Nov. 29, 2004
Good afternoon everyone. Finally we are in game week after a three-week layoff. There was some benefit in having it due to some injured players that we have. Those injured players have reasonably good health right now. Maurice Drew, for example, is about 90-95 percent with his ankle injury. Marcedes Lewis is 100 percent. Jarrad Page had a slight hamstring injury and he is close to 100 percent as well. So we feel good about going into this week. We had some time off to really work on our details and fundamentals in the first week of the bye week. And in the second week, we started our game planning and doing some of those issues last week before Thanksgiving break. After Thanksgiving break, which is the week we are in now, we are going to hone in and really clean up our timing and execution to the level to where it should be. So we are excited that the week is finally here. It was nice to have the break and now it's time to get down to playing some football. I would like to take your questions now.
How good is USC compared to last year?
They are solid in all areas. They are good offensively and have a great quarterback, arguably the best quarterback in our conference. He has a high completion percentage and doesn't throw many interceptions. He does a great deal of things with his decision making. He has excellent skill to work with. So they do a great job offensively. Defensively, they have a very strong, experienced defensive line that has done a great job all season long. It is a tremendous challenge for our team both offensively and defensively. They have a lot of experience. A lot like our defensive line was a year ago, that is how their defensive line is right now. We have a young defensive line that has matched up with a pretty good offensive line, even though they are fairly young in a lot of areas. It will be a good matchup for them. The issue will be the skill. We are going to have to matchup with their skill and try to contain the big plays they make offensively.
Can you talk about the down side of being off this long?
The down side is the timing and the rhythm of your season. The timing of practicing for three or four practices in the course of the week and then playing a game. Then three or four practices again and then playing a game. The rhythm of a season is always an issue that you guard against as a coach. We need to get our timing and execution to a level to where it was before the Oregon game.
Is there an upside in terms of being able to break down more film?
There is always an upside from that standpoint. It gives you extra time to prepare, but really by the 11th game in your season you are not going to change your offense. You are not going to change your defense. You might throw in a few wrinkles here and there, but you are going to do the things that got you to this point. We are a very balanced football offense. We are going to try to run and throw the ball with balance. Defensively, that is the area that has been an issue for us all season long. We are going to continue to work on getting those young players to play at a level they are capable of playing. They played a very good game versus Oregon their last game out. There was a lot of momentum after that game. Now, this is the best team in the country. We are going to have to raise the bar and raise our level of play better than what we did versus Oregon in order to have an opportunity to win this football game.
Given the fact that the defense has struggled, how many points do you think your team needs to score in order to win this football game?
I don't think there is a magic number out there. We are going to have to play great football. We are going to have to play great defense. We are going to have to put some points on the board offensively. The team that makes the most plays wins the game. That is the one thing I will predict. Whatever that is in terms of points, that will be determined on the scoreboard in the end.
There is a national discussion about who is No. 1. You think (USC) definitely is, why?
Well, they started the season ranked No. 1, no one has beaten them so I still think they are No. 1. I believe that. Think of it from their perspective. They have been No. 1 from the very beginning, every team for 10 weeks has been out to get them, they have to play their best game against them and they still have won every game. They are still undefeated. They are still winning. Why would they not be No. 1?
Knowing all that, how do you convince your team that they can be the team to beat them?
Well they are a good football team. Teams have been in games with them. You have studied those teams and you study your team. You are going to do the things necessary to keep your team in the football game. That is the bottom line with any great team that you play. A year ago we played Oklahoma and USC. For the first half of the Oklahoma game, we were right where we wanted to be but then we had some punt returns that were the difference in the football game. In the USC game, it was a number of things that were factors towards the end of our season last year. This year, teams have been in games with (USC). They haven't been able to sustain. USC, to their credit, has done a great job in the second half of making adjustments and pulling away in games. We know that. It's a great challenge. Our players are excited about it. We are playing a cross-town rival that is No. 1 in the country. How can you not be excited about this game with everything that is on the line.
What makes this rivalry unique?
I think it's unique because we are 20 minutes apart. I think that's tremendous to have two great programs in the same city 20 minutes apart. There have been ebbs and flows in both programs. They have been on top, we have been on top and now they are back on top now. We have work to do. That is the bottom line. We have to put ourselves in a position where we want to be. That is why I'm here and that is why I'm going to put my best effort to doing so. But it's a great rivalry. It's an exciting opportunity and an exciting game. It's a big week this week.
For coach Dorrell's complete press conference, please click on the audio link located at the top of the page.