Pete Carroll-Mike Riley Talk About Thursday's Game At Oregon State

Sept. 23, 2008

September 23, 2008

USC Football Press Conference

COACH CARROLL: Today, this is Thursday for us. We've had the benefit again of another long preparation and hopefully we've done a good job of taking care of it. The way it's rolled off the calendar here, we've tried to maximize the opportunity in a number of different areas to help us work with our young players, to help some guys stay healthy or get healthy, to help advance ourselves schematically on both sides of the ball in all areas. It's given us a chance for kind of a really special focus on all of our first three games here. So hopefully we can maximize this one again and put a really good performance together and get up there to Corvallis and get the PAC 10 underway in really good fashion.

We're coming in pretty healthy. We had a couple issues here. But for the most part, you know, we can't complain at this time. After a few weeks of the season, we're in pretty good shape.

We look at this game knowing that it's Pac-10 time. Pac-10 games have always been challenging and difficult. It doesn't matter which week or who you're playing or where you're playing, they're just hard, difficult challenges. It's an exciting part of our conference. You know, you don't know what's going happen each week, so we're up against it.

We've had difficult times with Oregon State in years past, in particular playing there. Much to their credit, what Mike (Riley) does with their team. We have a great respect for their program. Coach Riley does a great job schematically. Offensively they do a lot of things that give you a lot of problems. They're aggressive, they attack, they get the ball down the field. Here again, they're doing it.

Defensively they've always been effective. They're within the same framework and schemes they've had in the past that have always been challenges in our conference. They've always been one of the best defenses in our conference by the end of the year. We have high regard for all that they do.

We take obviously this first game extremely seriously. It's a championship opportunity for us to go up and get the Pac 10 underway. We'd love to play a nice football game and get out of there with a win and get on back home.

Preparation has gone beautifully to this point. I'm hopeful that we can do that.

Q. How does a Thursday game take you out of your comfort zone if at all? What's to be gained when you agree to play a Thursday game?
COACH CARROLL: As long as you shift gears properly, get your days right, it's not an issue. We started our week on Sunday. We just started normal practice time. Went into it just like we always do, normal Tuesday. The players responded really well. We had really good work the first couple days. It's already to Thursday, you know, for us.

I think if the coaches are clear and the players go along with you, you use your imagination a little bit, we're right in the normal time frames. So the one thing obviously about playing Thursday night is there's very few teams playing. The only team playing on Thursday night, that's kind of fun. Families get to see our kids play, watch it on TV and all of that. I know it will be a big crowd. They'll respond beautifully to it up there.

It will make for a big event.

Q. You talk about Competition Tuesday. Is that today or did it happen already?
COACH CARROLL: Competition Tuesday is well behind us now. That was Sunday (laughter).

Q. Presumably it's difficult to play up there. What makes it difficult?
COACH CARROLL: I don't think anybody could ever anticipate what it's like to play in fog like we played a few years back. Unless you grew up playing at Reser Stadium, you don't know. So that was one very special circumstance. But other than that, it's just a hard place to play because their fans are fired up and you're on the road. Their team is all jacked, all of that.

But if we got distracted by the difficulty of playing on the road, difficult settings, we would go up and down with our performance because of that. To me, the field's the same shape, the officials are out there. They're just yelling a little bit louder out there. That's what you have to deal with.

So, you know, I think every game is difficult. They're all hard to go out and get the performance that you want. This is just the next one coming up.

Q. You talked a little bit about the challenges of playing a conference. This year obviously it looks like the conference is down a little bit. What are some of those challenges that kind of hold up?
COACH CARROLL: I think you think the conference looks like it's down. I think we had a bad weekend a week ago. We'll see what happens. It doesn't look like that to me. It looks like this is just the same kind of challenge we face week in and week out. I don't want to go along with that thought, okay? I don't think that the conference is down at this point. I think there was a weekend when a lot of teams got beat. We'll see what happens as the season goes on.

Q. Are there some challenges that you're talking about that don't really involve the quality of play from year to year that fluctuate, a familiarity?
COACH CARROLL: The challenges are that the coaches know other coaches. The players are not uncomfortable playing in the settings. There's a familiarity there. It's normal for Oregon State and all of the teams in our conference to play USC. It's not normal for Virginia or for Ohio State to do that. Sometimes that generates a different performance because of that.

There are no factors that give us any advantage of any mystique or any of that kind of stuff when we're playing in conference. Everybody is very comfortable with it all. We get everybody's best shot. We're going to give them our best shot. Stuff happens, you know. It just happens.

Just to explain why I'm not making special emphasis about playing up there last time, we turned the ball over last time. That didn't have anything to do with the stadium...didn't have anything to do with anything. We knocked the ball on the ground. The ball came out of our hands a couple times. You do that no matter where you play in the game of football, you jeopardize your chance to win.

I mean, we've done that at other places as well. Sometimes we can overcome it. That day we couldn't. They played an extremely efficient football game against us that day. Moore threw the ball like crazy, Sammie Stroughter went nuts, kicked returns, catches and throws, all that, along with other things, and they got a great win. You know, so I'm not going to go to that's the stadium that did that. I think that's the coaches and the team that played that day, the way we performed.

Q. Josh Pinkard is getting a starting opportunity. Is he back to what he was?
COACH CARROLL: We'll see how Josh goes. He's played very well in practice. He's had dominant days on our practice field against our guys. He played in both games extensively. We've rolled him in there in the rotation with the first group both games. I'm really excited for Josh to get this opportunity to start. I think it's come with a couple games under his belt, so his confidence is back. He's secure in what he can do.

He's an unusual athlete in that he's so big for a corner and he's really fast and he's really talented athletically. He's a finesse athlete in a big body. He's a good hitter. He's smart. He gets it.

I just have always kind of thought of him as one of the best all around athletes on the team because he can do everything well. He can play safety, corner, nickel, all that stuff, and perform at a high level. Special teams as well. He can play on offense if you wanted him to. He's just that well rounded an athlete. I'm anxious to see him in the role where he's actually starting, he's coming back with it. He's not uncomfortable with it, but he's excited about it because it's funny, it's two years of sitting and waiting. I'm really pumped up about his chance and the fact that he gets to get out there and help us in this big way.

Q. With some of the losses that you've had in the last couple years, the UCLA game, Oregon State, Stanford, those three, were any of those do you think attributed to a lack of focus? Did a lack of focus play a role in how you played in any of those games?
COACH CARROLL: I don't think anybody ever holds their focus perfectly in line forever. That's what we attempt to do. It could be. But it might have been for an individual. But like in the Stanford game, John played with a broken finger, and that wasn't his fault. I did that. That was my mistake doing that in that game. He throws the ball four times to the other team. Probably pretty fitting, you know, had something to do with that.

You know, you never just play the same every single week, week in, week out. We try to. That's what we endeavor to do, but it doesn't happen. Whether that's focus, preparation, whatever it is, it's just circumstances, that's the mystery we're always trying to figure out in sports. Sometimes you have to get out of your own way and sometimes you have to overcome where you are and what they're doing and all that. Then it's always the combination, too, of those things.

What I do know is the way to deal with focus is to prepare really well regularly, day in and day out, day to day, and watch the players and see if everything stays as important to them as it always is. That's what we're looking for.

There's been some times where there has been signs of stuff, kind of the game wasn't as good as we'd like to make it...might have had something to do with that. We're not above that. But I don't know that they're all the same, though, and I can throw them all in a heap like that. I don't think that.

Q. Moving Garrett Green to the No. 2 quarterback spot, talk about the thought process of that.
COACH CARROLL: Actually we've been thinking about that for a while. From the time we put him back in, I know you guys watched our scrimmages and stuff, when he walked back in when Mark Sanchez was banged up, he played with a lot of confidence and he functioned really well managing the offense. He hasn't had nearly as much work as the other guys in camp, but yet still because of his experience and the years that he's been with us, it has helped him. He's got better demand of all of the managing part of it from the communications and all. I think both (offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian) and I would think at this time if he had to go into a game in short order, he would keep us functioning maybe the cleanest of anybody.

But the competition stays on, and the other guys are working great at it. To expect those other guys in a year to pick up the whole offense and run it really smoothly, it has never happened like this for us. We're still waiting for it and hoping this it does. But it hasn't happened. It's made sense to us that he is most confident in communicating the offense so everybody can get out there and function really well. That's what it seems like right now. We may be right, may be wrong about that, but that's what it looks like to us. That's why we're going that way.

In the short term situation, if Mark has to come out of the game for a couple plays or something like that, fix a shoulder pad or something, Garrett goes in, we think we can stay the same the best by doing that. If we had a long term situation where the quarterback was out for a while, we'll adjust from there.

Q. In the past six or seven years, Oregon State seems to rank in the Pac 10 just behind you guys in takeaways. Do they play an opportunistic type defense?
COACH CARROLL: They're really well schemed. This is one of my favorite defenses in the conference year in and year out, the style they play, the manner in which they play their secondary. The corners are always really effective and really aggressive. Their over four coverage team that has a real knack about the way they play. They know their scheme really well. The things they do to complement their base defenses are really well structured, the pressures they use. They understand how they make their base defense hold up by the things they do. It's really beautifully done. You can attest to that by looking at those numbers. You're right, they're always very aggressive. Their run numbers are always down. They're always involved in the sack leaders in our conference. It's gone that way year after year. That's scheme, coaching, all that other stuff, as well as good players. Yeah, that's a good observation. That's why we have great respect for them. This is a team that can make it really hard on you. If you go all the way back to, for whatever reason, the defense has stayed the same the whole time we played there, I think we had a game with Carson Palmer here where I think we won 22 0 in that game, but we fought for every inch that whole day. We were lucky to get the scores we got, even in the game when we played a great defense against them. It goes all the way back to years that we have great regard for what they're doing. As we look at them, they're deployed well, they're calling the same stuff, they're working the scheme the same. They had a rough game against Penn State and all that, but this looks like the same kind of team we always prepare for, so we hold them in very high regard.

Q. What does it do for a quarterback in his first year as a starter for Mark Sanchez to play as well as he did against Ohio State?
COACH CARROLL: Both games were difficult. Big crowd in Virginia, on the road, opener, coming off an injury, with limited amount of work, I thought was a great statement about his readiness to lead this team at that spot...then to come back against Ohio State and handle the game. He's been the recipient of beautiful line play for the first two weeks. Guys have blocked well in the running game. We've had good kind of emphasis from the running game to help everything else. Pass protection has been great for the first two weeks. He's been the beneficiary of that which has helped him get off to a great start.

But I think Mark's really ready to be a really effective football player. But he knows and we all know he's got to show it week in and week out. To do that he just needs to play good, solid football. He doesn't have to do anything special. He has to help the other guys play the game, get the ball to them. If we can keep him in that mentality and mode, we can expect for him to grow. The sign of a good player isn't one game, it's how long you can keep playing well. All we can do is two weeks so far. So we'll see how this one goes. He should be ready to play in the situation of the noise, all that kind of stuff. He had the big game against Oregon, too, last year where he handled it well. It was difficult there. All in all, he should be ready to go.

Q. Is their surface difficult to play on?
COACH CARROLL: No, it's the regular stuff that we play on now. We got a chance to practice. We went out today on the turf. The kickers have been kicking on it. The only factor over the years was when we went back and looked at it, our kickers had struggled a little bit on the turf when we transferred from grass to the turf. You guys don't maybe remember this, but I think we had had three losses on the road at one time, all on turf fields, all where we missed a field goal and an extra point. It was obvious. What was that all about? We put in a little patch of turf over here. Now that we have the field over here at the track stadium, we prepare on it. So that's been the only factor. Other than that, it's not an issue for us. We practiced out on the turf during camp just to make sure we were out there a few days. Again, like I said, we'll be out there for the short time today.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

Oregon State football head coach Mike Riley

Opening statement

'I think the best way to describe us right now is that we are growing as a program. I was disappointed in our start against Stanford and Penn State. They were not good. I appreciated that our team kept plugging away and we did do a lot of things better against Hawaii. I hope it started that breeding of confidence which is so important that I think this team will grow and get better as we go. I hope that kind of started that trend.'

On quarterback Lyle Moevao

'I appreciate that young man. He is playing well and fast. It's all through his hard work. Just through learning and working...his decision-making and ability to get the ball out of his hands has vastly improved. I have enjoyed watching that change and he has provided us some stability after a rocky start and made a lot of good plays. He has that magnetic personality...loves to play and loves to practice. It is very helpful to our overall team.'

On status of quarterback Sean Canfield

'I was hoping that he could be our bona fide backup for this game. Sean has been through a long process. He had that off-season surgery early after the bowl game and had a setback. He is kind of day-to-day. He practiced for the first time, three days in a row, during the bye week and then was not able to throw much yesterda y. He was just sore. We think it's just muscles, but that's what we are hopeful for that it has nothing to do with the surgery. I think it's a reach to say he is our backup for this game, but we are getting closer to that.'

On team's offense

'Our perimeter, talent-wise, is as good as we have had for awhile. With (wide receiver) Sammie (Stroughter) coming back this year, he is playing like he can. He is a good player. Shane Morales has been in the works for a couple of years. He has kind of grown into a guy that the quarterbacks have been comfortable throwing to and that's kind of neat to see. Our flanker, James Rodgers, who played last year as a true freshman and his brother, Jacquizz, is our starting tailback as a true freshman coming in...those kids have a lot of speed. They are not very big. Maybe you guys won't be able to see them very well (laughing) looking down. They are fun. They are hard-working guys. They will both continue to grow a lot in the program.'

On team's defense

'We are growing there. We lost the front seven from last year...kind of an unusual thing to lose all seven starters. We had a lot of guys that played besides them so we didn't put in a lot of novices. Everyone is still finding their niche. We had some rough spells in the first couple of games. We had a rough start against Hawaii on the first drive when they went down and scored, but we actually settled in after that. I was impressed how we took a deep breath and started playing football. It looked like us. I think that group will also grow as the year goes on. We have some stability in the secondary, but we have quite a few new starters up front. They are a talented group.'

On USC's latest struggles in Corvallis

'I don't know if there is anything magical. I don't know. I think they are awfully good and we have to play our best. We have got good atmosphere, I don't know how much that plays into it. I'm glad to be home. We hadn't played at home for five games until last week. It feels good to be back and we will see how this one goes.'

On thoughts about USC's squad this year

'They are impressive. They do a tremendous job of utilizing personnel and fitting guys in. They have a true identity of what they have done and built up through the years on both sides of the ball. I think they really do a great job of playing to the strength of their people. I don't relish playing against it, but I like watching their defense play because I think there is a lot of thought into how they play in the secondary and how they have a great vision on the football and the fact where they use that rush where the quarterback doesn't have a lot of looks. Everyone is squeezing and condensing to the ball, it can be overwhelming. I think they really have good personnel and they coach them well...that's a tough combination.'

On freshman quarterback Ryan Katz

'Ryan is redshirting early because of Sean Canfield's situation. We only traveled him in an emergency situation, but I didn't want to play him. He's a great guy to have here, developing as a quarterback. He has a lot of skills. He can really throw the ball. I think the year will serve him well in all that growth that is necessary. We are very excited about Ryan.'

On playing Thursday night games

'I don't mind them at all. I think we are not in school yet because we are in the quarter system. It's just about the game countdown for us. It really doesn't matter what day that is for us. I think we will be getting school next week, but that will be our Thursday game against Utah and then we will be done with it. I think it's an excuse for us to say that it would be disruptive. I think it's just normal.'

On how adversity has shaped WR Sammie Stroughter over the years

'I think Sammie with what he has been through has gained a greater awareness as a young person of life. It's made all of us more aware that things can happen to anybody. If I had my 105 guys lined up, I would have picked him at the very end of the rope as a guy that might have a problem with depression because this guy was always upbeat and positive. All of a sudden, it wasn't like that. It's a great lesson for all of us and I think it's made him more aware. He is still the same guy if you watched us work or came around the office, you would see a very happy personality. It's fun to see him back.'

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