Everything Lincoln Riley said after USC's 30-14 win over Washington State
Travis Dye ran for 149 yards for his fourth game over the century mark this season. Tuli Tuipulotu got to Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward for three sacks, bringing his season total to seven. USC wasn’t perfect, but its stars showed up to make big plays at and around the line of scrimmage to give the Trojans a 30-14 win over Washington State.
The win improved USC to 6-0 (4-0 Pac-12), the best start since 2006. After the game, coach Lincoln Riley met with reporters to break things down.
Here’s everything Riley said, with video of the press conference at the bottom.
“Really, really tough, hard-fought win. We had to win this one again in a different way. We talked to the guys all week about how circumstances don’t make or break you whether they are positive or negative. They just reveal your training; they reveal what’s inside of a team, what’s inside of the person. It was fitting because the way the game played out, some key guys for us were not able to play. Then, losing (Calen) Bullock on the tough play on targeting, a lot of guys had to step up in different ways. We had some guys banged up across the board, but we continually found a way.
“We did a good job containing the quarterback, and that was obviously a real key. He’s a really good player. He escaped a few times and made a few plays, but we got to him a lot, too, and made a lot of big plays defensively. I thought our special teams really stepped up tonight; we really challenged our guys. We were good on kickoff, good on field goals and extra points. A great job by Denis (Lynch) getting that last one in. Punt team was awesome on the night as well. We had a couple of kickoff returns where we got good yardage and were really close to breaking them.
“I’m so excited about the way we played on special teams, and I’m really excited about the way we finished. We chewed up a ton of clock there on the last drive, and then were able to stop them as well. That’s a good football team. I mean, that’s one of the 25 best teams in the country that we just played, there’s no doubt about it. Coach (Jake) Dickert and his staff have done a tremendous job. We found a way to win there, and again, despite some of the adversity, we came away with a big-time thing. So we’re thrilled with the win, and onto the next one.”
On starting 6-0
“It means something. It does. When you’re in the middle of it, you try not to get too caught up in all the historical things. But obviously, all of us come in here. You’ve got three different examples sitting right up here with you (in himself, Tuli Tuipulotu, and Travis Dye). Two guys that came into this program, have been here. One guy that chose to be here from the very beginning and elected to stay here. I think we all came here for a reason. We’re all aware of the history — both positive and some of the tough parts of it. To be able to find a way to win these games, especially in a lot of different ways, has been a lot of fun. We know more challenges are upcoming, and we’re going to appreciate it, but also keep our sights forward.”
On his first six games coaching at USC
“I just really love coaching this team. I come to work, we work hard, we try to do the things we can to prepare these guys. The amount of time that I’ve spent on culture, individual issues, and stuff like that during the season has been minimal. Sometimes the head coach is just kind of sitting there waiting for somebody to knock on your door, and most of the time those knocks aren’t always positive. This team continues to get better, and we continue to lean on each other. I think if you ask most people, it’s been fun. It’s been tough, it’s been a grind to start to build this. If you ask these guys, I think we’re all having a hell of a lot of fun right now, and really enjoy playing the game. We only get so many this year, we wish we had more.”
On the defense
“We had three pick-sixes the first game, but you know other than that, it was pretty good. You lose two of your best players — two of your leaders. Your leader at linebacker, team captain that we thought was gonna be able to play and then ultimately was not (Shane Lee). And then lose Calen (Bullock) the way we did – you’ve got to step up, and we had a lot of guys step up.
“I would especially highlight the defensive front. The defensive front was dominant and was a force in the game, and it came from a lot of different people. This guy (Tuipulotu) obviously had a huge hand in it, but a lot of other people did as well. We tried to talk to this team about how we don’t want to play one style on offense, one style on defense, one style on special teams. We want people to watch us and see a similar style no matter what unit is on the field. Defense has led us to some huge victories, and I’m proud of them. But I know there’s more there, and I know we’re going to keep getting better and responding to the different adversities that come our way.”
On Tuli Tuipulotu
“Tuli is a tough matchup, and our ability to move him around is a great tool. We’ve got a creative defensive staff, and he’s a player that can handle that type of versatility. So it’s been good to get those guys back, and it not only allows us to move him around, but it allows us to keep fresh bodies and continually run them. As aggressive as we play on the defensive front, having fresh bodies is key. Think about the last couple of weeks. You’ve seen it really show up and show up big in second halves. That’ll continue to pay dividends for us if we can continue to play a lot of guys. The key is you’re not going to just put bodies in there, but you’ve got to be getting production. We’re getting production right now, especially in the second halves.
On the role of discipline in the win
“We definitely had to have some. We had a couple of tough penalties that went against us, too. Some of those moments, we had to stay focused in it. There were some tough calls — not that they were bad, but sometimes 50-50 calls go your way or don’t. I thought we stayed pretty patient because we missed some big opportunities both with some of the plays we had penalties on, and then we didn’t throw and catch the ball great tonight. We missed a couple throws that we’re gonna want back; we dropped a couple balls that looked like big plays. So we weren’t as clean and had to really stay patient offensively, and I give the guys credit. They mentally stayed into it. You had to have some discipline, and we continued to put ourselves in opportunities to make plays and were able to make enough or put pressure on them enough that they had to commit a penalty to stop us.”
On the boost Travis Dye gives on the ground
“It’s very important. He’s a tough player. He’s a very reliable player. I just have a lot of trust and faith in what we’re going to get out of him each and every week. Our team knows, our line does. You have to win these different ways. You have to find ways to move the ball if something’s not working. It can’t be ‘Oh, well, it’s not working. Guess we’re not gonna move the ball tonight.’ It’s just to continue to find ways and adapt to the situations, and we adapted, and he was a big part of it.”
On the defense’s progress
“We didn’t expect it to be a process. I can’t speak for the outside, but we’ve been a part of turning it around before, and we’ve seen it happen. We know it’s not easy by any stretch. It’s really hard, but we know what it looks like when it happens, and we know what it takes to happen. I think our guys are seeing that when they follow those steps and they respond to us continually challenging and pushing them, they’re going to be more prepared to go play and be more prepared like tonight — when a couple of things don’t go your way or you’re missing a few key guys.
“Just seeing the huddle after Calen got kicked out of the game. It was like ‘Okay, what’s next?’ I went to Calen and I said, ‘Hey, now you’re the biggest cheerleader, and you have to bring the energy.’ He was like, ‘Great, what’s next?’ Just keep responding. Don’t judge it, positive or negative. It’s just respond, respond, respond, and I think the further we go, hopefully we’ll continue to trust that more and more, and it’ll be very, very key.”
On just one giveaway through six games
“It’s been key. We haven’t put our defense in too many bad situations. Good football teams don’t turn the ball over, and good football teams get the ball out. So it’s obviously been a big part of it. We’ll keep getting challenged that way, but certainly proud of our ability to both force turnovers and hang on to the ball right now.”