this game. We will not be treating this game any differently than any other game we have played. We will focus our attention to the weekly routine. The process is exactly as it has been. I sense that with a couple of games off, our guys similar to Oregon State have been able to get their legs underneath them. Sunday night's practice was excellent. We had good speed and the guys' energy level was high. We look to capture that today and march through this week. We get one more chance to play in the Coliseum, which is so exciting. This is kind of the exclamation point of the regular season. I know all the conversation and questions you can ask about the BCS, I really haven't figured out the whole process yet. We will deal with it next week. I know we better our chances by winning on Saturday. We are going to go for it in every way. We are going to call on our guys including the ones who are a little hobbled. Matt Grootegoed and Melvin Simmons will have a chance to play in this game. We will have some fun at the Coliseum.'

On health of linebacker Matt Grootegoed: 'Rest has helped him. He is going to practice today. We will get him out there in limited fashion and see how he makes it. He's obviously not in great shape, but he's taken care of himself well through the down time. The nature of him is that he is dying to play. He wants to play so bad. Knowing that we will have another month after this game, he is going to go for it. We are prepared to play without him.'

On Oregon State tailback Steven Jackson: 'He is big and fast and durable. He's the prototype back. He plays almost every play all season and hardly ever comes out of the game. He blocks well and catches the ball well. He is their go-to guy. He is tough at the goal line and can also get outside. He runs through tackles and makes teams look poor tacklers. He's a great prospect and as good as anyone we will play.'

On team play through injuries: 'There is no focus in my mind. There is nothing we can do about it. (Offensive lineman) Fred Matua is ready to step in for John Drake and he could not be any more excited to start on Saturday. Brandon Hance is the same way in being the No. 2 quarterback. He has been trying to get in there all year and finally is that much closer to it. I think the competitiveness on our football team overtakes the thought of being worried about what happens if you lose a guy. Dallas Sartz is a great example, as well as Frostee Rucker. That's how everybody feels. We don't miss a beat.'

On being named Pac-10 Co-Coach of the Year: 'I think it's a great recognition for our staff, to think of it in any other way is wrong. That's recognition by the people we play against that think we have done a really nice job. We respect that and we are proud of it.'

On Matt Leinart being named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year: 'It's a natural. He has had a terrific season. He probably shocked anyone this year. He has been one of the key factors for us. I think his numbers are awesome. More than that, it's his ability to stay consistent throughout the schedule. He has given us extraordinary production on offense.'

On team finishing strong like last year: 'I think we are following the lead from a year ago. We have consistently stressed the importance of finishing strong in all things that we do. As you look at the season, the focus comes onto the last month. You get an opportunity to show how you are going to finish. I think we have been on an upswing. Continuing to play solid in my mind is to be getting better because teams do go up and down to maintain that kind of level. We have learned from the past and it's become part of the fabric of our program. I really love that part of the program. It's something that I'm really proud about. We will continue to try and find it each year.'

On the Pac-10's strength of schedule: 'It's a case of the conference teams being able to beat each other out in surprising fashion. I think the conference is strong. We will see what happens this year when the teams match up against other conferences. All in all, it's a great conference. The competitiveness and coaching is top level. Every game this year was a great challenge for every team. The Washington-Washington State and Oregon-Oregon State games were a prime example. We have had great matchups in the conference. Whether it helps or hurts you...I mean what can you about it. You hope for the best in terms of strength of schedule, but I'm just happy to be sitting where we are right now.'

On filling open game for 2004 schedule: 'We have made lots of calls and we are not having a lot of luck right now. We will play anybody that will play us. It gives us a challenge and makes us a good football team. I don't care if it's the beginning of the year or the end of the year. It's not working out that way. I take a little pride in that not a lot of teams want to play us, but I also understand why they don't want to play us. We are not backing away from anybody.'

On the switch of the Oregon State game date: 'You get another couple of weeks and it just puts you that much closer to the bowl game. In terms of preparation, I kind of like that. We don't need that much time between the games. I think it helps and I don't mind the bye weeks. It's good for us and we are lucky to be playing this week because of the excitement and focus on the game. I don't see any bad sides to it at all.'

On recruiting Matt Leinart: 'We jumped right on him when I first got here. Matt was pretty in tune with coming to USC. It was between Oklahoma and us as I recall down the stretch. He really wanted to be here. He is a southern California guy and wanted to play here. It wasn't a big sales job. He knew what he was getting into here. I can recall that it was fun getting him pumped up about what we were doing here. He was supportive from the beginning.'

On play of Pac-10 preparing players for the NFL: 'I think the technology of the passing game in this conference is as good as it gets. We are doing all of the things that you would need to see except of course the guys are not as good. We turn out a ton of players that go to the NFL. This is an offensive conference that does like to throw the football. That's the biggest change. The running game doesn't change that much. You get spread out and challenged. It's an extraordinary conference.'

On utilizing three running backs: 'I think there is plenty of opportunities for them. There are enough plays that we can spread the ball around. We will have to see how things emerge. Right now, it's really exciting to see how we are doing it. There is an excitement and build up for these guys. You have to make the most of it. I'm so in tune with making it as highly competitive as possible. It's perfect. These guys have to battle for everything they get. If there are issues down the road, we will deal with it. It will be critical to be communicating well as we go through it as the guys grow. I don't see it as a problem. Kennedy Pola has done a great job handling it.'

On backup quarterback Brandon Hance: 'He's really bright and understands our system well. All of our quarterbacks look comfortable in our system. He is ready to go...he wants to play. He is a real competitor and dying to get his chance. He has done well in practices. He has quickness and the ability to move around. He has a chance to move the club. He handles himself well.'

On possibly setting a school record for average attendance in a season: 'It's exciting. It's really rewarding to be a part of that, to feel the excitement and enthusiasm on a regular basis. We are lucky to be a part of that. We should have another good crowd this weekend. It's good stuff and we are proud of it.'

On big leads this season and playing non-starters: 'We will not treat Saturday any differently. Our guys deserve to play. They bust their tails to be a part of this team and if they get a chance to play, they will. There is not an exact formula. I don't care what anyone else thinks. If that hurts us, then it's going to hurt us. We are going to play the guys that are there and have earned the right to play. I wish every guy could play.'

On competitiveness of practices: 'I have heard stories from alumni like Ronnie Lott, Marcus Allen and Dennis Smith about the practices when USC teams were very good. Those guys always went back to what it was like on the practice field...about those matchups. We wanted to recapture that feeling. We were fortunate enough to get competition on our practice field where that was the most difficult challenge they would face. I have always had competitive situations during my coaching career for the same reasons. It's just taken on a different tone.'

On competitiveness between defensive coordinator Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Norm Chow: 'The best thing is that I can't lose. If the offense does well, I just go over to that side and stand with them. That is part of it...part of the makeup. You will hear more talk at the line of scrimmage during practice than you will ever hear during a game. Our guys are getting after one another and coaches doing the same thing. That's the environment that I wanted here. To me, it's healthy and fun and elevates the emphasis of your day. It can't help but to make you better.'

On opinion if LSU overtakes USC in the BCS standings: 'I don't think that's going to happen. I think if we win, we are sitting pretty good, but someone else is going to tell me that's not quite right. I have always been pretty optimistic about stuff and that's how I'm looking at it. We can't lose. It's the Rose Bowl or the Sugar Bowl...what an awesome opportunity. Our program is dedicated with going to the Rose Bowl and winning it. That is all we talk about. When we get the chance to take the next step up, we will take that on as well. We will be proud as heck to represent the Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl if that's the situation. I really don't have any gripes. The system is what it is. I don't understand so I can't really comment on it.'

On one BCS component that may not be fair: 'You are talking to the wrong guy. It doesn't make sense to me how someone you play and beat before, this time, you don't beat them by so much because it hurts you. I just want them to tell me where we are going and try to win every game. The one thing I don't like is blaming the computers. I don't think that's fair at all because some person made up the computers. Somewhere, someone made up the program. That is the guy that we should be blaming (Laughing).'

On the Pac-10 playing a football championship game: 'I know we don't have enough teams for that. I think it's exciting to work your way through a schedule and play it off like that. All of the stuff that brings more focus and attention to it makes it fun and exciting. Whatever we can withstand beyond what is a really exciting finish...I'm ready to take it on. Playing more games is not a bad thing. The season still seems short to me.'

Oregon State Head Football Coach Mike Riley

'There's a lot going on this week. It's interesting. We were really disappointed with our game at Oregon. That's a tough loss for us. I thought this about our team in that we have been resilient. We've had some setbacks from time to time and we have come back and practiced hard. We played better as we went on. I think the kids are better at bouncing back than the coaches are in some of these circumstances. I have been impressed with their enthusiasm for this week and their work so far. We are facing an outstanding football team, talented and well coached. We are going to come down and give it our best shot and see what happens.'

On team's offense: 'We have fought for balance all year. We have wanted to run the ball and throw the ball effectively. We have had good numbers, but I feel like we are scratching the surface at times. I do feel like we are getting better. I feel like our quarterback, Derek Anderson, has really had an outstanding season. Like a lot of other guys, he has just had some tough moments. He has been productive and a great kid to coach. I'm excited about it. Of course, (tailback) Steven Jackson is a unique talent and our job is to help him get some room so he can use it. We have got some other guys who are pretty good playmakers. We have been productive, but not as consistent as we would have hoped for.'

On team's defense: 'We played a lot of good defense this year. I think some outstanding players. You look at the middle with Dwan Edwards and Richard Siegler...a solid defensive front and linebacking crew. We have been depleted by injuries. Our secondary has played well and overall, we have pretty consistently defensively. The thing that scares me is that our worst ballgame was the last ballgame. I didn't think anybody would run the ball against us like Oregon did. We will have to step that this week because we are playing, by far, our toughest opponent.'

On feelings of coaching at USC: 'USC will always have a special place for me and my family. We have remained friends with a lot of people there. I really enjoyed the people at USC and the time I coached there will always be a great time in my career. It does mean something. That is why I'm so excited about the job I have because one of the main keys to me getting the Oregon State job the first time was my time at USC. Now to be back with people that I know up and down the coast, it's a pretty good deal and I'm thankful for it.'

On USC: 'I think one outstanding common denominator with their team is speed. They appear to be playing with too many guys on offense. They really swarm to the football and converge on it fast. One of the denominators of playing great defense is playing well against the run. They are outstanding so that's a major factor in handling their front. I see their defense as really versatile and fast. Offensively, I could use the same word in being versatile. Norm Chow does a tremendous job with coaching the quarterbacks. Matt Leinart is one of the most efficient guys in the nation and knows where to go with the football. He handles all the parts of being a quarterback quite well. They also do a great job of getting people the football. A lot of guys play a part in that offense. There's nothing you can say if you stop one guy because they have so many weapons they use. They all play a part.'

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