Dec. 30, 2005
An Interview With:
COACH MACK BROWN
THE MODERATOR: Good morning and welcome to the first of the Rose Bowl press conferences here at the Beverly Hilton. These press conferences are typed and a replay will be played on the inhouse television system that will be Channel 15, and the press conference quotes will be available on RoseBowlGame.org following the press conferences. I'd like to go ahead and introduce Texas coach Mack Brown. Welcome again to the Rose Bowl, and we'll have a general comment from Coach and we'll take questions from the group.
COACH MACK BROWN: Thank you very much. Good morning. We had a great time yesterday at Disneyland, and I want to thank Matt and the people at Disneyland. We had a tremendous group of hosts that helped the kids get around after their interviews, and they just had a fun time. It's good to be able to watch your guys in a week where there's so much attention on their football abilities go back and be kids, and they were picking at each other about which ride to be on, and it was just fun for the coaching staff to be able to watch them, and then the ESPN Zone is one of the fun things they do out here because they get to eat and play video games, and modern day kids with music and watch a football game on TV, it's a special time for them.
We're proud that our football team did what they were supposed to do academically and they were all able to come to the Bowl game. It's amazing when you flip on TV at night and you see so many young people that are not eligible for their Bowl games and what an awful thing for a young man to play a lifetime to get to this point and then not be able to play, and we're proud of our guys that are 120 with the right to get here.
There's been a lot of attentions put on the distractions for this week, and very honestly, these two programs probably get as much attention daytoday in college football as any in America. So if there are two programs that can handle attention that some people call distractions, these kids come to SC and Texas for this kind of week, so really they embrace it, and I think our guys and it's obvious SC has done it, will play up to the expectations more than let there be distractions.
There's been a lot of talk about are we the away team or home team, and looking at it, very honestly when you're the home team there's more distractions because your friends are around and your family is around. We thought sometimes it's easier to play on the road than at home.
I want to thank the Rose Bowl Committee and the hosting committee because they're trying really hard not to make us feel like an away team. It is a Bowl game and they've done a great job of making our guys feel welcome and making sure that the people around them are making them feel welcome, as well.
As far as the SC team, I like Pete, so that makes this week easier. If you don't like the other coach, it's a longer week, but I've always liked Pete. I admire what he did for a long time in the NFL and he's obviously bridged the NFL to college football as good as anyone can possibly do.
They are the team in college football right now. They've done a tremendous job. You can't question what they've done, so it's easy for us to have respect for them. And at the same time, we understand that we have an opportunity, because they're so good and we're playing so well right now, to be the team that's been the best in college football. That's a goal that we set a year ago. We felt like we would be playing we felt like we'd be back in this game, and we felt like we'd be playing SC in this game, and all of that has happened now, so it's a fun four or five days now building up to the game.
Q. This year is for all the marbles. Since last year, what's the biggest thing coming back here that you've seen so far and that you're expecting for the models and the national title last year was just a BCS thing, but what's the biggest thing you're looking for?
COACH MACK BROWN: We felt like last year was great preparation for this year. I'm in the same room in the same hotel with the same manager at the same practice field. There's a few more of you guys here than there were last year. So the only difference is that the stakes are a little bit higher.
But we do feel like the fact that we were at Disneyland last year and the fact that we know the same host people from the Rose Bowl, all of those things are a plus for us because of the question marks that were in place last year about would a Big 12 team be as welcome as a PAC10 or Big 10 team. None of those things are questions this year. This is a great game for college football. It's a game that every college football fan will watch, and because of that, I think everyone has really embraced it.
Q. Can you talk about the special teams, the fact that after that '99 game people were on you and now you're COACH MACK BROWN: They were on me?
Q. You blocked nine kicks in the last six games. Just talk about why you've been so effective lately and special teams overall is a weapon for you all.
COACH MACK BROWN: We felt, number one, that to be able to win a National Championship you've got to be as good as anybody in the country in special teams. That's an area that we were okay. We lost the game to start the season in '99 because of the blocked kicks. So it really was fortunate that it made us put more emphasis on it.
But as our team speed has been upgraded, our depth is better than it's ever been because we can play two deep of pretty fast players like SC can play now, and all of those things have helped us get better in that area.
But I would think that the ability of Mike Tolleson and Duane Akina, who worked so much with our special teams, Oscar Giles, Ken Rucker, but really Mike Tolleson to sell the team on the importance of it, that the guys are seeing that it changes games and the ability to score points. This team has learned the value of field position, all of the things that you get from special teams, and we've probably done a better job of recognizing success in that area because we have blocked more kicks than anybody since 2000.
Q. Do you sometimes think that because of the confidence, the extreme confidence of your team, that sometimes it's misinterpreted as cockiness?
COACH MACK BROWN: If you're in this game and you're not confident, you're in bad trouble because they're the ones that scream. People have talked about the SC team and their confidence and the Texas team. This isn't a week for a weak guy. You'd better walk with a swagger and you'd better feel good about yourself. The thing that I've learned about SC that I thought was there and I know about our team is they're not having to be someone else here, and we thought that's one of the keys to this week. You are who you are, and what you've been able to do in the past got you here, so don't try to change in a week. We've told our guys we want you to smile. We want you to show your personality. We have nice kids, SC has got nice kids. What a great time for them to show college football fans and younger high school student athletes and elementary school and junior high kids that you can smile, you can dance a little bit, you can have some fun. You don't have to be stiff and you don't have to walk around scared all the time and act tough all the time.
These two teams have had an ability to focus when it's time to play, smile with you all and answer fun and hard questions, but also be kids when they walk off the field, and that's okay. Sometimes that's construed as cockiness, but we like to think that our bunch is confident and classy.
Q. I was wondering if you could take us through the process you've developed over the years in terms of preparation for a Bowl, what kind of stuff do you do when you're still back at home versus once you get out here practice week?
COACH MACK BROWN: That's a great question. We've been to 14 or 15 in a row, I can't remember what it is. But it was enough of them that as you get older you start looking at the people who have been successful in Bowls and you start calling them and say why are you winning all your Bowl games. Sometimes you find out it's who they're playing. That's not a bad deal, either.
At Texas you're probably fired if you're not playing a really good team at the end of the year.
I remember a couple years ago DeLoss Dodds and Kevin Weiberg had me go to Fort Worth for the Big 12, and they said if I'm coaching in that game I'm probably fired, so I'm here to represent the league and not Texas.
What we found is we wanted to go back and nearly start the season over with twoadays at home, and be physical, go back to your inside drills, because you hit less in most cases as you near the end of the season, and then you have a championship game, so the kids have played for 12 weeks, they've probably had an open date or two. Next year if you win your championship game in a league like ours, it'll be 13 games. So they're really exhausted, and then you jump right into the finals along with the preparation for a Bowl game like this.
But we felt like that most of the physical contact should be done at home. So we go back and start over like twoadays. We run them a lot. They lift a lot, so it's somewhere between the mentality of spring practice and twoadays.
When we get out here, we'll spend more time we'll still run, we'll still condition, but we try to sell them on getting in bed and getting rest because they do not realize with the tension around the game, with practicing for an hour and a half, hour and 45 minutes in the morning and going to Disneyland all afternoon and then being on your feet at ESPN Zone, all of those things are a lot of fun, but they wear you down, and people are grabbing you.
There's constant attention of a different type, in some cases, even than what we would all think would be the distractions that they would have. It's people that they haven't been around, and then making them get up early and focus.
So we have a tight curfew, and we have also learned if we are playing in LA it's two hours earlier than Austin, so if they go to bed at 11:00 o'clock here it's 1:00 o'clock in Austin. They have to understand that the transition for the week just about time zones is different. We make sure that we're very, very careful with what they drink and eat and we have diets for them because that matters when they go home. We make sure while they're at home they have a conditioning plan and we call them and hope they go by it, and for a game of this magnitude, you feel like they would, and yesterday's practice looked like they went home and practiced.
And as much as you can, this time of the year, a lot of young people that are playing college football and coaches are not home for Thanksgiving, they're not home for Christmas, so we'd like to be able to let them stay home for Christmas Day if they could, and that's one of the reasons we started many years ago letting the kids get to the Bowl games themselves because they can stay home a little bit longer and after the game they can get home a little bit quicker and it gives them an extra day on both ends to do that. The closer the game gets, the more you back off. But this will be an intense week of preparation, but it will not be as physical this week as it would have been back in Austin, and that's something we've learned.
Washington State a couple years ago when we played in the Holiday Bowl we were so disappointed that we did not get to play Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, so the approach that I personally took as a head coach is let's go back, this is the start of next year, really be tough on the guys. We were tough on them in Austin, we had great practices, I think we were 5th or 6th in the country and wanted to finish in the Top 5. We got to the Bowl site and we did the same thing, and I could tell about two days before the game, we just fizzled, and the guys were just whipped, they were giving out, and then we played like that. I do think you can do too much when you get out here, as well.
Q. Pete was saying two days ago after he signed his extension that he's come to the realization that he's a college guy and SC is the place for him. Earlier in your career did you have wanderlust for the NFL and have you come to the realization that Pete has, that you're a college guy and the NFL isn't a destination?
COACH MACK BROWN: Yes. Number one, I'm glad Pete is saying that because it's great for college football. We're needing positive roll models. Pete smiles a lot and works the kids hard but he has fun in college football. I'm hoping he can send the message to young coaches that we've got to enjoy this more, and I've tried over the last couple of years to learn that myself and do a better job because we're going to lose our coaches if we continue to be miserable on a daytoday basis.
I did come to that same realization. I think all of us at some point look at the NFL when you're a child and you're supposed to start in high school, go to college, and then go to the NFL and you're supposed to play for the National Championship, the Super Bowl, and then at some point you realize what your role is and what you're best at, and I do feel like I'm best with young kids, and we can have more influence on them. I'm planning on staying in college at Texas.
Q. About when did that realization come then?
COACH MACK BROWN: Probably three or four years ago there were some opportunities that came up with the NFL, and then you go from it would have to be the perfect situation, the perfect place to live. I'm 54 years old, so as you get a little bit older you'd rather live where you want to live, and then all of a sudden you realize it's not just about the owner, not just about the place, it's about the kids. Pro football is a great game. We're fortunate to have a lot of friends one of the hardest things about all of our lives is self evaluation, and as you get a little bit older you can be more honest with yourself, you can say maybe this is not me, maybe this is what I need to do, and then you can see other people trying it like you that might not have worked.
I really like what I'm doing, and I think it probably came to me a couple years ago. People try to convince you that you can do this, that's what you want to do. And I could, but I know more about what I'm doing now than if I changed.
Q. You answered a question about special teams. You said you could increase emphasis on it. How did you do that? Did you speak to other coaches, and how did you change your practice routine?
COACH MACK BROWN: All of us talked about what Frank has been able to do at Virginia Tech. Frank is a great friend, and one of the things I've talked to Frank about was just his emphasis publicly, and if it's private or not, fine. But boy, everybody, they don't know about Frank, and that was a message to all of us is that his is public, and if it's public and people are talking about it as a trademark of your program, then your kids hear it more.
One of the first things we started doing was take a Roy Williams, who was a wide receiver, and putting him on punt block. It was very controversial when we did it but it was something that sent a message to all of our other kids that if Roy Williams can play on this team then I can play on it. It became a popular thing to do. Now our kids fight to be put on special teams. We have to do a good job of making sure young men are not exhausted. I actually will take him out of a play on the field and swap it for an energy play on special teams. When a guy tells us he's tired, we'll tell him we'll take you out of the rotation but we're not taking you out of special teams.
I remember people asking, Coach, how dumb are you to play him on special teams because he might get hurt. I said, he should have put him on punt block sooner because he blocked a punt his first play. How many plays do you get and to think that a special teams play is not as important in scoring as a regular down play is foolish. So we felt like that was probably where it turned for us to the better.
Q. Vince seemed to take not winning the Heisman so hard. Do you think particularly with Matt and Reggie on the other side of the field do you think he'll play like he has something to prove?
COACH MACK BROWN: I think he would have played that way anyway. Vince is a tremendous competitor. I'm not sure I did a good job with the Heisman to help him because after Ricky won the Heisman in '98, I didn't think the other guys were interviewed, so John and I were caught off guard a little bit because what a tough thing when you want to win the Heisman your whole life and you're sitting next to two guys that win it and one of them has already won it and the other one just wins it and then you're playing them in a Bowl game. It's like a beauty pageant; you're standing there on national TV by yourself and you're supposed to hug and kiss and be happy. I've seen those little girls standing next to the winner of the beauty pageant, and they all do and then they cry. And I've got two daughters so I understand that.
I do think it really helped Vince understand that even the Heisman is not about him, and that's a realization I came to a couple years ago when people were bragging on me as a coach. For some reason I didn't feel comfortable with it because I knew I wasn't doing anything different because it made it easier for me when I realized that it wasn't about me, that when people aren't being critical of me, they're being critical of our program, and I'm only part of that.
When Vince got back home I told him that our team won the Maxwell, the Davey O'Brien and our team won the Heisman. We should have helped you more. Maybe it was my fault. Maybe I should have left you more in the games in the third quarter when I took you out. You should not put all of that on your shoulders, and very honestly the kids gave him a standing ovation and he got up and he smiled, and it was like it took some things off him.
But he's a very prideful young man, and in that moment when someone asked are you disappointed, I think sometimes we ask questions we know the answer to, and here's a 20year old that gave the honest answer. That's so refreshing to me that if he had said, oh, no, I'm fine, I didn't really want it, it's heavy and I didn't want to have to carry it (laughter) sure, I'm crushed. I've flown 10,000 miles to sit at this place tonight on national TV when I thought maybe since I won the Maxwell and the Davey O'Brien I could have won this thing and I didn't, so I'm whipped.
I would rather see a young person have some cooldown time before he had to answer that question in the future, and that's something I would suggest to the Heisman people. I saw the faces on the three quarterbacks that lost when Ricky won, and as excited as I was for him, to see their families and their faces when they thought they had a chance to win, I really felt sorry for them. It's just a tough deal.
Q. There's so much attention on Vince and Leinart and Bush, is Jamaal Charles kind of the forgotten guy this week, and is he a wild card in this game?
COACH MACK BROWN: I think probably LenDale White is probably the forgotten guy. He's gained 1,200 yards and he's made some really tough yards for SC. When you look at he's gotten less carries than Reggie, and Jamaal brings for us, and Ramonce Taylor brings for us, because we've had those guys in there along with Selvin Young because he's been the older guy with that same ability outside of the known. So what we've been able to do is play our three, but SC has done a great job of playing those two.
But I do think from what you're saying that Jamaal is healthier. In fact, he's 100 percent for the first time since the Oklahoma game, and he gave us the 80yard run in the Oklahoma game, and SC is so fast, we need fast guys trying to match their speed on the field. Slow guys are not going to do well on Wednesday. The slow guys will be with me.
Q. You talked about Vince, and he seems like kind of a reserved kid publicly. How has that personality become one that has become kind of the unquestioned leader of your team, kind of a reserved and almost shy guy become a guy who the team follows, and how does he also deal with the spotlight?
COACH MACK BROWN: It's a great question, and it's very astute for you to even say that because he is very quiet. He's a young man who sits by himself a lot, and I do think that his ability to express himself through dance, through his music, laughing more with his teammates has been able to bring his personality out.
He's matured so much over the last two and a half years. I remember at the Holiday Bowl game where he got his feelings hurt and didn't play very well and pouted. He laughs about that now. Now he throws an interception and before he gets to the boundary he's trying to figure out why he threw it, what happened, so he's very expressive with his teammates. He's a fierce competitor, but he is a little shy.
I was just sitting there last night, something came on ESPN late and I was so proud of him that he was relaxed. He was complimentary as we've said, he was very confident, but he was very classy with his statements about SC, and at a time like this, to see him when he came in as a freshman and to see him right now, that's why you coach college football and you're so proud of all he's become, and that's why he has become a leader. Insecurity is a disease in my estimation, and selfconfidence is just such a it's like a drug that you feel so good about yourself.
He's such a confident young man right now, and he's making good grades. Everything in his life is really good, and I attribute that a lot of that to sports. It's something that young moms and dads out there can see when you talk about the values of sport. To see what Vince Young has been able to do with his confidence and his personality is really a plus for the sport and a great compliment to he and his mom and his grandmother.
Q. You've been able to watch Reggie Bush on film now for a couple weeks. I don't know if it's been a treat or a punishment. Have you figured out a plan to stop him?
COACH MACK BROWN: No (laughter). We watched Reggie in high school. When I worked for Coach Switzer at Oklahoma and when we were watching film, he would say there's a threeplay guy and a fiveplay guy. If I watch a guy for five plays and I don't see whether he's good enough, turn it off. Reggie is a oneplay guy.
I thought Gayle Sayers was one of the greatest players to ever play, and there's been some analogies of him and Gayle Sayers. He just jumps sideways and then he's full speed when he hits. We've watched Reggie because we recruited him. Duane Akina was in his home. We've watched him the last four years, out of high school and the three years at SC. He's fun to watch and a great competitor and a very bright young man. He has a great smile.
But what we've said about this game is they're going to make their plays. When they make them, pat them on the head and say good job and get back up. You have to keep playing because both teams will make their plays during this game. If you let an athletic play discourage you, you're going to have a long game because nobody has stopped SC all year.
I saw the other day, we looked at their stats last year compared to this year. Last year's defensive game had better stats. This year's offensive team is so much more dominant than last year's, it's not even close. For anybody to think they're going to stop SC, they're not going to. You have to keep playing, knock a ball loose, line up stopping them. Neither team has been stopped. I think it's one of the real fun things about this game is both defenses have a real challenge this week.
Q. Are you going to give a motivational speech before the Beef Bowl today?
COACH MACK BROWN: The linemen always win the Beef Bowl. Our guys like this. It's funny, we had a couple trips to the Cotton Bowl and there's a Lawry's there, and the people that own Lawry's are just wonderful people, and with our relationship with them in Dallas and here, we feel like we're kind of home. I think it's the 50th year they've done this, maybe the 100th. Whatever it is, it's an important day to eat, so we're going to really prepare for that (laughter). I don't know if we'll need to run the big guys after practice or not in preparation to eat. But they held their own last year, they did real well.
Q. You mentioned the swagger. At what point did you see that swagger become across the board on this team?
COACH MACK BROWN: I really saw it starting last year in the second half of the Oklahoma State game. I think that somebody said yesterday this team has won maybe 33 out of 37 or 38, a lot of games. But Oklahoma State, when you're down 357 in the first half and have the ability to come back and win 35 to 55 and not be a close game in the third quarter, that will give you a lot of confidence. And then the Kansas comeback and we were behind A&M last year, but then ten points down I remember last year in the Rose Bowl, one of the hosts from the committee coming down about five minutes left, we're still down by 7 or something, and one of the hosts came down and said, "You'll need to be with me to receive the championship trophy after the game." I said, "Have you not seen the score?" But this team has just continued to come back. I think it's another great story line.
SC has done the same thing. You look at some of their games early, every week it's like the game of the century for SC because, oh, God, we're going to beat SC and sometimes they get behind early but neither team has panicked, and therefore that's why you can't win this many games in a row without a lot of confidence.
Q. Two quick questions actually. Can you talk about the opportunity for you to go from winning your first conference championship to getting into that fraternity of being a National Championship coach, and also the film work that Vince put in with Greg to become the leader in pass efficiency?
COACH MACK BROWN: Let me talk about the film first. To go from maybe 18 games where there are a lot of people questioning whether Vince could play quarterback or not and that was fair. We didn't score against Oklahoma 20 games ago, and 19 games ago Vince was 3 of 12 against Missouri in a game at home where we won 2820. And at that time there were a lot of people, period, that were saying we've got to change quarterbacks, this isn't working. So from that day forth for Vince to decide I'm going to make this work, and for he and Greg Davis to become closer, to spend more time together, for Vince to realize that the more film I watch and the more I learn about the personnel on the other team as well as how they line up, the better chance that I have to help our team win, to see him sitting here right now as the No.1 passing efficiency in the country as a quarterback is just phenomenal.
It shows young people, again, don't let distractions beat you down, don't let critics take you out of getting where you need to go, and that's a great story. It goes with the confidence that we've talked about, and his ability to lead so far. All of the things that have happened to Vince along with a lot of other good players is the reason that we're here.
As far as what I feel, I'm proud for Texas. I've been coaching a long time, so I was disappointed that we didn't get in this game in 2001 because we had a twopoint loss to Colorado. I'm proud for the Texas fans. We've gotten so many letters from Texas exes that have played, lettermen through the years that are proud, and it's good to have Texas back in the spotlight where they should be.
Q. No personal satisfaction, though for you, no personal satisfaction winning your first conference championship and having the opportunity to become the National Championship coach?
COACH MACK BROWN: The first conference championship, no, because it should have been done a long time ago. And secondly, getting to the National Championship game is not enough. We'll talk after it.
An Interview With:
COACH PETE CARROLL
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and have Coach Carroll make a general comment and we'll take questions from the group.
COACH PETE CARROLL: Well, it's great to get this close to the game. It seems like it's taken forever. We've had a wonderful season that has positioned ourselves in the just extraordinary opportunity here at the Rose Bowl. Our football team is thrilled about this opportunity, this chance to play. I guess a great team and a great setting with all of the buildup that goes along with it. It's a time of year that we have really pointed towards and looked forward to, this whole thing that happens around the 1st of the year. When it happens here and it's a championship opportunity at the Rose Bowl, it just can't get any better for the USC Trojans. We're really happy about it.
It's obvious we are playing an extraordinary opponent. Texas comes in with an incredible football team, one that no matter how you look at them statistically, you look at their personnel or their depth or their style, they have just stood out so far ahead of the crowd that it makes the best matchup we obviously could have asked for. It's going to call for us to put together a game that is challenging of one as we've ever faced in the years we've been here. I know that it brings great buildup of two really successful programs and historic programs and teams that have done everything you can ask for for a season to make this just a beautiful Rose Bowl.
We're really pumped up about it, and everything has gone well to this point. Practice has been right on the mark, our players have been tuned in and fortunately healthy. We've had great competition throughout the early weeks here, and as we finish here in game week, really our focus is to have a great day today and put together essentially a great Tuesday practice for us in our format and make the most of this day, and then go to the next day and the next day and bring us right up to game time where we have a chance to do something really special. We're really pumped up about it.
The other thing I'd say is we've been in this situation where you get to play this game in Miami, and it was an extraordinary experience last year and it was really special and fun and all that, but for us at USC to be able to do this in Southern California and the buzz and the hype and the buildup is right here at home and all of our local people in the media and our fans and all can be this close to it, it just makes it even more special. It's all we can ask for, and I hope that our preparation will show that we're ready and that we're worthy of this opportunity and we can make something of it.
Q. Considering whether you thought you were going to be in this game or not at whatever point, when did you think that Texas would be the team you would be playing in this game?
COACH PETE CARROLL: You know, I don't spend a lot of time on that. I noticed during the UCLA game the score flashed up there and it was 70 to whatever and they had finished off their season. That's when I knew. You kind of hear the rumble of it, and they were having such a big season. But you might be surprised, I don't have a chance really to follow the other teams and what's going on. The nature of the BCS, there's always a little bit of mystery there, so we just waited that one out. Really at the time when I saw that score during our game, that's when it hit me that we knew who we could play if we could win our game.
Q. You talk about the being at home, as you put it, the buzz and all that. What have you done to keep everyone focused at this hype level? There's so much hype and this and that. You've been there before. What do you tell your players?
COACH PETE CARROLL: Well, the fact that we've been in this situation, really it feels like for three or four years at this time of year, and we've had the experience of being in the spotlight for quite some time that it's been normal for us in a sense in that there's always something going on at practice, always a lot of people that want to get a piece of what our opinion is about this and that. We've had all of the Heisman buildup that we've lived with over the years that really adds to the following and just places us in this position often.
So for our players, it's business as usual for us. That's not very exciting, but that's really what it is. We talk about it I think in normal fashion as you would expect. More than anything I want them always to be ready for what's coming so that they have a sense for what to expect. Because we've been through it, they do have an idea, so as we prepare them and talk about what's coming, we're very proud to have this opportunity to be here, and we don't want it to affect us in any way so that we feel comfortable, and that's really what's happened.
We make time for the media, do things we normally do, try and be very gracious about it the best that we can, and really we open ourselves up quite a bit to what's going on around us. Some of our practices there's quite a few people at times and all that. I think just that whole sense that there's always something going on around us is something that's important for our team to understand is natural and normal, and you can't let that affect you.
It hasn't, and it hasn't been it's fun, we like it and all that, and we're lucky to be here. But we just kind of deal with it in normal fashion and it allows us to stay in stride pretty much.
Q. Your quarterback gave up millions of dollars to return for his senior year. Can you point to two or three specific examples during the season that you think made it really worthwhile for him to return this year?
COACH PETE CARROLL: Well, now to look back it's a good question because now to look back and talk to Matt I'll answer your question in a second.
To project back to where he was when he made the decision to stay, he was amidst turmoil personally. He wanted to do the right thing, make the right decision. He had a lot of people tugging at him. He had an enormous opinion from the media that he should come out and go to the NFL. He was really torn up about it at the time, and he was quite relieved when he got through it.
To see him now, knowing what's coming, and we've talked directly about it, his readiness now is so obviously different than it was a year ago. The whole decision has paid him off and paid him back. His mentality to go into the next opportunity is so much stronger that he'll be better for it and all of that. That's the general sense, that he couldn't be more ready now, and he wasn't at that point a year ago. So his emotional state is really in the right place.
I know that there was a that early in the year we had a lot of excitement. We really hit it fast with the offense and really were coming out of the chutes, and our guys were just having a blast playing, couldn't wait to get back out and all that.
Then we hit a portion in the schedule where we were behind at halftime in some games and had to come back and Matt didn't feel like Matt. As we talked about, the pressure and the buildup and the expectations he started to sense because he wasn't hitting it like he would like to hit it with his numbers. I remember he was sitting in my office and had thrown for 322 yards and four touchdowns and no picks, and he was really upset and frustrated. There was a point where it was like, Matt, let's remember who you are and what you're all about and what you mean to this program.
At that time, I think that was around probably after the Oregon game, Matt, we kind of talked about it and realized that he said something to the team that he wasn't playing as well as he should. You can expect me to play better, I'm going to get back to the feel and the fun of playing the game. That week right in there was the transition week that Matt made his jump back into really feeling comfortable and being excited about the season at hand. We kind of faced the monster a little bit. And he hasn't been the same since.
So that was the turn when I think he felt best about what was going on. He was excited about the football season that was at hand. He stopped projecting about what should happen and what he should be and just got back to being a kid playing football and having fun with it.
There was other moments I think he'll forever be grateful for the opportunity in the Notre Dame game to make the play that he had to make to set up the win and to be part of the touchdown to win the game, I think that's a moment that you can only get maybe if you're lucky once in a lifetime, and that wouldn't have happened. That was really kind of, again, the turning point for us in a season as a team to get on a run to finish out this year. I know that that was kind of a pivotal opportunity that I think Matt will never forget.
Q. When you see Vince Young, what do you see?
COACH PETE CARROLL: I saw him yesterday with these big Mickey Mouse gloves on, and I thought he should have a chance to play with those (laugher).
He's an incredible competitor. You can't ask for a guy to have more ability. He's fast, he's big, he's strong, he's confident, great arm, knows when to escape. Looking at him last year versus this year, you can see the maturity in the throwing game and his decisionmaking and all of that. He's a fantastic football player. He's so good that he draws all of your attention and the team is loaded with talent, and you can't help but talk about him, watch him. Game playing against him, it's just a natural trap that you can overlook, the power of the rest of the football team, particularly on the offensive side.
You can't see anything but him when you first look at the football team because he's right in the middle of all the action. He's a fantastic player, deserves all of the attention and the focus that he's received. It's the kind of player that comes along with great teams. There's somebody that stands out that makes a difference, and he's certainly done all of that.
Q. These are two offenses that average almost 1,100 yards and over 100 points a game. Have you ever coached in a game like this before with two such potent offenses, and is it possible for you to rank where this one is for you that you've seen in college football?
COACH PETE CARROLL: Well, back in the MCL back in high school, the Giants had an offense that was kind of like this (laughter).
Heck no, man. This is two historic offenses. They're doing everything you can possibly do. There are no matchups like this. You don't see numbers like this other than in video games. There's so many explosive players on both sides, offenses that are wide open, offenses both have great balance. This is rare to see this kind of matchup.
It tends to direct your focus that this is going to be a high scoring game and you would think all of that. We don't know how this is going to turn out. But it won't surprise anybody if that's what happens with all of the fire power that both teams bring. This is a rare matchup in that regard.
Q. I was wondering if you could take us through I heard you say you guys have developed a schedule doing this the last three or four years in terms of how you set your preparations from the time the regular season ends up through getting to this week. I was wondering if you could take us through that and how you developed that.
COACH PETE CARROLL: There's like three major phases of it, really. The first phase is just playing football and really making sure that the long transition doesn't take away from the level of play. So what we do is in the first phase is like spring football for us. We spend a lot of time just playing ball, competing against one another, situational play that calls for us to use your head and think and not just running through going through the motions of running plays.
We feature our young guys, really give them an opportunity to push to the front in preparation for spring football. Get a look at guys in positions, move some people around, really just doing football things, just working at your game.
Then the next phase is prior to the break at Christmas, and this is really a concept from the old 49er days, preparing for Super Bowls and stuff, when you have two weeks, two major weeks before you play, the week prior to the final week is your game plan week. So we finished our game plan before Christmas and had everything in the books as much as we could at that time, take the break and then come back and now try to in the midst of all of the excitement of the bowl and all of the events and things like that, have the brain work done and then we just physically try to practice at a great tempo to get us ready for game time. That's basically how it goes.
So we know that our plan is already done now, and as we finish the last five days here, it's really just polishing and trying to practice at a really high tempo. We'll maintain the competition at practice like we always do just to keep the speed and the focus up as we end up every day. That's the format.
Q. As we get closer to the game, are you starting to think more of the historical aspect of this contest of doing something that's never been done before?
COACH PETE CARROLL: No. If I did that, then I wouldn't stay with the discipline of how we do stuff. I really don't feel in that regard about making a statement about history or any of that kind of stuff. We're just getting ready for our game. It has never been a focus of our program to look at the end of the rainbow kind of thing here, and we don't do that.
If I started doing that now, I'd start getting off the mark and I could only expect that my players would do the same. We're pretty disciplined about all of that. Really it doesn't what's it going to do for me? What am I going to get out of that? It doesn't seem like it serves us well to be dwelling on anything beyond what's going on today.
However, there will be a time. I don't know when that time is going to come, but I just don't feel it and I don't understand the sense of it right now, I guess. Sorry.
Q. You mentioned Matt's defining moment. What about for the team? Anything you can trace back to kind of what kick started them the way you wanted them to play this year?
COACH PETE CARROLL: I was really pointing towards getting through the sixth game and going really into the seventh game, which was I think the Washington game. I wanted to get us into the second half of the season in essence. We've talked so much and dwelt so much upon the character we want to have in our football program that makes us a great finishing football team that I felt like if we could get to halftime with all of our wins in order that we would have a chance to push it home at the halfway point of the season.
In the meetings building up to the Washington game, it was the topic of let's really pull it together in even better fashion than we had earlier in the season. What had been done was done, but we had the finish opportunity to begin with. And so that was if you look back, we really started playing from that point on. I think we cleaned things up, we stopped kind of the slow starts. The football started coming our way, big numbers, and we finished off the season in just a flurry of turnovers. Our style and the philosophy of our team really started to show up, I thought. We ran the ball well, had great balance on offense, and the football was really ours.
That was the big turning point. It was really making note that it's time for finishing the second half. When you march right through it, you get to the fourth quarter of the football season. That's kind of the way we talked about it. I felt like we got stronger as the year went on. It was an exclamation point for the season to finish so well against UCLA at the end of the year, which is really what we're trying to do. We're trying to get stronger throughout the course of our challenges and finish at the top of our game. That's kind of how it felt. I don't think there's any one point other than that emphasis really seemed to kind of hold true to us as we finished off the year.
Q. Did you really send LenDale to New York to give him a taste of what might be available to him next year, and if so, do you think it was effective?
COACH PETE CARROLL: No, that's not really what happened. That was a product of the experience. Reggie was kind of hoping that he could go with him so he could have a buddy with him to go through that whole thing, so it seemed like a good idea. We had sent some guys back with Matt a year ago to go along with him just to be there so that it stayed more personal for him. That situation there, it's so big and you can feel so isolated in the midst of all the surroundings that I just wanted to make it for fun for Reggie, and LenDale wanted to do it, too.
Now, the other side of that is he did have an opportunity to see what that's all about and to experience it, but that was by no means a motivating decision or an incentive or anything like that.
Q. You guys have had some tremendous performances in the Bowl games. Is that maybe a function of there being more pressure during the regular season than in the postseason for your players?
COACH PETE CARROLL: For us what we're doing here and the experience that we're having right now over the last few years, every game is a championship game for us. You hear people say stuff like that. You know, that's the way we try and live it. We try and live every single game because when you're on this kind of a level, every game has the opportunity of knocking you out of it.
So to have the buildup and the great hype from our opponents at their stadiums on the road to be just raucous and crazy and all of that makes us better. It makes us stronger. It adds to kind of the reservoir of experiences that you can draw from so that you can feel comfortable in a situation, in a game like that. We just played before 92,000 fans at The Coliseum in the matchup with our crosstown rival and all of that which brings as much buildup and emotional hype as you could expect for a college team. That's good for us and that's what we've we've been through that again this year just the last time out.
So this next game with all that comes along with it is just the next step for us. And so it really helps us. The thing that everybody always says, you take your team's best shot and the Bowls are, whatever that stuff is, that's become what we expect, and that makes us have to play up every week, and if we don't respect every challenge that we face every week, then we're going to get beat. That's the discipline that we're faced with.
I'm really excited about trying to orchestrate from week to week and year to year because I know it's difficult to do this, but it is I think it's maximizing every opportunity and building it up as much as we can and making it a championship experience is that which gives us the sense of how to handle each game as we go down the schedule. This comes obviously at the end of it all, this is an extraordinarily perfect time for us to finish on a really high note if we're able to do that, and we've been well prepared to do that.
Q. When Mack Brown was in a little earlier, he was talking about being glad that you're staying because he felt like it sent a message about enjoying where you're at and the NFL isn't the beall and endall of coaching. Do you feel like there's a larger message that your decision makes?
COACH PETE CARROLL: Well, this wasn't really a decision, first of all. I've been telling everybody that asked the same thing two days ago, that I love being here, I'm having a great time. All of the obvious is true. I think when you look at the way we go about it, look at the way we are, this is just a continuation is really all it is. This was not a big event for me at all. People are asking me, are you glad? No, I was just trying to make it clear how much fun we're having and how it would be nuts to leave this behind.
In the bigger sense of it, I liken it a little bit to Matt's decision. I would like to think that Matt and I have come together a little bit in our thinking. If you listen to what Matt said when he stayed a year ago, he wasn't ready to leave his team, and he loved what he was doing. There was so much fun to be had, he didn't want to give it up. And the money didn't matter.
If you want to make a message out of that, that's what the message is. That's all the truth with me. I feel that about every part of this. I love being in Southern California, I love living here, I love representing this University. In that regard, we kind of thought the same way, and it's just the truth, that's all.
Some guys just didn't understand that the money doesn't make the situation great; the money adds to the things that you can get. That stuff that you can get may be of great value to some people, and it isn't to me. What's the value is the experience and having fun and winning and being challenged by how long you can stay on top, not if you can get there once in a while. This is a rare opportunity with the right elements, the right ingredients that you need to have a chance to do that, and I'm not going to give it up.
Q. When was the last time you played against a quarterback with Young's mobility, and how do you game plan against that sort of athleticism? COACH PETE CARROLL: Well, there's nobody like this. I don't see it. There's guys that can run and there's guys that can throw and there's quick guys and all that, but nobody has ever been this fast. The style of the throwing game that they've added to the their predominantly shotgun attack that gives him a chance to run the ball all the time is one that features downfield throwing, a lot of long, hard, difficult throws, and he's been great at it. So that taxes you. It's not just a little dinkanddunk type of throwing game to move the football; they're trying to strike you with their throwing game.
When you couple that with the mobility and it stretches the field out and gives him a chance to take off when he wants to take off, there hasn't been anything like this.
The one guy that I thought physically that he's similar to in his early days was Randall Cunningham was an extraordinarily fast guy with a huge arm, and in that regard they're similar. I don't think Randall ever ran quite as fast as Vince did, but he was extraordinary. When we coached against him back at Las Vegas when he was in college was the first time I saw him, but he was hurdling guys when they were standing up and he was hurdling over them. I haven't seen Vince do that yet, but he's got it in him if he needs it, I'm sure.
Q. Can you talk about Texas's special teams, the fact that they've blocked nine kicks over the last six games and just what you're seeing from that, that success?
COACH PETE CARROLL: Like I said, they're so talent laden that when they put their special teams together, they have terrific athletes in every spot. They're fast, they're explosive, they're playmaking guys. We've watched the guys they've recruited over the years, and they're taking a bunch of great football players that when they get their chance to do something, they're making the most of it. They have great speed, they're not real trying to do something to outsmart you, they're putting their guys in positions where they physically can show their talent and their ability level, and they've overwhelmed their opponents. You look at them statistically in every single category, you look for a good number here, a good number there, they have them in all areas. So they pose a tremendous threat.
The thing that you hope a really good football team does is there is no weakness, there is no soft spot, there are no holes. They have none. We're real concerned. We have not had a great season on special teams. We've had our ups and downs, we've had our issues at times and had to overcome them. I'm sure they're excited about that matchup.
Q. Given the situation under which you took this job, have you ever felt the desire to gloat over your success, and also COACH PETE CARROLL: Quietly behind closed doors, yes (laughter).
Q. Have any of the people who objected to your hiring ever come forward to you and said, "Man, I was totally wrong"?
COACH PETE CARROLL: Yeah, there has been there were so many of them at the start that they felt so guilty that they've had to do it (laughter). It was for their own good kind of a thing (laughter).
You know, I really expected to do well. I really thought that we would have a chance to do well. I didn't know to what level it would be, but I came in here so ready because of the experiences that I just had that I really felt like it could have an impact and we could get things going. I was told so many times early on that SC couldn't return to the level that they used to be at, scholarship numbers, the tight end changed, different teams had taken dominant roles in the conference and nationally and all of that. I just received information and just said, well, we'll find out and see what happens.
What I hoped to do at the beginning was coach this football team and take them to a point where we would find out what is the level that USC could reach and how far we could go. So my expectations being that way, I just don't swing back to that other thought of, you know, stick it in your face or whatever. It doesn't come to mind. We're just very lucky.
Q. Can you talk about what this game means to the BCS? Obviously over the past couple years there's been some controversy. What does it mean to have the 12 match up?
COACH PETE CARROLL: What are we talking about, the BCS? They're all sitting up there (laughter). Is it one guy, like the Wizard of Oz kind of thing (laughter)? Well, thanks for this opportunity to speak to the BCS (laughter).
It's just a freakin' system. Somebody came up with a formula. I've never been really connected to those that we're talking about in a sense and haven't understood the system and it's always been confusing to me how things could work out the way they've worked out. I've never understood how two thirds of the thing can vote for you one way and one third can knock you into fourth place. It looks like it should be third, third, third, but that's my simple math.
It's a good time, I guess, for those at that party at the BCS house (laughter) can't you picture them (laughter)? Where we finally have arrived, and they're going to enjoy the hell out of it because next year all chaos could hit once again and they could have that 13 thing going again and what are they going to do about it.
Yeah, it's good. Anyways, the BCS has been kind of humorous and comical the whole time. We were in this situation three years ago at the Rose Bowl and faced with the fact that how where you going to deal with the fact that the BCS has knocked you out of this thing here. And it didn't. We won the National Championship that year at the Rose Bowl. The only thing that happened was when Frostee Rucker said, "Coach, if we win the Rose Bowl will we get the crystal ball?" I said, "No, Frostee, we won't get the crystal ball this year, but there may be another shot somewhere down the road." The BCS is what it is. I'd like for them to come talk to me once in a while.
That was a long answer for that question (laughter).
Q. In the eventuality you ever lose in like 2014 or something like that, have you ever prepared remarks what you would say to your team in the locker room after they lose?
COACH PETE CARROLL: Those come in the ways of dreams once in a while. You wake up, oh, no, here I am in the middle of the conference having to answer the questions or whatever. You know, if you're a really good contingency planner like I'd like to think that I will become some day, you have to think your way through all this stuff. In my mind, I'm really always looking for something good that's going to happen the very next thing that I have a chance to confront. So I don't go there. I think, again, it's a discipline of where you want to be and what you want to be like and that you need to hold onto. So I'm pretty disciplined about that.
Somebody is going to get us some day, that's just the way it goes. That won't be what's important. What will be important is how we respond to that, and we've got to beat them all back, and we were challenged by that. When it happened, we turned around and haven't lost since. That's what I like. Someday you're going to get it, but it's how you're going to respond to that that is important.
Q. You had said the other day you were really impressed at how Matt and Reggie have handled all that's been put on them in the last couple years. Could you elaborate a little bit on that and what in their personality has allowed them to flourish as huge stars in a big market and all that comes with that?
COACH PETE CARROLL: I think we've been very fortunate to have gone through this before. Matt was really the beneficiary of watching Carson Palmer go through it and all that that meant. Carson's deal was different than Matt's, didn't have the same kind of buildup because it had been such a span between the last Heisman. But the fact that Matt had a chance to go through it, and imagine when Matt wins the Heisman and Reggie is sitting right next to him going through that whole process, he was able to be the recipient of the experience and kind of have a sense for what that's all about so that he could have a way of thinking his way through it and being mentally clear about it.
I'd like to think that the way they've handled all of the buildup and the fall is much in line with the way our football team has handled it, our mentality to I think you have to get to the truth of what's going on and realize and accept the admiration and the following in a way that allows you to deal with it all. I think that's what our guys have done. They're not uncomfortable with it. It does become overwhelming at times, and we try to help them and gauge that and make it fit the times that we're dealing with.
But most of all, you see I'm grateful that you've seen grace and humility from these guys, you've seen a sense of understanding of why it happens. It happens because they're on highly successful teams and guys around them have played great, and without that it wouldn't occur. They really know that; they don't just say that, they know it. That's the truth. That's the facts of this.
When you get to that sense and you can step away from it's all about me, me, me, then I think the humility comes through and then the acceptance comes through even more so because you don't have to try and show them by yourself. This is not an award that is only won by one person. We know better. It comes when you win and you have big seasons and you play well at the end of your year and you finish on a high note when the focus and the attention is on you and you come through when it is your moment and all of that. That all goes back to everything that supports you.
I think that's why they've handled it well. They're extraordinary these are extraordinary young men now. These are guys that are high achievers, great will, competitors, really nice guys, really thoughtful, considerate people. You put all of that together with a great family background and all of the support, it gives these guys a makeup that allows them to handle it in the fashion they've handled it. We're really, really proud of those guys, and I think college football should proud of those guys and the way that they've dealt with this opportunity, and we've set the mark and the example for our kids that are going to have that chance very, very high in term of how they're going to deal with it and the character that they've shown through the process.