MMQB report

As some of you who have been reading my reports over the years know, I've been going to MMQB meeting for a very long time. There is a certain continuity about these meeting with the coaches that I like. The same challenges reoccur and each team has to solve them in their own way. At halftime last Saturday, I was baking on an aluminum bench at the top of Sun Devil stadium. The team did not look good to me and I was thinking about something John Robinson said at MMQB many years ago.

John liked to philosophize to the group at least a couple of times each season. He said that great teams find a way to win even on their bad days. I thought to myself, I guess we'll find out if this really is a great team.

Pete Carroll spoke to a packed Town and Gown MMQB luncheon today about the ASU game and what happened. As you know I can't quote him directly but I can give you my impressions of what he said. Also, as I did last week, I'm going to use quotes from published articles when they reflect what he told us at the meeting.

Pete told us about how this team has a great belief in itself and its capacities. He believes that they believe they can make it last forever. The coach takes responsibility himself for not preparing better for the noise that he identified as the cause of so many penalties. But, with a little surprise in his voice, he also basks in the glow of the domination that occurred in the second half. He does not like falling behind in any game and asked us never to get used to it.

When he began showing plays, he started with special teams and kickoff coverage. We saw how some players, new to the coverage unit, did not stay in their lane and, as a result, gave up big yardage. One positive on the long ASU runback was the tackle from behind by Desmond Reed. He knocked the ball out for a fumble but we did not recover. The punt coverage was worse and he showed the breakdown - essentially the same problem. We also saw an excellent punt by Tom Malone that was downed inside the 10-yard line.

The offensive plays were spectacular as usual but with special emphasis on the domination of our offensive line. On many of the plays we saw, our linemen were not just containing their man but driving them several yards down field. On one play, Lutui blocked two devils and on another Kalil blocked a DL and then before Reggie came through, Ryan slipped off and crushed the LB. Now most of these plays were from the second half, but there were a few from the first.

We looked at all the Bush and White TD's. And then, we saw the sneak TD by Matt Leinart.

Passing plays were less prominent but good looking nonetheless. Actually it was a little like a David Kirtman highlight reel. That play was open all day, Matt hit David very well and David got a lot of yards after the catch. We did some shifting late in the game to disguise that pass play - something I missed from the top of the stadium. The coaches comments were very similar to the quote in the Daily Trojan: "'We had nothing in the first half that felt right except for Dave,' said Carroll, whose offense has outscored its last two opponents, 70-7, in the second half."

The defensive highlights were very satisfying. John Walker had a breakout kind of game and we saw several of his best plays including both interceptions. Justin Wyatt had several highlights also including his interception on the play after Dwayne's fumble.

We looked at Oscar Lua's interception and everyone gasped when he just fumbled the ball on his way to the end zone. Oscar had several highlight tackles as well, including the one for a loss when ASU went for it on 4th and 1. I was surprised at how many tackles Keith Rivers made in critical situations. He is playing better than I had thought.

The defensive line all played well. Sedrick Ellis had many highlight plays including sacks and tackles for loss. The two DE's, Jackson and Rucker were spectacular, IMO. Especially in the 4th quarter when they were getting so many sacks. Looking at their play from the end zone angle gives a special perspective that emphasizes their agility and speed.

The Q&A period was long and lively. Pete fielded a couple of early questions that he chose not to answer. One was on what he said differently to the team before the game as compared to at halftime. The other was which of our future opponents he feared most - at least I think that was the question; it was hard to hear that one.

There was a question about how best to defend miss-direction plays and Pete gave an involved complete answer but did not refer to any instances in the game.

The whole issue of the late hit of Matt came up with the surprising suggestion that the LB who made the hit be fined. The questioner was informed that we can't levy fines in this league. Pete's remarks conformed generally to the quote in the Daily Breeze: "There's no question he got pounded. He really got rocked on that hit,'' Carroll said of the play on which ASU linebacker Robert James was called for roughing the passer. "It lasted a little while. He wasn't at his best. Just looking at his performance, this wasn't his best game. He was a little bit off.''

There was a question about missed blocks by RB's in pass protection and Pete explained the blocking policy and how RB's are supposed to respond to blitzes.

Another quote in the Daily Breeze conforms to Pete's explanation of the foul called on Darnell Bing: The Breeze said, "Carroll defended safety Darnell Bing, who was called for a personal foul penalty while standing on the sideline as an ASU defender chased LenDale White out of bounds. 'I thought that was as incidental as it could be,' Carroll said. 'The guy's smoking off the field and (Bing) put his hand up. You could see he wasn't trying to do anything to the guy there.'''

Pete was asked about more passes to Dominique Byrd and he basically said that this was a long season and they would come.

A question on the Leinart bootleg call brought an answer like the one quoted by the Daily News: "Perhaps the best indication was a bootleg play Leinart ran independently in the third quarter that resulted in a six-yard loss. Asked where that play originated, Carroll said, 'You can ask (Leinart). It came out of nowhere.'"

The question of reviewing plays from the press box came up. Pete began his answer in a controlled measured way but got more animated as he continued to amplify his answers. He definitely does not like the system we have. Here is a quote from the Daily Breeze that conforms with some of his remarks on the subject: "I'm not going to complain,'' Carroll said, "but (the on-field officials) said (Jarrett) was down but they didn't blow the whistle. Well, why not? Because they didn't have to.'' Apparently, even the league now agrees that Reggie's was a completion.

The meeting adjourned at 1:30. Top Stories