Pete Carroll Talks About Thursday's Game At Arizona State

Nov. 20, 2007

COACH CARROLL: This is a tremendous week. This is really an exciting time for us here to get ready for such a good match up with a really good obviously good winning football team in ASU. To have the opportunity to play on the holiday, you know, the guys have figured this thing out a while back and decided to match us up, came out with a great match up. So it's very exciting to be in this situation for us.

It's a short week so this is Thursday, and we're working on it if you can think of it that way, it's really Thanksgiving here. But we're having some fun with it. Everything we see in our opponent, Arizona State, they match up. They do everything well. They're a balanced offense, run the football, throw the ball, highlight quarterback, Rudy Carpenter is having a great year, big play makers, defense plays really well. Their statistics are right in line with the top of our conference. They return the ball, they kick the ball, everything. This is a really great challenge, and hopefully we'll pose a great challenge for them, as well.

The way we understand the situation at the stadium, we all think it's going to be warm in Arizona, it's supposed to be cold that night so it might be different than what we were expecting. But we're pumped up before it and looking forward to it.

We've had good work. The week we took leading into the game week worked out fine. We got our guys some breaks and got the guys that needed some rest some rest. We got the young guys the work that they needed, I think, to help us a little bit more the last couple games of the season as we finish.

Now that we're into game week, I think it worked out well having the break as we've had it. We're going to try to maximize this opportunity. We feel strong and are going to try to make the most of this.

Q. What is Sam Baker's status?
COACH CARROLL: Sammy is going to play. If he makes it through practice today and survives it, he's going to play. He's had good work, he feels his confidence is back. So we've just got to make sure that we don't have any setbacks here, but he feels good about it and that's great to have him back. I don't know that he'll play all the time, and until we get at it today I'm not even going to tell you that we're ready to start him yet, but he'll be able to go. And Butch Lewis is ready to go there, as well, at the left tackle spot. It seems like a long time Sammy has been away, and it's great to get him back out there.

Q. How do you feel about playing on Thanksgiving?
COACH CARROLL: Well, the way it's turned out, it is a great focal point and opportunity for us. There's a lot of people going to be laying on their couch. I don't know if we can play well enough to keep them awake, but we'll do the best we can and make it a great day.

Q. Did you believe that you would still be in contention for the Pac-10 title at this point?
COACH CARROLL: Well, there's a lot going on here that's exciting. We're pumped to have an opportunity to win a Conference Championship, and we have that opportunity. No matter what has happened before, this is the same situation we would have hoped to have been in where we could have a chance to have been a conference champ. It's a long ways to home, and there's a lot of games to be played around the conference and a lot of really competitive match ups coming up here. You're going to have to earn your way here.

But I'm excited to be talking in that vein with our team and pointed in the direction of this match up being so significant. You know, it really does feel like it's the midst of playoff time and playoff run and all of that, so it's really fun.

Q. Does it feel strange playing on a Thursday?
COACH CARROLL: Well, really if we can shift our mindset as we've been pounding our guys in to get into that today is really Thursday, then it's not any different at all really. We've had all the same buildup with some extra work really because of the bye. It shouldn't be a problem at all, just the fact that you've got to shift gears for us and get ready to play the football game. So we've been talking about it and trying to get everybody in the right mindset and just transition a bit there. I think it's going to be fine for us. I don't expect any problems with that at all.

Q. How is John David Booty's finger?
COACH CARROLL: Yeah, other than the fact that it looks terrible, he's not feeling it. He's throwing the ball a lot and we've been able to use him as much as we needed to get him prepared. We haven't held him back any more than we thought necessary, so it's worked out quite well, and he's throwing the ball really well. He'd ready to go and we have no issues with his hands at all.

Q. Is Rudy Carpenter's style similar to John David Booty's style?
COACH CARROLL: Well, they're much different. Rudy makes plays that you just can't fathom how he figured it out. The way he runs around, spins around, can be just looking like the play is dead and gone and he jumps up and makes a throw or makes a run. Ever since he was at Westlake in High School, I remember seeing him his senior year, he's always been a very active kind of resourceful type of guy. If he can't get it done on rhythm in the pocket, which he's fine and well equipped to do, he can find another way to make a play.

He's done that in a lot of instances during the season to get these guys back in games. They started out slow at times and had games where they were trailing, you know, and considerably at times, and then they came roaring back, and he always was right in the middle of the comeback, the middle of the fire burning.

He's a problem for us. So he's completing a bunch of passes, his numbers are great. But more than that, it's that special play that he has in him that you don't know when it's going to happen and you can't predict it that makes him difficult.

Q. Is Arizona State really as good as their ranking?
COACH CARROLL: This is a really good football team. You obviously haven't seen them, but they're really well equipped. They're 9 and 1 and they've had a very good start. It's a cool demonstration of what Dennis Erickson was able to do. He came into this program started from scratch and came out of the chutes and won seven or eight straight games.

I know he did it one, he's very experienced at coming into programs; he's done that a lot. But this time in particular the message to the players was really clear about what they wanted to do and how they wanted to play, and they came out firing. He's had a coach of the year type of year, and you can just see the experience and the comfort that his team has and plays with. You can see his style that he's brought over the years come out in these guys. I think it's remarkable and it's really, really a job well done. It's hard to do that. I like what he's done.

Q. (No microphone.)
COACH CARROLL: The soccer team is playing in the Coliseum, the girls' soccer team?

Q. The idea is that you might one day go to the Chargers...?
COACH CARROLL: Honestly there's no time to talk about any of that stuff. They're working their tails off to have a good season down there right now. First place as a matter of fact. They're doing pretty good.

Q. What about New England?
COACH CARROLL: No, I think that job is filled, too.

Q. Can New England remain perfect?
COACH CARROLL: I think this is an incredible year of their demonstrating their dominance. It's amazing how good they are. I got a chance to watch them the other night. As a matter of fact, one of the guys on their staff I'm good friends with. They just talk about the way Brady is playing and they don't even know how to describe it. He's just playing unbelievable football and in great command and control with obviously a terrific football team around him. But he is just playing at a level I think John Madden said at a level nobody has ever seen before.

The way I know Coach Bill Belichick will handle it, they're not going to get all full of themselves; they're going to stay very even keel, and we might just see a season of all time, and it's really cool. They have a chance.

The exciting thing I think is not of course they have a great football team, but can they hold it and are they able to make it through the last six games of the schedule and hang on to such a tremendous level of play. Few teams in any sport ever get to do that. It's really something to be watched. With all of that as it gets down to it, with Coach Shula getting after them and all the people bringing all this attention, it's going to be really exciting to see if they can pull it off.

Q. Is it unusual that Arizona State outscores its opponents so handily in the second half?
COACH CARROLL: Yeah, it happens sometimes. The obvious to me is they're very solid in their leadership, and on the football team they don't go down and get in the dumps when things go wrong. They hang tough. They know they're going to play well at the end. That kind of finish in a finishing team is the kind of stuff that we're proud of around here, that you can really find the way to play the style that you want to play when times are tough and when the game is being challenged and all. They're doing that. They've played great second half football and have not been wavered by their starts.

We have that in mind, too. If we get off to a good start against them, we know that they're going to come roaring back. That's why the start of the game really doesn't matter, it's really how you finish it, and they've been doing it in great fashion.

Q. You are familiar with Dennis Erickson...
COACH CARROLL: Well, Dennis' teams have always played the similar style that they're playing in that his coaches have been together for a long time. They've always been really tough at the line of scrimmage and really aggressive with their front seven. They play seven man front football, which is something that they really specialize in. They know it better than most teams, and their kids have learned it really quickly and they've taken to their scheme and their approach. Over the years at Arizona State they had changed defenses from one year to the next at times there, and these guys have really settled in.

They're not real complicated. They have a very solid, sound package. We understand it and we know what it is, but they just play it really well. I think, again, it goes back to Dennis and the coaching staff have really conveyed the philosophy in quick order and they've gotten great results out of them. They've got a heck of a notebook, and the guys are playing like it.

There's no weaknesses to them. They've even got some young kids playing, some freshman back there, and they're athletic and fast and tough, and it's a very good group.

Q. Did you face Erickson in the NFL?
COACH CARROLL: You know, I don't think we ever played against each other when he was up at Seattle. I don't remember that. I remember watching his teams but I can't remember if we went head to head. I do feel like we have a familiarity. He has it, as well. We've played against each other quite a bit.

You can see it. As he goes from one team into another team you can really see the common philosophy. It's really solidly expressed that they have a way of doing things, and it's been proven to be successful. He's a terrific football coach.

Yeah, I like that part of it. Yeah, we know him and he knows us, so we see how we tweak our stuff and the subtleties that we turn into our game plan and what they turn into their game plan, it's always fun. I've always looked forward to the guys that you know because it's always more important to me to play well against those guys for some reason.

Q. What kind of year is John David Booty having?
COACH CARROLL: Well, he's been pretty disrupted here. I think he's still got a couple good games left in him to finish off the season. I think to expect him to be at his best coming off the injury and all of that was a lot to maybe too much to ask. But he's back now. I think he can be in command of this game and the next couple games and really finish off really well.

I think we've been a little bit off at times, you know, and some of that has been to the newness of our receivers. It's just been pretty well chronicled that we've transitioned new guys and it hasn't been as clean as it was with the great group we had a year ago, and certainly the quarterback is the recipient of that. So it's been a little more challenging.

We're happy to have him going, we're excited he's going to be playing, and we think he gives us a great chance to win this football game. How that turns out if he does what he did last week and complement what we need in the game, that's really what we are looking for.

It's all we've ever looked for from our quarterbacks. We've never expected our guys to throw 400 or 500 yards a game and throw it 40 or 50 times. We want to have a balanced attack and fit it into the game as we need it. John David is certainly ready to do that again. I thought he played a great game under the circumstances last week in most challenging conditions. So if we can come out and do that again, we'll have a chance to win.

Q. What about all the injuries to quarterbacks in the Pac-10 this year?
COACH CARROLL: Yeah, there has been a lot of big hits, and in particular at the significant spot at the quarterback position. It's hard to measure how much impact that has on your team.

You know, you can see what happened in Oregon. It couldn't have been more obvious there. UCLA, they've had a very difficult time with this thing, the guys just trying to keep even the backup guys healthy. For the first time in the years we've been here, we went to the backup quarterback, a challenge with Mark Sanchez playing, and he did a great job. It sends a shock in your team because you're playing with a guy that hasn't been out there.

You know, the interesting part about it, it's different when you start the season you go back to when Matt Leinart started, he hadn't played, either, but he started and got us going against Auburn and away we went. The quarterback, if Mark is the starting quarterback next year, it'll just feel different than coming off the bench.

But it does it is a big aspect, and it's a big factor in games. You look across the country on any level, it makes a difference. Coaches that are able to overcome that have done a fantastic job, to keep their team winning and keep them on the top side of this thing because it just changes so drastically.

Q. Is Oregon done for the year?
COACH CARROLL: I think Oregon has got a big challenge ahead of them. I think UCLA has a great chance against these guys because that's such a different change for them to go to leave. He's a totally different quarterback. He's a traditional, pocket style big guy. He's got a lot of great assets, it's just way different than what they've played. All those guys have played in a different fashion. As a staff playing that team now, you've got to figure out what they're going to do, you've got to wait and see and see how they're going to emphasize their new players. It doesn't necessarily have to kill you, but it certainly is a big challenge for you. But Oregon has the same thing with UCLA's quarterback, so it's been amazing for those teams and it'll be interesting to see how it turns out. Nobody knows. It'll be interesting.

Q. Is the spread offense the next new trend in college football?
COACH CARROLL: I think it already is a trend. I think it already is totally in vogue. It really is the nature of that kid playing the position. It's not so much the plays that they call, it's that kid. Tim Tebow, we recruited him to the end and know him very well, an incredibly gifted athlete, but he's totally different than Dennis Dixon. He's big and strong and physical and tough. He's probably 30 pounds heavier than Dennis Dixon is, a totally different style how he does it.

The offense features Florida, I haven't watched them at all, but I'm sure they feature things that he does, that he can do really well, just like Oregon did with Dennis. How are they going to shift gears at Oregon with Leaf playing now, now that they have to do it and the game plan is really set in accordance with that. So it's an offense that's really centered around a mobile quarterback, I think. If it's not a real mobile quarterback, then it's a very standard offense, it's not that different, just coming out of the shotgun.

It's the legs, the feet, the quickness like a guy like Dennis Dixon has that is so far out of line with most quarterbacks. Jake Locker is doing it, as well, at Washington, an incredibly gifted runner and a fast kid, and they changed the game. That offense in particular puts those guys in a more featured role than other offensive styles.

It's very similar to going back to split back veer offenses that were run back in the '80s and the '70s where the quarterback was really a featured guy, the wishbone offenses with the great running quarterbacks. They have the ball in their hands every play and have a chance to factor in. That's what the spread offense has brought.

We see it across the board in high school and junior colleges. There's a lot of people doing it, and again, it goes back to the special dimensions of the quarterback and how you use that.

Q. So you will be rooting for UCLA this weekend?
COACH CARROLL: I'm not that far ahead yet, but I'll tell you, I might find it hard to do that, I'll tell you that (laughter).

Q. Talk about Arizona State's running game...
COACH CARROLL: I think to their credit, losing Ryan Torain I thought was the best player in our conference. I thought he was an incredibly gifted football player last year, and he got off to a good start this year and to come back and still hammer the football and do what they were doing their running stats were a little bit misleading because of the sacked yardage that they had. They're a good solid running football team, and Keegan Herring can run break from anywhere on the field. He runs really aggressive, he attacks you, but then he's got great breakaway speed, too. He's got good timing. Not a big kid, but he plays bigger than he is. He's physical in the way that he runs and a very good style about him. Nance has been effective, too, when he's in there. They haven't really fallen off, and that's surprising to me because I thought Torain was a great football player and will be a great pro. They haven't missed a beat.

Q. Would USC ever recruit a Dennis Dixon-type quarterback?
COACH CARROLL: We haven't recruited a guy like that. I think Aaron Corp is probably the guy who's been probably most involved in a running when the quarterback was featured in high school, and he has a little bit of special quickness that gives him maybe an advantage over some of the other guys that we've had. We're going to go with whatever we've got to go with to make our team as good as we can make it, and that depends on the guys.

But we don't have anybody in the program that's a featured running quarterback, and we don't have anybody in our recruiting sights that really would fit into that, so we're not going in that direction for a while anyway.

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