Oct. 14, 2002
General Comments: "We are looking forward to the contest this weekend against Southern Cal. They certainly are a very, very good team and one that poses a lot of challenges for our football team, but the most important thing is for us to stay in the immediate race in the Pac-10. We need to find a way to get a win on the road, not just get a win over a quality opponent, but get a win on the road to give us confidence for the rest of our season. It is a pivotal, pivotal game for us. I am looking forward to the challenge; I think our football team is looking forward to the challenge. We've been at home for five straight weeks. I think a change of venue might be a good thing, so we will just wait and see. We're going to work our tails off this week. I anticipate the game to be extremely physical. I anticipate them trying to run it down our throats and control the ball, especially with the great defense that they have and the way that they have been able to stuff other opponents, namely Oregon State and Colorado. They're trying to do a similar thing to us. It's going to be a tremendous challenge to our football team and one that we are looking forward to."
On how he is feeling about the play of the offensive line: "I think we are doing okay on the offensive line, but we are banged up. Elliot Zajac is not 100% and certainly he lends a certain amount of tenacity to the front and leadership. In this last game we lost Nick Newton for the majority of this contest and we'll just have to wait and see if he can make if for the USC game. We're dealing with some injuries that are part of football."
On the running game last weekend and competition at tailback: "There are a couple of things about our running game. Number one, the emphasis. We certainly tried to increase the emphasis last week. The productivity is not what you are looking for when you look at the immediate impact meaning yards per carry and so forth. But there was the benefit and some positive effects in trying to run the ball in that it helped protect our quarterback and allowed for us to take some pressure off the quarterback. We are going to increase the competition at the tailback position to see if we can find a hot back, a back that can turn out some yards and give us some light in that area."
On the difficulty of coming off a loss to California and then dealing with the Colorado NCAA investigation situation: "It was no fun at all. But if this job were easy, everybody could do it. The bottom line is you have days that are a lot of fun and days that are more of a challenge. The guys who are able to stay the course and do the job in a long-term capacity are the ones that can weather all of it. First you can't believe it when they are saying really nice things about you, and second you can't buy it when they're telling you that you're worthless. The level of venom did not surprise me. The only thing that disappointed me was when they misspelled my name."
On the competition between the tailbacks: "We aren't getting it done right now. I'm not mad at anyone. I think guys are trying. We've got to at least consider other options with respect to how to go about increasing productivity. That is the nature of the beast. This is a competitive world; this is a competitive game. We ought to have great competition to determine who is going to get the chances. I've never played tailback. I can go up and draw all the plays and tell you where the blocks are and set things up and I can turn on SportsCenter and see backs all across the country doing it. Ultimately it's about doing it; it's about being productive. We've watched this game from a year ago and there's Willie Hurst zigging and zagging and making great plays. We just haven't had that. We all have to take responsibility and keep trying and keep plugging away and hopefully something will break open and we'll find ourselves. I want to go into last week's game again, at the start of the third quarter, we made a couple of first downs without throwing the ball. We had a couple five and six-yard gains. Those aren't the things that are going to make SportsCenter, but the bottom line is we started to churn out some yards and all of the sudden the play action doesn't have everybody around the quarterback. We went right down the field scored that opening drive, and we were going right down again and we fumbled. It changed the momentum. We have a chance to go and punch that one in again, now maybe we can find a little bit of identity. But it didn't happen. We all know how the game turned out. We were fortunate to win and so we go back and keep fighting to get to that point where we can start to control a game. We're going to keep finding our way. We've got tremendous weapons on offense, but we can't just rely on the throwing game at the exclusion of the running game because we all know what results that can bring about, witness the Cal game."
On why Chris Singleton hasn't played more: "We make decisions as to who gives us the best chance to win the game. We're going open it up again for competition and if Chris is ready to go and he is called upon, hopefully he will make the most of it. There is certainly no personal vendetta against him. He is a great kid and I am hopeful that when he does get his chance, he will make the most it."
On remembering how to play on the road after five games at home: "I think it will come back to us. We played, for a great majority of the game at Michigan, we played well. There were some things that didn't go well, but we gave ourselves a chance to win the game and unfortunately we squandered it. I am hopeful that we get ourselves in a position in the fourth quarter where we can finish the job. We're going to be as intense as we can at practice. This is a fight for our lives; this last week was. In this conference, that is the way it is. You look at the scores. They all go down to the finish. You've got to fight and scratch and find a way. We ought to practice that way."
On the difference between Reggie Williams' playing style in the past games: "I think Reggie is a gifted player and because he is gifted, he gets a lot of notoriety and there is a lot of conversation and certainly newsprint is spent on him, which is deserved. I don't know if we can make a story every week. I think that is probably reaching. Sometimes he is in better shape. We've had that conversation. The bottom line is he is a great football player and we're glad he is on our team. We're going to keep using him as we see fit to help us get wins."
On playing in the Coliseum at USC: "I've played in a lot of games in the Coliseum and they have all been memorable. I am anticipating this one being as well."
On Kevin Ware this season: "He is having a good football season. He's an excellent player. He also needs to be used sometimes in protection so we can have some time to get the ball down the field for the desired amount of yardage. We have to keep incorporating him. What we have to do is get an offense that generates more offense of itself. Not just plays, but things to feed off. When you get a running game to go with that, that is how you develop it. Ideally you get to a place where half of your passes are play-action as oppossed to 3/4 of them being drop-backs."
On USC's quarterback, Carson Palmer: "I think Carson Palmer is a gifted player. I think it has been well documented that I recruited him. Unfortunately too well-documented. The point of the matter is that he's had to learn two systems while he has been there and with both, he has gotten better in the second year. This is now the second year in Norm's offense and obviously he is looking like he understands it. They are utilizing him well. He is a very, very good player. I don't have any doubts that he will play on Sundays."
On Washington's secondary this season: The secondary has stuggled. We have to get better in our back end in order for us to be competitive in this conference. We're going to keep working until we do. We've got to make plays on the ball. Unfortunately we have not done that nearly enough."
On playing nickel zone this season: "You know we had five sacks in zone coverage the other day. We had our interception in zone coverage the other day. The bottom line is there is some improvement there. Ultimately the aggressive nature of the back end has to improve. That is not pointing fingers at any one person, but we can't afford to have that many yards thrown on us especially when we are doing such a nice job stopping the running game. If we can find ourselves there and find ourselves in the running game, we're going to find ourselves in this conference and we have to do it as quickly as now. It's a down and distance game. You can get up there and press them every down and I think the fans would be elated. The problem is is you give up some big yards when you do that because they can throw it over the top of you. The key is when they throw it underneath you is to make the tackle. That is where we have dropped the ball. I don't necessarily believe that we need to be up and up and press coverage all the time. But I do believe we need to be in a position to tackle guys when they catch it. That is the bottom line."
On USC's defense: "They play well. They've done a nice job especially on third down. That to me is the biggest place they show up. I think they are averaging under 20%. That is a tremendous challenge for us because I think we lead the conference right now in third down conversions with over 50%. So if we can stay up around that, hopefully we can make this game tilt in our favor. Pete Carroll's defense, there are some real coverage intricacies to it. He's had a lot of experience in the NFL. But for the most part, it's guys knowing where they are and playing really aggressively. It will be a great test for our team to see if we can stand in there and throw balls down the field and keep them off the field."
On the rest of the offensive line: "It's all intertwined. You can't point to one player and say that is the reason for the rise or fall of any on facet of the game. You play eleven players at a time and all of them need to chip in. We practiced with much more urgency last week. We'll continue to do that the rest of the season and see if we can develop something that will make folks proud."
On if he is tired of late game heroics: "No. This is the Pac-10. There are going to be late game heroics. In the year 2000, we went to the Rose Bowl, finished third in the country, we had to come back twice in the fourth quarter twice against Arizona that year. We had to come from behind with 50 seconds left to beat Stanford that year. Stanford, I don't believe, was a team that had a winning record. That is they way it is in this conference. The parity is such that if you fight and do everything well you're going to be in the game. If they lay an egg, you might take advantage of the big score. The bottom line is, there are going to be close games. You have to understand that, manage that as well as possible and hopefully you'll win more than your share of them, which we have."
On running the ball more: "When you want to play great defense, you also run the ball. It helps your defense get ready to stop the run and you also keep your defense off the field. Defenses today make it hard to run. There is always an extra guy in there. You need to have a back that makes that guy miss. We're hoping to develop until we can get that happening or you have to block him with a quarterback or you have to have formations where your wide receivers come in and gets a hold of one of those guys and develops play action off of that. People now are getting to the point where corners are replacing and doing good things. It's a fascinating game. It's why coaches don't leave this profession voluntarily. It's a very interesting game."
On being able to win on the road: "I don't think we are different than most teams. In order to win in this conference, you have to win on the road. But those environments are difficult, especially when the margins of victory are so close. You look at this last week, Oregon is the team right now that has found a way to win on the road. We've got to go back and do that ourselves, which is what we did after we lost our first conference game in 2000."
On Nick Newton's injury, as well as Robbins': "He is as tough a guy as we have in our program. If there is anyway he can play, he'll play. But we have to wait and see if he is functional. Robin Meadow played outstanding in the game. I was really pleased with the way he played. I haven't talked to Justin Robbins, but we'll play with who we have played with."