"We're finally at week twelve of our season, twelve straight weeks, and as you all know, we have not played well the last few weeks. Beforehand, even the times when we were winning, we weren't probably winning to the capability that our team really could do. But we've struggled particularly the last few weeks. And there are no one or two things that are the issues as to why we're doing those things. It's a number of things, and it's both from play on the field to doing things properly in terms of our preparation. Given the state of this week, and we know how great this week is, this is how you measure yourself up with another team that's playing very well. I know that the team that we have, given our capabilities and the signs that we've done sporadically throughout some of the season this year, we have the capabilities of being a pretty good football team. We've shown it in spurts. Obviously this week, being the magnitude of what it is, we need to play our best ball. That's what it's going to come down to. Just like it was when we played Oklahoma earlier in the year. There is a lot of work to be done, a lot of things we need to correct, a lot of things that we need to prepare our kids to do this given week. We had a great team meeting on Sunday with them. They understand the issues that are involved in this particular game. We're ready to go out fighting and do the things we've been doing all season long. We're going to put together a great week of preparation for this game, and we're going to put our best game together. That's what we're aiming to do this week, and to see where we measure up."
How do you address what happened the last two years of the rivalry, even though you weren't here?
"We've talked about that. Those are things you have to put on the table. You have to put those things on the table, about the important of this game, what it means for the city, what it means for our communities. I think it's one of the best rivalries out there. It's a great game. It's a great game to be a part of. It's a game you always remember through your years, even after you've been here and gone from UCLA. It's your chance to make your mark in history, as to doing something special. We're going to have the opportunity this week and we'll put together our best effort in doing so."
What do you recall about the intensity of the rivalry as a player?
"It is an intense rivalry. What makes it that way is that we're both in the same city. Both right here. There is no hiding from each other. We both read the same papers and all those different things. It's not like it's one city to another. It's always been a game where the unexpected happen sometimes, at least the ones I've been a part of. There were times we were favored in my five years of being a part of that game and we lost. It's not necessarily the team that has the best win and loss record that has the best chance to win the football game. So, we're going to prepare for this game like it's the utmost importance. They're going to understand the tradition and the rivalry. We're going to put it all out there and see where we're at."
What's your favorite moment in the rivalry during those five years as a player?
"Mine was just the preparation involved in it. I knew what was at stake. When I played in it I prepared with the utmost importance, both mentally and physically. I knew it was going to be a tough battle, a 60-minute battle, and you have to get yourself in the mindset of being able to execute the things we prepare in our game plan. That's what we're trying to coach our kids to do, is to come out and do the things that are necessary for us to be productive, and to give ourselves those opportunities."
Coming off three frustrating weeks, and the energy level against Oregon wasn't what you wanted. Is the rivalry enough to give you a clean slate to get you to play with more energy?
"We're going to need to step it up, period, because obviously the last three weeks have not been the UCLA football I'm accustomed to. We need to do an effort this week that's above and beyond the last three weeks, to put ourselves back in that course of getting better as the season went on. But now we're at the end of the season, and we have to put together our best effort, and our best play, and to put everything out there on the line. That's what this game is about – putting everything out there on the line."
How's Robert Chai's injury?
"He's really sore. He re-injured that knee again. He's having an MRI and we haven't had it read yet. His status for the game is uncertain, but it probably is a 50-50 proposition right now."
"Yes. Mociler snapped all season long preparing for this chance. So, we're trying to cover our bases just in case Robert is not available. Mociler will take most of the reps this week at center, because I don't think Robert will have much practice time until later in the week."
Do you realize the damage you could cause to USC if you win this game?
"I realize how much good it would cause for us if we win the game. I think it's a big game. And it's a great opportunity. And that's what this sport is all about – seeing something happen and visualizing and preparing for it and then actually executing it. We're given that opportunity this week to play against a very good football team..."
Have you looked at the BCS?
Not at all?
"No." You won't even mention it to your team?
"Well, I havent' seen it. The BCS." Is a potential bowl motivation to give your team?
"No, I'm using the motivation of just winning the football game. This game is big enough itself. The bowl is not the the caveat. The caveat is winning the football game, and getting ourselves in position this week, this game, right now, to get ourselves ready to play this game."
That hasn't worked the last couple of weeks...
"Yeah, we're changing our philosophy in terms of how to do that. But that's still the issue of what we're trying to get done."
What kind of impact does this game have on recruiting?
"It could be a positive or negative impact. That's the nature of where we're at compared to where they are. That's why you build, and continue to do the things necessary to building your program and doing things the right way, and living with the consequences you have before you. We're going to be in good shape. We're going to find good players that are going to elevate what we do here at UCLA. Not any one particular school can take all of them. There are a lot of great kids out there that want to play, and have a great desire to play football and get a great education. We'll find those guys."
Unless there's an injury, will Drew Olson play the entire game?
"Drew Olson is our starter for the game, and we're hoping he'll maintain playing the whole game."
If there's poor early play, he could be replaced?
"Again, that will be determined within that circumstance. Again, I don't look at it that way. But that is obviously a plan that will be part of the equation."
How would you compare USC and Oklahoma?
"I haven't seen Oklahoma later in the season, but I'm sure they're playing very, very well. They have some similarities. They're very skillful in their skill positions, both offensively and defensively. They're solid in their line play, both offensive and defensive line. They've very athletic kids. Good team speed in both programs."
Oregon jumped on you early, and USC will obviously try to do that. What kind of changes can you do to prevent that?
"Believe me, we're opening up the cupboards to try to find out to do whatever we can do to get ourselves in position to be a factor in this football game. Not only be a factor, but put ourselves in our best opportunity to win the game. We will not leave a stone unturned."
Do you concur that the play-calling was conservative Saturday?
"I think it points to the game it was. Just trying to settle things down. I think in early portions of the game. But obviously when we got behind quite a bit we had to more of a one-dimensional team, to throw the ball in the second half. It's never fun to be in the situation where you're playing catch-up football. Unfortunately that's where we were."
You said no stone unturned. Any chance we see some trick plays?
"No schemes, I won't talk about schemes. We're going to try to put our kids in the best position to get them in for us to be productive. We'll evaluate what we think is our best people to get us in those situations. That's what we're working hard at doing."
What are your impressions of USC's key personnel, like Leinart?
"I think Leinart has played as good as anyone in the country. His numbers prove it. He's a very poised player. He operates that offense very, very well. Very accurate. Good arm. Can throw the touch pass, can throw the deep ball. He's done a nice job in orchestrating that system. I think their receivers are as good as any in the country. The running backs are young backs that are very athletic and talented players. Good solid offensive line. They're pretty fortified. Defensively, their d-line as everybody knows is one of the best as a unit in the country. They've been that all season long. So, it's a formidable front. We have a very good defensive front, too. So, we're happy where we're at with our defense, and I'm sure they're pretty good about what they feel about their defense."
At this point in the season what can you do with your offensive line to protect the quarterback better and run the ball more consistently?
"Our depth is low there, for one. We have what we have. And we just have to keep utilizing our practice time on correcting, and building on our protections and techniques, and getting better at what we do. There is no secret weapon in the closet we can pull out for the offensive line. Our depth is what it is right now. We'll find a way to get it done."
Is this the biggest coaching test of your life – this week?
"Not of my life. But it's a great, great challenge for us. Me and our staff. That's what coaching is all about, getting yourself in a position like this to do great things. We're going to work put ourselves in position to do great things."
How much pressure do you feel to win USC games?
"They're big. They're monumental, for both programs. That's the most important game of the season. This yeaer, just because of the situation we're in, it doesn't mean that the value of the game is any less. We have something to do, something to work for, something to shoot for. We have something to accomplish, and a lot to prepare for. We're going to put our best effort in doing that. (Pause) Is T.J. asleep over there?"
T.J. Simers, about his coffee: "Almost done." Simers, then, implying that Dorrell might have put something in the coffee, said "I went ahead anyway." As a college football coach, what do you think about USC, if they won out, not being able to play in the BCS championship game?
"That's always a controversy this point in the year. Me personally I don't think there is an absolute how you get the two teams that are deserving to be in the championship game. There's always some discrepancy, something in terms of schedule, sometimes you have played someone head-to-head, all those issues come about and there is no absolute in giving the correct answer. They have one loss and there aren't many teams that are above one loss except Oklahoma that I think are contenders for that big game. To me, it's difficult. I understand where they're at, where they feel they belong and should be considered strongly for that position. If I was in their position I'd probably think the same way. I don't understand why the numbers change from week to week. I just don't get it. Football coaches coach football and they don't understand how those numbers change. To be honest with you, that's the least of my concerns right now, because I'm nowhere in position in dealing with the BCS, considering the task that I have here at UCLA. I'm hoping to be in that predicament at some point, early."
If you win this game, do you picture yourself getting excited?
"Yeah. I think I will get excited. I might jump up and down. And I might even jump on a player. I'm a very driven coach in trying to get things done. Sometimes it doesn't look like it's getting done but it takes some foundation work. That's really what I'm doing, trying to work on our foundation. It's hard. The first year, with a new team, with everything new, it wasn't a bed of roses this year. Plus, I didn't say I was going to be the most experienced head coach going into this year. I did learn a lot from this season. We're in a predicament we're in, and I've learned through the course of the season, regardless of your current situation, you keep fighting. That's what our kids are starting to understand. Games just aren't given to you. You have to go out there and prepare to win every Saturday. We played that way for most of the season. Then we hit that stumbling block about week nine. That's where we're at right now. We have to get ourselves over this hump so we understand particularly that toward the end of your season you have to be playing your best football. We've dropped the last three games, and we're going to be shooting like hell to play our best football in this last one."
When you told your team to keep fighting, you didn't say fight on, did you?
"No, I didn't say fight on."
Has anything happened this year, that would make you re-think how successful this offense could be in college?
"Well, no. I believe in this system. I drank the Kool-Aid. Whatever you want to call it. I believe in this system. It can work. It will work. It wasn't the most productive this year. But there were some good things that happened this year. And I think it gets better with more seasoning and more experience within it. We'll get the depth and the recruiting and do all of those things to help fortify us too. But everything will start falling in place. It's just in its first year."
Did you expect struggles like this in your first year?
"I did expect struggles. But I thought at this point we would be doing much better than we are offensively. And that's where our challenge has been all season long. And we haven't jumped at the incremental steps, particularly these last few weeks."
How similar is your offense to USC's?
"Very similar. But they've been doing theirs for a few years now. They have some experienced players in it. That's what I mean. Given time, and given the experience, things will work out on its own."
So, USC has a West Coast Offense?
"You'd have to ask them that. But we do similar things. They do it pretty well, and we haven't been doing it as well."
Might you get more involved next year in the play-calling?
"That's something I'll re-assess at the end of the season, to see where we're at in terms of all the end-of-year evaluations. But that thought has crossed my mind, but I haven't paid particular attention to it at this given point in time."
After 11 games, what's the one thing that's been most frightening to you about this job?
"How out of football I am, in terms of the Xs and Os. It's me getting used to the transitioning of all the other responsibilities and be a coach. I'm not necessarily a coach anymore."
You don't have as much time?
"Not as much as I'd like to. When I was a coordinator, I spent quite a bit of time in the Xs and Os, and knew that particular team I was playing, and had a great feel of that. It's hard when you have all the other responsibilities to do. So that's probably the biggest challenge it's been."
Will you pull for USC in the Sugar Bowl?
"You had to ask that, huh? I always want our Pac-10 representatives to do well. It seems like from a national spotlight we don't get a lot of respect, to be honest. I've coached in the Big 12, and we played the Big 10 and the SEC, and all those different conferences. It seemed like for the Pac-10 there wasn't a lot of respect, just from a national standpoint. So whenever there's a Pac-10 representative doing well representing our conference, I think that's a great thing."
Do you like the new responsibilities?
"Oh, yeah. It's just different. It's part of my transition from being a position coach to being a head coach. But it's like I said, it's a work in progress. It will continually evolve. I'm continually evolving."
Is it more chaotic than you thought?
"No, not really. Just a lot more things to do."
What's Marcedes Lewis's status?
"He had a mild concussion in the game, which is the reason he didn't play in the second half. He went through some testing yesterday. He'll go through testing today. He might not have much physical work this week. Right now it's probable he'll be playing, but I'm not certain."
You don't expect him to practice?
"He might be able to run around with no contact tomorrow. And then maybe have contact on Wednesday."
How about Junior Taylor?
"He still has that hip bruise. He's okay. He's just real sore."
"Yeah, those are the guys we have behind those positions. They played a lot more in the second half of our last game. We're playing with a lot of three-receiver sets and those guys are getting more playing time. They'll be elevated if Junior is not able to play."
Do you remember how hostile of an environment it was to play in at the Coliseum?
"I think it's not anymore hostile than any other place. I think the great thing about that game is that it's a packed stadium, it's loud, both teams are excited about the game, and it comes down to playing your guts out. It's one of those kind of games. I don't remember anything being anymore hostile than any other place."
How's Rodney Leisle's ankle?
"He's doing well. He's probably 75 to 80%. That's the nature of a high-ankle sprain. He's not 100%. But he didn't have any setbacks from the game. He'll be ready to go this week."
In the Oregon game, Ebell had that big run early, and then Maurice Drew still had the majority of the carries. Is that just the way it worked out?
"I think it was the way it worked out. We got away from giving him carries. But the nature of the game at halftime was we came back in the second half trying to get ourselves back in the game. We became more of a throwing offense in the second half, which eliminated our original game plan."
What's the status of Junior Lemau'u and Xavier Burgess?
"Both were suspended three weeks ago.Xavier was. He was just reinstated this week. Junior's been suspended for the rest of the season. He's in school, doing all of his responsibilities outside of football."