Dorrell's Press Conference

Head Coach Karl Dorrell answered questions at his weekly press conference Monday, mostly about the mistakes and issues in the Stanford game, the upcoming challenge against Washington State, and an injury update...

Opening Statement:

"Hello everyone. It is now week 10 and we're still moving on in the conference. Obviously from Saturday's game, we're disappointed in the way we played. We were in a pretty good position to solidify ourselves and we still are in a pretty good position, but it is going to be a lot more difficult with the games remaining. I think our guys understand that we have to obviously push forward and start doing the necessary things to continue the success we had the majority of the season. Sure there were some issues that happened in the game that we wish we could take back. It seems like the magnitude of every game we play from this point forward is going to be really intensified. So we are hopefully going to work hard this week and try to develop a tremendous game plan that keeps us playing solid in all three phases and give us opportunities to be successful in this remaining stretch. Washington State is a very good football team and I'm sure they are disappointed with what happened to them over the weekend as well, and they are going to be ready to go when we go up there this coming weekend. So with that being said I'd like to begin the question section please."

Injury updates with Mat Ball, Matt Ware, and Rodney Leisle?

"Mat Ball played I think just a series or two in the game. He had a lower back strain, but we can't quite figure out what the issue is. He is getting x-rays today and again we are going to try to do whatever we can to find whatever that issue is and hopefully get some remedy for him. Matt Ware is recovering much better, he is going to try to practice tomorrow. He has done some good things over the weekend with his treatment and we'll see what he can do tomorrow. Rodney Leisle is again improving well, but I think that he's probably another week away. It's not likely he'll play this week."

Are you then hopefully that Matt Ware can maybe play this weekend?

"Hopefully yes because that would give us more depth in the secondary. Washington State spreads it out pretty good and to have as many secondary players available for us as possible, will enhance opportunities to hopefully control their offense."

When you say that Matt is going to practice tomorrow, is the plan now for him to go out and do everything?

"Well, I think we will see what he can do tomorrow, you know. We'll start with him going through stretch and going through the routine. He's been doing some jogging over the weekend. I think its still going to come down to all of his position required movements - back pedaling and driving off of that ankle. Those are going to be the tell tale issues of whether he is going to be able to help us or not."

You were a little vague about the quarterback this weekend and the decision.

"The decision is still the same. Matt Moore is our starter. He played well given the circumstances he was under. A lot of those elements that were issues in the game weren't necessarily under his control. He did get a little bit dinged towards the end, but I fully anticipate him being ready to go this week."

What was the biggest problem with not being able to handle the blitz?

"It was a couple of things. I think it was a non-communication of really identifying the defense at that time, which allowed some different targeting in terms of protection. I give credit to Stanford for being able to do that and causing enough confusion. Sometimes we had two guys blocking one guy and one guy came free and that in a nutshell is what the issue was. It was really a communication issue and something that us coaches got to do a better job of preparing our players about."

The fact that Washington State is going to blitz, does that make it easier to prepare for them because you know what they are going to do?

"Every week I know that everyone is going to blitz. It has been that way for the last four or five weeks. Those are some issues that, when you have a young offensive line you know they all have to be on the same page. That's the biggest key for the offensive line. The reason they're called a unit is because they all have to understand where they are going and who their responsibilities are. That was part of our issues that occurred on Saturday."

Are the hot receivers open when the blitzes are coming?

"When there is a hot receiver, they are open, and we were able to do that some in the game. But there are some protections when you're in a more of a maximum protection, and we weren't able to protect. So you did not have hot receivers open for some protections. So it's both ways."

As the game went on were you doing more max protection?

Trying to, yes. That's anyone's answer, when you can't figure out what's going on or what the protection should be, is to try to maximize the protection as well as you can and then what happens is we have small backs too. Our backs are blocking people that are probably a lot bigger than they are. And that has become an issue of whether they can hold up or not. So it's a lot of issues in protections. It's not necessarily the offensive line, but the people in the backfield that have to be a part of it. We're obviously going to have to do a much better job of giving the quarterback the time needed for him to be successful."

Will Kevin Brown start?

Yes."

Can you talk about him and what he needs to work on?

"Experience. Just keep playing. It's about how we worked at the beginning of the year in the offense. With anyone who is new and playing a position the more he plays the better he'll get. He just needs to continue to get the reps, see the different looks, be able to adjust on the run, and play with the speed, all the different issues that occur in a game. He's gotten better. But teams know that he's young, and most teams if they can find out there's a weak link somewhere they'll find out how to attack that weak link. Not to say that he is, but he's new. So they know about that, and they can try to do some things to help confuse the issue with him."

Talking about communications issues, are you talking aobut communications issues on the offensive line? Or does Matt have to read when he gets under the center and recognize the defense? Where did it lack in picking up the defense?

"The line makes calls within a given play. It's not necessarily the quarterback making the calls on that particular play. It's the line adjusting to the particular look they happen to see.  What causes confusion is when not all of them see the same look and understand and identify that particular front. That's when you get two people blocking one guy. And that's what happened particularly in our case. When you have an inexperienced line, that happens some. But at this point in the season, we have to do whatever it takes to get those issues resolved. If that means limiting our protections to only doing a handful of them instead of our normal number of protections then we'll do that. We're going do whatever it takes to get ourselves to play as effective as we can."

How much did you miss Manuel White blocking in the backfield?

"A great deal. The question was asked last week: 'What is his value to the team?' His value was good in a lot of ways. He's a big back that can protect, that can run, can catch. He can play tailback, he can play fullback. He did it all. That's the reason his value was as good as it was."

J.D. Groves is comparably sized. Is there a chance he could be used similarly?

"He's our second fullback. He will get some time with Pat Norton playing fullback. We'll do the necessary adjustments need to help us be effective this week."

You'll be playing two of the top Pac-10 defenses in Washington State and USC.  Is there anything in the playbook to counteract the pressure?

"We're going to do whatever it takes to be effective. Doing that, though, you have to understand that there is a time element in how much you can do, how much you can teach. There's a lot that we already laid as a foundation. And you can't, for instance, go from our offense to the wishbone. It takes time to get those things worked out. We're going to do the capabilities of who we have. We're going to try to maximize our strengths as much as possible.  That's both from our talent, skill positions, and also for our offensive line and our protection issues as well."

What can the quarterback do to offset the blitz?

"The biggest thing he can do is recognize it. When you know someone is blitzing and you understand the protection calls. The biggest thing you have to tell a quarterback is to know when they're blitzing so you don't get hit in the back of the head. When they're blitzing your timing has to be most importantly about executing things more effectively, and sometimes that means quicker."

How much leeway does Matt Moore have to change the play at the line?

"When he knows there's a blitz he definitely has that freedom to get to a protection call that help us take care of that. I know they showed like they were blitzing a lot of people but really didn't. They did a nice job of disguise and causing confusion more than anything."

Is the best antidote a really good running game?

"You can design certain things to combat the blitz. We're thinking of those issues, too. We'll do whatever we think we can do to help neutralize those issues in the next game."

On special teams, might we see Mil'von James and Joe Cowan at the gunner positions?

"Mil'von did play at one of the gunner positions. Cowan didn't play much because he's still nursing a quad strain. Believe me, we're trying to field our best people to be put in position to do the things as well as we can. We wouldn't want to hold back anyone who we think could be effective for us."

Washington State quarterback Matt Kegel could be among the best quarterbacks you face this year...

"I'm impressed with him. He has gotten the crap beat out of him, and he's gotten up and still thrown strikes. I have a lot of respect for this kid. He's getting hit quite a bit and he's getting back in there and hangs in there in the pocket, throws those balls, puts them on the money. So he's been very, very impressive in my eyes, in being a good team leader, and obviously a guy who's done a nice job in directing their offense."

Were there more drops in this last game than in recent games? Or was it just good defensive timing?

"Oh, no. There was some non-execution. We had opportunities three or four times to make some plays and we did not do that. That was an issue in the game. Given the situation, they could have been big plays for us, in terms of sustaining drives and keeping our momentum for our offense."

On the first possession, you threw on first down. Will we see that more in the future?

"We're going to try and blend as much as we can. That means run and pass, and doing some safe throws for the quarterback, where he feels real comfortable on the early downs. That's part of the process of what we've been trying to build and do. You'll see us trying to mix it up and do some things to try to create some balance."

We're talking about a lot of technical things, adjustments, how do you blend that with preparing them? How do you decide how much, in preparing them, is technical and how much emotional?

"I think it's both. You want to learn from the issues that hurt us in the last game. But you can't worry about that to the extent that you're still evaluating what happened in that game. We did that on Sunday. We talked about all of those issues with the team, watched the tape, critiqued our issues, and today is their time off. Tomorrow we're preparing for our opportunity to win the next football game. They understand that this is a dead-heat race right now. With everyone playing one another. Two of the top teams we have to play. What better way to finish out your year but to play the best teams in the conference and see where you're at against them. We feel pretty good about what we can be when we're ready to play. We'll get our kids ready to play. The ones that have stepped in because of an injured starter, they've done a good job. They'll continue to do a good job. They're relied upon just like one of the eleven on that side of the ball. We'll line up and be ready to play. We'll get our best effort again on Saturday."

We've been talking about this team having character all year. But after the Stanford loss and the games coming up, is this going to be a real test of their character?

"I think it will be. I think each week it's that way. Remember, we haven't really won a lot of games where they've been blow-outs. Our test in character has almost been every week. It's not going to stop now. Obviously it should come more to the forefront, with everything on the line, and what you want to do in your conference, that leadership and character needs to come out as much as ever. Those things are something that, with this team, I'm very proud of. They've fought. Each and every game they've fought. A lot of games weren't pretty. A lot of games we won weren't pretty.  But I'll tell you what, they'll put everything out there. That's one of the things I'm excited about with our future, and for the rest of this season. We're on the right page."

How have the actions of Xavier Burgess merited his discipline?

"We've had actions in the past that have merited a similar suspension in terms of the category of being suspended. This is the third on my watch. I know that at any given point it's time to be real effective in how you're dealing with this particular issue. He has some issues he has to deal with. I think I have issues in terms of how I want to run this program. I think it's been addressed before with the two previous cases that these things aren't going to be taken lightly. It's at that point that what's going to be done is going to be done. I think he understands that. We had a discussion about it. The team knows where I'm coming from. So he's going to take his disciplinary action I imposed with him and move on."

He won't practice?

"No."

The defense is playing well in the second half, allowing only one touchdown in the second half in the last three games...

"Yeah, you're right. I think when we play at our best is when we're all playing well. I think when our special teams is playing well, our offense has been able to generate some effectiveness, and our defense has played well, I think that's when we're the team we're supposed to be. It's unfortunate that a couple of plays happen that go against you in a situation. But that's how football is. Sometimes you have to work your way through that, and get yourself still in a position to win a game, which we were trying to do late in the game. Unfortunately we came up short."

When you face a two-back offense, the defense is shutting down the run. When against a shotgun, it seems like the defense doesn't know what to key on and opposing offense have been better at running the ball. Is that true?

"It's harder to gauge the run since you're in a passing look. I think that's natural for any defense. When you see a quarterback in the shotgun the first thing you're thinking about is pass rush. Teams are starting to do that more against our defense to create some effectivess, but I think our defense has gotten a lot better at it. I think the first time against Arizona when they were doing it, it had us off-guard and they had a big game against us. But that production has gotten less and less. We are getting better at defending that set."

Washington State ran that style a lot last year. Do they do it a lot this year?

"They sure do. They do a lot of different looks. They do five wides, four wides, the do it all. Our challenge is that this is a very good football team. As I mentioned about their quarterback, he plays that system really, really well. They have good receivers and good backs. It's a tremendous challenge this week."

On the quarterback situation, is it important for you for either of your guys not to go into the week with any uncertainty?

"I don't want to create any uncertainty. Both of them are very competitive by nature. They both believe strongly in their own abilities. I think the issue right now is we're trying to do what's best to beat Washington State. And to start with concrete answers on how we're going to do that from a beginning standpoint. So, yes, to answer your question, there's no controversy. We're still with Matt Moore, just like we had Matt Moore last week."

The offense had a great start with Matt Moore, but then tails off. In the past, under Drew Olson, the offense didn't start off well but got better as the game went on. Any thoughts about that?

"I think the issues that really hurt us is when there are some passing situations when we weren't effective because of the breakdowns in protection. That puts any offense behind in being able to dictate the way you play. You mentioned being able to throw on first and second downs. You want to do that, but when it's second and twenty, and third and whatever, you know you're in passing situations and showing your hand, so to speak. Right now that's not very effective for our offense to be in those situations. We're better when it's third and five, third and four, when we can dictate whether we can run or throw it. That's any offense, to be honest with you. If you ask any offensive coordinator, they'd rather be in a third and medium downs than third and long downs. That's what hurts your continuity a little bit, when you're backing yourselves up in those situations. And that's what's plagued us."

Is there one spot where the opposing defense is blitzing you that's most effective?

"I wish it were once spot. No, they do it from outside, inside, they do it everywhere. I'm going to blame myself and the coaches more than the players. We have to help communicate and identify the look they were getting. We didn't have any protection issues. It's just a matter of identifying what you're blocking first and then working your way from there. Unfortunately we didn't get those things done in the last game."

Did Kevin Brown play more early in the game?

"We ended up putting Paul Mociler in more late in the second half, just because we were in a situation where we had to throw and Paul had a better understanding of some of the adjustments of what we were doing. With Brown, it's like with any young player. The only way you get any better is to just keep playing. He needs to go through the wars here, and battle. As soon as he gets a better understanding he'll be fine."

If Mat Ball can't go this week, will Junior Lemau'u play more?

"Yes, he will. You know Junior played inside a lot this last game. David Tautofi ended up playing most of the time at the end position. If Mat Ball can't go it will probably be a very similar circumstance again."

Do you know and talk to WSU coach Bill Doba?

"I've known Bill a long time. He's been a coordinator at Washington State a long time, when I was a coordinator at Colorado and Washington.  We've talked a lot of ball over a lot of years. He's a heck of a football coach, I know that."

 


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