Carroll, Leinart Press Conference Quotes

Nov. 23, 2004

USC Head Football Coach Pete Carroll

'We are coming off this bye in a position that we had hoped for at this time of year. We are really excited about the opportunity to continue the season. It has been a success up to this point but we won't be able to get all the good things unless we finish this thing right. We take great pride in finishing well. I'm counting on us to come out for the big game this weekend. It's a tremendous match up for us with Notre Dame here at the Coliseum. The last home game of the year is a big deal to a football team and it has ramifications for the end of the season of course. With this opportunity, we're going to try to put together an incredibly good week of practice. I'm excited about what I saw yesterday with the guys returning to practice and we're encouraged that some guys may be able to play in this game that we didn't think would be ready. Good things are happening and it's a great time of year for us to be having a match up like this, we're looking forward to it.'

(injured players)'Yesterday, I was encouraged about (wide receiver) Steve Smith getting back out there and practicing. Scott Ware, John Drake, Ronald Nunn, and Chris McFoy made it through, so all those guys are back and for the most part we are in pretty good shape.'

(thoughts on last week's on-field altercation between South Carolina and Clemson)'In those situations, administrations have to do what they think is right. It seems that guys are using it as an opportunity to make personal statements when really their conscious isn't allowing them to encompass what they really represent in terms of their schools and football program. We are hoping that the guys on our football team have a consciousness that encompasses all that they represent and don't lash out protect what they represent. I hope that we can get rid of it and everyone involved is acting strongly as it needs to be. It needs to be about taking care of things based on what they represent, which is much more than just themselves. Our conscious needs to be strong enough that it catches us and we don't lash out and take action where we can show restraint. We need to have more concern about doing the right thing at the right time regardless of the environment of the situation.'

(tradition of Notre Dame rivalry)'It's a great game and I don't want to take anything away from this match up and its great history. The national spotlight that this game puts us and the University in is tremendous. When I was growing up in California, I knew that it's been a great event for years. We deal with each game individually and try to give all the focus and attention we can generate to go out there. It helps us stay consistent and keep our eye on the target. It's going to be a fantastic event. I can't wait to be in the stadium.'

(current Notre Dame team)'This is a well-balanced team and they have to opportunity to play really well on defense. Their running defense is excellent. They have the ability to throw the ball down the field. Along with the running game, their balance is strong. They have shown the ability to beat big teams in big settings this season. They didn't have a great season and I know this would be a great opportunity for them to put an exclamation point at the end of their season.'

(reasons behind great rivalry with Notre Dame)

'Ever since the challenge for USC and Notre Dame to play, at a time when Notre Dame was nationally renowned, the match up generated a lot of excitement. It came down to the coaches and the players that were a part of the game that made it so special. They have created the great stories and history that have kept the match up alive and strong. They are two incredible universities, which allows for them to be legends and give great fun and excitement.'

(playing on a holiday weekend)'It's traditionally a football weekend. To have a big match up that people that look forward to, we are fortunate to be in this situation.'

(consistency of the program)'I think hard work and clear focus in our program is how we have dealt with pitfalls and hurdles faced during the season. The overall approach we take is that no game is bigger than the next game. We don't rejoice after a win anymore than we should. I think there's a fallout that happens when a team wins a big upset and make a big deal of it. You set yourself up for having to recover from the hype that you've created. We get the win and go about out next game. My favorite teams to play are those that are struggling, we go out and perform at a high level to show that we respect the game and opportunity to play a good, solid football game where we don't just squeak by and win in the end. That proves to me a team's understanding of the necessity of consistency and focus and prepare for a challenge every single day. I think these guys' conscious is such they have got to go out there and compete. Everything is big and everything we do has great emphasis. It doesn't who we play or where we play.'

(importance of Matt Leinart's performance against Notre Dame)'Carson Palmer had a great night (against Notre Dame in 2002) and led us to a great win. He sent a message around the country that he was the worthy Heisman Trophy winner. If our players perform when they are given the opportunities, this is a weekend that is significant. If our guys play well, they will be recognized for that because it is a great match up of national significance.'

(BCS system)'The more games the better, just keep playing. I realize that there must be some kind of selection process to narrow it down which isn't impossible. The problem with all of that is tracking the great match ups. They judge however they want to judge and that's the fun of this process. Everyone gets to have an opinion and decide how the formula works. This is the only formula we have, I'm not going to knock it and I will support it. In college football, many teams can end their seasons on a high note because there are so many bowl games, which is a good thing because it's better than it all coming down to one game.'

(concerns about Notre Dame)'I'm concerned about their ability to use their running game, that's the real strength on their football team. The main focus is to do well with the football so that we don't give anything up.'

USC quarterback Matt Leinart

(Notre Dame)'They've got a good group of guys on defense. They look big and physical. They mix up coverages real well. Their front four is as good as anybody, so it's going to be a difficult challenge for us. It's going to be important for us to run the ball effectively since they're very good against the run, but as long as we come out and play the way we know how, we will be fine.'

(bye weeks)'We understand that bye weeks give some guys some time off and let them heal up. It's preparation, we work hard everyday. We go in with an attitude that they are work days and it's days to get better, not days to slack off and rest. Last week, we had four hard days and a lot of guys got more reps. We work just as hard as any other day.'

(Notre Dame's defense)'I don't know much about their offense. Defensively, they have a lot of good guys. (Defensive end) Justin Tuck is a real good player. They're good every year and they've beaten some very good teams this year.'

(return of a few receivers from injury)'It's nice getting Steve Smith back. (Tight end) Dominique Byrd has been rolling the past couple of weeks. Chris McFoy is back, Jason Mitchell has playing well, along with Alex Holmes. We have so many weapons, along with our running backs. Steve was out there yesterday and running around again so that will be real nice.'

(media attention and his approach)'I realize what people are saying that it's a nationally televised game and I need to have a big game, but I'm not concerned with that. I'm just going to go out and do my job and be a leader and win football games. That's what I try to do every week and this week is no different being on national television or not, I'm going to go out and play the same way.'

(importance of the Notre Dame game)'That game did put his (Carson Palmer's name) on the map for the Heisman, obviously he had a big game. Anytime you play a big game against a team like Notre Dame in front of a big audience, everyone wants to see it. This week, there aren't many big games so it will be a big stage for us. We've played on a lot of big stages this year already, so I don't think we're going to change just because it's a rivalry game.'

(playing the season as the #1 team instead of chasing the #1 team)'It's fun being on top trying to knock us off that top spot. We've had some close games as opposed to last year when we didn't have any except for one loss. We've shown what kind of team we are, the character we have and I speak for everyone when I say we're having a good time. We expect every game to be a good game and that's what college football is all about.'

'Sunday, I met (former Heisman Trophy winner and Mater Dei High player) John Huarte. He donated his Heisman to Mater Dei and I got to go. It was a cool deal being there and hanging out with him and being able to talk about the rivalry.'

(being a Notre Dame fan as a child)

'Yes I was a Notre Dame fan ever since Rudy came out.'

(on rivalry being at the end of season)

'I think it is a little different because we realize where we are right now not that these games are any bigger. We are so close to the end of the season and we know what our goals are. I think it's nice that we're in Los Angeles for the rest of the year. There's nothing like playing Notre Dame at the Coliseum. I've never played them at home so that's going to be fun. I like it because it builds to the end of the season.'

(adjusting to Dwayne Jarrett after Steve Smith's injury)

'Every game, he's gotten better and has continued to make good plays. He's improving in blocking and learning the system. Steve has been a big play receiver for us. I think the great thing that Dwayne has accomplished this year is that his confidence has grown and it's obvious when he's on the field going harder, knowing his routes, and knowing what to do. We couldn't have asked for more.'