Dorrell's Monday Press Conference
Karl Dorrell
Karl Dorrell

Posted Nov 16, 2004


In his weekly press conference, Head Coach Karl Dorrell talks about the big win over Oregon and how he'll prepare for the USC game with three weeks off...

Head Coach Karl Dorrell addressed the media Monday in his weekly press conference.

"It's a good feeling on this Monday. We have some time to rest up for the big game at the end here. But before we get to talk about that, let's talk about the game last week, which was obviously a big, big week for our team, a big win. It was a complete effort for our football area. All three areas had to do some great things to make some plays for us to come out victorious. All of those phases did those things in that particular game. Unfortunately we had a punt return against us, which we haven't had all season long. But we did come back with a chance to pin them deep in their territory on the one-yard line, and we were able to do so. Offensively, with some guys nicked up, we had some guys step up and make some good plays for us. Chris Markey had a very good football game, missing Maurice Drew. He was very productive in helping our offense. Manuel White has been consistent all season long and has been very productive for us. We needed his production. Drew Olson made some key plays in critical times to get the offense moving in the right direction and to sustain some drives. He made some plays with his feet, he made a play in the throwing game, hitting Junior Taylor on a big pass in a third-down situation. It was nice to see those types of things happen for your offense in critical situations. Defensively, we played very well, with the exception of two or three big plays, and a couple of them happened early in the games. And then there was one big run in the second half. But the defense played very well, played inspired ball, and tackled well. They did a great job on third down. Oregon, I believe, was 2 of 11 on third-down conversions. They were just tremendous in terms of getting the ball back for our offense. They only had 58 total plays offensively, which was a low for our defense. To have that type of success, in an away stadium, it was a great defensive effort. Overall it was a great win. There were a lot of great performances throughout the game. It's definitely something we're going to build on. It's a three-week process in getting ready for the Trojans."

Do you think Saturday's performance was the first time your team really understood what it takes to play an entire game?

"Saturday's performance wasn't the only indication of learning how to win. We did it also against Stanford a couple of games before that. It was a great time for our team to rise up on this occasion and have that kind of effort in this football game. That is a learning process that any young team has to go through in tough times, particularly when you're not at home. Our team did make some steps forward in being able to put away a football team. For the most part we had the crowd out of the game until late in the second half. But we really played well, in eliminating the crowd noise as much we could."

What happened on that sequence near the end of the first half?

"There was under a minute left, and we had a face mask penalty. We were hoping for a bigger one than the five-yarder. It didn't happen. We called a timeout at that time. At the time we had an injury on the field and we didn't want that particular player on the field. We needed to get him off the field, particularly in that situation, just because you don't want to give your opponent the chance to make a big play on you if you're not where you need to be on your offensive line. So we had to make an exchange there on our offensive line, which we wanted to call a timeout. We weren't in field goal range, which disturbed us at that time. So we took a couple of shots at the endzone. And what I wanted to do is to make sure we had a couple of shots at the endzone and try to get us a play down there. Chances are, if you can get a PI penalty, great. If you can get a touchdown, even better. But we just didn't want to make a mistake in the middle of the field, which would have given Oregon a chance to get something happening before the end of the first half. It worked out exactly the way we wanted it to, other than we didn't come up with any points. When it got to three seconds on the third down call, we just decided to run it. We knew that we had the ball coming back in the second half. So we just did not want Oregon on that field, for any opportunity, to generate any momentum going into the second half."

Would you have considered a Hail Mary on that last play of the half?

"Again, I don't want to throw a Hail Mary that goes for an interception, where our quarterback feels, 'Hey, why did we do that?' We didn't need to do that. We had the ball back in the second half. It was more for us, understanding, that we were dictating the control of that football game at that time. We took a couple of shots, we weren't able to execute it, and we knew we had the ball coming back in the second half."

If you weren't receiving the second-half kick-off, might you have tried to get in field goal range?

"It would have been a different situation then. All of those circumstances led for us to believe to try to take the time off the clock in the first half and were getting the ball back in the second half."

Will you start game-planning for USC tomorrow?

"We're going to start game-planning as soon as we can, from a coaching standpoint. On the field, no we won't. We won't start practicing much of our plan until the latter part of this week and definitely into next week. This week we're preparing as a staff as well as we can our game plan, but not necessarily implementing those things on the field as of yet."

Is this too much time off before this game?

"I could probably give you a better answer on that if we came up short for the game. We like what we're doing. We're going to use this as a great benefit. We're a little bit banged up. With Marcedes Lewis and Maurice Drew hurt. There are some guys that have shoulder dings and stuff like that. This is a great time to get those guys back healthy. Secondly, it gives us that much more sense of time in preparation for the game. We think it's a huge benefit for our team at this point in the season."

How has Drew Olson progressed at this point in the season?

"He's playing pretty well. It was good to see him have the production this past week, at Oregon, which is a tough place to play. He was really good with the football. There weren't any throws out there that were potential interceptions. When he didn't have anything he took off with his feet and made some plays on some critical third-down situations. I thought he handled the crowd noise and all of those things very, very well. So it was a solid football game for him."

What do you think has changed in your offense in converting so many third-downs?

"That was an emphasis this week. We wanted to get ourselves into third down situations where the percentages aren't so hard for the offense. You don't want to be in third and twenty. You don't want to be third and fifteen. If you can get yourself in third-and-five, third-and-six, third-and-three, those situations we like our chances of converting. That's hard to do against a good football team. We had some third-and-eights and third-and-tens. And usually those go in favor of the defense. But our guys stepped up and made some plays when we needed them to. That shows some growth offensively, and the attention we've made about those issues in the course of the week."

Were you pleased - and surprised - by Oregon not running the ball very much?

"Not really surprised. They're an offense that mixes it up pretty well. They have a quarterback who's a very active player, both running the football and throwing. I think some of the issues that they were facing...their quarterback was a little banged up. He looked to me like he was a little banged up. They didn't have their tight end. They had an offensive lineman that was hurt. So they had some injuries in key areas, and they might have thought they just couldn't necessarily come in and run the football on us. Even though they had some success running the ball, I think our pace of the game when we got out ahead of them, that changed their game plan some. We did a nice job with our offense generating against their defense, and that probably changed their mindset of themselves getting back in the football game."

How pleased are you with Justin Medlock's performance, and what distance are you comfortable with him kicking a field goal?

"50. The 50-yard range. Medlock has been great. He has had a very good season. His range is right around 50, maybe 52 if the wind is at your back. I talked with him just before the game. He felt great about his pre-game, he was kicking everything. He felt really good about his preparation for the game. I had a great feeling that he was going to make some plays for us. The first kick that came up short, he was right on the money in terms of the angle, it just came up short. The wind kicked up right at that play and it knocked it down. The next two, I felt confident he was going to make those plays. And we were fortunate enough for him to execute those plays and get them down for us. He's only had one bad game and other than that, he's played very well."

Are you comfortable with him attempting 55 yards?

"He had a good game, but I'm not really ready to make him jump to that big of a difference. Psychologically it could be a big difference for him. He feels good at 50, and 52, which is about his range. And I feel the same way. At his position, it's important to have the confidence going into a kick like that, that he can make them, and he's been making them. We'll keep the same pattern as we've had most of the year."

What will the three weeks mean to some of the injured players like Maurice, Marcedes and Justin London? Do you anticipate by the time of the USC game they'll be pretty close to healthy?

"They will be better, I don't know if they'll be 100%. The other flip side of having three weeks off is, as a coach, you're concerned with having three weeks off and not playing, when you're facing the #1-ranked team in the country. There are timing issues. You want the production that you've been doing. And the level of things you've been doing on a week to week basis, when you change a little bit, you're concerned about that, especially in a game like this. Our approach is that we're going to get our health back but we're still going to practice all the details, fundamentals and techniques this week and get a chance to nurse some of those guys who have injuries, so they won't practice as much. But going into next week, we're really going to have two good weeks of practice. And we really need two good weeks of practice to really get our game plan to where it should be."

Will you scrimmage more next week?

"We won't scrimmage. We'll probably stay the same course as what we've been doing in our normal preparation. We'll do our run drills, and seven-on-sevens, and pass-under-pressure, those types of things. That won't change. That's something you want to be consistent with. We'll just have two weeks of that type of practice. But guarding against not banging each other up. We're just trying to get things executed and get our timing down."

Does it help you that USC has to play its other rivalry game against Notre Dame the week before you?

"I don't think that's a big benefit. The benefit we have is they play a game while we're not playing. There's always a chance happening in that game that you can game plan from or help, whether it's a rivalry game or not. They have a game before our game, which gives a chance of getting a better feel for what's going on with what they're doing offensively and defensively and on special teams. Again, it can work against you. That's why I'm very guarded about having three weeks off. I've never had three weeks off, in any place I've been. This is different for me. I had to talk to some of my coaching colleagues that have been in maybe similar situations like this, on just drawing some opinions in what they've done in their history. It's a challenging task. We understand it's a big game, for one. We understand it's an opportunity to get back healthy, which is a good thing. So there are a lot of things that are positives about situations like this. But the biggest negative could be that you haven't played. We're going to try to do what we can from a practice standpoint to put ourselves in game-like situations so our timing and things like that don't get rusty."

Do you almost have to treat this like a bowl game?

"No. The feeling is not the same. This is your rival game. It's a big game. Not to say that the bowl game isn't a big game, but this is a different game. This still makes a difference in where you'll be in your conference. Plus it's your last Pac-10 game, so that makes it the utmost importance. It's bigger than a bowl game. Our preparation is going to be key for us to be successful, and when we get this opportunity to play."

What were some of the suggestions your coaching colleagues made?

"There were some things.  But I'm not prepared to share those things. There are some things I'm considering. It's a process we're thinking through. It's pretty much my gut feeling it's where we're going. But it's good to bounce things off people who have been in that situation before, just to see what they've done in their past. If anything, it confirmed things."

In the fourth quarter, when you're running the ball and trying to take time off the clock, would you consider what you did good play calling, given Oregon knew what you were going to do?

"It's absolutely great play calling. That's the style of ball I want to play. If we're up in the game and we have a chance to finish a football game, then we're going to finish the football game. That's the style that's important to me. When we get a chance to control the line of scrimmage and make an impact and take some time off the clock, and we have the people to do it, we're going to do it. That's me. You're right. They knew we were going to run it, and so what? We're going to run the football. We had to convert some third downs and we did so. That's important. That's how you finish a football game. That's how a team grows up, given a situation like that, when they know you're going to do something and you still execute. Our guys did a great job of doing those things and taking five minutes or so off the clock."

How is Jarrad Page and Derrick Williams?

"Derrick is back. He's feeling better. He started feeling better the night before. He's going to be out this week until everything clears up, but he'll be fine. Ben Lorier had a concussion, too. He's in a similar situation. He ought to be fine in a week and be ready to go for next week. Everyone else just had nicks and bruises and should be fine at some point later on this week."

Did you think that the play calling for game was a throwback to earlier in the season, when you ran the ball more?

"This game dictated a lot of the reason why you run the ball more or whether you pass. Last week when we were down most of the game, I don't think there was a point when we led against Washington State, that was a different type of mindset. You're trying to get back in a football game, and you're going to have more passes than runs. Conversely, we were up in this game pretty much after the first two or three series in the game. We felt we had pretty good control and continuity offensively, to run the football and mix some things up. We decided to in a way that we thought was our strength at that time, which was running the football. Those are going to ebb and flow in the course of any game. When you're winning a game, you want to stay in control of that game. If you're losing a game, and you want to try to get back in it, the best way to get back in it is to be effective throwing the ball to get you in that situation."

Is there anything you learned last year in relation to the USC game that, now with more time, you'll be able to factor into your preparation?

"There are a lot of things that we can anticipate going into this game with more time to think about it. Last year we played against two of the best teams in the country. We played against Oklahoma, and we played against USC at the end of the season, and the comparison and experience of both of those teams should give you a pretty good feel of the type of game we need to play. That's something we all think about. The players who were on the team a year ago, and have been in those types of situations, they know the caliber of game we have to play. We have time to think about those things, and also get ourselves ready and healthy, and do what we need to do to be successful in this game."

Do you look forward to these three weeks and the build-up to this game?

"I look forward to the opportunity. There's no question about that. This is the first time I'm experiencing three weeks before this opportunity. That's the difference. But we're going to use it as a positive, and getting a lot of things to the point where it's going to give us the best chance to win this football game.  What an opportunity it is. The #1-ranked team right now, and they're also the team that's 20 minutes from here. That's fun. This is what you want in college football, this opportunity. I'm more anxious than anything. But I have some time."



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