USC Head Coach Pete Carroll
"This is a great week and a great
match-up with all kinds of implications for the conference. It's an exciting
opportunity for us to start the last stretch at home. We've been on the road a
long time and looked forward to the opportunity to be around the Coliseum for a
number of times. Hopefully we can get off to a great outing against
"We're in a situation where we have
some guys that we're holding our breath on whether they'll make it or not. These
guys really want to play in this game badly, like Matt Grootegoed and Mike Williams. It looks like both we'll have to wait through the week to see where
they fit in. It looks like Ronnie Nunn, who got hurt at
(If Mike Williams plays, how limited will he be?)
"I don't know yet. We've had a number of ankle injuries this year and we've had a real range in severity of them. Matt Leinart had an ankle injury that hobbled him for most of the game at ASU and by Wednesday or Thursday, he was alright. And we've had ones that have taken four or five weeks. It's not looking at all like it's a long term recovery. But how quick can he get back to the demands of the position? Mike feels confident he'll play."
(Did you expect
"I heard from some of their coaches on the road in spring recruiting that they were encouraged that they'd have a terrific team coming back and I was kind of hoping for the other way around. They lost a great QB last year and I hoped Jason Gesser was the answer to their success. But obviously, that was not the case and they were accurate about it. They've got a fine defense. They're offense is really well designed. The quarterback knows the system and is executing it well. And they've got really good special teams. This is a very good team and there is no surprise at all with what they've done this season. I think they'd like to have played that Notre Dame game a little later on in the season. They could be undefeated now, which would be a great accomplishment."
(With a team that turns the ball over seven times but still finds a way to win, what does that say about them?)
"It's a great illustration. Also, to come back late in the game. They had to come from behind and their quarterback had to make the plays to get them back in it and had a big fourth quarter. This is a really good team and they withstood a real scare and came back and looked strong at the end when they needed to."
(What is it about the Coliseum that gives USC such an advantage?)
"There's a lot that goes into that. It's really important to our players to maintain the standard of play when we play in front of our fans. We learned early on and hammered it home to have success, we have to dominate at home. You have to be really good at home to do this and consistently put up the wins. So we set our sights on that at the start and the level of play and the excitement we generate to play at the Coliseum is clear. We treat it with a little bit of reverence to have that opportunity and we prepare with that sense during the week and as we build up for the game, it feels like that."
(What is the decision-making process that goes into dividing up the carries among the tailbacks?)
"We have a real plan in mind and a sense for how we want to do it and now we have some experience with it and have a pretty good feel for our guys. It goes with the flow of the game now. We have an idea about how many times we want guys to get the ball and how many carries we plan for them if things go well. We set that early in the week and prepare accordingly. It depends on what the defense is doing and what their style of play is. It varies some, but you've seen some consistency in the past few weeks. It doesn't matter who's producing. We want to pound the football when we get our chances and that's been valuable to us, that approach."
(Is this another game, like at Auburn, or Washington or Notre Dame, a defining game?)
"I think of it differently. All of those road games were important about maintaining our level of play in other people's environment and I'm really proud of how we've done that. It says a lot about the leadership on our team and how we prepare and our ability to hold focus. This game is different in that regard. This has tremendous build up to it and a lot of impact on the future of this season. It's got a big crowd, TV audience, Homecoming. It creates distractions of a different nature somewhat and we'll deal with it differently. I think for this year, this is a significant opportunity and a big-time chance for us. And then after, we'll regroup for next week. They're all huge to us. This is not the one we'll ring the bell on forever, but the one we have to play next."
(Why is pounding the ball so important?)
"It generates a sense or attitude about our style that I really like. It complements our passing game and our play-pass we like to do and the movement of the quarterback that I like to do and it's instrumental in our style. It was clear last year when Justin Fargas played and we changed. And when LenDale came into the game and gave us that element, we changed. And it was clear that was an ingredient. Now, we expect to play that way because we know how important it is. Whether it's LenDale, or Chauncey Washington or Hershel Dennis, we want to have that element in our style of play. It think it also adds to our overall football. You can go all the way back to when Sunny Byrd had a big game against ASU here a couple years back. When he was pounding the ball, we changed. We were a different football team. That was the first indication and Justin did it last year and LenDale showed us this year. It's also something we really like. We like what it gives us."
(Can you talk about the WSU defense?)
"They have been really effective, terrific on the run and against a quarterback's completion percentage. They make it difficult to get in a rhythm. They attack well. They like to blitz more than most people we play. They're willing to play one-on-one coverage to gain the benefit of the extra guy rushing and pound the line with pressure. They're outside speed is really good. The list goes on and on. They have been hot all year. They have good experience on their side and they have a real system. Both phases, you can see the experience in their system, players and coaches. It's a great test to see if we can keep on rhythm and keep balanced."
(re: can you talk about the difference in their running backs, Smith and Green)
"They're very different. Green is a very tough runner and runs with a great intensity. He runs strong and is almost 230 pounds and will run through tackles. Smith will run around you with a quick explosion and burst. He's got a nice wiggle to him through the line. We learned about Green last year. He had a good game against us. They use both effectively. They run the ball very effectively."
(Are these type of games important regarding recruiting?)
"We can feel the lift each week in
recruiting when you get a win. When you talk to the players, they sense the
momentum. I think
(re: WSU's defensive line)
"They have good speed up the field. They're stout inside. They're on the move. They have a nice system of pass rush and stunts. The way they blitz, their guys have true one-on-ones. They cause problems the way they get up the field. It's very similar to last year. They're very problematic for us. It's not any one guy, they generate pressure from all of them."
(Before the season, did you think you'd lock on to one back by now)
"It was wide open. I was hoping it would turn out like it is, we'd have a big back, Hershel would be the steady guy and we'd get some flash, too. It took us a while to get them versed in the offense. They're still in the midst of learning. I think, instinctively, you like to get the ball a lot and improve as the game goes on, but we have such an interesting mix, we'll lose a little by not featuring one guy, but we can keep the guys fresh and fast and competitive. I like the way it's going and we'll keep expanding."
(Have you recovered from that wild
game last week against
"We better recover because we've got a tough one this week. That was a very unique game and we've been pretty good at protecting the football and to have all of those turnovers was a shock to our football team and our fans. The good thing was that we were able to fight through adversity. We'd get a break, then throw another interception. Then we'd get a fumble. It was a credit to our players. They came coming back and kept the faith and our coaching staff did a good job of staying positive and trying to help them instead of just chewing them out."
(Did you except to be where you're at before the season?)
"Honestly, yes I thought after spring ball that we'd be pretty good. After the summer workouts, our kids stayed out all summer. Sixty were there all the time or missed just one workout. That showed they were sincere and that they cared and were a serious bunch. The big question was at quarterback and Matt's done a nice job. I thought our defense would be good and could run to the ball and had good speed. But they'll really be tested this week because USC has a good offense."
(Can you talk a little more about the offensive weapons you have?)
"We're not quite as talented as USC at running back, but Jonathan Smith and Jermaine Green we think is healthy this week. He hasn't had the year he expected to have. But Jonathan Smith is another JC kid that came in a year ago and has improved by leaps and bounds. Dedicated himself to the weight room and gained 10 or 12 pounds and has got a lot stronger. We recruited Chris Bruhn from junior college and he's got a little better each week. He's still learning the offense, but I think he could be a big-time back. We don't have that Reggie Williams, Mike Williams superstar. But we have a bunch of young guys, Sammy Moore, Devard Darling, Trandon Harvey and last week, Scott Lunde stepped up and caught eight passes. Matt Kegel has done a good job spreading the ball around. I don't think they can key on any one guy they need to double, they have a good enough team they don't have to, but I think our offensive staff has done a good job designing routes and things to present problems for the defense."
(What's the key on your defense)
"Speed kills. Someone asked me earlier in the week which front is best and I'd be crazy to try to tell you that. But it's a little different. USC's front, strong, physical and very athletic and probably the best we've gone against so far. Our front, we're bigger in the middle. Our two tackles, Tai Tupai is 330 and Josh Davies is 305 and Jeremy Williams is 290 or 300. But our outside guys are smaller and might be a little faster. They're more of speed rush where USC guys, all four go up the field pretty good. They can bring their ins inside and be more of a force than we can. They're two different fronts. The linebackers are similar and the secondaries are pretty close. But our guys have an attitude and they try to get 11 hats to the ball and mainly they're just having fun and playing ball and have a lot of confidence."
(How do you see this weekend's games?)
"Obviously, we can't turn the ball over like we did last week. That'll be the key. If our defense can slow their offense down and our offense has to move the ball. I think the kicking game is a toss up. That Malone kid might be the best in the country, but we got a kid named Kyle Basler doing well. Special teams will be a big part of it. Both kickers are good. Hopefully it'll be a close game. It's tough to play there, but it's supposed to be cold here, so we might enjoy going down there and getting some good weather. If we can slow USC's offense down. I'm amazed at your tailbacks. You're back to Tailback U. Especially Reggie, the way he's improved. And they can use him in so many places, at receiver and at running back.
(Can you talk about Melvin Simmons after coaching him when he was at WSU?)
"Champ was good when he was here. I had the opportunity to coach him. The biggest thing was his attitude and his intelligence. We really hated losing him. His development, he's got so much bigger and stronger and is more like a middle linebacker now and stops the run well. He's like our Will Derting. He's got football smarts and football sense and doesn't get fooled on play action often and probably studies the game. I know he did here."
(Talk about the progression of Matt Kegel)
"The thing that I admire about him is that he's a Coug. He stayed with the program. He could've transferred. He sat behind Jason Gesser for four years and saw limited time and all he really needed was some game experience. He's improved a little each week. He took a step backwards last week, but a lot of his interceptions weren't his fault last week, but the quarterback always gets the blame. The other thing I admire about him is his toughness and mental toughness. He separated his shoulder three weeks ago and against Stanford, he dislocated it and they had to reduce it and put it back in place. He missed one series, came back out and took us down for a touchdown. Last week, things aren't going right. Five interceptions. That shoulder might've been hurting quite a bit. But he fought through it and came back in the fourth quarter and made some great throws and helped us win the ballgame. I admire his mental toughness and he's making the proper reads. He's throwing the ball where he's supposed to and putting the ball where it's supposed to be."
(Re: winning at the Coliseum and how tough a place it is to play)
"I don't think in past years it's so much the Coliseum but the players they put out on the field that made the difference. That's what we tried to tell the kids this week and all year really, like when we went to Notre Dame. It's not the stadium or the crowd that will beat you, but the guys on the field. In past years, in 1997, we had a pretty good team and that's what won the game for us and the same two years ago. It's a great place to play. There's a lot of tradition and they've got a good lockerroom. I don't think the stadium has a whole lot to do with it."