We're Talking Rose Bowl (Part 2)

Monday is Media Day for the Rose Bowl teams but USC players and coaches have already been active this week with interview sessions discussing a wide variety of topics relating to the game. Click below to read thoughts on Turnover Wednesday, halftime adjustments and memories of the Notre Dame game.

What's it like going against Reggie Bush in practice?

Oscar Lua: It's hard (laughter). I mean, Reggie Bush, he's just an amazing player. He can do everything. If we try and guard him inside out, he'll just run around us going outside. We're e're lucky enough not to face him as much as other defenses do. We got him for like 30 plays at the end of practice, and those 30 plays are a handful if he's back there. The guy is amazing. He can shake and bake and he's got blazing speed. It's tough on a linebacker, which obviously we don't have that type of speed. And in Matt, if we focus too much on Reggie, we've got Dwayne and Dominique that will just torch us downfield. It's tough, but it's a really great aspect of our program, we get to see such a high powered offense in preparing for Saturday's game.

Darnell Bing: Reggie, he's an awesome player. He has speed, he's capable of doing anything possible. You guys have to give credit to the offensive line, too. They put the holes there for him to just see whatever he wants to see, and he just makes things happen from there. It's hard to just try to stop him because he has great vision, and he might see a hole and then you might be there, and he might just bounce outside with his speed and you just can't do anything with it.

Will Texas try to put a spy on Reggie?

Reggie Bush: Yeah, you can put three or four guys on me, but that's not going to do you much justice because then other guys on the team are going to be open. Like I said, I'm not superman. Obviously you put three or four guys on me, you can stop anybody. But at the same time, that's just going to open up plays for other guys like Dwayne, Dominique Byrd, Steve, LenDale, and I welcome teams with open arms to put that many defenders on me.

Dwayne Jarrett: Yeah, I hope so. That's going to leave us open more as receivers. If they decide to do that, it's definitely going to be a lot of other people. You just can't key in on one player. We have a talented bunch of guys. If you just try and kill one player, someone else is going to make the play. I'm pretty sure they're going to come with different defensive schemes when we're out there playing with them, but we'll just take that and we'll adjust to it.

Lane Kiffin: The thing about Reggie that probably you guys don't understand is he helps us so much when he's not getting the ball because defenses totally, it's not just they double team him; that's not how it works. That happens sometimes, but it makes the defensive coordinator only have so many calls when he's in the game. We'll go sometimes where we know when Reggie is in the game plan, they don't play any man coverage because they're not going to put a guy on Reggie. Every time you put Reggie in, not lined up as a receiver, every time he's in your huddle, you're limiting the calls that that defensive coordinator can make. He helps us in so many ways that you guys cannot even imagine.

Talk about the halftime adjustments at USC

Darnell Bing: It's not that much of an adjustment that we'd make during halftime. We basically just come out and do the same thing. It's just the fact that we go out there and execute it just a little bit better than we did in the first half. Coach Carroll pretty much sees what they're doing in the first half and he lets us know where they might go with the ball or what he sees and where he thinks that might go if you're not going there. So we're basically just go for that, and we pretty much call the same plays and make things happen from there.

Oscar Lua: I think it's one of the basis of our program, which is finish. I think that our team just executes that really well. I think Coach Carroll does a great job of coming at halftime and telling us what their tendencies have been in the first half, and we execute from there on. I don't think we make any special adjustment, we don't throw any new defenses or anything like that. It's just executing our plays a lot more and just learning what they've done to hurt us, and once we take that away from them, we just execute a lot better.

Pete Carroll: You guys ask about these halftime adjustments. I told you we don't do anything, we just keep playing. No one believes it.

What's your strongest memory of the victory over Notre Dame?

Dwayne Jarrett: That 4th and 9 play, I think it was just a tremendous play that Matt checked out of. The offensive line gave us enough time to execute the play, and I just ran my pattern and things worked out for the best. Matt threw the ball where it needed to be and I just turned my body slightly.

Scott Ware: I grabbed the last kickoff that we had that kept pitching around. I held onto the ball for dear life and gave it to my sister after the game. That was a big memory. The 4th downplay was a big memory. Everybody on the sidelines holding hands, praying, which doesn't usually happen. When their fans all rushed the field, kind of feeling disbelief like this isn't how it ends, this can't be the end of it, the game is not over, that sort of thing.

Frostee Rucker: I think my biggest memory was losing and winning at the same time in the matter of a couple seconds. It was pretty tough. We pride ourselves in the streak that we have going and the amount of working hours we put into this. It's a lot of hard work, and when their fans rushed the field, it was like, you've got to be kidding me. This can't be; it's us, you know. And then we had that one more play to get it done. We're just truly blessed that Matt and Reggie were on point with that, and they did their thing. That was the biggest memory, just winning and losing for me at the same time.

Lawrence Jackson: My moment had to be the couple plays leading up to the 4th and 9 where they kept going to Reggie, and Reggie was doing his best to help the team out. And on the sideline I was just really looking at him and Matt go to work together with the offensive line blocking and them executing. As a defensive player, you really don't know the offense's plan, so you just are hoping that they have their best plays working in those crucial situations, and we got stopped a few times and then we faced almost an impossible 4th and 9, and on the sideline, it just had to be like you had to wonder, I hope they bring out their best 4th and 9 play that they have. You can never anticipate that it was going to be the perfect pass, the perfect catch and the perfect play that Matt Leinart did. For us, like Frostee said, the last moments, it was my first time as a player here feeling what it feels like to lose, and you just with their fans rushing on the field, you didn't know that the referee had made the call and Matt fumbled. So it was a sense of disappointment, and then they cleared everybody out and they ran their little sneak play and just brought a little bit of life back into me.

Matt - what was the original play call on 4th and 9

Matt Leinart: I don't remember exactly the play, but it was more of a drop back pass with some protection stuff and Sark told me before we went out, if you see a pressure look, get to this play and to just kind of maximize Dwayne on the corner. I don't know if it was much of a pressure look, but the situation, I was just like, all right, so checked out and all the guys up front got the check, and somehow we just found a way to do it, and Dwayne the guy actually had great coverage, the ball just kind of fit in there perfectly, and the rest is history.

What is Turnover Wednesday?

Frostee Rucker: Turn over the ball, offense turns over the ball a lot and we go out and get the ball. That's what it's all about, the competition that Coach Carroll has going. You've got to strive for the ball the whole practice, from the beginning and on through. It's all about getting the ball. Being a defensive lineman, when they are pass rushing, get to the ball. That's the whole thing, get to the ball. It's worked out. Turnover Wednesday.

Scott Ware: And they count up all the turnover attempts that we have all day and announce it to us the next day, who had the most attempts for each position group.

Talk about your success with turnovers

Pete Carroll: Well, it comes from, I think, tremendous emphasis and belief in it. I think for something like that to be so consistent, you have to have a really strong belief of how important it is, how significant it is, and then you have to find a million ways to emphasize it and keep coming back to it on a really constant basis. Every coach talks about turnovers, but it's how well and deeply and strongly you emphasize it is that which will give you the consistency. Our guys are riddled with the thought of having to go get the ball at all times in everything that we're doing. It's the number one emphasis in the program for us. I think that's how you teach it. That's the way I've done it, and it comes in all kinds of different forms, whatever it takes to get the emphasis across.

Is there a risk of being too aggressive when pursuing turnovers?

Pete Carroll: No, I think that other coaches think that. I don't think there's ever a time when you can emphasize that enough. For years, old traditional conservative coaches would say that you have to make the tackle first and then go get the ball after you've secured the tackle. Our guys don't hear us talk like that. That's not something that we think of. That's not to mention or slight the fact that you have to tackle well. But I think your awareness has to be on it at all times constantly to get the effect that you want, and they have to learn how to do that in a dual sense; you've got to make a play and you're playing the football. But traditional thinking is exactly what you said, make the tackle first, the second guy goes after the ball. That's not good enough I don't think.

Do you ever get nervous about playing freshmen?

Pete Carroll: Nervous, no. Coach Grant used to say for every brick you play, you lose a game. I basically agree with everything he's always said and taught over the years, but I don't think that's true anymore. I think that we have come to a point with our freshmen that our expectations are so high for them when they approach our program, and as they enter the program, they're expected to come in and play. We pass that message on to them clearly through the recruiting process. It's not a recruiting ploy; I want them to come in with the mindset that they have to prepare to play, and our coaches think exactly the same way, and our players on our team know our freshmen are coming in to play. They feel that pressure coming from the new guys, and they have to fend that off by the way they perform. It's all designed to have the highest expectations for all of our people but also to create the competition that brings out the best in us. Our freshmen that played for four years, we played over 40 freshmen in the last four years in their first semester. That comes from not because we want to do them a favor; it's because we believe in the fact that they can contribute and we demand that they show us that they can, and then when they develop a role for themselves, then we fit them in so they can help us. We're looking for a kid who's a championship kid as a freshman. We've found it year in and year out and had great success. The thought of that not only helps those guys to play but it also helps their depth for what happened during what happened during the season at the linebacker spot where Oscar had to take a break and Keith Rivers had to take a break. These guys were ready to play because they've been counted on to play since the day we recruited them. Do I get nervous, no, I don't think that way at all. I'm looking for the fast development of our young guys so they can help us create the depth and the competition and the excellence in their play that they bring to the program. It's a different way of looking at it. Years ears ago when I was in the NFL coaching, I would have fought every GM and every personnel guy, no, we're not going to play these rookies for the old mindset that they're going to make mistakes and get you beat. I don't see it that way anymore. I see the opposite, that you need to take your guys and push them to the front and have them live with expectations that they're going to play. I don't want a coach that says, "Oh, he looks like he's going to take a couple years." I want to keep sending the message to these guys that they need to be in there and we're going to find a way to put them in. It accelerates the communications and the process and we've seen great results and we've reaped great benefits. I can see why people go the other way, that's traditional thinking, but I don't think that way anymore.

Talk about Coach Carroll and why his approach works so well

Frostee Rucker: I think one of the conversations I had with Coach Carroll when I came here, I was just like, so the NFL, how did it all work and things like that. He just said, there it's about money. It's a business. These guys get a lot of money and they act like I owe them something, and it's not about that. Some of the guys, he didn't say any names or anything, but they forget about the love of the game. When he got here, he got to be around a group of young men that we all wanted to win. We were all based from mainly Southern Cal and a couple guys from Northern Cal and a couple other places. But we all wanted to win. He's a great leader and a players' coach. At this young age we really need that. It's not about the money because we don't have that. It's about trying to put together what we've done now. He's helped out so much with his personality and him just being the great person that he is.

Lawrence Jackson: For me it's the fact that he's a players' coach. He's somebody that you want to go out and practice for every day and play for in a game because the same effort that you're exerting, you can rely on the fact that he's going to put that same energy and effort in as well as his coaching staff. They work hard and they understand that there's a time to work and there's a time to play, and they do a lot of great things for us to keep us focused and not getting bored with the intensity of practice. He just does a great job of understanding all of our personalities as a whole and what it's going to take for us to stay focused.

Scott Ware: I think he just has too much fun for the NFL. He likes to be around us kids having the best time of our lives in college and have complete control over all aspects of football and that sort of thing. He enjoys that aspect of it.

Dwayne Jarrett: For me, I think it's mostly because he's like a father. You know, he has kids and he knows what it's like to be a dad and at the same time being straight, sticking by his word. I think he carries that over to us as a football team. You know, he's our head coach, but at the same time he really cares about us, and he does the greatest job ever, just to make sure we're having fun, doing everything, and at the same time we're working hard. I think that's the best thing about Coach Carroll. He's a players' coach, and he's out there with us throwing the ball, running around, tackling people, and a lot of college coaches, they don't do that. Once you have that and the players see that, you want to go out there and bust your butt for that coach and just work hard and do everything that he asks of you to do. I think he definitely plays a big role in us just going out there and us playing for him and he's just having fun with it.

Matt – talk about your growth as a QB and a leader in your career at USC

Matt Leinart: Obviously from my first year to this point now, they expect me to know everything, they expect me, being the quarterback, being the general on the football field that it's my job to get everybody in the right position, it's my job to if they have a question, tell them what to do or who to block or what routes to run, anything like that. Obviously our guys know just that I'm the guy who needs to know everything. I take it pretty seriously, the mental part of the game, to really understand what's going on with our players and when Coach Kiff calls the plays what I'm supposed to do. When I get in the huddle, they know, just like I know LenDale and Reggie and our whole line is going to do their job. We just have that confidence in each other, and I think that's what successful teams have. Maybe there's some teams out there who lack confidence, but we're a team that has a lot of confidence and we have fun on the football field. We're in the huddle joking around. We're in the huddle against Notre Dame 4th and 9 and we're probably as relaxed as you can be. It's tense, it's a tense moment, but we're just like, we can go out and play, if we don't get it, we don't get it, and if we do, we do. Obviously it starts with myself. They've got to look in my eyes and be able to know even if I'm having one of my bad games or whatever, UCLA kind of got of off to a bad start but my guys were there behind me saying we believe in you, we know you'll get the job done. That's really important. That gives me confidence, too, as well.

The Texas defensive coordinator was at Auburn when you made your first start and talked about how well you managed that first game. What do you remember from that day playing down there, and how big was that for you to start your career that way?

Matt Leinart: It was huge. That was probably the most hostile environment you can go into, and being a first year quarterback the first game against some magazines had them No. 1 in the preseason polls and they had two big linebackers that were everything. They didn't ask me to do a whole lot. I went in and threw some slants, threw a couple of stick routes, whatever, and just kind of managed the game, didn't turn the ball over. Our defense really stepped up obviously and we ran the ball a little bit. As far as that game, that was just about me just kind of maturing as the season went along and bringing me along slowly. That game definitely helped my career, I think, just starting in that environment, a first year guy, a lot of questions about a new quarterback. I think I answered them that game and as my career has gone along, but it's kind of nice to go against him again.

A lot of people talk about how you get your team in the right play, is it easy to do that because you have so many options or is it hard to do it because you have so many options?

Matt Leinart: I think to me it's easy because first of all, it starts upstairs with Coach Kiff and then Sark and them figuring out what we're going to do. It's all in preparation. There's some games where we might get out a lot of plays. There's some games where we might not work a lot of plays at all. That's preparation, that's also great play calling, that's also me preparing and knowing that if we do have to get out, making the right decisions at the line of scrimmage. There's always been a question, we have so many superstar guys and one football and stuff, but I think things would be a lot different if we had selfish players on our football team. I don't know if we'd be where we were today and the last couple years. We have a lot of guys who obviously want the ball. Some guys maybe want it more, but we're willing to sacrifice that for the team to win football games and to win championships. That's what Reggie and LenDale who are two of the best backs have split carries the last two or three years. If there was one of them, they might be getting 2,000 or 3,000 yards easy. That's just the bottom line. We've got a lot of guys who want the team to win and guys who have great statistics, as well. The first and foremost, most important thing for us is the team and doing it for the team.

Matt, you admittedly became very emotional in your final game at The Coliseum. Are you going to battle some of that again?

Matt Leinart: Kiff doesn't want me to be like that, but I have a little different mindset. Obviously last game of my career in college, it's going to be emotional, but I think I'm mature enough and understand how I'm going to approach this game. UCLA, it was just a lot of things, Senior Day, UCLA, The Coliseum, all kinds of stuff built up, and it really kind of hit me that week. Right now I'm focused more on trying to win this game and trying to be a leader for this football team on Wednesday night. I'm sure it's going to be a little emotional, but I'm definitely kind of looking at it differently, taking a different approach and just trying to soak it all in and be happy about it and smile and stuff. I think at one point during the season, I don't know what it was, but I kind of was like feeling the pressure, felt like the world was on my shoulders. The first two games we come out smoking, 70 points, then it started getting harder, Oregon, Arizona State State, Notre Dame Dame, and I was not on the top of my game a few of those games and other guys had to step up obviously. There was a point where I was just a little bit I was just like, I don't know what's going on here. It's like not fun, or what is it, what's going on. And then I was having fun, but it was kind of getting harder. I actually sat down with Sark for about an hour after the Notre Dame game and just kind of vented and talked and told him how I was feeling, outside, all the demands, and then I took a deep breath and said, you know, this is what I came back to do, to have fun and be a part of this and know that all this stuff is for good, for a good cause. But I've been pretty loose. I'm not a guy that gets tense or nervous or anything like that. I think everything was kind of building up. I think I've been doing a pretty good job of kind of handling everything the past couple of years. I finally kind of just like oh, man, I felt like there was so much weight on my shoulders. And guys, my teammates were there to back me up when I wasn't doing so well, and the coaches, and then I just started getting the rhythm again, playing football again, having fun. There wasn't really anything different I don't think. This year more than any other year was more mental. The offseason obviously I had to rehab to get better and stronger, but mentally I think I've grown a lot more this year than I ever have my last two years. I've been through a lot and I've seen the ups and the downs in my career. I've been here for five years. Just the most important thing to me is just being able to be with these guys for this last year coming back, just having fun. Right now we're right where I hoped we were going to be when I made my decision. I want to help this team to win in any way I can. But I feel like this has been the best time of my life, these last four or five years, and Wednesday is kind of the culmination, so I just want to go out with a bang and play like I know how to play for them.


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