Jan. 3, 2006
An Interview With:
COACH MACK BROWN
Q. Coach, just a day before the game, could you just give a read on your team, just what your feelings are, reading their body language and whatnot?
COACH MACK BROWN: I'm really proud of our team, proud of their year. They've accomplished so much. You never know how your team will respond to a stage like this because we were at this same venue last year but the stakes are higher. I've been proud of them. They haven't done anything differently this year than they did for Ohio State or Oklahoma or the championship game, and that's what we asked them to do. They've been very respectful of SC I felt, and SC deserves that, and that's a difficult thing when you want to win to badly and people are saying you don't have a very good chance to win, and I'm proud of the class that they've shown throughout the week.
Q. What have you told your players about trying to prepare them for the atmosphere that they'll face come game day?
COACH MACK BROWN: Same atmosphere they had at Ohio State. There were 106,000, and 100,000 of them were against us and there was another 100,000 outside and it was fun. I want them to enjoy this. You work hard to get here. In this environment last year pulling into the Rose Bowl was such an experience for us because as we pulled down the hill, there were so many Texas fans that it was like, "Look at this. I can't even believe this is happening in Los Angeles at the Rose Bowl." We'll have a lot of fans there tomorrow. Ours got a map out and found their way out here.
Q. Apparently this probably is the most hyped game that your players will have played. Do you ever worry about too much hype fogging the focus or causing dissipating distraction?
COACH MACK BROWN: No, good teams enjoy the hype, and they have the ability to focus when it's time to focus and enjoy the moment and the attention. Young people come to Texas and go to SC for this game, and it's been a long time for us to get back to this game, and we took a baby step last year in this environment.
I've talked to the kids about it. The only difference between this year and last year is the stakes are bigger, and that's it. They love to play, and it's about the game. These two teams have been talked about for a month, every day, and that's a fun thing, an exciting thing, and now it's time to let the games begin.
Q. Can you talk about the decision to go with Selvin in the backfield and if there are any other lineup changes that you have for the game?
COACH MACK BROWN: It's really not a change. Selvin is older, been around. SC does a really good job with their blitz package. They have a lot of zone blitz and they bring different things for you, and we thought we'd put the older guy out there first. But we've played all three backs and they'll play during the ballgame. He's just out there for the first snap.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the emotional aspect of this day and tomorrow of course in the game as you play the final game with some of these seniors that you've had and then also not necessarily knowing whether this will be the last game with Vince or not?
COACH MACK BROWN: Well, yes. You have a day and a half life with this football team, and that's it. This is arguably one of the best teams in Texas football history, and it's been a fun ride for these kids, starting with the Rose Bowl last year, and then 12 straight wins last year was a fun time for us and got us back into an area that we like in college football. That's why we want the kids to enjoy this week and play well and win tomorrow night, because we want to be back.
After the game it's a bittersweet time. We tell our seniors it's a starting point for them, not a finishing. I also told them I obviously want you to win the game, but I don't want this to be the best thing that ever happens in your life. I want this to be a springboard for other things in your life. We want to be back, it may be the best sporting event for the senior class, but it's not about your wife and your kids. I don't want you to be 54 and people say what's the greatest thing that ever happened? We beat SC in the 2006 Rose Bowl. I want this to be the best sporting event.
This is a neat way for both senior classes to finish, and they'll remember these times and this game for the rest of their lives, and that's fun. We're the only two teams playing out of 119, and they'll remember that the rest of their lives. It's the only two undefeated teams in the country. It's the first time in the history of the BCS that 1 and 2 have finished 1 and 2, so everything says this game will be a good game, and that's a great compliment to both schools. We lost one last year, Pete and his guys didn't lose any, so these two teams have been teams to reckon with over the last couple of years.
Q. During OU we talked about your preparation for the pregame speech, a routine that you have. Do you follow sort of the same things during a Bowl week and what do you have to say to your team?
COACH MACK BROWN: In a situation like this you're talking more about enjoying the moment and being who you are because so many times teams in this setting try to be someone they're not because they do want to win so badly that they start taking on a personality that they think they have to have that's bigger than who they've been, and our team we feel like is good enough to win if we are just us. If you are yourself and you play the way you want to play and you lose the game, then you're not the best team. All we want to do is be the best team tomorrow night. We don't have to be the best team of all time, just tomorrow night.
Q. You mentioned that not a lot of people seem to be thinking that you're going to win the game. Just from a coaching standpoint, isn't that something a coach often relishes, to have a team as good as yours that has been as good for as long and really isn't expected to win the game?
COACH MACK BROWN: Yeah, I really appreciate you all (laughter). You've been really good. I don't need a pregame talk. But being the underdog is something that doesn't happen very often at SC or Texas, and I think we are from what I can tell. And rightfully so. I mean, give them their due and I have no problems with people saying SC is a great team; they are. I did introduce Coach Royal to Pete the other night and said, "Pete, this guy had 30 straight wins at Texas in the early '70s, late '60s, and I never thought I'd see it again, so here you are at 34. Meet the guy." They sat and had dinner together and had a great time.
Q. What is the biggest challenge you've got to beat in this game besides the scoreboard? And besides the physical technical tactical preparation for your team for this special game, do you use any psychological preparation?
COACH MACK BROWN: You always use psychological preparation. That's ongoing with your team. You have 130 of them, probably 70 of them play, and then you've got trainers and managers and assistant coaches, and so it is. We've talked about it being a big family, and it is. It's no different than any of you in your biggest moment in your business trying to figure out how to manage it, except you've got a staff and you've got people around you and you've got paper, TV network all trying to work together to make sure that there's no glitches.
This is no different. That's what we're trying to do is everybody be accountable, just do your job, remember what you came here for, and our players have done that all week. We haven't had a young guy late to a meeting, late to practice. Everybody has practiced really well. It's kind of what Pete and I were talking about a few minutes ago is we've done all we can do, so let's go play. Let's shut it up and kick it off and let people enjoy the game, and hopefully both teams will play well enough that the game lives up to the hype, because sometimes they don't. That's something that we would want to do.
Really and truly, it's done. Now you just keep the lid on it until kickoff.
Q. Has Coach Royal given you any tidbits about playing in a championship game?
COACH MACK BROWN: Coach and I have talked about that since the day we came to Texas because that's what we came for. Our job was to get Texas back in the top five and not only play for the National Championship but win the National Championship. It's taken us a while to get here, and we're very proud of the fact that we're here. But we started talking about that in '98 and '99, so it's been ongoing talk about big games in Texas and who we are. Our state is different, there's no question about that, our media is different. Who we are is different. Our fan base in some cases is different, and you have to understand it and embrace it and not try to fight it.
The biggest thing that Coach Royal said is you've earned the right to be here, and I want you to enjoy it, and if they enjoy it and play well, then you'll have a chance to win.
We've always felt like in talking to Coach Royal, I've always felt like that if you do the best you can do and that's not good enough, you're fine. Schedule somebody else or recruit different players or change some things, but just be who you are. I think we'll play really well. I'm excited about watching our kids play. They played well for 12 straight games. I don't see it changing tomorrow night.
Q. Mack, tomorrow night one of these teams' winning streaks is going to come to an end, but as yours kept getting longer late in the season, you said you had talked to Pete and really began to appreciate their streak. Just recount again what that conversation was about.
COACH MACK BROWN: I called Pete after Fresno where they had a tough night but won and said everybody plays their best game, everybody plays so hard, and really it sounds a little facetious now, but really it was to congratulate him on being able to win 34 straight games. I've learned something from Pete out here. Pete says if you keep talking about the streak and you keep thinking about the streak, they're more likely to end, so you'd better keep talking about playing and getting better. He's done a tremendous job of that.
Q. Everyone has been saying, give Pete Carroll a month to prepare and he's going to come up with a new computer or something. What has your staff come up with with a month to prepare?
COACH MACK BROWN: We've been pretty good, but give Pete credit; he's done a great job.
Q. Do you recall a little bit your feelings watching last year's championship game and did you think that anybody could put that kind of whipping on what appeared to be a truly terrific Big 12 champion?
COACH MACK BROWN: I remember I think I was on a home visit and I called my wife during the first quarter and said what do you think, and she said, "It looks like Oklahoma is going to kill them; they just drove it straight down the field and scored." I said, "Hang on, Sweetie, I'll be home at the end of the first quarter." Turnovers usually change games, and SC, again, has done a great job with turnovers, we've done a good job. In that ballgame you look at the two interceptions back to back and the fumbled punt, and all of a sudden things started rolling.
I've been in those games. We had a couple of them with OU where after a turnover kids press, they try to catch up too quickly and it gets worse than it is. Obviously the game last year was not I would say it's not what we all thought. It's not what I would have thought. If those teams played ten times the differential wouldn't be 5519 every time, but in that ballgame it's one that SC got rolling and Oklahoma couldn't stop them.
Q. In the past you've tried to simulate like the practice times to the kickoff times, but this week there's been a lot of morning practices. Any concerns about being sluggish with the 5:20 kickoff?
COACH MACK BROWN: No, not at all, and it's because we did some of that in the early morning at home. We've been getting up, and we felt like it was more important for us to stay in the same routine that we had for the other Bowl games and what we did at home. With our finals we start practicing at 6:00 in the morning. Our guys have been up every morning at 6:00. We do not feel like that the 5:00 o'clock time will be that much different because it's 7:00 o'clock for us at home, and we've played at 7:00 o'clock a lot.
Q. I know you've been asked a lot of versions of this question over the past month, so bear with me if you will. Their offense has been referred to as the greatest in college football history. If I asked you for a word to describe it, what would you say, and just your impression when you've seen it all these weeks? What do you come away with?
COACH MACK BROWN: One word would be explosive. Everybody that they've got that touches the ball can score, and that's why it's such a starstudded offense, and I think that's why people are so enamored by it.
The group that has not gotten the credit from our estimation is the offensive line. They're really athletic, really good, and nobody ever talks about them. You wouldn't score that many points and have all of those guys have time to be open and Reggie make those runs without that offensive line, and they're a really good bunch. Pat Ruel and Mac McWhorter, I think maybe we're seeing two of the best offensive line coaches in this country.
Q. Did you ever think you would see an offense like this in college football?
COACH MACK BROWN: Oh, I'd have to go back and think about it. On the day that we played them and we were getting drilled, I probably thought I've seen some (laughter). You could ask me that question on some afternoons, and I'd say, yeah, they look pretty good to me today. I can't go back to '75. I've said this, but you compare Reggie Bush to Gayle Sayers, and Gayle is older, Reggie would outrun him right now. You compare them to the '88 team, well, the '88 team is a little slow right now and in wheelchairs and whatnot.
Q. When Pete Carroll was asked about a particular matchup for this week's game that he was potentially concerned about, his quote was our ability to tackle the quarterback in the open field, and he particularly mentioned his defensive ends. On the flipside for you, what is your one matchup that you're interested in seeing?
COACH MACK BROWN: That's been a problem, figuring out who you stop. Normally in the fundamental philosophy, you try to stop the running game, and that's LenDale and Reggie, and then Matt is a good runner, he scored nine touchdowns, he's made a lot of plays with these feet, but people do not see him the same way they see Vince Young with a ball in his hands. Matt normally doesn't make the 45yard run or the 60yard run. That's not his style. As we look at it, you always try to stop the run and get pressure on the quarterback and knock a few balls loose. With them you start talking about the names, I think it's why they're so good is everywhere you look, they have a good matchup with people. That's why I think they've been so good.
Q. No one particular matchup then?
COACH MACK BROWN: Well, all their matchups are good. Do you let Reggie beat you? Do you let LenDale hammer you? If you do, you'll never see the ball. If you put all the guys up around the line of scrimmage to slow those two down, then Matt and Jarrett the tight end is a great player. There's players on that team nobody mentioned. I think LenDale is the best player that doesn't get any publicity of anybody in the country because he's been such a significant player in their run here. That's why the matchups are hard. If you start taking your secondary and trying to match up somebody with a big guy, it puts you in a tough spot with other guys.
Q. Coach Carroll told us about his first memory of a big game was when he was 12 years old playing in a Pop Warner championship game. What about you? What was your first big game in your football career?
COACH MACK BROWN: I think probably it was our Wake Forest game in 1990 when I was at North Carolina because we were down 2410. If we lost it I was going to be fired. Those will start coming into your mind as big games (laughter). We won it, obviously. We killed them 3124 late. Not that I remember, but on a wheel route to Bucky Brooks (laughter). There were a few others that might be significant, but that's the one I remember them telling me before the game, "If you lose, find another job." It was the fourth game of the year, too, by the way. I didn't think they did that in college at that time, but I was trying to set a new trend.
Q. A lot of the players talked about yesterday during media day how much this means to the state of Texas. Obviously Austin, Texas, very important, but the state of Texas, bringing this back to the state means a lot to them. They seemed real adamant about doing that, bringing it back to the state. How do you feel about that?
COACH MACK BROWN: I agree. The Texas fan base is so passionate about football. Our high school coaches, it's amazing how many letters and emails we got from high school coaches saying, "We're proud of you, and go play for the state pride of Texas." Every person in the state of Texas that cares about football will be tuned in. It's really, really important in that state, and there will be some of our competitors that would rather us lose, but most of the people in that state now want the state of Texas to win, and that's what's unique about Texans.
I was not from the state obviously when I got there, and we had a pretty good year the first year and Ricky Williams won the Heisman, and somebody said he's not even from here, and Coach Royal said well, he's been dipped and vaccinated so he's here. That's the way Texans feel. It's hard to get in, but most of our kids are from the state of Texas. There's no doubt when they put that jersey on and have Texas across the front in burnt orange it's really important to them because most of these kids grew up wanting to wear that jersey and that white helmet, and that will make this game even more unique. You've got to feel like it's a special game for Coach Royal, played SC twice and played the O.J.type team out here in '67 and saw Traveler and Tommy Trojan and the boys run around.
Q. And the correlation between Ohio State, you obviously played a great game with them, do you think coaches looking at that and seeing how you played them, how does that work?
COACH MACK BROWN: I'd like to think so. The more I stay in this, I'm not sure one game leads into another. I really believe it's two great teams tomorrow night, and the one that plays the best will win. It may not be the best team that wins, it'll be the one that plays the best tomorrow night. I don't think it has anything to do with OregonOklahoma, Ohio StateNotre Dame, all the matchups we talk about, because the intensity and the stakes were different for those ballgames in a lot of cases, and this environment is just different. I wish it did.
Q. This is a tough ticket for the fans obviously. It's also a tough ticket for explayers. Which of your five explayers were lucky enough to get those five sideline passes?
COACH MACK BROWN: I've had a lot of things on my mind this week, who's on that sideline except the ones with helmets haven't been a big issue to me. I let somebody else handle that. There's probably more pressure there than there is for the game. I just hope that I can be one of the five (laughter).
Q. Throughout your career you've had a history of retaining drafteligible juniors. What's been your secret to that and do you think you can work your magic with Vince?
COACH MACK BROWN: The secret we feel like to kids staying is we feel like we have a good environment for them, that they enjoy playing in and they have fun and they don't want to leave it. Even our seniors, a lot of them say I'd rather not leave that aren't going to the NFL. So they have fun. They enjoy Austin. They're treated like celebrities in Austin and in some cases will be treated differently as celebrities in the NFL, but they'll never be treated the same way they are as a college superstar.
Thirdly, and maybe most importantly, I feel like the guys that have stayed have all been successful, more successful than if they had gone early, and when they got to the NFL they've come back and told our guys, "It's not easy up there. You need to understand. You'd better think long and hard."
Our advice to the guys, if you have to have the money right now, go, and if not, then start looking into the rest of the scenario to see if it's best for you, your family emotionally. Because you can't get your senior year in college back. What Matt Leinart has been able to accomplish this year, and he really didn't need any of it. The Heisman run again, the fun he's had with his team, he'll be one of the best ever regardless of what happens tomorrow night, and how much fun as a kid would he have lost if he had been a first round draft choice last year and been on a team and gotten beaten around and not had much fun. If you look at Matt, his decision was good, as well.
There's also stats that say young guys that come back and finish school have a longer tenure in the NFL and they have more success. So there are a lot of stats that say obviously the more mature you are by the time you get there, the better chance you have to make it. That's the other thing. It's not just the check up front. The guys want to make it.
I remember Roy Williams, who's with Detroit now, saying, "I'm not as good as I need to be yet. I've got to practice better, run better routes. I know I've got more work to do." I think that's probably a factor, as well.
If you're SC kids and the Texas kids right now, they all think they'll have a chance to play in the Fiesta Bowl next year. They want to come back. It's not like we're 4 and 7. I'd like to have a winning season on my way out. It's a different attitude with those teams.
Q. I'm just as guilty of this as a lot of people. You've been asked a lot of questions about Southern Cal's offense, and with the whopping total of nine tenths of a point you actually have scored more than them this year. I ask you the same question; if I asked you to describe your offense in one word, how would you describe it, and what do you think when you see yourselves, offense, on film?
COACH MACK BROWN: Explosive (laughter). And that's what makes this game such a unique matchup tomorrow night. The thing that's amazed me about our offense is the number of oneplay drives we've had or the number of fourplay drives we've had. We usually I've been on teams that lost and lost badly, so I'd rather not beat a team badly. I've looked at some teams and we've been ahead 5219 at halftime. That's hard to do even if that team doesn't have scholarships, and just about all of them we played had scholarships.
An Interview With:
COACH PETE CARROLL
Q. Can you talk a little bit about how this is Matt Leinart's last game and dealing with the emotions of that and possibly Reggie's last game, as well, this generation of Trojans?
COACH PETE CARROLL: Well, the practice last night was our last practice on the practice field, and it was time to take note of that for the seniors. They've been through a lot. They've created a tremendous momentum for us in the program over the years they've been here with all of the winning, and Matt has been the leader of all of that. We made note of it, had some fun with it on the practice field, kind of dedicated the night's work to it, and Matt went on and lit it up and had a great practice and hit every ball he threw and had a terrific practice and did it with a flare. It was noticeable to the players, and we had some fun with that.
This has been a great fun led by Matt and all the guys that will be going on. As far as the emotional side of it, we've come to a number of opportunities to kind of live in that moment. In the last few weeks I hope it was the most emotional game Matt will play and one he'll leave behind, also. This is not the same kind of a feeling at all. It's a championship game. This is different than that.
We took note of the fact that it was the last opportunity for these guys to be together an the practice field and we'll talk about it tonight in just a bit as we have in the past just to recognize the seniors' last moment.
But it's hard to describe and hard to define the impact that these guys have had on the program. They've been through the whole thing. Some of these guys five years, and all of them at least four years of the philosophy and this opportunity to play on this stage at SC that we've talked about so long, and they've maximized it, done everything they could do with it to this point.
It's really going to be fun to see them go out one more time and to know that they're ready to go and the captain and the leader Matt, he had just a fantastic week of practice. It's kind of the way you would expect a champion to do it. He's been a great role model and a leader for everybody in that regard. It's been fun to get to this point, and I can't wait to watch it happen.
Q. I'm writing a piece on Scott Ware.
COACH PETE CARROLL: That's good. Side by side, nobody realizes Santa Rosa and Marin are right here close together.
Q. What initially attracted you to Scott, and what has he brought to your team?
COACH PETE CARROLL: Scott has got a lot of things that attract. He's a big, big hitter, big physical kid that loves to make plays on the physical side of things, got a great attitude and character about him. He's a terrific student. He's a JCL American, was a punt returner, big interception guy, just did everything you could ask a guy to do. To have a free safety that weighs over 220 pounds that can run like he runs and handle himself on the back end, it's all you can really hope for.
He's been a great player. The only thing that happened in his career that offset it was when he broke his foot in the Cal game but he played the whole game and had a bunch of great hits, and it set him back six weeks in his junior year, but he's had a great twoyear run for us. He's going to be a terrific NFL player, too.
Q. As Texas's winning streak kept getting longer, late in the season Mack talked about how it made him appreciate what you guys have done even more. He said you two had some conversations about that late in the season, just about how to manage the streak. Can you recount what that was about?
COACH PETE CARROLL: No, Mack talked about that. I didn't talk about that much at all. He called me late in the year before our last game, I think, before our UCLA game, before his last game, just kind of to check in and kind of set the stage for if we would both have a chance to win and play in this game, it would be a great opportunity for us both.
Mack and I met each other through Nike functions that we've been together over the years, so we have some background. He was commenting about the streak. I really didn't have much to offer about it. The streak thing has never really been a big deal to me. We never talked about it or dwelt on it because it doesn't mean anything unless you win your next game. I really don't have any advice about it and didn't give him any at the time. We were just kind of having fun talking about it was all that was.
Q. You've been involved in a number of big games in your career, especially here at SC. Can you recall the first time you were involved in a big game growing up?
COACH PETE CARROLL: Growing up, yeah, my first big game was the Thanksgiving Day game when I was a Pop Warner player. We played a team from SanDiego that came up and played us on Thanksgiving Day. To me it was the Rose Bowl. I was a little kid. I think I was 12 at the time. At the same stadium, if you remember the great Turkey Bowl game that happened back in '63 or something like that, at the same place at College of Marin, that was a huge event in my life, and that was one of the biggest football games I had ever been around as a little kid. And then to have a chance to play a few years later in that same kind of setting, that felt like it's going to be tomorrow.
As I little kid you see it, your eyes are so big and you're floating on the energy and excitement of it. I don't feel a whole lot different about going into this game than I did back then. It's the same kind of feeling, the same kind of buildup and opportunity.
Probably what has attracted me so much and I've loved what I've been doing so much when you get to game day and get to that stadium, it's all of the dreams that you live with as a kid kind of come to the front. I've never dreaded a game. I've never gone to any game where I wished I wasn't there, was worried about the outcome in the sense that I wasn't going to enjoy it, and it's been that way since I was a little kid and it feels exactly the same way now. I look forward to it. I'm glad you brought that up.
Q. Because of the tremendous accomplishments of both teams, this is a game that's heavily hyped, and you're favored because you have such a great role. Do you feel that too much hype can hurt your team?
COACH PETE CARROLL: No, I think the more, the better, I really do. We've grown up in the four or five years here that we've looked forward to creating this hype, to being in this kind of situation. This is what we have really prepared to do and hopefully built ourselves towards this. I've always thought go back to two years ago when we opened up back at the Fed Ex against Virginia Tech, which was a Bowl game for us in a sense, we need those kinds of games. We need those experiences, we need to put those in our back pocket so when we have these opportunities we can be at our best and feel comfortable and anticipated, and in that be clear about the moments that you have to enjoy that. You can't get a big enough game for us. I would advocate continuing playing to make it an opportunity to play in this time of year just because it makes each game crescendo into it a little bit more and it's more fun. I think we're in a perfect place for us.
Q. You and Matt have been together all five years at USC. What will be your lasting memory of him and his career at SC?
COACH PETE CARROLL: I've been asked that before, and I have a number of them. But the one memory that was really vivid and that I cherished that it happened the way we did was when we were at Arizona State in his first year, and this was coming off a loss at Cal. Matt got beat up in the first half and he came off the field a couple times, he was limping and all that.
We were in at halftime and we were behind I think 1710 at the time. The way that was set up in that locker room, Matt was sitting on a training table out in the hallway after he left the locker room and went back to the practice field. We're trying to get jacked up for the second half and trying to get going, not knowing what his status was, and every guy on the football team had to walk by Matt in the little tunnel there, and he was looking bad. His head was hanging. He had ice on his knee and ice on his ankle. He looked horrible.
I'm always the last guy out of the locker room, so I got a chance to walk by him. I called him every name in the book and I challenged him, "You nogood, you let these guys" everything I could think of. As I walked away, I kind of chuckled, "I took a shot at him there." I figured it was my last shot because we needed him to play so I tried to challenge him.
I felt kind of bad about myself that I would challenge a little kid like that at a time like that. As we got back on the field and we were warming up Brandon Hanson and I was standing with Steve Sarkisian and we had already played Castle in the first half and he had struggled through it and all that. I looked up and over Sark's shoulder coming out of the tunnel after everybody was out on the field warming up, here comes Matt. He's hobbling and looking like he had just been torn up, and I said look at that, Sark, what are we going to do? He looked at me and he looked at Matt, he said "Shoot, let's go with him." I said, "Okay, let's see what happens."
It was throwing care to the wind. He didn't look like he could even play. He came out and lit it up and he put up about 250 and we ran the ball like crazy and he brought us back. It was one of those defining moments for a guy that he was for real and he was a great competitor and he was going to overcome the odds, and it was a heroic moment and the players realized it and the coaches knew it, and we haven't lost since. This was an enormous moment for us. It told you a bunch about the kid and what he was going to be able to do. That was a long time ago, and a lot of games have come by and a lot of challenges, and Matt has always risen to the occasion. That's my favorite moment.
Q. With all the hype and anticipation about this game, are you and your team tired of waiting now?
COACH PETE CARROLL: No, we're ready. This is what we've been waiting for. You have to simmer through these last couple days because there's so many days since we moved into the hotel. You just have to wait and hold. We've been holding, and we're ready to go now. It's finally the day before.
No, we're not tired in any way. I think as a team we look fresh, we look healthy. They know what's coming. They know what's going on tonight and today's meetings and they know exactly what's going to happen. They're going to maximize this last day and a half as we get ready for this thing, get ready for the big ballgame.
Q. Yesterday Mack Brown referred to Reggie Bush in high school as a threeplay guy, meaning that if you saw him play three plays and you don't see that he's a great player, you shouldn't even be a coach. Was that phrase in the SC coaching vocabulary, threeplay guy?
COACH PETE CARROLL: No, I don't know what that means. Even after you explained it, I don't know. That's not unusual for us to have a problem communicating between Boston and me anyway (laughter).
Q. Just elaborate on Reggie a little bit.
COACH PETE CARROLL: I hear you. Reggie is an extraordinary player. Honestly when we looked at Reggie coming out of high school, I had to look at his highlight film, I bet I looked at it 20 times and looked at memorized the plays, which we've done with a lot of guys over the years as we've recruited them because we couldn't quite figure out what he was because he was so flashy and so unusual. I couldn't tell if he was going to be a hardnosed runner, if he was going to bring the ball downfield or downhill. You just couldn't tell because he did so many crazy things.
After a while, we started really to put together that he had run 10.5 in the 100 meters and all the numbers, and as we got to know Reggie and saw how serious he was, you started to put together that he could be a really extraordinary football player because he was so rare and so unusual in his broken field ability. But not until we actually got him on the practice field, a couple days into it, it was like the second day or third day, it was like, this guy is really special, really unique.
It comes from a couple things. He's got great speed that carries over to the football field. It's not he plays really fast, but what he does that's most extraordinary is he can change direction at such unbelievable speed just in one step. He can go from one side to the other and not break any kind of momentum at all. That's what makes him so unique as an athlete. You couple that together with he's got great hands and he's got this extraordinary competitive will, it just has the makeup of a great, great football player and just a great kid.
I'm not sure what the "three" thing is, I've always been confused by those "three" things. The whole idea about this guy is you don't know where he's going or what he's going to do. We have learned to appreciate when you see Reggie start to do something outside the normal lines of the play, we start to get excited because we've seen so many great things happen. He may start here, wind up over here and be over there again. All this adds to the dynamic football player that he is and the weapon that he is on the football team.
Q. Two questions: First, what position were you playing that Pop Warner game?
COACH PETE CARROLL: I'm glad you asked that. I was the single wing tailback, backed up McCurio, Kenny Johnson at the time and played defense and safety.
Q. And the second question is you were talking earlier about that situation and feeling the same hopes and dreams going into that game as you do this game. When you're involved in a game like this and get on the field, does it feel the same as maybe when you were a kid or do you tell the players once you step on the field it is just a game again?
COACH PETE CARROLL: It's always been a game, yeah. It's not just a game, it's always been a game. By the time we get to game time, our guys are playing like they're kids. I don't care how old you get, I think you should play it that way.
I think this is an extraordinary gift that we've been given as football guys, to have a chance to play. Whether you're playing the Junior Giants or UOP or the NFL playoffs or here at the Rose Bowl, it should be what it is. It's a game. That's the only name we've ever put on it, and to forget that is wrong in my opinion.
Yeah, it is a game. I've thought about it a lot. I've been through a lot of games, and to come to this game at this time, to me the fun thing is and the thing I like the most is it is a game. It goes right back to all the rest of it. I'm not going to approach this one any different than any game I've ever been involved in, and I hope our team doesn't, either. Every time we ever get the chance to go to the game, we're bringing everything we have every step of the way everything we play until the quarter is over. That's the way we've lived this experience in the five years we've been here is to try and capture that sense and that feeling about the opportunity, no matter who we're playing and when we're playing.
I always think when I say that, it makes the statement that maybe minimizes what this is. That's the other way around to me. It's that we understand that every chance we get, and there's so few, we only played 12 games this year, it's not like we play 100 or 162 like in baseball. We have to get up every single time we go, no matter who we're playing or what the situation or who we're going against. If you think you can only get up for a game two or three times or four or five times a year, you're copping out. That ain't the way it is. You can get up every single time every game for years if you approach it that way. That's what we've been doing and that's what we endeavor to do and will continue to do that. As long as we understand that, we'll maximize every one of these opportunities and make it just a cherished moment in our fortunate lives that we get.
It's a big deal, man, it's a real big deal. But it's the game that makes it so special, the fact that you remember that it's a game that makes it so special.
Q. Is there a matchup, any significant matchup in this game?
COACH PETE CARROLL: Yeah, they're across the board. They're all over the place. There's not any one other than I think as the defensive coach, I'm looking at our matchups and our ability to tackle the quarterback as one of the issues in the open field situations. I think that will come down to a number of guys on our team. But I think one of the key matchups is our defensive ends against the quarterback. They're going to have to do a really good job. Our offensive attack calls for that. Lawrence Jackson, Frostee Rucker, Kyle Moore, the guys that are coming in are going to have to do a really nice job taking care of their duties in this ballgame. We'll see what happens. They're well prepared, we just have to see what happens when we get to game time.
Q. When you say that you don't know what Reggie is going to do and what he's going to come up with, how does that factor into developing plays for him? I mean, do you just try to clear out space for him and let him do what he's going to do?
COACH PETE CARROLL: It's not quite that easy, but it's you run designed plays, you design concepts and tactical things that put him on read to do certain things, and the reads allow him the freedom he has the freedom to go where the opportunity has allowed. If the defense flows fast he'll bring it back against the grain or if the defense flows slower, he might bounce the football out. We're a big zone running football team, which means there's a design to how the play should be read, and Reggie knows exactly how to do that.
Every once in a while he sees something nobody else sees and he can get to places nobody else can get to. You can watch our players. He has generated this tremendous level of effort by our linemen and our receivers because they don't know where he's going to wind up, and they're convinced when he's running the football it might be right where they are. Nobody wants to be embarrassed by that not having a full effort on the play. You watched Deuce Lutui, the biggest guy on the football team will scream on down the field play after play after play in hopes Reggie is going to cut off of him and make a big run. You watch Matt, when plays starts he senses that Reggie may start one of those plays where he comes all the way back behind the play, Matt will take off out the back door and be a lead blocker, which he's done numerous times before.
Reggie has kind of trained us in that regard that everybody has to go every step because if you don't, you may miss an opportunity to lay a key block for him.
As a coach, there's a time when I used to look at his film, gee, I don't know if I'm going to be able to control this guy because he's got this vision that takes him all over the place outside of the normal flow of plays. We've come to learn him and appreciate him and try to maximize him. You just keep running real fast and looking for somebody to block and he may show up. We've had plenty of those kinds of plays and they've been thrilling to watch. That's why it's so much fun to watch a great running back because you anticipate a play every time he gets the ball.
I know playing great runners in the past as a defensive coach, you're tense the whole time. You know, you just don't know when it's going to happen. That's what the great running backs bring to this game, a real sense of excitement and anticipation that something is going to happen, and Reggie is awesome at doing it.
Q. So you have the mainframe of playing plays, and obviously guys like Leinart and Bush have earned some leeway. Just your gut feeling, how much of your performance is playing and how much of it is given to creativity?
COACH PETE CARROLL: That's a great question. The better you get at your skills, whether you're a piano player or a horn player or an athlete or basketball player shooting hoops, whatever it is, the better you get and the more confidence that you acquire through your experiences, the more freedom and the more freeflowing and the room there is for improvisation. You just think of a person that plays the piano plays a regular tune and then they play it like they're playing a jazz tune and they find freedoms. That's exactly what happens in this performance of football if you get to that level.
The whole idea and it's a great question that you've asked. The whole idea of our football team and the way we perform is to get to the point where we can absolutely flow freely and allow ourselves to trust our preparation, to trust the people around us, to trust the scheme, to trust all of the buildup that gets us to the point where we aren't worried about making a mistake by doing what we're going to do that comes naturally to us. We're going to go and go with it. That's why at this point of the buildup of the game for us, it's really important that we get to that mental state that we achieve hopefully each week when we play that allows us and frees us up to go. I totally trust our team. The preparation has been perfect up to this time.
We'll go into tonight, we'll walk into that locker room. We'll be off the ground a little bit when we get in that locker room because it is that time again to express all of that confidence and all of that trust in our performance at the Rose Bowl. That's what my job is, is to orchestrate that. That's what I've been doing is to try to orchestrate that mentality that lets these guys fly on game day. I'm really glad you asked that.