Pete Carroll Talks About Saturday's Game At Cal

Nov. 6, 2007

COACH CARROLL: All right. Well, this is really fourth quarter of the season for us and we talked about last week how we really want to be at our best here and try to really make a big push to finish strong. We like that we got the win last week and had a big Homecoming opportunity and cashed in on it. It was a big day for our seniors to get that done, and made a special event of that.

Defense really showed up in a big way to help us get that win against Oregon State, and we're fired up about that. The week coming up here against Cal, there's some good history with our games and our match ups. And going up there is difficult and challenging. I know that they're trying to get their season right, we're trying to get our season right, and it's a great match up for us.

We look at this game with a lot of respect. We know these players have been playing fair long time. They're offensive guys, they're skilled guys, their quarterbacks, the receiving group, a number of their linemen, and the tight ends all these guys are good football players and can do a lot of damage. It's going to be a big match up for our defense.

Hopefully, we can clean things up and be on track a little sharper than we were last week on offense. It's going to take that against a challenging scheme of defense that's always been hard on us. And we know that we're up against it again.

Playing there at that stadium with the big crowd, and they'll be crazy about it is a big challenge for us. But we really like it. We're excited about this. Hopefully, we can get off to a great start the last three games as we're looking at the fourth quarter. We want to try to finish in a big way.

Q. Why is the offense so boring?

COACH CARROLL: Got a lot of guys in here working every day, working really hard at their beats. One guy asks the questions. I couldn't hear the question. What was that?

Q. Why is your offense so boring?

COACH CARROLL: I don't know how to address that, because I don't see it as boring at all. I see it as the offense trying to get it right and trying to be really productive and use our guys well.

I think our play was a little bit off last week in bringing John David Booty back in after a month. It showed, and hopefully we'll come back sharp this week and give us good play. Does anybody else ask any questions today?

Q. Sounds like a Phil Jackson press conference. COACH CARROLL: I've never been to one.

Q. Has your offense been off all year long?

COACH CARROLL: Is anybody else going to ask any questions? There you go.

Q. Do you feel that perhaps one of the problems of the offense is you're lacking a go to guy or has it always been like that?

COACH CARROLL: There's been a continuity issue. It just felt like it hasn't been all tight since I rally thought the back line of Washington State somewhere in there. I thought we were hitting strides. And we struggled at Washington up there, and then we got banged up, and the quarterback just has not been it had the continuity.

During the early part of the season, we were trying to find the right mix with our receivers and the running backs, and it took us a while to really uncover what Stafon Johnson brought to us. Then he got banged up. Then with Joe it took us almost half the season to get him right, and he's really competing right now.

Chauncey Washington has been a steady factor throughout. And with the quarterbacking thing going back and forth, now we need to get that settled really sharp here to finish up well. We have a chance to be a really good offense. And we have not felt that consistency like we like.

So, hopefully, we'll kick into gear here, and there have been some issues. The issues we've dealt with took its toll in obviously the two losses. We're trying to double back from that right now.

Q. How does the offensive line situation look this week?

COACH CARROLL: We're similar to last week. You know, obviously Sammy's (Baker) a little bit better. We won't know until the end of the week how he's doing. He's still sore and got some problems.

I said Charles Brown tries to get him a chance to figure into it, see where he fits in with the left tackle spot with Butch Lewis. Butch did a nice job, made it through it. And gave us some good work, but I want to make sure that Charles has a chance as well to see what he can do.

But that's really the one spot now, really just the left tackle spot. Other than that we're in good shape. Stafon Johnson ran full speed yesterday. This is the best Monday he's had. It's just been back and forth with him. He really hasn't gotten over the foot thing until maybe this is the week that we get that done.

Again, the trainers held him out last week in the game. And hopefully, he's back in there. So really the one issue is with Samuel at left tackle, and he's questionable at best right now.

Q. Speaking of Stafon, the injury to him is costly or more costly than the one to John David Booty. He was really showing he could play?

COACH CARROLL: There was no question he was a big factor, and he was making big plays. He would make plays out of a mess sometimes as well. So it's great to see that happening. But then just when we got to going where we could have mixed in Joe McKnight and Chauncey, it didn't quite fit.

So now we're trying to get that thing back in order...better late than never. Let's get it going and see what we can do with it. Hopefully, this is a week we can see all those guys hitting at a hundred percent.

Q. Did (Joe McKnight) do too much as some people said?

COACH CARROLL: Joe got victimized missing a sign on the toss, and he lost ten yards on the opening play. He got the ball, and it offset his numbers for the night.

But Joe is a guy that he's got the play in him. He's a big play oriented guy. He's going to hit and miss some. We're trying to minimize the negative plays. But we've seen it in the past.

And if you just dwelled on the negative plays, you wouldn't play a guy. Then you wouldn't play Reggie (Bush), and you wouldn't play some guys, scat back type of guys. We fought through it there, and we never did favor that style. We're always trying to eliminate the negatives. But the big playability is there. And we'll try to get rid of the big ones and make sure it doesn't hurt us.

The hard one is when you lose four or five yards and you're 2nd and 15, and it sets the whole down and sequence position behind. And we're trying to eliminate those as best we can.

Q. When you say you have a chance to be a really good offense.

You're not playing Murderers Row this year, you've played a lot of crummy teams. What makes you think that something turns around?

COACH CARROLL: First of all, if I answer that opening, I have to agree with you. So I'm not going to do that.

But there are some good things. We're still running the football all right in general. We went against the best rushing defense in America last week, and we struggled a little against them.

Q. Every time you say that the stats

COACH CARROLL: That's how the stats are figured. There's not an asterisk on it just for Oregon State. Everybody's stats are figured the same as well as ours. So I understand how the system works. That's one of the few systems I do understand here.

Anyway, I'm hoping that we will find it. We feel we have enough guys to make it happen. We've got to get all on the same page and have a nice game, then have another nice one and another nice one. Then we'll see what we're capable of doing. There's plenty of bright spots.

The newness hasn't been consistent for us as well as we'd like. Right now we're fitting together a team that's playing off the defense. Playing off really good defense, and counting on those guys to hold up their end of it. And if we compliment them well and don't give the other team the ball, we can win. And that is a simple formula for it.

If we can get a lot of yards that will be nice too. Last week is a good example. If we give the ball up, it's only three points and the rest of the game is a solid game for us. That's winning the football. It might not be stylish like we'd all like to see, but it's still coming and it's still very new. A lot of young guys are getting a feel for how to play this game when we need them to.

Q. Did you take your foot off the gas at all in the second half offensively?

COACH CARROLL: No, just because we were backed up we were very careful. We were on the 6 and the 5 and the 10, and we were way back there in a game that was still close, against a team that has a really good defense. You're concerned they could make a couple plays and turn the thing around.

So that hindered us some. But we still could have knocked it out. We were satisfied with taking a couple of shots and taking a football away, but we were definitely not trying to give up a play that could change the game.

Q. Do you have any sense why your wideouts this late in the season, they haven't played very well.

COACH CARROLL: It's been up and down. I thought in this past game I thought Patrick (Turner) played very well. He had a couple balls that were thrown out at range. He may have had a chance to make them. On another snap he might get that same catch.

But I thought John (David Booty) was high with the football. He was throwing the ball hard. And on the slant routes that he missed, the throws weren't as sharp as they need to be.

So I'm not batting on the receivers in this. I think John David needed to come through with some throws and those guys needed to bail him out on a throw that was a bit off, and that didn't happen.

It's been an inconsistent year for our guys. They have not been able to really dig in and week in and week out. You can count on it with the throwing part or catching part of it. Freddy (Davis) dropped the ball on the sidelines. It was a ball that was up and back inside. But he can make that play.

Really it shows you the factor we've had of the great play makers that do make those catches and do make those plays. You forget about it. Go to the next play, the guy reaches behind him, catches a backhand throw, and makes the reception. You don't think twice about it. But those are huge when you don't make them. And that's what we felt there.

So I think Vidal's (Hazelton) coming on strong, we need to keep going to him make him be a factor. Freddy had five balls that got away. We just need to keep on him, plugging away and count on these guys to consistently get better, and I think they will.

Q. What was it with the number of sacks by Everson Griffin against Oregon State, was it the speed?

COACH CARROLL: Couple things. (Everson Griffen) matched up well with the left tackle. He had a couple of rushes at the right time and really stayed up field and used his speed. He's had patience about him rushing. When he starts his up field rushes and comes back to the tackle and engages in guys. This is a speed rush guy, and he's learned how to use that.

One of the aspects of the speed rusher is getting off on the snap count and beating it with the crowd noise, which he had a perfect example of that. He had a great takeoff. The tackle was late getting off and never touched him.

That happens a lot in home games when you have that factor going for you. This is a guy ever since a guy that's ever able to do that consistently over the years. He's going to get rushes that are almost free shots at the quarterback because he's getting such great get off, and the crowd is factored in.

But he needs to continue to consistently run around those offensive tackles and make them move and try to stay up. Which he did about five or six times, and then he had four or five great rushes in the game. A few of those turned into sacks, so it's just a process of getting him going.

Couple weeks ago he hit it, too, then he went quiet at Oregon and came back again this week. He's much more productive now. He's more consistently giving the speed rush that he's capable of giving, and he's going to be a big force here in time.

Q. Can you talk about coaching against Jeff Tedford? Has it felt like a challenge though you've won the great majority of them?

COACH CARROLL: Yeah, he's done a fantastic job with their program. He's turned the program around and given them a consistency that they haven't had. I don't know how far back you have to go to find it. They've done a marvelous job.

It's because he's a really good football coach. He's really got a very strong philosophy about how he runs his offense. They've been productive with the numbers of different guys that have gone through the program over the years.

That philosophy, that is a great notebook, great scheme. They've always had a good defensive scheme. So when you play these guys, you're getting their players best shot all the time. You know, they really put guys in good positions and make it hard on you. So it's been a good challenge.

Going back to the game that they won years ago and that one has carried weight for a long time. The next match up was a big match up here that was a very close game. And so it's just there has been a new history written a little bit about us playing against each other that's made for great match ups.

And I think the world of Jeff and what he's doing. I thought the NFL was looking good to him a couple years ago. I wish he had gone. I couldn't get him to do it (laughing).

Q. What stands out at you when you watch tape?

COACH CARROLL: We go back to watching them again. We've watched them for so many years. It's the similar approach, and the scheme and the philosophy that shows up all the time. They've got playmakers at the receiver's spot that jumps out...(DeSean) Jackson and Lavelle Hawkins who is their leading receiver. Those guys are playmaker oriented. And Jordan's a really good player, Robert Jordan.

So they have guys that can strike. And they've done it in the kicking game, but they also have the catch and run ability. They're unusually good in that regard.

So that is probably the part that is first it's just their style of play. And then those guys making big plays and having the chance to explode on you really causes you to focus on that.

Q. Can you explain what's happened to them over the course of the past four games or so?

COACH CARROLL: I don't know. I don't know. You'd have to ask those guys. You have to talk to Jeff (Tedford) in a little bit. Ask him. Playing in conference, that's part of the deal. The conference is tough. Everybody's struggling every game to get their wins. It's really interesting how it is so highly competitive.

But we all play our toughest games in conference, it's clear. I think it says a lot about the level of playa cross the board. It ain't over yet. There are a lot of big match ups coming up in the last month of the season. It will be really interesting to see how it goes.

Q. Are you going to kick it away from DeSean Jackson again? COACH CARROLL: We're going to keep him from being effective, hopefully. You've to do it a couple of ways. If you kick the ball out of bounds you might kick it 15, 20 yards or something. So you have to place it well. You have to use your coverage guys.

We have very good gunners on our team that have been really effective. It is a big game for those guys...Terrell Thomas and Cary Harris. Those guys are running down. Vincent Joseph and Will Harris are helping us now, too. Those guys have to make plays down field.

So it's really important that Greg places the ball well, and coverage is on the mark. Because he can really strike you dead.

Q. By the same token, Ronald Johnson's turned into a nice weapon?

COACH CARROLL: Yeah, Ronald Johnson's been a very good kick returner...very consistent for us. I think Joe, too. Both of those kids, you feel the pressure they're putting on you every time the ball's back there. Joe's ready to break one, Ronald's been bringing it back big returns every game.

Q. I'm a little worried about Joe's decision-making back there sometimes. It looks like, yikes.

COACH CARROLL: I'm sad to hear that.

Q. Are you?

COACH CARROLL: You know, he's doing all right. The one that got him last week was backing up. You get in that situation on the 15, 17 yard line, and the sense of how far you can retreat got him. He went back to the 6 or something to catch that ball. That is an issue. Fallen punt returns, that is one of the most difficult choices you have to make. We didn't do well with that one.

But he's really catching the ball well. He has great hands. The work he's had during the season he's improved enormously. Now we trust him to be back there all the time.

So we're excited about what he can bring. He's just one block away from him scoring. The factors are really positive. Hopefully we can do something against him this week.

Q. Just curious, you talked about the receivers dropping passes. Did you say anything to them?


Q. Coach was talking about how his receivers were dropping passes?

COACH CARROLL: I didn't see the quote.

Q. You didn't?

COACH CARROLL: No, I'll ask him. In response to that, yeah, I talk to guys about what they say sometimes, sure. And some things are sometimes taken out of context, you know. So you've always got to check with the guy first. I never go with what the paper says. First I asked person what they said and what they meant.

Q. But you have to read the paper.

COACH CARROLL: Well, people tell me what's in there. For instance, I didn't see this quote.

Q. How do you evaluate Sam's growth and his role this year?

COACH CARROLL: I think he's been challenged by the issues that we've dealt with, you know, the new guys. In any coaching, the new guys that you're breaking in, I made him use all the running backs early in the season to continue to try to figure out what the right combination was.

Maybe we could have gone with a sure bet in Chauncey Washington and C.J. Gable before he got hurt. But we were trying to find out what our talent level was. We did it with the receivers as well. Brandon Carswell started early in the year, and different combination of guys.

That was in an effort by mid year time to try to know where the heck we were. And it hindered us a little bit in that regard.

You remember back to the Idaho game, it wasn't a fancy game because we were trying everybody out, working spots and doing things. I wasn't worried about how the game would come across more than gathering information. So he's had to deal with that a little bit more, because we had a lot of uncertainties.

But I think he's handled it well. He's ahead for the first time in seven years we played a back up quarterback, and we had to figure out how to do that. I thought mark did a beautiful job. They figured it out, and we were a drive away from winning a football game on the road in Oregon. And he had an incredible start to his run.

But I think he's done a marvelous job. And I know there's a lot of conversation about that, but there's a lot of conversation about. But there was a lot of conversation about Lane Kiffin and when he was calling. So that's just kind of what goes along with it.

I think we set a standard so enormous with Matt (Leinart), Reggie (Bush), and LenDale (White) and those guys, and Stevie (Smith) and Dwayne (Jarrett) and all those guys were playing that it's hard to match up to that right now.

We're trying. We're working on it. That's 50 points a game. Ridiculous numbers and stats. All those things, it's been hard to get back to that level.

I think we have the potential to, though. I really do think. It's clear with the guys we have now, with the youngest coming up in the year ahead here and getting into this thing, we have a chance to have a great offense again. Back to the style when we really were setting numbers and records and turning things over.

So I'm hoping that that will happen as we go through the process, but it is a process.

Q. You mention all those names, but you never mention Norm Chow, oversight?

COACH CARROLL: No, I guess. I just went back to last year, and then two years ago. Norm is doing a great job. They're having a great year...doing wonderful.

Q. Did you watch the New England Patriots-Indianapolis Colts game?

COACH CARROLL: I saw some of it, yeah. It was exciting see that match up. It was a great game, great players, great coaches and great programs just butting heads, man. It was a really fantastic match.

Tremendous speed on the Colts' defense, an incredibly fast team. Really small guys, I'm amazed how they're doing it in a unique style. Guys always talk about speed, but they've gone so far with speed they don't care how big their guys are, they just friggin' fly.

It's exciting see how they held down the Patriots. The Patriots have been juggernauts.

Q. Is that a Tony Dungy trait early on? Or has that changed?

COACH CARROLL: No, he's always featured big guys. And he, Monty, Kiffin when they were together, they put that together a long time ago. But this is the smallest. But they're the fastest ever, too. So it's really fun.

Q. Joe McKnight and wanting to limit the negative plays, but also keep the train of thought that he could break the big play at any moment. How do you go that line with him? Do you watch tape and say this is good, this is bad?

COACH CARROLL: We're real strict about it. Sometimes a 2 yard, 3 yard gain is a good play under the circumstances of what you're up against pressure wise, scheme wise.

Sometimes a tough three is just as good as another play because you went against maybe a defense that was directed to stop the play. So we have to be satisfied with that. That's maturity. That's knowing that you're going to get the ball again and there are more chances and more opportunities. So you have to teach. You're teaching all the time about each situation, each decision.

Just like came up in the punt return game for Joey, you know, he had the one where he had to back up inside the 10 yard line. That situation. Then he also had a ball that we played on a single bounce, that the single bounce bounced right at his feet. That is a unique win on a first time shot.

So you learn from those situations and you make your choices and try to guide him. He's a very athletically adept. He gets the game and understands. Things come natural to him. Joe learns quickly.

But still, I said it before, the best example you can ever give of a great breakaway runner with negative yards was Barry Sanders. He was the all time leading rusher for lost yardage in his time playing. On the other side of it, he's rushed for yards a year or two, too. So you have to take him and get a little bit.

We learned that about Reggie that we were frustrated by him particularly early because he wouldn't hit things. Then if you give him the ball two more times, he's out the back door and he's gone.

So you have to give a little to get a special athlete sometimes. But you're always teaching and trying to limit the negative plays that can happen?

Q. Because of the race in the Pac 10, I assume you were glad Oregon beat Arizona State, is that right?

COACH CARROLL: Yeah, exactly. That was a good day, yeah. Yeah, it's going to be a great finish here. You don't know what's going to happen. Just when you get to the Arizona Arizona State game, the Oregon Oregon State game, you get those match ups, and the UCLA game at the end. Those games, anything happens in those games because of the great rivalries and stuff.

I was talking to Mike about it, you know, we still have some great match ups coming down the schedule. Anything could happen for all of us. It's going to be interesting to see what occurs.

I think there was a time, you guys correct me if I'm wrong, I remember driving home after a game. I think it might have been Carson's year, driving home and turning by the 7 Eleven and watching State get beat by Washington or something and allowed us to be tied for the first conference championship.

We're pretty much done with that day. Then you get some work done by somebody else, and you're live for a championship situation. Stuff like that can still happen in this conference. It will be an exciting finish for everybody. I hope.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

Cal head coach Jeff Tedford

Opening statement - getting back on the winning track

'There is no question it was nice to get that bad taste out of our mouths and get a victory. It was pretty tough going for three weeks. I think we have learned one thing that winning does not come easy and we really need to appreciate it when we do get them. It was really a better feeling on Sunday, no question.'

On pinpointing three straight losses

'It just comes down to the basics of football. You can't turn the football over. You have to capitalize on your opportunities and you can't let big plays happen on third downs and long drives like that on defense and try to create some turnovers. It's not really a secret on how that happens. We just didn't play well enough and the other teams made plays. We just didn't make enough plays.'

On key position players

'(Quarterback Nate) Longshore is doing fine. We've been fairly banged up through the season here and he has been a little bit hobbled. He's on the mend. He's able to do more things now so he was very efficient last week. I think he's getting better each week, health-wise. Hopefully by game time this week, he's a little bit better. (Tailback Justin) Forsett is playing very well. He went through the same things a little bit. It seems like ever since week four, especially after the Oregon game, Justin was very banged up and we kind of played him in a limited fashion. We are starting to get him back a little. (Wide receiver) DeSean Jackson has been playing fine. Him and Lavelle Hawkins have over 50 catches so we can spread it out between those two guys.'

On team's defense

'Defensively, we played real well last week (against Washington State). I thought they did some real nice things to limit them because they can be explosive. They let a couple plays get behind them in the end, but I thought they played pretty well there. It was nice to see (linebacker) Zack Follett back. He had been injured and just been playing a little bit so it was nice to see him a little more part of what we are doing. I thought they played well last week. This week is a brand-new challenge. It's a USC team that is probably the best defense I have ever seen on tape. They are extremely talented and well-coached. They are very difficult to prepare against with no holes whatsoever. Offensively, they have so much firepower where they can explode at any time. It's a great football team.'

On USC-Cal rivalry

'I don't think there's anything in particular other than two teams just going out and playing...trying to prepare and play their best. Like I have said, we have been fortunate enough to hang in there with them a couple of times and make them competitive games because they have been very good. We have had some competitive games and I think it has been good for the players and fans. This is a new year and we are really going to have to play our best to be competitive.'

On team's offensive line against USC defensive line

'Obviously, that will be a key because USC's line can really get after you. It's a key to keep our quarterback standing. They do an excellent job of harassing the quarterback. There is no question that is one of the parts of the game that if we have chance of being successful, we are going to have to make sure that we protect him.'

On rest of the Pac-10 closing the gap with USC

'This conference is so difficult that anything can happen. I think a lot of things come into play with it through a whole season. Typically, USC has been so good because they have such great depth. It's a very balanced conference and you have to bring your 'A' game every week. It's just difficult in this conference to win week in and week out because you pretty much have to play to your full potential each week and if you stumble at all with turnovers or anything like that, there is a chance to get beaten. There are no weeks off in this conference. Every team is capable of winning.

On team's demeanor since loss to Oregon State

'I think that comes with expectations. I think everything was so high that you know the higher the expectations, the harder the fall of those few weeks. It was kind of saying, let's get back to having fun and win one game at a time and forget all of the other stuff. I think more than anything, it was external with everyone talking to them about what was supposed to happen. I think it's a little bit harder when that's happening. Now that it's gone away, at least of the whole national picture thing, maybe it's a little bit easier for them to deal with because they don't get hammered every day now about what's gone wrong or whatever. I think that all came from expectations from a lot of people, be it inside and outside, so when we weren't successful. But now, I think they are over that now and just focused on just one week at a time and playing the best they can.'

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