Football Press Conference Quotes

Nov. 30, 2004

Football Press Conference QuotesNov. 30, 2004

USC Head Coach Pete Carroll

Opening Remarks
This trophy (the Lexus Gauntlet) has become a real fun element of our sports seasons. I know that our football game has a lot to do with what happens at the end of the year and SC has been fortunate enough to win the Gauntlet the last two of three years and we would like to win another one.

This is a great week. This is such a great week for everybody that follows USC and UCLA football. We're going to have a big event at the Rose Bowl on Saturday that will be all you could ever ask for in college football. I could not be more excited about it. I'm thrilled that our football team has brought us to the point that the last game of the season has so much significance. The opportunity to win the Pac-10 title on our own is out there for us and we need to get this done to do that... and I know UCLA is going to have a lot to say about that.

They have been playing good football and they have a tremendous offense. I think momentum and the confidence that they will bring will take everything we got to win this weekend. We've set up ourselves with a big win in the Coliseum last week, in which we had a lot of fun, but we have always known that this game was out there and it has always been an important match-up for all the bragging rights in Southern California. It means a lot to a lot of people so we are really excited about this game.

This is always a great game. Since I've been here we've been very fortunate and we have a lot to uphold. There is a lot at stake regarding where we'll end up. The elements that add up are good for us. It's good for us to have to deal with the issues and the concern on how we play. It would be a great game even if there were no wins on either side. But the fact that we have to deal with all this pressure is good for us.

UCLA is a good football team. Ask Oregon, ask Stanford and ask the other teams they knocked off and really handled. They have put together an extraordinarily good offense. There is no doubt about their ability to move the football with 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing each game. Their quarterback is playing really well... it's the best he has ever played. They are loaded at receiver and that's enough to give anybody problems. They gave Cal a heck of a ball game at Cal. We don't have any trouble understanding that this is a complete football team that has a chance to beat us. We'll be ready for them.

On thoughts at the start of the year...
There were good signs early in spring football. We ran the football pretty well against our defense. Before we knew what we were doing against pass protection, we were able to show some aggressiveness and some toughness. It's just progressed throughout the season. I said at the end of spring football to Tim Davis that he had done the best job of any of the guys on our staff of bringing his players along the furthest. I've continued to applaud what he's done because these guys have had to come together with no background at all and no playing time that they have shared. Fred Matua has done a really nice job of being a spark plug in there with those guys. It's been a brand new group but they've come along really well and they have done a good job for us.

On WR Dwayne Jerritt...
I was hoping that this is what we would get from Dwayne Jerritt. He is extremely talented and even if you go back to when he had some problems early on, I never in my mind wavered from an instant in his ability. If you watch this guy catch on the field, you see he is just so natural and so gifted. His catching range is just extraordinary that it was just a matter of time before he settled back down. Once he got comfortable, he has taken it to a whole new level and he is a huge factor in our offense now. The same kind of factor we had when Mike Williams was here. That was what we had hoped would happen. For the last six or seven weeks he has been a big factor for us.

On the development of the wide receivers...
We've been surprised. Jason Mitchell has really come through for us and made some big plays. Chris McFoy has come through to be a very consistent performer for us as well. The addition of Dominique Byrd to take the pressure off the wide receivers was very important. Those guys gave us legs and life and the ability to move the football at a time when were still trying to find ourselves. I'm pretty proud with what has happened with our staff and our team. We lose a player like Keary Colbert, who is lighting up in the NFL, and Mike Williams, who is arguably one of the best receivers in American, and the other things that happened to us in the receiver spot... to be able to hold it together and for Matt Leinart to have continued success and post great numbers once again... the players and coaches have put in a lot of work to get that done and we have come through quite well because of it.

How important is offensive coordinator Norm Chow?
Norm Chow has always been highly regarded well before he came here. His teams won national championships, there were Heisman Trophy winners and numerous records were set by his players. We have been very fortunate to have Norm as a part of this program and he has contributed in enormous ways. He gave us great credibility form the beginning in stature and expertise. He has been a huge factor for us. Since he has been here, we have constructed our offense. This is not the BYU offense. We reworked and retooled it after our first year and it has become the USC offense. Norm is a sought-after guy and he is deserving of all the attention and the focus he has gained. He is worthy of all the jobs that are open right now. He is extremely valuable to us, but if he gets a chance to go on and it's something that he wants, then I will continue to support him and help him on that. I told him that the first time I talked to him four years ago. I said if he comes here and we do what we think we're going to do, he could be a head coach in two years. He had job offers after the first year. Norm has been very patient about his opportunities and he is waiting for something that fits just right. If something comes along he may get that chance. He would be a great head coach for anybody.

On the coaching change at Notre Dame...
This is the coaching world. The expectations that we live with in programs such as ours, Notre Dame and other great programs around the country, are big and there is not a tremendous amount of patience. Tyrone Willingham is a fantastic football coach, a great guy and a great man. He has done a terrific job in college football. He was in a situation where the expectations were so high and the impatience was so obvious, that I guess they felt they had to make the change. He is a great football coach.

About UCLA's Maurice Drew and Manuel White...
Both of those guys are fantastic football players. I loved Maurice Drew coming out of high school. I thought he was a great prospect. We recruited the heck out of him and didn't get him. He's turned to be everything I thought he could be. He's a great open-field and tough runner. You take Manuel White and you get a big-time running back that can block you, run over you and run around you. It's the kind of mix that we enjoy here. LenDale White has been everything we could ever want in a physical, downhill tailback and they have their version of that. It will be kind of interesting to watch those guys and how they play. Those guys will give us some problems for sure.

On the possibility of Norm Chow being considered for a Pac-10 job...
It would be difficult to lose any of the guys on our staff. Everyone plays a huge role and Norm Chow certainly does. I am not concerned about the speculation of where he might go. I think eventually he has to go where there are opportunities. If there were a chance for him to go to a school in the conference, then of course that would create a familiarity that would make it more difficult for us. But look at the Oregon schools - they have shared some coaches and it really has not affected anything.

Are you more comfortable playing at the Rose Bowl than at other away sites?
Of course we are. We stay in our own hotel. We prepare for it as a road game, yet we do our home game routine. Yes, we feel very comfortable and familiar with that. But it does not give us an advantage because the Bruins feel the same way when they come here. It does have a special flavor to it because it is crosstown and a chance for all of our fans to be there. There are a lot of great aspects to it.

On the attention on quarterback Matt Leinart has garnered...
I think (Matt Leinart) has done as well as you can do in his circumstances. He is a young guy in the middle of his college career and he has all this attention. There was a time early in the season that I know he felt pressured by it and he found a way to deal with it then. Once the season got going he has handled it really well and I think it has elevated his game in the last few weeks of the season. He has handled it beautifully. He has dealt with it in great fashion. I checked in with him at the hotel on Saturday morning just to see what he was feeling. He totally understands what is going on. He knows what is at stake and he is very familiar with Carson Palmer's run. But to see him continue to be the same guy, handle it all in such fashion and continue to perform at the highest level and have fun playing... that's great. He realizes that he is a member of the team and not just the guy. He depends heavily on LenDale White, Reggie Bush and all of his receivers, and he is not that burdened by it because of this.

Do you tell Leinart to just enjoy it?
Yes, that's how we talk. He has no reason not too. I tell him that this is such a fun opportunity for us and that we should not let a bunch a media attention get in the way of it. Let's play the game and play like we're capable of playing. One of the things I know he has held onto is that he knows he knows how to play the game. He knows that he is in command of what we are doing. This helps really successful players deal with stressful situations. He trusts himself and trusts the people around him.

What do you think Leinart has learned from all of this?
(Matt Leinart) was part of a big program in high school and he has always been a star player. I think he has grown up a lot, and he's grown up to be the star quarterback at USC. He comes in with a marvelous sense of confidence and he has the benefit of having followed Carson Palmer through this whole thing. It has been set up very well for him. The years he had to sit out were very important to his growth. He is so smart and so sharp that he has really benefited from all of these experiences.

Is Leinart ready for the NFL?
You can't tell who is ready for that. After all my years of watching young quarterbacks come through the NFL, and watching all those great guys that came in at the same time with John Elway and Dan Marino. It was extraordinary to see how hard it was for some guys and how other guys, like Marino, didn't struggle. He was the one guy and it was years before another guy came in, Kurt Warner, who was able to handle it in superior fashion. It is just so hard for those guys to come in and be able to execute. Carson Palmer has been very clear about that - how hard it was last season for him to sit out and how hard it is this year trying to get it done. Patience is really an important aspect of an NFL career. We'll see what all of this means. Is he ready? He will be as ready as we could have made him when he decides to go, but I don't think anyone is really ready for it until you get there.

What do you think this week is like for Ken Norton Jr.?
I'm watching him out of the corner of my eye and we have given him a hard time this week. (Ken Norton) is a marvelous guy. He has a great spirit and he is a great part of our program right now. We love having him here and if anyone can deal with it, he can. Kenny has been in the most difficult situations and has always relished in the moment. If it is difficult this week for him, then you can't tell. He understands. He is coaching for USC right now and he is proud to be here. This is not the first time this has happened. We have had all kinds of guys from all over the place who have had to coach against their own schools. This is not that unique.

Do you think Matt Leinart will stay?
I don't know right now. I think (Matt Leinart) plans to stay and that is what his plan has been each time we talked about it. The wisdom will come to him about his situation and what his opportunities are. At that point, we'll weigh it all out and offer all of our expertise. We'll help him figure out what his choices are. I know he loves playing here and he has had a blast doing it. He is not in a hurry and that's why he has said in the past, he has said that he wants to stay. A lot of information will come out in the next couple of months and we'll help him determine if it is a good option of not.

USC Quarterback Matt Leinart

On play of his wide receivers...
Dwayne (Jarrett) has gotten better since week one. I can't even remember the last time he dropped the ball, just making play after play. Losing Steve (Smith) and having Jason Mitchell step in and get a couple touchdowns helped. We couldn't have asked for more and they have done a great job.

Change in Heisman Trophy hopes after Notre Dame game...
I'm still doing the same thing. I had a good game, but I had all day to throw the ball and the line played well. It was tough because we didn't establish the running game. I'm happy with the way I played and with the way the team played. Most importantly, I'm happy that we won in a big game. I'm not really focused on the Heisman.

Dealing with the media attention...
The coaches have done a great job in helping me get through this process in the off season. I'm laid-back and don't let too much affect me. That's how I approached the season. I like the pressure, at times it's tough and overwhelming, but I wouldn't change anything.

USC being the favorite going into Saturday's game at UCLA...
We have a big game this weekend against our rival UCLA. Any team can beat anybody on any given day. We have to come prepared and practice hard this week. We know that they are going to try to knock us off the top, so rankings don't matter. We just have to go out there and play.

Influence of offensive coordinator Norm Chow...
Coach Chow is instrumental in my growth as a quarterback and personally. Our offense has skyrocketed after his first year here. He has a good system and has a great feel for the game. He really tries to utilize everyone's unique abilities to their full potential. We are a very balanced team, but we can pitch in so many different ways. My job is just to get the ball to those guys.

Norm Chow's personality...
He is low-key. On the field, he has a presence because of who he is and what he's accomplished

Scouting report on UCLA...
UCLA is very solid; they have some good players. On defense, they have good linebackers and a strong secondary. I don't see too many weaknesses. We'll come up with a good game plan. They are going to be ready to play. We are always ready to play them.

Selecting USC out of high school...
It was neck and neck with Michigan and USC, but my heart was at USC. I wanted to stay in California and bringing Norm Chow as a coach was a big reason why I chose USC. I felt comfortable at USC.

More on Saturday's game...
Saturday is going to be a great game. It is our last game and we don't know what's going to happen with the bowl season. The battle for L.A. is fun. We are going to approach the game like we approach every game. I think that's why we're successful because we don't take any game lightly.