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December 31, 2004

Sam Baker

Reggie Bush

Dominique Byrd

Norm Chow

Alex Holmes

Matt Leinart


JOHN HUMENIK: We're about ready to get started. Just again, to review the format, first ten minutes, questions only for Coach Chow. Please put your hands up and we'll send the appropriate mike holders to you. After ten minutes we'll stop questions for Coach Chow. Next ten minutes will be questions directed only towards the players. Then we'll excuse the players, they'll go back into the private interview areas and Coach Chow will stay up for another ten minutes or so.

Q. When Pete came to you and said, hey, come join me at USC, what drew you there? What impressed you about Pete?

NORM CHOW: Well, good morning, everybody. We had a nice job back east, and when Pete came, when Pete called, it just sounded like a situation that would be fun, would be exciting. I kept thinking about that van and the white horse that runs around there in the Coliseum, and it just worked out pretty good. It worked out pretty well. Actually we were in Raleigh, North Carolina, and my family was in Utah. I was commuting, and I just felt like it would be an easier commute from Los Angeles to Utah.

Q. The National Title game often becomes a defensive struggle, even if you've got two high powered offenses. Why does that happen, and will it happen Tuesday night?

NORM CHOW: Well, I don't know if I can respond to your second one. If I knew that, I certaiinly wouldn't be sitting here. I think it's because of the fact that we haven't played for a month. So much of offensive football is timing and rhythm and making sure everybody is on the right page, and the speed of the game, it'll take a little bit to get used to the speed of the game. We practice awfully hard, and hopefully that will help us Tuesday night, but I think it's just the rhythm and the tempo and the execution of the offense, the timing, because we haven't played for a month. Both sides haven't played offensive football for a month. I think it's obviously not easier but maybe less stress on the defense because they react to what's going on. We have to force the action.

Q. Congratulations on a great year, first of all.

NORM CHOW: Thank you.

Q. You do a great job of utilizing all your personnel from utilizing Reggie Bush to LenDale White and all the great talent that you have. Talk about your mindset as you go into a game and you've got all these pieces to a puzzle. Are you tying to take advantage of the individual or is it a product of the system that you plug an individual to?

NORM CHOW: Obviously it's because of these young men that these things happen. I think you try to attack what you hopefully will see, what you've looked at tape of all week long and trying to see what the defense is going to do and then setting your guys up. I think the whole key to coaching personally is to give your young people a chance to be successful, put them in positions where they have a chance to be successful, and if we can do that, then obviously we have hopefully a little bit of an advantage. It's fun to work with these young guys. They're a terrific group of young guys and they work awfully hard and respond very well.

Q. I wonder if you could talk about -- so much has been made of so many of the match-ups, individually and star power and all that kind of thing, but in terms of your offense, talk about some of the things that you have to establish, and maybe without giving away too many secrets, some of the things that you can exploit or stay away from on the Oklahoma defense.

NORM CHOW: Let's keep in mind that this isn't my offense, this is Pete Carroll's offense that has been tweaked to meet the abilities of these players that are on this. I think you initially attack a scheme. You initially attack what the defense is going to present, and the tough part is when you play a game like this, you exchange all the tapes, so you look at 14 or 12 or however many games you play, and it's hard because every game they're doing something a little bit different. So I think it's just a matter -- I don't know if we can exploit any. I don't see a weakness on their defense. They have a tremendous scheme manned by some very good football players. I think we're going to have to take our time, find out what the intentions are, find out how they're going to play us and come out maybe jabbing a little bit and then let the game go from there, which is what I think we do every week.

Q. How has Matt handled the post-Heisman attention? It's been something he's been dealing with all season leading up to it, and have you kind of shared with him any of the past experiences you've had in dealing with the guys who have gone past --

NORM CHOW: We talk a lot, but there's not much that needs to be said to this young guy. Every one of these guys, once you get to meet them and know them, they're tremendous people. Besides being great football players, we're blessed with very good people, and Matt has handled everything very well. He understands the situation. We talked about what would happen, we talked about Carson, visited with people, with Pete, and he obviously handles it very, very well. The nicest thing about the Heisman Trophy was after Matt won it, we all had a chance to go back to the function Monday night, and Tuesday when we got back to practice, it was nice to see how the other players responded to Matt's leadership. It was very nice to see.

Q. I'm just curious, you mentioned that when you were in Raleigh you were commuting back and forth to your family in Utah. Do you still have your family in Utah and are you still going back and forth?

NORM CHOW: We commuted -- my son was in high school and we didn't want to change him. We wanted to let him finish high school. We commuted to Los Angeles for the first three years, but we're all back together again. We live as close to a family as we can possibly be in this crazy business.

JOHN HUMENIK: We'll go ahead and direct questions just towards the players. Hands up, please.

Q. Matt, congratulations on winning the Heisman.

MATT LEINART: Thank you.

Q. Last year following Jason White when he won the Heisman, he tried to be as normal as possible when he returned to practice and things and dealing with the media and just going about town and going to restaurants and things. Are you trying to do the same thing, or do you find you're having to make adjustments now as the Heisman Trophy winner?

MATT LEINART: I think everyone kind of says their life is going to change. To be honest it has. There's a lot more attention, more people around you, but I've remained the same. I feel normal, even after the whole weekend. Obviously it was something that is a part of history I'll never forget, but when I came back I was ready to go and kind of forgot about the whole thing. I'm just approaching it day by day. I know there's a lot of hype and a lot that goes along with winning the Heisman Trophy, but I just feel the same. I'm ready to play. I have been ever since I got back. I didn't forget about it but just put it in the past. I've got a big game to play.

Q. Matt, a lot has been made of Oklahoma giving up a lot of yards mid-season in the secondary. As you've looked at their tape, I'm sure you've watched every game they've played this season. Are they a better defense in the secondary since they've made some changes?

MATT LEINART: They're very good. Like Coach Chow said, they don't have really any weaknesses on defense. There have been a few teams that have been able to put some points on the board, but they have their really good cornerback in Perkins. I think it's just going to be important for us to establish our game plan, just kind of do the things that we've been doing all year. We're not going to do anything different just because it's the National Championship game. We're going to be doing the same things we've been doing all year and try to attack their defense the way we attack every defense. Like I said, they look very good on film, but I think our offense is pretty good, too, so it's a great match-up.

Q. Matt, Pete mentioned it yesterday and Norm mentioned it today. Could you talk a little bit about what it was like last year watching Carson Palmer go through this two years ago, how that helped you?

MATT LEINART: Watching Carson? It was a difficult situation for myself fighting for the backup spot. It's tough to really -- there's not a lot of motivation fighting for that spot, but one thing I did learn was that I tried to take advantage of Carson being there because he was a great player, great person. He went through a lot in his career, adversity, success, and he remained the same person. He's still the same person today starting in the NFL doing very well for himself. That's really what I took from him, not so much football stuff because I was there every day with him, just meetings and so on, but just how he handled the attention, the media, really how he remained the same person. That's the biggest thing that I've tried to kind of follow in what he did. I mean, I think Carson set a high bar for expectations and I was just trying to follow in his footsteps.

Q. Reggie, you were along with Matt during the Heisman run and all of that in New York. Is he telling us the truth? Has he been the same guy since he's won the Heisman Trophy, and if so, could you expound on it?

REGGIE BUSH: He has been the same type of person. He's not going to let that type of stuff get to him or get the best of him. He's a good person. That's pretty much it. He won the Heisman Trophy. At that time, you know, he took it all in and now we've got a game to prepare for.

Q. Alex, a lot of talk about this game, huge match-up, two Heisman winners, two National Championship coaches, best match-up of all time. Is that the kind of thing players pay attention to or can sense, have an appreciation for? Is this different than last year, the Rose Bowl anticipation? How do you view the game in that regard?

ALEX HOLMES: I think one of the special things about our team is we really prepare the same way for every game, regardless of the atmosphere and everything surrounding the game. In terms of that, you know, we're preparing for this game the same way we do every game each and every week, so I don't think that really affects it.

Q. Reggie, we know so much about you and Matt and some of the guys here. What's the most overlooked or under appreciated part of your offense?

REGGIE BUSH: That's hard to say. I mean, we have so many good players, and I think probably the position that's overlooked the most is the offensive line because they're so young, so many young people at the offensive line position. You know, they're always compared to Oklahoma's offensive line with all the seniors that they have, but offensive line, you know, they've been here from the start, the beginning. Obviously we love them as running backs and they do a great job for us and providing the holes for us, and they're in the trenches, every game, practice, working their butts off for us.

Q. This is for Alex and Dominique. When you guys watch NFL games this year and hear people talk about the great athletes who are playing tight end and how that position has been increased in importance in the NFL, does that make you guys just that much more eager to get there and show what you can do?

DOMINIQUE BYRD: A little bit. You know, when you watch guys like Alge Crumpler and all the tight ends, Todd Heaps and those guys, it just makes you excited to be a tight end because tight ends are becoming more important in schemes all over the NFL. The way Coach Chow uses us in the offense, you know, we've become more important, and that feels good, just as a tight end and as a player overall.

Q. Reggie, not everybody can play wide receiver and tailback both. I guess you consider yourself a running back, but your unique talents allow you to do both. Have you had to try to develop wide receiver skills as well as your natural position of running back, or does it just come natural for you, that when you line up out there you're able to do it?

NORM CHOW: I've learned a lot this year and last year. At the receiver position, some of it does come naturally, but parts of it have a lot to do with route running and knowing defenses and coverages and a lot of the little things that aren't really seen on TV. I definitely learned a lot about running routes and just trying to kind of put everything into perspective, and with the running back mentality and the receiver mentality, you have to kind of switch up knowing you're in different positions. Yeah, that's pretty much it.

Q. This is for Matt. I wonder if you could talk about Reggie's importance as a receiver, kind of bridging the gap for you guys until Dwayne was ready not having Mike Williams available this year.

MATT LEINART: Well, I think the impact that Reggie has on a game is tremendous, just because, I mean, put him at receiver, we can throw the ball. It's amazing when he lines up at receiver, I swear there's two or three guys, No. 5, No. 5, and they double-team him, triple-team him, and that just opens up holes for LenDale, who's a great running back, and the other running backs, and play action and all that stuff, and then when you get one-on-one with Reggie in a corner or a linebacker, that's your mismatch and you can take advantage of it. He's very vital and very important in the way we run things because we can give the ball to other guys when he's in there kind of -- not a decoy because he attracts so much attention from the defense, so that's a very vital part of our offense. I mean, it's just tremendous. It's just great to have him just because he can do so much.

Q. You had mentioned the line, and I'm going to direct this one to Sam. How do you think the line has developed this year? You guys had a lot of focus put on you because of all the great talent around you. How has the first year starting gone for you and for a lot of the other young guys on there?

SAM BAKER: I think it was a real rough start for us. A lot of us didn't have a lot of experience and we were kind of looking to everybody else, and as the season went on, I think we measured together well with great leadership from all the skill players, Matt and Reggie and LenDale. They can make any offensive line look good, so I think that was a help to our benefit. Later in the season kind of when our leaders went down, John Drake went down, Jeff Byers stepped right up, and that's when we knew we had a good unit and we could do it.

NORM CHOW: I know it's not my turn, but let me say something about our offensive line. Sammy Baker is a red shirt freshman, started every game at left tackle. Taitusi Lutui at right tackle was a junior college transfer that we didn't get in until the fall, and our right guard played some, Freddie Matua and John Drake actually last year had played -- both of them had played at the right guard, and then we moved John over. Our center was a sophomore, a true sophomore, Ryan Kalil, had not played much obviously last year as a backup, and then John, and then like Sammy said, when John went down, we had to use a true freshman. So we were playing with a freshman, a freshman, a sophomore and a junior college transfer at right tackle. All we told them is if this guy comes in that gap, block him (laughter), and they've done a terrific job. They have a terrific coach that leads them. He's vital to -- he's our emotion guy, always getting after our guys, but this offensive line deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the way they came around, the way they hung together. They were so young. I'm sure they were kind of in awe at the beginning of the season, and these other guys led them, and now they're as good as any offensive line can be.

Q. Matt, obviously you guys want to take that one-game-at-a-time approach, but if you were in our position, if you were in a fan's position, could you see or can you see with all the elements involved that many could consider this an unbelievable match-up, a game-of-the-century-type of situation, and if so, why would you feel that way?

MATT LEINART: I think so. I think just the build-up the last couple years, I think this is the match-up the fans have wanted to see. I think last year -- just really because we're so similar in all aspects. Offensively we're very explosive, both teams, a lot of great players on both sides of the ball, defensive very similar, great coaching staffs on both teams. It's just kind of weird how things worked out, just being No. 1 and 2 all season, the great match-up, everyone wants to see it. I just think just because there's so many -- there's great things going on with both teams the last couple years, both teams have been on top, and like I said, I think that's the game people wanted to see last year most of the season and this year obviously it worked out that we both finished at the top of the poll. It's really tough to say. I know that I probably speak for both teams when I say we're just preparing for this as any other game and we're just going to play the way we know how, but I think from a fan's perspective it's going to be a great thing to watch.

Q. This is for the big guys basically. Oklahoma prides itself on having a good pass rush and I think they're pretty good up front. What's your impressions of Oklahoma's front four or front seven, Sam or however you guys want to answer that?

SAM BAKER: I think they have a real athletic front. They move really well. They have a good scheme. It's real similar to ours, just big athletes. I think it's really similar to our defensive linemen, the inside guys and the outside guys.

JOHN HUMENIK: We're going to excuse the players. They're go into the back of the room in the private interview areas. Coach Chow will stay up here for a couple more minutes.

Q. Norm, this game-of-the-century talk, you've been around a long time. How do you see that?

NORM CHOW: Well, you can't help but not think about it. Pete Carroll does -- I think one of Pete's real strengths, he has obviously a lot of strengths, but one of his real strengths is his ability to get our guys to focus. I know it's coach talk, but it's really the truth. We go one game at a time. He's convinced our guys, it doesn't matter what the venue, what the situation is. We're going to do the things we always do. Even to a point where, I don't know if you all know this, but during the summer, during camp, when we were in two-a-day camp, he would actually take us to a different hotel in Los Angeles, a strange hotel we have not been in, to simulate us leaving and go on the road. We go to that hotel, we have dinner, have meetings, get up the next morning, we have our meetings and we go to practice as if we were in a game. He's that intent on making sure our players realize and understand no matter where we go and what happens, our routine is the same. Like Matt said, it really is the truth. We're preparing like we've always prepared, but you can't help but not think about the fact that it's a big game. It's obviously a huge game that everyone has wanted, and it's really fun to be a part of. We're actually enjoying the experience very much.

Q. How is LenDale coming along and are you comfortable with your situation at tailback at this point?

NORM CHOW: He's coming along very well. His ankle was hurt a lot more than we thought initially, but he's had treatment, which is probably why he's not here today, he's probably getting more treatment. We have to plan as if he's not going to be there, but in back of all our minds I think we realize that he will. He's a tough, tough young guy.

Q. Just to follow up, if he's not there, how does that change things?

NORM CHOW: You just have to make adjustments and keep rolling along. Just keep rolling. You know, we can't stop. We just have to keep going.

Q. Recently a lot of Heisman Trophy winners have struggled in bowl games and National Championship games. Is there anything in Matt's makeup that makes you confident that that won't happen to him? I think the last three Heisman Trophy winners have all lost their BCS Championship games.

NORM CHOW: Really, the last three? I didn't realize that. We talked a lot about it. As you can tell, this is him. He's real, he's genuine. It's a concern, and we've talked about it, but you just have to go out and play. I think what happens is he becomes a marked guy if you will, and what we talked about the other day is in a game like this you cannot ignore the fact that because the teams are hopefully so evenly matched that it'll take a performance by a quarterback. Maybe that little bit of extra, maybe that breakdown that the players are broken down and he'll be able to make a play. On the other hand, conversely, he cannot have that anxiety level, I've got to go out and make a play. He's got to let the game come to him. We've talked about that, letting the game come to him, because he's an awfully effective guy when he's in that mode.

Q. Could you please talk about the Oklahoma defense, what your impressions of it are going into the game?

NORM CHOW: I think they're tremendous. I think they have a nice scheme manned by some very, very good football players. We tried to recruit three of them that are playing for them, so I think they do a nice job. It's a scheme that we're a little familiar with because we play against it every day. We played against Coach Stoops' brother at Arizona and they did a lot of similar things, so we're a little bit familiar with it, but obviously the type of player running that defense, which is really more important than that scheme, makes it a difficult chore. That front four is as good as we've seen. The linebacker -- there's no weakness. There's really no weakness because of the scheme and the people that are running it.

Q. Was there any one particular game where you felt that you could be at ease with the offensive line, that you said, okay, these guys get it now and I don't have to worry about them?

NORM CHOW: It is still a work in progress, believe me, because they're so young. I don't know if I can pinpoint anything in particular, but what was apparent was that they were determined to do well. I mean, they took it upon themselves. They took a real pride. They lift together at 6:00 o'clock in the morning. All summer long. Our lifting schedule is such that they can make several different times that fit their schedule, but they're all together every morning at 6:00 o'clock. It was very apparent from the start that they were determined to do well as a group, and they have. We still struggle at times, but they have.

End of FastScriptsÂ….

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