December 29, 2007
Beverly Hills Hilton
Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian
On USC's offense this year:
"We had to keep replacing guys in the beginning of the year. I felt like this stretch run, with the last three or four games, we got some continuity. We had our five guys in there we want to play with. I also think our full back got more physical. You have to remember [Fred] Havili is only a freshman. He got more physical, I understand. As a group we block better and it gave our running backs confidence to hit the things we wanted him to hit."
On USC's running backs:
"The emergence of Joe [McKnight] playing in the running back position was new. You have to remember he was very limited at the running back position. He did not play it in high school as much as people think. It took time, especially the hit and runs. I think our commitment to the running game is that if you run the ball well it is easier to call two or three running plays in a row compared to when you're not running the ball well. I think that as a whole there is good continuity and good experience and the guys got better as the year went on.
On Illinois' defense:
"They are very well coached. The funny thing is when you look at a defense is that you can see if a defense wants to do a lot of things. Some defenses don't do a lot of things. But the first thing we can tell after looking at a game is if the guys are really well coached or if they're out there just trying to survive. These guys are well coached. They play well together and they understand their scheme very well."
On Illinois LB J Lemans
"He's an unbelievable player and their leader on defense that gets them going. He's a rah-rah guy that gets the team fired up. The whole team feeds off of J Lemans and Coach [Ron] Zook. It's important for us to keep them down the best we can because once they get up they will play with a lot of emotion and they will fly around to the ball."
On the end of his career
"It's our goal every year to get to the Rose Bowl by winning the Pac-10 Championship. That's all that is in our control because you never know how the BCS is going to turn out, that's not in our control. With the things that have happened to us this year, it says a lot about our senior leadership that we kept fighting and battling and didn't give up. Even when we knew that we weren't going to the national championship game we knew that we could control our own destiny and go to the Rose Bowl and that's what we have accomplished."
On changing things up
"We haven't really changed a lot of things. Something Coach Carroll has done every year since I've been here is practice the first team offense against the first team defense all of the time because we will then be playing against some of the best talent in the nation and that helps us prepare to face the best defenses in the nation. That keeps the tempo fast and everyone flies around like it is a game, even though it may just be a scrimmage. A lot of times the game isn't as hard as practice is because our defensive talent is so good."
On negative turnover margin:
"We are focusing on holding on to the ball for this game. We talked about that yesterday. We got to get ready to hold on to the ball. We don't want the defense to get free turnovers. We don't want any turnovers so that's what we're trying to do."
On comparing Illinois' defense to any defense they've played:
"The only thing where they're different, something that we don't usually see, is that they're so big. But our defensive guys are big too."
TE Fred Davis
On finding out he broke USC's single game record for most receiving yards by a tight end:
"I found out from a reporter that I had broken the record after the Stanford game. I got the game ball after the game and now it's at my mom's house."
On Illinois' QB Juice Williams:
"You definitely have to watch out for him. He's one of those guys that are all over the field. You've got to make sure you finish your blocks. They can definitely make plays. They are in the zone right now. They can take this opportunity, just like we are. You've got to be aware of that. It brings a lot more to the table."
On falling short of the national championship:
"Of course our sights we set on the national championship. It didn't happen the way we wanted it to, but the Rose Bowl, to me, is one of my favorite games. There have been many great games played here. We just appreciate being in this. Last year, we started off shaky and you can't look past teams, which is what we started to do. Now we're in a good situation where we proved ourselves in November and we came back and now we have the opportunity to get our respect back and show people what we're about."
OL Sam Baker
On the fun of being a lineman
"The camaraderie of the position makes it unique in football. It's the only group that has to work together to succeed. Other guys are shooting for individual stats, but the offensive line has to work together. If one guy doesn't work in the group that it doesn't work at all. Even though it is not a really ‘fun' position, the camaraderie between the guys is great and makes it worth it."
On the respect for the defensive lineman
"When you battle with someone and you give everything you have there is definitely a respect factor that you gain. During the game you don't say anything to each other, but after the game you definitely show them some respect. The one match up that stands out for me was in our last game against UCLA. Everyone was talking about Bruce Davis and how I had to lock him down and it was a great experience because he's a great player and I have a lot of respect for him."
On the senior leadership
"Older guys had to show how to go back to work and the younger guys had to follow the older guys and learn how to just get back to work. I think a lot of the freshman thought it was all going to go smoothly, but it is a tough, long season. We only had one season while I've been here that we went undefeated and I remember how hard that was because everyone is gunning for you."
On Illinois Defense
"They stop the run really well and make plays. From an offensive line standpoint you want to run the ball, but their defense is very technically sound and they're big, strong, fast guys that can get around the field and hit."