Karl Dorrell opened the press conference with a statement:
"We're excited about playing this week. We had the bye week last week, getting some guys back with health issues. We've gained a player or two. Our team will be ready to play this coming Saturday.
"In terms of our injuries...(sound problem, Dorrell stops for ten seconds)...Well, we had a productive week. Like I said before, we've gained a couple players that will help us this weekend and our players are excited about playing. Chris Markey, who had some good reps last week with his toe and ankle injuries, both on opposite legs, looked good. He had a light workout on Sunday and he moved around pretty well. He's excited about getting himself back in the fold this week. Jess Ward, who was trying to play against Arizona State, went through our pregame but wasn't ready to do what was necessary for him to play. He had an excellent week last week and he should be ready to go. Ben Olson practiced lightly last week. He looked good yesterday, he'll practice more, and hopefully to get him to go through a week of practice, to see if we can have him available for this game this coming Saturday. But he is progressing. Pat Cowan has been cleared to condition. So he hasn't been able to do anything for the last few weeks. His last testing he had last week showed that he is completely healed in terms of his lung issue and now they're going to condition him this week. He won't play this week, but there is a chance that he will be back the following week (USC). Those are all positive signs for what are team looks for these last few games and this week is the best week to get started. Our spirits are pretty good. We were encouraged by last week's performance and how hard we played. We know we can play better and this is a great week to prove that we can play better against Oregon.
"Speaking a little bit about Oregon, I know that they have had a couple of injuries in the game last Thursday with their quarterback and I know how that feels when you lose your top player particularly on the offensive side. They still have a very good tailback, Jonathan Stewart, and a great group of receivers and an excellent offensive line. I still think they'll do a great job in terms of motivating and they're a good football team. And this is a great opportunity for our football team that we have gained a little bit of health. We're ready for a challenge and there's still a lot to play for in this conference."
How does your preparation change now that Dennis Dixon is out?
"It changes some because Dixon was a very mobile player and one of their leading rushers along with Stewart. But their offense is pretty explosive. And they do a lot with Leaf in the game and they've had some games where Leaf has played well given the circumstances. Their offense spreads you out and they're going to attack you on all different edges, and they're going to continue to do that. Leaf has enough experience where he can make some plays."
Would you say that injuries were the root cause of your struggles this year?
"That's been a part of it, but that's not it all. It's, we need continuity. I think any offense or defense would love to have continuity from day one. In our coaching assessment we would love to have that, but that is hard in this sport to have 11 players from start to finish on either side of the ball. This team still needs to play where guys that have opportunities to play come in and make plays given someone getting hurt. That is the great challenge of coaching, putting guys in position to be successful and putting guys in position to be productive for your offense and defense to win. That's just the nature of the game and we've had our share of injuries for sure, but that doesn't mean we can't compete and play hard and win games."
What were some of the positives you took from the ASU game?
"Our effort was pretty good across the board. We had some really good plays, a big kickoff return for a touchdown, and a punt return almost for a touchdown. Defensively we played pretty well. There were a lot of plays we'd love to have back in that game. Offensively we had a chance to win with five minutes left and the ball and we just came up short. There were a handful of plays that were the difference in that game, but the effort was where it should be."
How much do you use the motivation of needing a sixth win to get into a bowl game
"We want to win. I mean, that's the biggest thing. That really helps our senior class that we've lost the last three games, we want to get a chance to win again and feel good about ourselves and this is the last time they get to do that at home. But yes, there are still all those implications as to what a win would mean in terms of the season. I think the first thing on all our minds is getting a win under our belt and feeling good about the progress we've made week to week and then getting a change to finish this season on a positive note."
What kind of progress has Osaar Rasshan made?
"He's made a lot of progress, becoming more familiar with how we run our offense. Him being under center so much that he is starting to feel more comfortable in commanding the huddle and running the plays at the line of scrimmage. Just the simple fact of having more repetition has really helped. We're going to tailor some stuff for him that we feel is really good for his skills so that he feels comfortable executing this Saturday."
You've mention that Ben Olson could be ready as an ]emergency quarterback.' What would constitute an emergency?
"I'm expecting us to play great this Saturday and for us to play an exciting football game and just to execute what we need to do offensively, put some points on the board and stop them on defense. We're prepared for all scenarios, but we're not going to look at the negative. We're going look at what is going to be positive. Ben is going to be given a chance to help if he is able to get through the week. That's all I can really say."
But it's just that an emergency quarterback is looked at as someone who will only be used in the case of an injury
(Dorrell starts banging on the podium with his knuckles)
"I've had enough. I just want to stop. I don't want to talk about that anymore . I want to finish this season positive with what we have. And guys having successes. Don't say that anymore."
Did you watch that Oregon game on Thursday?
"I saw most of it. we were practicing so I missed the first quarter. But I saw from the second quarter on."
What did you feel when you saw Dixon go down?
"It's disappointing when kids go down with injuries. I can obviously identify with that, when you lose your quarterback and how that disrupts an offense. We lost two or three. You just keep plugging through it. You have to find ways of being productive. Oregon fought themselves back into the football game. That tells you that they have the ability to do that."
Can you talk about having Ben, Pat and Osaar available (for USC). is there one of those guys you like running the offense?
"Wow. You're getting way ahead of me. Our challenge is this week, right now. I know that is going to be a question I have to answer at some point. But our challenge is this week and how well we can produce this week. Given the circumstances, where we are as a football team, this week is all that matters right now. We're going to focus on this week and we're going to get ourselves a great victory. "
Had you started to gameplan for Dixon?
"We did start gameplanning for him last week. With him being out, you still have to defend their offense. And even though he's a big part of it, you still have to defend those receivers and that running back. You know, they average almost 300 yards rushing a game. They do a tremendous job running the football. It's not just one guy that does that, it's that other running back who is one of the best in this conference. They have very capable receivers and an experienced offensive line. You still have to defend those other ten. We can't afford to not turn every stone; we have to do it all."
Can you talk about the play of the offensive line?
"That is the one area on the offensive line that is in fairly decent health for most of the season. We lost Shannon Tevaga for a time. But other than that our health has been good. We've made a couple changes. We've moved Micah Reed into the starting lineup. They've played well but they know they could play better. We've started most games very well. But we have to have the consistency and we have to have a great second half. This team has the potential to do those things."
Who has been your best offensive lineman?
"Chris Joseph, he has been playing very well."
Do you expect Craig Sheppard to start?
"He will start. If Chris Markey has an excellent week he will be a strong part of that rotation. We also have Christian Ramirez and Chane Moline. We have more depth at the tailback position this week."
What do you like about him?
"He's given us some juice. He's given us a little bit of a spurt. He has excellent speed and he has taken advantage of his opportunities. And that is what you like to see. He came in when we needed him and he made a few plays for us."
Do you or your players have a sense that your future at UCLA may be determined by the next two games?
"Anything and everything can happen at this point. And the players are not naïve to hear all the stuff that's out there. To their credit they have been focused on what's really important, and that's playing the football games and practicing. That's all we can do as coaches as well. There's still a lot of football that can be played, and that's where we have to spend most of our energy, that's what we can control."
Do you feel that it's on the line?
I've felt that way from the very beginning. I'm always on the line. That's how I approach this game. Every season is that way. That's how I have approached this profession for 21 years. If you go back to year one I've felt that way. "
Do you feel that two wins should ensure your return?
With Ben being ready, does that give you the option to make a change if things are going well with Osaar in the game?
"That was another redirect of your original question. I'm going back to saying I'm going to be very optimistic about Osaar. We're going to put together a great plan and we feel good about the process that's been happening the last couple weeks. That's the way I want to look at it."
Off the field, what are you proud of about your program?
We can talk about that one-on-one. Now I want to talk about Oregon."
Talk about attacking the Oregon defense...
"Oregon has one of the best secondaries in our conference. They have two really good coverage corners. Both of them started as freshmen a year ago. They have an excellent safety. Their front is very active. It's a very aggressive defense and they're used to defending a lot of skill because of their own offense. It's a challenge for our offense to maximize the opportunities that we get. This is going to be one of those games that is a chess match. We need to get them in positions where they are second guessing themselves. And I like our plan, it's going to give us a chance to be successful.
"From our defensive standpoint, it's very deceptive what they do offensively. You would think that they get most of their yardage from their passing game because they're so open, but really most of their yardage comes from the run game, that's where they really hurt you."
Karl Dorrell's Press Conference
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