Pete Carroll-Mike Riley Discuss Saturday's Game At The Coliseum

Oct. 30, 2007

USC football head coach Pete Carroll

Pete Carroll: We're in the process of getting back together here after a difficult weekend up in Oregon. A game that we really realized was a great opportunity for us to get and because it would have put us in position where we could have had some control over what was going on in the conference. And by playing other people that we had a chance to battle, and it didn't work out. We came up with a very difficult loss, and it put us in a new situation that we haven't been in a number of years.

We have to take a look at what our opportunities are as we look down the schedule. I took a look at it yesterday with the fellas and looked at what our next four games are. We have to try to just max out and get everything we can out of every game.

That's how we go about this. Doesn't change the approach at all in terms of how we go week to week and focus on who you have at hand. But we realize that we don't know. We don't know what's going to happen. We don't have control of it.

So we battle and put as big an effort together as we can, and we try to capture everything we possibly can capture out of the opportunity of playing Oregon State right now at homecoming, and make it a big day for us. And if we do that, then we go to the next week, and we go to the next week, and on we go. That's really what is at hand right now.

I know there are probably a lot of questions and stuff, and people would want to know this and that. But that's what we have to do. That's how we know how to do it, and we'll hopefully do that really well.

Oregon State is playing really good football right now. They've won three in a row. They've looked good in a number of ways. Their defense is excellent. When they're together with Bernard playing for them, they have a very dynamic offense.

They're picking it up, doing well as a first year starter. They throw the ball all over the field. And Yvenson Bernard gives them all kinds of juice inside, running the football and catching the football. So it's a difficult task for us and a big challenge we have to face here.

Our situation is we have to see how we are at the quarterback spot. John David Booty is the best he's been since he broke his finger. He threw yesterday, pretty much pain free. But we have to see how he takes on the week before we know what that all means.

He took the place as the starter yesterday, and will do it again today, and we'll see how it goes. We won't overload him with reps, but we'll try to get him the number it takes to get him prepared to start the football game.

In the meantime, Mark Sanchez is ready to go, depending on how this thing turns. Mark has done everything he can do for us. He's done a marvelous job in these three games that he's played. He's given us an advantage as we look ahead to the future.

If John David does come back, we'll have a guy come into a competitive situation a year from now that has playing experience behind him. We went back to Matt Leinart, we didn't have that. We went to John David, we didn't have that to any extent at all. We'll look at that as an advantage for the future.

So right now what is at hand is getting a game plan together for Oregon State and see how we are health wise. We're okay. We're not in bad shape right now. We have a chance to be pretty strong. We're probably going to miss Sam Baker in the game, but the rest of it looks like we're pretty well faded out. We can be okay. A couple of the guys will have question marks before the week's out.

That's where it is, and we have to go about this with a great attitude and the right frame of mind. If you can imagine that we probably can't, but if you could imagine that we don't look down the road, and we haven't talked about way down the road. And we haven't talked about all of the things that could and should happen and all the rest.

We've been working week to week as we've been going up to this point. We'll continue to do that. We'll try to do that really well and stay focused.

I really liked our ability to focus and playing on the road last week. I think I have no concern at all about us being distracted going into that game last week at all in anyway. And I don't expect we'll do that again this weekend. We'll play a good, solid, hard football game and see if we can get a win.

Q. Did I understand you correctly though that you're going to get together with the players before the game?
Pete Carroll: No, that's just something that whenever it's timely, that you have to do, you know. And I've done that periodically over the years whenever it was necessary. So that is not a change of focus, just to see what's at stake and what we're dealing with.

It was different a week ago. It's different now. It's the first time we've had a chance to do that, but that doesn't change the focus, it just tells you what's real and what the truth is.

Q. What is real in your mind?
Pete Carroll: I already told you. I just told you exactly what was real. I just told you exactly what it is.

Q. You don't have goals for a national championship? Have you ever been to El Paso before?
Pete Carroll: Juarez, yeah. I've been to Juarez, in El Paso. Your question is to ask me about changing stuff and that's really not what's happened. It is just being at the truth of things. That is what Monday's for. To get the truth of what the situation, and I think we just did that.

We have to maintain the same kind of focus that we've had. Which is always what is best for you which is to go to the next game and maximize that opportunity and get what you can out of it.

What that means is the only difference in the conversation was, for the record for you, is that I felt like up until this week, we had control of what the situation was in our conference. And we don't necessarily have that right now, because we don't have enough games left. And there are not enough games for us to overcome that unless other people have their issues and their problems.

Right now what is very clear, as always has been the case, is to return to the focus and have to change the focus.

Q. Did Oregon smother (tight end) Fred Davis?
Pete Carroll: No, not at all. The plays went other ways. I've tried to get you ready for that at different times. Sometimes because of what happens in the game, because of the way things are played because of the calls that come up, you know, guys get more chances than you might normally expect.

We've had eight or nine balls a couple of games. This one the calls were down the field. They were working on their corners with the wide receivers, and that's where the focus of it went.

The couple call that's we did have that really were designed to go to Freddy, the ball didn't go there. Sometime it's happens, sometimes it doesn't for varying reasons.

Q. What is your take on what's going on with the offense, whether it's injuries or play calling or lack of playmakers?
Pete Carroll: Everybody has a take on it?

Q. Seems like it.
Pete Carroll: I really don't think that there's any mystery to it at all. I think it's very clear. I think we've been through a process here where we got banged around a little bit, and we've been working our way through that. With different combination of particularly at the quarterback spot with Mark coming in.

I think the expectations of everybody on the outside and for ourselves is we have to expect that we're going to maintain the same level of play that you have when you change guys. That is the only way I know how to look at it.

But with that, you still have to make your adjustments to try to make things work out the best you possibly can. When you have new linemen and you have a new running back or receiver, what whatever it is in the quarterback spot, you have to adjust some to fit the situation.

Though we've maintained our expectations of excellence, and we're going to do well and keep striding and all of that, and we'll find ways to win.

It might not be exactly the same way. I think the Arizona game was a really good example of that. I think everybody that looked that at that game thought that wasn't a great performance. I thought it was a very good performance under the circumstances with the new quarterback and the situation, and the guys that were banged up.

You still expect to win, but you might have to do it differently. And I think that's what we've been faced with. As much as that teeters on people trying to see making an excuse for something, that's what comes up, but you have to deal with your situations as you have them, and do the best you can. And that's what you do.

That's just what happens, and that's how you have to do it in football and all sports. It's the same deal. You do the very best you can. And we've done that to the best of our ability, but, unfortunately, we have made what would be really considered typical mistakes in games and lose them. You turn the football over and you make key penalties at the wrong time, and that is how you lose. That is unfortunate, but that's what's surfaced here.

We're working in every way we can to eliminate that stuff. Our emphasis is where it needs to be at this point as far as talking about it and working on it, the results need to come through for us. And we need to turn a cup of those situations or it's going to be really hard.

Our margin of error has been really slight, and that's because we've turned the ball over and not gotten a lot of turnovers. The margin of error is the most slight that it's been since we've been here. That makes it difficult, and you have to be exactly on the money.

Winning masks some of those issues. Can you turn the ball over a couple times and win games. That's happened this year, or you can have penalties and win games, that's happened this year.

But in the game that's really matched up really well, those can be the issues that beat and you that's what's happened a couple times this year.

Q. In terms of penalties, the team is last in the conference for most penalty yards per game, is there anything you can do or the players ultimately accountable for it?
Pete Carroll: No, we do the things that you can do. You know, you have to point out the mistakes. You have emphasize them in practice. You call them in practice by having officials there.

You coach accordingly, you know, with a specific eye to certain situations. For one, here's when we had three face mask penalties: One on special teams, one on offense, and one on defense. Those are all just incidentals, they just happen sometimes. But you have to emphasize again that you can't get anywhere near a guy's head or face with your hands or you're susceptible.

You do the things that can you do. Also, you have to change guys. If the same guy's making the same mistake, you have to change the guy. If you can't get them changed, you have to change the guy. We're well aware of that.

In some instances you have to do that with special teams and different areas. Where you have guys doing special issues and they're making problems for you, you have to change the people after while, which we've done.

Q. The play calling on offense?
Pete Carroll: I missed part of that.

Q. Are you playing conservative from a play calling standpoint?
Pete Carroll: You have to be. You have to be more conscious of it. There are times when we had a second in one situation where we take a shot, and the mentality of the quarterback when you take a shot and you're ahead of the down with 2nd and short, if it's there, you take it. If it's not, you dump the ball. You never take a loss of the ball in that instance.

We took a throw down the field, threw the ball behind the guy, and the guy picked it off. We'd like to think that we try to get into the conscience of our guys that that's not the shot you take if you're not really in control. He felt good, the protection was beautiful. Makes the throw, it doesn't go where it's supposed to go. That happens.

That is the risk that you take in a situation like that, which is good football and it's good, aggressive style and all of that, but in that instance it didn't workout. That's how this works. It's ball. Stuff like that happens.

So those are choices that you have where you can alter how you think. Sometimes you think you got it going, you feel good about stuff and you do it. Other times you'll go back the other way.

You'll limit the risk taking to try to minimize the problem of a new guy, the inexperienced, first time situations. It really was, I think in Mark's three games, the first time we took a shot 2nd and short. You know, first time, sometimes first times bite you in the butt, and it did.

Q. Reading in the paper, it seemed you were claiming the officials weren't calling the games?
Pete Carroll: No, I made the point that again in the number of times in our years here, the teams that we play I don't know how this works. I would love to know why. If you have the answer, I'd love to ask you the answer why our opponents get penalized least in the conference? I don't know why that happens.

I think it's a magnificent advantage for our opponents. I don't know how that works. If it's our style of play or what it is, or if it's the attention to the detail when people play us. I don't know. I know they'd like to do that every game. But I think it's a pretty good stat there, if you take a look at the numbers.

Q. Are you asking for something from the officials?
Pete Carroll: No, I'm asking for help. If you heard, that was a plea. A plea to the media to help me on that one.

Q. What do you need to see out of J.D. this week to know he'll be healthy?
Pete Carroll: He needs to get to the week. One we need to see that he's throwing the ball the way we know he can. And two, he has to express that he's got the control of the football. Because he's the only one that can really feel that. Sometimes on balls that are caught, can he tell that it didn't come out the right way. The ball spun different yesterday, and that's his finish on his release.

We've said it for two or three weeks now, the ball isn't rotating as much as it usually does. We can tell that. And that is just the last flip coming off the last two touches on the ball there, middle finger, index finger.

So he felt good about it, it looked good yesterday, we'll go to the next game and see what happens.

Q. You're saying if both guys are healthy, there is no doubt in your mind you're moving your quarterback?
Pete Carroll: If John's full speed, ready to go, he's the starter. That hasn't changed in my mind throughout any of this. I think he's proven to us that he plays great football, and he has great experience behind him. We've gone through the rigors of the learning curve and all of that. It was worth sticking with it.

The question mark through these last few weeks is whether or not he could play effectively or not. And if there is a question mark about that, we were thrilled to play Mark, because he's a heck of a player, a great young kid coming up. We love that he get this is play time. He started two wins and we didn't get this last one. So that's invaluable to us.

It's unfortunate we were so close. We could have got a third one. Regardless of the outcome of this game, I wouldn't have changed my mind on that. I don't have any reason to.

I know what the facts have proven to us about John's play, and really John had a bad game that turned out in the Stanford game, but he was hurt. That's so obvious, you don't even need to say it. All the facts are pretty clear to me.

Q. Going out the last couple of weeks, if he was healthy, he'd be your guy?
Pete Carroll: I know you'd love me to say that. But I've felt it all along. I wanted to make sure and help Mark be supported as much as possible in his chance to start, and make sure we could help him be right. And not do it for the satisfaction of the people on the outside. It was really for our guys.

I thought it was best to help us the way we handled it.

Q. Is there a place for Charles Brown?
Pete Carroll: Butch Lewis is going there right now. He's got a couple games under his belt. And Charles is coming back now. So he's finally getting healthy now.

Charles would have been the guy that jumped in there, but he's been nursing a high ankle sprain that isn't quite, he's almost there. So he's competing for that spot as soon as he's physically ready to do that. But Butch right now looks like the starter until Charles can make a run at it.

Q. Is there a chance that Sam will be out for the season I guess after the MRI?
Pete Carroll: The MRI didn't show anything, as far as I know. They went in with the emphasis to find out if there was damage to his hip. And they confirmed it's just a hamstring injury, but I didn't hear anything to that effect at all.

Q. The receivers seemed to have one of their better games. Can you talk about the performance?
Pete Carroll: Yeah, I thought the catchers in general did really well. I thought Patrick Turner had a real solid game. I thought Vidal Hazelton and David Ausberry when he had his chances came through for us. I thought it was a very strong game for those guys.

Patrick, in particular. Tough catches, got banged around. Plays on the sidelines...made a great catch just out of bounds as well. It was a very difficult catch to make.

I think he's doing great. I think we've situated our guys well. Vidal's emergence has helped us. He's playing really tough and making big, tough plays in traffic, and also blocking well. So that's a you really could see that, but that's a big emergence for us, but we're really solid him playing at the Z spot right now.

Q. When everybody's back and healthy one of the hallmarks was your running game was always high yards per carry. And in Oregon, it seemed like that was the case even though you didn't have a lot of guys back. Why was that? Do you have any idea?
Pete Carroll: The average per carry isn't play after play always. It's the big plays that you have, you know. And I think we didn't get the ball out like we have. We didn't get it in. We had the 60 yard gain which would have been a big difference in all of that.

But I think it's, you know, again, I give Oregon some credit. They did a nice job of slowing us up. When we had our breakout play, they were fortunate to get a penalty on the play.

You don't know how the affect of that play would have factored into other plays. If we had broken it and they might have been a little more determined to stop Joe or something like that. You don't know how that plays out. But that didn't workout for us.

I think that's the difference in all of our games. We had good runs, substantial runs that made the average go as it has. That's always the case.

Q. Your teams are 20-0 in November since you've been coaching. I'm sure you're aware of that. Is that something you guys have just improved? Is that something you talk to your team about?
Pete Carroll: Honestly, if I knew that, I would capitalize on it, and I wouldn't tell you a thing about it. But it's been an awesome factor for us over the years. It's one that makes us proud of the way we finish in other seasons. You know, it would be a beautiful thing to see it again. So I really feel like, and I know this might be hard to take. If we finish really strong, and we put this thing together, we'll have really overcome some difficult things and come back to life and put some real energy into the finish of the season.

I would love for that to happen for our seniors and our guys that have busted their tails around here for so long. Wherever that leaves us, we'll find out.

We don't know what that means. But that starts with a really good game against Oregon State, and I hope that our guys are really clear about that, and whether it's November or not, you know, it's going to be November this weekend, right? Is that right? I figured that's why you brought it up.

That's not a big battle cry for me, never has been. But finishing, finishing has always been one of the tenets of our program. And it's finish time now.

Q. Can you talk about going over the schedule with the players? Was that to establish the scenarios that could still present themselves?
Pete Carroll: No, only just to give me a line of approach on how we should be looking ahead, that's all. To this week. It was really about this week. It wasn't about the other weeks.

But I did want to make mention to the players in the room that aren't seniors that this is the finish time for the seniors. It's something that we always spend quite a bit of time on this time of the year.

They've only got a couple times left to play in the coliseum and that kind of stuff. And we want to maximize our chances and do everything we can to send them out, just as when they're seniors, we'll recognize them in the same fashion.

That's always been, maybe you didn't know that, but that's always the way we've talked to them at the end of the season. So it was time to bring that up again.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

Oregon State head coach Mike Riley

Opening statement

'We just started playing better football, taking a little better care of the football. We turned it over way too much early. We've continued to get good play by our defense and much more consistent play in our special teams area. Those are the three parts that have had their own story, but special teams and offense have improved. We are not spectacular, but they have been solid in the last three games.'

On what to take from last year's win over USC

'Not much. Every year, I start talking about how this is a new team...a team that has to form its own identity. We can use experiences that we all have been in to benefit the future, but as far as actually playing this game and finding a whole new way to will be a whole new ballgame and a new opportunity for the Beavers and the Trojans. Except for looking at last year's game and seeing what both teams tried to do, besides that probably not much.'

On team's defense

'I think we have some veteran players that have been around a while. That's part of it. They play very well together. Our defensive coaches, Mark Banker, who you guys remember was coaching with us at USC in 1996, does an outstanding job coordinating our defense. I think our players are well prepared, they play hard and we play a lot of guys. We stay fresh and roll in and out of the game. I think the combination of their execution and effort has been outstanding.'

On status of running back Yvenson Bernard

'Well, we certainly like to have him. We got some good news as far as the MRI. He's got a sprained shoulder. It's not dislocated, so it's really going to be a day-to-day thing. It's pretty darn sore, I'll tell you that. I'm sure he will want to play. If we come to the point where he won't reinjure it or where we are putting him at risk, then we will see about Thursday. Right now, I would say it's just day-to-day and the news is pretty good from the reports that we go.'

On team's offense

'We haven't thrown an interception for a while which is a big deal. I think our quarterback, he's a new sophomore starter (Sean Canfield) and I think he's going to be an outstanding player. He's learning all the time, making more plays and making less negative plays. That has been a major difference...just not turning the ball over. Besides that, we have been able...I'm worried about USC's run defense, their whole defense. We have been fairly balanced, running and passing to what we want to do. We are not very flashy on offense, but we are getting better.'

On USC team

'I think a lot of admiration for the work Pete has done at USC. I've said this earlier in the day. They set the bar over the past two years very high for the Pac-10. It's made everyone have to step up or get left behind. What we got now is a lot of competition in our league. USC looks great to me. They have a lot of talent and they are well coached, which is a bad combination for opponents. It's football every Saturday and it's a very competitive year. I think a lot of teams have gotten better and USC looks like an outstanding football team to me.'

On reason for the upsets in college football this year

'I think it's one of those things that have been developing for a while. The best place for us to look is right here at home. It's really not that difficult to see that there has been a lot of growth in our league...a lot of teams over the last years that have really gotten good. USC started that. Cal has built that program over the last five or six years and every other team is coming up. We see a lot of competition and parity. I think people can talk about the 85 scholarships...who really knows why? I think there are enough good players out there and we have had pretty good continuity in our go with continuity so who knows what the real reason is...but it's there and it's real. I think it's exciting for people to watch.'

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