Karl Dorrell addressed the media Monday at his weekly press conference.
"Good afternoon. Going into the ASU week. It's another great challenge for our team. From our opinion, we had a very disappointing loss last week to a very good Cal team. Cal is a solid program that played well in every phase of the game. We played well in spurts. I think the difference in the game was the control of the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. They had more ability to do that than we did in the game and that's really the difference. They were able to capitalize on certain game situations to sustain drives. For us, we didn't have the same type of success in doing so. So there is a lot of work to be done this week against a very good Arizona State team. Their defense is very good as well. They are fourth in the conference. They are stingy against the rush. That's an area we need to improve on in our offense. Defensively, we did some good things in the game last week. We just didn't have the consistency that's needed to be effective in a game like that. There is plenty of work for us to do this week. Our kids have a great attitude and they're using last week's game as something to learn from and move forward with. We're eager and excited to move forward and going against Arizona State."
How big of a game is this in terms of where you go the rest of the season?
"It's just as pivotal a game as the following week. We are in a tough stretch of games, from this week forward, and actually beginning from last week. The teams that we're playing at the end of the schedule are all very capable teams of doing great things in the conference. We have to make the improvement that's necessary for us to be successful and to win these football games. Our team is very, very excited about our opportunities this week. We're using last week's game as a learning experience and something we know we can get better with in a lot of different areas. To play in the conditions we did, in a packed house at Memorial Stadium, there were some great things that came from that game. Our health is pretty good, which is always a key at this point in the year. Certain players are really starting to move forward and take things to another level, particularly in our throwing game. Drew Olson has played well the last couple of weeks. So, there is a lot of stuff to build on, we just need to put it all together and play with the consistency that a good team plays at this point in the season."
What are your impressions of their quarterback Andrew Walter?
"One of the more talented quarterbacks in our conference. He has been that way the last two or three years. He carries a lot of burden for that offense. They rely on him. He throws the ball a lot. They've had some issues running the football. Something tells me they will try to run it against us with the issues we've had the last five or six games. We know they are going to come out and be balanced and test our defense. Our defense has gotten better. Believe it or not, they did, they got better this last week. There were just some issues in the game with guys in bad situations and bad places. But we played a lot better. Our health will be back. We lost Justin Hickman a week ago, but he'll be back in a couple of weeks. C.J. Niusulu will hopefully be back this week. Those young players are starting to make some plays we knew that they could make. It's exciting to be in the position that we're in. It's not like we are 0-6. We are in a position to really still be a factor in this conference. We have one conference loss. Who knows what's going to happen? That's the attitude we are going to have going into this week."
Are you expecting Craig Bragg to be back?
"Craig will be back practicing this week and playing some in the game this week. We are not listing him as a starter. He will not start the game. I know he's listed there, but he will not start the game. But he will get some playing time and we will ease him back into the fold."
Will Marcus Cassel start the game?
"Cassel will start the game."
What did see on film when you watched him play?
"Cassel played well. They made a couple of plays against us and that is going to happen. You are going to get beat. Corners get beat on Sundays in the NFL and in college on Saturdays. They get beat. You get back on your horse and you keep going. That's going to happen. He is still starting. He didn't lose his job. He has some things to build and get better with going into this week."
Is the problem with your running game an adjustment issue or it's just not doing well?
"It's both. Our running game has just not been the same the last couple of weeks, with both adjustments in what the defense has been doing against us and we haven't played as well. We need to step it up in those areas. We're going to control the things we can control, which is fixing the issues that have plagued us the last couple of weeks, and get ourselves started again."
Will Niusulu start?
"C.J. will play but not start."
Did he undergo tests Sunday?
"He did. The tests have not come back yet. The doctor will read the results this evening (Monday)."
It was an MRI?
"X-rays, and labs."
In terms of Drew Olson's progress, has he become wiser with experience?
"He is doing exactly what we anticipate him doing. He started off the season well. He's picked up the experience and knowledge of this offense. He is now at a comfort level where his ability is taking over. That is what you want and expect from a quarterback in this offense. The last couple of weeks he's played very well. He moves around the pocket well and finds the open receivers. He knows where his check downs are in a lot of different situations. He is playing well enough for us to be very effective."
Is linebacker Tim Warfield still a ways away from playing?
"Tim will practice limited this week, in terms of his status. We'll see what happens next week."
What's Kevin Harbour's status?
"He still is not practicing. He's not cleared to practice. He's still in re-hab."
When would you expect him to be cleared?
"Your guess is as good as mine. November. I would say the latter two or three games of the season."
Was there anything that Cal was doing in their blocking schemes that limited how effective Spencer Havner and Justin London were?
"Not really. They just did a nice job of controlling the line of scrimmage. That was the difference in the game. They did the things they needed to do in being effective in running the football and protecting. They did that better than we did. There were certain points in the game when we had some success on defense, but not clearly enough. There's a lot for us to improve with."
How did Brigham Harwell play?
"He played well. He's been averaging about seven to nine snaps a game, and he had 55 or 56 in this game and played very well. It was a good start for him, and we expect a lot more out of him going into this week of the season."
Are offenses trying to work around Spencer Havner or take him out of the play?
"Spencer has played well and he's gained a lot of tackles. I don't think offenses are going to worry too much about what he does. I say that because our issues and what our problems have been defensively has been with the whole front seven. They're going to feel like they can run the football. It's not Spencer's job to stop every running play. So there's a lot of other guys involved in that aspect of the defense. I don't think any offense is going to say, 'We need to stop this guy.' They're having success running the football against an inexperienced group right now. And we need to get that inexperienced group playing like an experienced group. He's part of the equation, for sure, and he's had a great deal of success up to this point. But that whole defensive front needs to continue to work and get better this week."
Are you surprised at all by how Arizona State played against USC?
"No, not really. I think the score is a little misleading, in a lot of respects, at least from a coach's standpoint. USC is an explosive team, and they got up on them early. Arizona State had a different game plan going into that game. I'm sure if they replayed it they wouldn't do the same approach. It's hit and miss when you decide to make a game plan to do certain things. If it doesn't work you have to live with that. I'm sure they're going to have a great plan against us, to get themselves back on a winning track. Just like we're trying to get back on a winning track."
Are the offensive linemen now struggling to block their opponents?
"They're still working at it. You're not going to win every battle. But we work at it pretty hard. You have to be able to dominate the line of scrimmage, and be effective in both protection and in the running game. So you're going to have win some one-on-one battles. That's part of the game. We have to continue to work on getting ourselves in winning most of those battles."
How did Wesley Walker play?
"He played okay."
Does he need to be more active? Or do you need that position to be more active?
"That's interesting. It's not any single person. It really isn't. The way a front seven works in a defense it's everyone doing their responsibility. It's all of them growing together through this experience. I'm not saying it's not anybody. I mean, Spencer's had success with a lot of tackles. But Spencer's not enough for the equation. It's about seven guys stopping the run, and the safeties getting involved in their aspect of it. We just need to continue to work at it, and keep trudging away, grind at it week in and week out. Individually we have players doing much beter, ala Brigham Harwell. He's doing much, much better. But it's still nowhere close to where it should be. So we're going to continue to work and push through it and get to a point where it all snaps together."
Is it realistic to expect considerable improvement from week to week?
"It's very reasonable to expect you can improve from week to week. I wouldn't be in coaching if you didn't think you could do that. You don't expect not to have huge games at any given time. The problem is you don't know when it's going to happen. So you keep pushing and pushing until it finally happens and it clicks in. It's the same issues we went through a year ago offensively. Sometimes it takes a little longer, and sometimes it doesn't take as long. It could be a matter of any moment the defense starts to doing what they're supposed to do and the offense gets the running game back going the way it was at the beginning of the season. The best thing we can do as coaches is continue to grind on the fundamentals and the details in doing things over and over with repetition and it all clicks and works together. That's my plan and I'm sticking to it."
With the passing game doing well the past two weeks, do you think defenses will start to drop the other guy back and not stack against the run?
"I can't really answer that. Just my guess, I would say no. We're still going to make every effort to run the football. We still want to run the football. We're going to do what we did at the beginning of the season, which is to try to control the line of scrimmage and do the things we need to do to be a balanced offense. We're not changing that identity. That's who we are. So I would say no, that would not be the case."