Pete Carroll: 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 match=up 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 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 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.
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.
Talk about your bowl practice schedule
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 Bowl 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.
With so much hype around this team and what they are trying to accomplish, how do you maintain focus while also enjoying the experience?
Matt Leinart: This is obviously a big football game, but we're just approaching it like it's any other game. We realize that it is the National Championship game, but what we've done in the past and what we can do or have a chance to do, it doesn't come up in our conversations. We have a job to do, and we're pretty serious about that. We have a game in a few days, and that's how we're approaching it.
Lawrence Jackson: This is something special we're a part of, the opportunity to win a third National Championship, and the guys on the team, the guys that I've come in with, Reggie and LenDale and an opportunity to play with Matt and Frostee and Scott, you just know that it's a possibility that this could be your last game with some of these guys, just the battles that you've been through, the tough times, the character games that we all had where you really know who's tough and who isn't, and all the guys on the team have constantly proved that we're champions, we're fighters, and we're going to go down to the last bit, the last minute of the game, even the last second. So just knowing that this can be the last time, we really want to go out with a bang and just relish the opportunity that we have to play with each other one more time and do something special that could go down in history. Obviously it's hard to understand everything that's behind this game with all the challenges that we have ahead of us, but knowing that we have a chance to go down in history and these are the guys that are going to be remembered for a long time, it's incredible, and we're just really trying to go out with a bang.
Scott Ware: For me it's been crazy coming from a junior college, you know, making the decision out of high school not to take a scholarship to 1-AA school and decide that I could play better football than that and waiting it out and then coming here and getting put right in my first year, getting hurt, end up going to a National Championship game, winning a National Championship and then coming back to my second one. I'd love to go out undefeated as a Trojan.
Frostee Rucker: Everyone coming from a different area and being able to contribute, to know that Coach Carroll has blocked it out of our mind the whole year about three-peat and everything that had to go on about it. We're finally here, and you can't help but to, like I say, not block it out, but you can't help think about it. We have a tremendous opportunity to do something really wonderful and create history, you know, and for me it's just my time is winding down. Being in the huddle with some of these guys and seeing the guys at Heritage Hall and the facilities and being a part of this Trojan thing we've got going, it's going to be tough for me; it's my final game and I won't be able to put on that Trojan helmet anymore. That so far in my life has been the best thing that's gone right for me, and it's helped me out so much in my structure of life, getting together my things. That's just the main thing I'm going to miss a lot.
Reggie Bush - We can't worry about the possible history that's going to play into this game. We've got to take it as another football game, and I think that's it. We've got to focus on this game, not get caught up in the hype and all that plays into the National Championship. We've got to focus on this team and this team alone. We've just got to maximize our opportunity day in and day out. These next few days are going to be crucial for us, and that's about it.
Steve Sarkisian: I think more importantly than putting a stamp on history I think is trying to put a stamp on this game and coming out and executing and performing and playing at a high level, which is what we're trying to achieve daily. After that, then we can worry about stamps and histories and greatest of offenses, but the key for us, as Reggie just said, I think he said it extremely well, we need to maximize our opportunities here for the next three, four days so that we are extremely prepared to play at a high level come Wednesday.
ESPN is running a feature comparing USC to the best teams in college football history.
Lane Kiffin: Well, I think that these guys would probably agree that there's no way to prove that. Obviously it's fun for you guys to write about, the stories and comparisons and SportsCenter and all that, so there's no way to know. We don't worry about it. It has nothing to do with what we're doing, whether we're the greatest ever. We're just trying to win the next game. Really that's the truth.
Reggie Bush: I have heard that. I've seen the stories that they do on us competing against some of the best teams over the years. Obviously that's respect for us, that people recognize what we're doing and we're in the midst of making something special happen here. Like I say, this is a special team for us all right now. I think it's a fair statement that we could possibly compete as one of the greatest offenses in college football ever.
LenDale White: Coach Kiffin calls the plays. Naturally they're going to be good calls and we're going to execute to the fullest, but I don't know about being the greatest of offense in the world. To think about all the great teams that have played, Michael Vick and his Virginia Tech squad, Miami, there's a lot of teams that have played before that have been great. We do have a lot of great players, and I just think we execute real well. I don't know about being the greatest.
Lane Kiffin: Well, I think if you look back at Coach Carroll 's teams ever since we've been here have finished great. Coach has never lost in November, and we've always gone into Bowl games at our best, and that obviously goes all the way back to these guys in the offseason with Chris Carlisle and workouts and finishing. The teams have done a great job of that. So yeah, that's extremely important for us to finish the way we finished again this year
Steve Sarkisian - These guys know how to compete, they know how to work, they know how to prepare. They've done a great job of it all year. So the key for us is not to worry about history or greatest offense or greatest teams. The key for us is to go out and play how we play every day, and to go out and to perform at a high level come Wednesday at kickoff.
Talk about preparing to face the Texas defense
Steve Sarkisian: I think our kids have prepared, extremely well. They see the challenge, they realize the challenge. This isn't something that they think, oh, we're going to go through the motions and it's just going to happen for us offensively. I think our kids have prepared extremely well. It's going to be a lot of fun to be a part of and to match up against this defense from the front end with Wright and with Huff in the back end, I think it's going to be great for these guys from Dwayne and Deuce and Reggie and Matt and LenDale and the rest of the guys to match up with one of the best defenses in the country and we're excited about it.
Matt Leinart: I just see a very solid defense, a very fast defense. They're very good tacklers. They don't miss a lot of tackles, don't give up a lot of big plays, athletic, big, fast. I mean, you name it, that's what I think of them. They're a great football team, great defense, and don't have a lot of concerns. I think it's going to be a challenge for us, but we've been in these games before where we've played against some good defenses, but they do of offer a great challenge for us. We've been preparing well and practicing well, and we're just going to go out there and execute our game plan.
Reggie Bush: I'm not concerned at all, but the fact that they're a great defense, obviously we can't overlook them. We've got to maximize our opportunity. Every practice is crucial for us. We've got to continue to compete every day and keep our level of competitiveness up. Obviously if we get complacent, then that can hurt us. And like I said, we've just got to be prepared for a great game and prepare for anything.
Mack Brown called LenDale White the "Forgotten Man" in the USC offense.
LenDale White: Well, I honestly don't feel like I'm forgotten at all. As long as my coaching staff and my teammates know the hard work that I put in, that's all that matters really. I'm not worried about the accolades or anything like that. As long as my teammates know that I'm there for them to help them win the game, that's all that really counts.
Talk about the progress of the USC offensive line
LenDale: Well, I think that from last year to this year, they improved so much. I think they became a family within a family. They do everything together. They said early in the year, they're going to work the hardest, they're going to be there at 6:00 a.m. and they were going to get the job done. I think for me honestly just playing behind this line has done wonders. As soon as you get the hole, it's there, and you don't have to worry about waiting. There are gaping holes and all you've got to do is run through it. They deserve all the credit because that's where it starts and that's where it finishes. Without them, I don't think me, Reggie or Matt and Dwayne and those guys, we wouldn't have the type of season that we have and the success with all those guys, because that's where it starts.
Matt Leinart: I think just like LenDale says, that's where it all starts and finishes. Those guys up front are unbelievable. The process of last year to this year, how much they've matured and come together as a unit has been unbelievable. I think they're the best offensive line in college football, and I believe in that. Those guys are just, they work hard, they're so tight, off the field, as well. They're always around each other, laughing, joking, and I think it shows on the football field in their chemistry. They're great, and those holes, Reggie and LenDale, they rushed for a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns, but the offensive line is what gets them there and the offensive line is what protects me to throw the football and give me all day to get the receivers the ball. Those guys, they don't get a lot of credit, but they know how important they are to our team and our offense.
Deuce Lutui: I think one of the things to our success that's really working good with each other is being good friends off the field, just our relationship and stuff helps us communicating, and the calls and stuff we make on the offensive line, we just can read each other very well being real good friends.
How does it feel for the O-Line to block for two Heisman winners?
Deuce Lutui: We take big pride in having those two golden childs behind us.
Talk about Vince Young
Pete Carroll: 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 decision making 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 t 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.
How do you go about preparing for Vince Young at QB?
Pete Carroll: You deal with more than one play at a time. You deal with a play that starts as a drop back pass, then winds up and can be a quarterback draw or can be a break contained rollout type of pass, so there's really three opportunities, the original play and then when he takes off and runs or moves out and throws the football. You can imagine it's hard enough defending one play than defending three plays, and you don't know which one you're getting after it starts. So there's the deception part of that, and the vulnerability really shows up when the quarterback has great speed and running ability. That's why I've always maintained that the really mobile quarterbacks are the most difficult to defend. Like I said, it's hard enough to defend the designed play, let alone the ones that happen after the fact. Guys that are real creative like Vince, he makes the right choices and does the right things at the right times. When the run is there, he makes it. When he needs to pull back out of a scramble and throw the football, he does that, as well. So it's very very, very difficult. You've noticed the emergence throughout professional football of quarterbacks that are more mobile. There's always been mobile quarterbacks and they've always been special because of that, and it's because it gives you such a hard time.
Oscar Lua: When you face an offense of this caliber, I think that's definitely in the mix. I mean, as a defensive guy, all we can do is just go out there and execute what Coach Carroll has set forth for us. We really don't have the capacity or any leniency to be able to think that way because we have to execute our game, our game plan. We have to be 100 percent on what Coach Carroll has to do. We have our hands full with the great running backs and Vince back there; Ramonce Taylor and Jamaal Charles are great running backs that we have to control. I mean, the sidelines are part of their team and we have our hands full with these three guys, so we don't really have time to be thinking about that that much.
How much progress have you seen in Texas passing attack
Pete Carroll : Yeah, there's no question that there's a difference from last year in this year's passing game. Both Pittman and Sweed are making plays all the time if you give them a chance. They made their plays last year, but now you see Vince much more on rhythm, much more confidently delivering the football, getting guys in stride and making plays after the catch. The high efficiency that he obtained this year in the passing game is a very downfield oriented game; that's extraordinary. Most of the guys that are efficiency guys are the dink and dunk guys. That's not what they do. They stretch the field, work it and expect their receivers to make plays well down the field. So that complement has given them an extraordinary mix of their run game and their ability to stretch it, and it makes all kinds of space for Vince when he needs it. They've grown a lot from last year. They're just much more efficient, and as all quarterbacks do, they get more confident with their players in the system.
Does that change the way you would have defended them a year ago if you had played them in the Rose Bowl compared to today?
Pete Carroll: Well, it might have been a little easier last year, but it's not anymore. This is as hard as it can get. He's completing 60 something percent of his passes and his picks are down, numbers are way up in touchdowns, yardage per catch is huge, and the receivers are just striking. Thomas, too, does a fantastic job in the middle of all that. He's a heck of a receiver and they go to him and use him a lots. It's not even an offense where you can focus on wide receivers or shut down the tight end or the backs coming out. They've used everyone in great fashion. This is a wide open, well designed and very well executed offense right now. Vince is capable of taking off at any time. In that game in particular, Michigan did a lot of good things. They played well in a lot of aspects of their game plan. But Vince broke them down and took of off and made some plays that they couldn't handle, which he's done whenever he looks like he wants to, all year. But the development of their throwing game has made them more difficult. The fact that he can take off and run is always there. He'll do that at any time. That's there in his back pocket if he needs it. There's a lot of times he's sitting back there checking out the field and he's had space because the line does a great job and he's ripping the ball in the secondary, and it's kept him in a normal rhythm most of the time. I don't think they care how it happens, they just want to move the football and score and they'll take whatever they can get. But they're much different than they were a year ago because of the throwing game.
Talk about their receivers
Darnell Bing: Yeah, they have pretty good receivers, they're fast, they're capable of catching deep balls and making things happen after catching the balls. I think we have a big challenge with this game. Our corners have to make sure they stay on their man, our safeties have to make sure we stay back, so therefore we won't let any deep balls occur.
Scott Ware: Just watching them, they go after the ball very well. They're good receivers, pretty physical. I don't necessarily know what you're looking for with my answer. We don't have any secret to stopping them that nobody else had. Corners and safeties and linebackers will help once in a while and try and get physical with them and intimidate them a little bit.
Talk about the Texas tight end
Pete Carroll: I really don't ever worry about any one guy in that regard. You've got to stop the tight end because particularly on this team they have so many things going on. But when the game starts, if a guy starts to get hot and they really go to him, we have to find ways to adjust and not let that happen. But going in, we have a lot of concerns, and we'll have to see where the emphasis of their attack goes to. If it goes to the tight end there, then I'll be talking to Darnell on the sidelines trying to get him squared away. We have thoughts of things that we have to do to deal with them, and that's not the focal point of our game plan because it's spread across the board so we have to deal with it. We have to adapt as the game goes on and develops.
Talk about the Texas OL and their two big tackles
Lawrence Jackson: They're athletic guys, they're tall, they have long arms, they really do very well what the coaches ask them to do out of the offense. The only thing that we can do to get prepared for it is prepare for them on a daily basis at practice and get extra workout after practice. Because they've been in the games, they're good offensive tackles, as well. Simulating them is going to be hard, but we have great competition that we go against every day. With film review and confidence and technique, we know we're going to go out there and we're going to execute what the coaches ask us to do. They're great players, we're just looking for a great matchup, me and Frostee.
Frostee Rucker: Time to go play ball. It's a big man's game, and I think it starts up front. That's where we like it the best way. We get to be a real key factor in the game, and anytime you get to do that, know you're going to be around the ball, that's the best thing. Both guys are very big and very well. Their whole line is. Those two guys are probably the key things because we have to go against them, and they're Big 12 players and things like that. We know what they have in store for us. But they have great punches, their pass reads, everything, their run reads, they're really sound. They have a great offensive line coach that keeps them on point with that. We know it's going to be a tough physical game, and we've been getting ready for that. We're very confident in what we do over here at Southern Cal as well as I know they are over there at Texas. So I just can't wait for that matchup.
As far as your pass rush, how difficult is it to strike a balance between really going hard after the quarterback but also containing him and not getting out of lanes?
Lawrence Jackson: It comes down to discipline and technique. If you do the right thing, if you're doing the right thing at the right times, it should eliminate the read that he has. But I've seen him take the ball and use his athleticism to beat the defense around the corner of off of the read. It's on us to eliminate the first read and be where we're supposed to be, but there's also ten other guys out there that's going to help us. So we're really worried about that first read, but I'm pretty sure he's going to break the container a few times because he's a great quarterback, but it's our job to eliminate that.
Pete Carroll: This is as difficult as it gets. This is as hard as it gets for the emphasis of the pass rush. You make a good move and you come clean and then he shakes you and he's gone. You have to rush with the control that gives you a chance to get him. The other side of it is he's so strong that you can get a great shot at him and he can shake you and spin and let you fly of off him, and then he's out and going again. It's as hard as it gets. This is as hard as it gets on any level of the tackling of the quarterback. There's nobody that's more difficult than this guy that's playing I don't think. We're taxed tremendously by his ability and also by the style that they put him in.
When is the last time you used three service team players to simulate one player in practice?
Pete Carroll: We've never done that before. We forgot about when we were talking about the quarterback makeup for this preparation, Mark Sanchez has done the majority of the throwing. It hasn't helped us very much in the play action game here because they can tell who's in the game in practice, but quite frankly, it took three guys to do this. That just shows you about the kid that we're going against. We have great respect for him, and our guys have worked real hard to try and simulate what we'll see, and we'll try and find that at game time. We'll have to adjust for game time. There's only going to be one guy back there doing all that stuff. Right now it's a little bit easier for the guys in practice.
Frostee Rucker: I don't think anyone in America can play like Vince does, and that's why he was up for the Heisman. I think we have guys like Michael Coleman, he's been around a little bit to help out. He's a terrific player, too. We've been trying to simulate Vince the best we can. I mean, no one can, but Mike gives us the best look running around the corner as fast as he can and running some guys over. That's what we're going to have to deal with. Vince is a big, strong guy. I sized him up the other day at Disneyland, and he was looking eye to eye with me, and he looked like he weighed just as much as I did, too. We're going to have our hands full.
Scott Ware: We have to put a running back in to really simulate his running style and then throw a quarterback in there to throw his deep balls for him. That made it a little easier in practice because we knew they were going to be running, we knew they were going to be throwing the ball. I think Michael Coleman did an excellent job of running hard and bringing it to us and really challenging us.