Rodney Peete, the silent USC quarterback, held a rather unusual press conference Tuesday at Heritage Hall.
Peete, who had the measles last week, is now suffering from laryngitis. He has been told by the school’s medical staff to refrain from talking at least until Thursday.
However, the show must go on considering that the winner of the USC-Notre Dame game Saturday at the Coliseum is the likely national champion, pending the outcome of bowl games.
Todd Marinovich, a freshman quarterback, has been Peete’s stand-in voice in practice, calling the snap count. If Peete is still speechless Saturday, USC Coach Larry Smith said that a tailback will be the quarterback’s surrogate voice.
Anyway, Peete, with a legal note pad in hand and a Tootsie Pop in his mouth, was prepared for all questions.
Peete wrote the answers on the pad and then Tim Tessalone, USC sports information director, read the written answers to reporters.
Peete wrote furiously, but it was obvious that he preferred questions that didn’t require elaborate explanations.
Question: When did you lose your voice?
Answer: Since Sunday morning.
Q: How do you feel now and are you concerned about your voice for the rest of the week?
A: I feel good, other than my voice.
Q: Coach Smith said that if you can’t talk Saturday, a tailback will call the cadence. Is that going to work?
A: The doctors tell me my voice will be back by Thursday.
Q: How tired did you get in the second half of the UCLA game, considering that you were recovering from the measles?
A: I was very tired, much more than usual.
Q: How confident do you feel about beating Notre Dame and becoming the No. 1 team in the country?
A: We feel very confident. We have a lot of momentum coming out of the UCLA victory.
Q: How would you assess Notre Dame, from what you’ve seen on film?
A: They’re big, strong and fast. Typical Notre Dame.
Q: Is it difficult to keep from talking when everyone (teammates) is kidding you?
A: It’s very difficult and frustrating.
Q: Are you taking any medication?
A: Just rest.
Q: What are the chances of you being misquoted?
A: (Peete rolled his eyes.)
Q: Was it unusual in practice for somebody to stand behind you and bark out signals?
A: It was very unusual. I’ve never been through a period like the last 2 weeks.
Q: The USA Today poll shows that Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders has an overwhelming lead in the Heisman Trophy race with you a distant second. Can you overcome that on Saturday?
A: My first objective is to put our team in a position to win the national championship. If the Heisman comes with it, that’s icing on the cake.
Q: What’s the flavor of your Tootsie Pop?
With that, the silent one slipped away, hopefully to be heard from later.
Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz was available to reporters throughout the country by a conference call--and he lavishly praised the Trojans.
His style is reminiscent of the late Frank Leahy, the former Notre Dame coach who never met an opponent he didn’t revere.
Even though Notre Dame is 10-0 and top ranked in the country, Holtz made his team out to be the gutty little Irish.
“We may not be impressive and have few believers in the country, but, fortunately, our football team believes in itself,” Holtz said.
On his quarterback, Tony Rice: “He’s not an accomplished passer and we can’t get in a catch-up game with anyone, especially Southern Cal.”
On Rodney Peete: “I don’t believe you can defend a Rodney Peete, per se . If you could, somebody would have been far more successful than they have thus far.
“They’ve tried the measles, they’ve tried laryngitis, they’ve tried blitzing him--they’ve tried everything. Rodney Peete is probably the best football player in the country. I don’t have a vote, but if he wins the Heisman, I wouldn’t lead a protest rally.”
On the size of his football team:
“We’re much smaller than Southern Cal. We have one of the smaller teams in the country, especially in the offensive line.
“We’re not particularly big, or strong, but we’re not going out there to lift weights.”
Smith wouldn’t accept Holtz’s evaluation of the Irish, saying: “They’re smaller than they’ve been, but not smaller than us. It’s an even matchup.”
Holtz tried to play down the national championship aspect of Saturday’s game, saying:
“The game became more important when we beat Miami and Michigan. But (the USC game) is not any more important than it was in 1986, when I came here.
“I don’t believe this is a national championship game because we have to line up and play again (West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl Jan. 2), although it could determine the championship.
“We’re not wrapped up that this is the game, or that it’s bigger than life.”
Just one more game in the series, huh, Lou?
Temporary seats will increase the Coliseum capacity to about 94,000 for Saturday’s game. The listed capacity is 92,51. . . . Larry Smith takes a different view than Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz’s on the significance of the game. “The game should be billed as a championship game. I don’t think there is any question that the winner of this game will be the odds-on favorite to win it all. Of course, whichever team wins still has to win its bowl game. You’re going to see two teams with great pride and tradition. It’s truly America’s game.” . . . Smith said he’s prepared for anything now, since tailback Aaron Emanuel’s big toe was injured slightly last Friday when someone ran over Emanuel with a skateboard. . . . Smith on Notre Dame rushing for 361 yards against USC in 1987 as the Irish won, 26-15: “They trapped us. They froze our inside linebackers. They just basically hurt us and hit us with a couple of reverses. They basically wiped us out in the second quarter. I’ve never had a defense ripped like that.” . . . USC still leads the nation in rushing defense, allowing an average of 68.1 yards in that category.