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Kevin Sumlin discusses Arizona’s defense, Utah’s offense and J.J. Taylor being a face mask no-call magnet in his weekly presser

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arizona-wildcats-football-stock-report-evaluation-program-2020-kevin-sumlin-rich-rodriguez-pac-12 Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

It was another rough weekend for the Arizona Wildcats, who despite coming off a bye were handily beaten 34-6 at Oregon on Saturday. The team didn’t arrive back in Tucson until 6 a.m. Sunday, with Kevin Sumlin and his coaching staff working in the office until Sunday evening in hopes of getting a jump on another tough opponent this week in Utah.

The Wildcats (4-6, 2-5 Pac-12) have dropped five straight games and must win their last two, starting with Saturday’s home finale against the Utes, to become bowl-eligible.

On Monday, Sumlin met with reporters to discuss the Oregon loss as well as what to expect from his injury-depleted team against Utah on Senior Night:

On how the defense performed: “We give up the big play the second play of the ball game, and that wasn’t great. I thought that in the end, as we settled down we played the run pretty well, particularly in the second half. With the exception of the second play of the game our guys continued to play hard. I thought that we didn’t have a lot of mental mistakes or busts. We just got beat a couple times in a couple different situations. Our guys continue to play hard, and our job as coaches to continue to put guys in those positions where they can be successful. But against a team like that Oregon you can’t let the ball get over your head with four big plays like that.”

On what went wrong on that 73-yard TD pass by Oregon on the second play of the game: “It’s a communication situation with two corners on one side. One guy made a mistake. I don’t throw players under the bus. It happened quickly, we got it fixed. They ran the same play again to see if we got it fixed. In real time things happen.”

On S Scottie Young Jr.’s play after struggling in recent weeks: “Scottie made a lot of tackles. That’s good and bad when your safety is making a lot of tackles. Some of these teams formationing us with closed and bunch formations, your safeties are going to get closer to the line of scrimmage. He made some touchdown-saving tackles, he made a bunch of tackles.”

On why CB Christian Roland-Wallace is getting picked on: “Any time you pick up a roster and it says F-R behind your name, freshman, you’re going to pick on this guy. The double reverse pass, he was there but then he relaxed at the end. He made two or three great plays during the game, against experienced players. Christian is a young guy that has got a lot of talent that is learning on the run. At corner you’re going to get four or five of those (plays) a night, maybe six, that can make or break (a game).”

On getting called for 12 men on defense, then running the next play with 10: “We’d planned a different defense, a goal line defense. We added another D-lineman, we were taking out a safety, so the communication piece was poor. It’s easy to practice that in a controlled environment but not in a game. It was actually pretty good in the game inside the 5, but the communication was poor. And, ironically, with 10 guys on the field we had a tackle for loss. The alignment caused them problems, too. We’re not going to play with 10. I appreciate your suggestion, I knew that was coming.”

On how the patchwork offensive line performed: “We had a freshman left tackle, we had a couple guys who had never played. So the evaluation of that is difficult because a lot of those guys have never played football. You want them to play better, you want them to play great. At no time did they back down. There’s a reason why guys haven’t played. If they were the best we had they would have played from the beginning. The evaluation of that piece is, what are you evaluating them to? Are you evaluating against what they’ve done in the past, or what they’ve done in practice? That’s who we have. They know that, and we’re doing the best that we can.”

On true freshman Jordan Morgan making his first career start: “The first series he was a little shaky, but then he gained confidence. But he’s injured, that’s the reason he didn’t play the second half. He got hurt at the end of the half, that’s why he didn’t return.”

On why Grant Gunnell started at QB over Khalil Tate: “Consistency. We’ve seen that during games. You look at the last two, three games, the drives that he had, you see they ended up in scores. He was consistent, he wasn’t up and down. It’s not like he hadn’t played. He had started, he won a game, the Pac-12 opener against UCLA. So he was ready to go.”

On why Tate ended up starting the second half: “Based on our situation up front, Khalil gave us a spark when he came into the game. He was able to run the ball. Put his head down, made yards, moved the football. In that situation I thought it was time for him to start the second half.”

On if seniority will factor into who starts at QB on Senior Night: “That’s a good question. I haven’t even thought about that. Not about Senior Night, but who’s starting. It’s Monday. We got back here (Sunday) about 6 o’clock in the morning and we were in the office until 7 or 8 (p.m.). That’s something I’ll kick around.”

On Utah’s offense: “It’s all dangerous. They’ve got one of the best running backs in the country. Offensive line is great. The quarterback is unbelievable in just the way he does things. He’s extremely gifted to be able to throw it, and run as fast as he does. Their scheme gives them a chance. They’ve got guys that can get down the field and be successful. Play-action pass is a big deal, the ball getting over your heads. But I think it all starts with the running game, that’s why they lead the league in rushing.”

On why J.J. Taylor has so many uncalled face masks: “Are you trying to get me a fine? I’ve said everything as close to getting fined as I can say. I think it’s because he is an exceptional player, he changes directions a lot. He is low to the ground, let’s put it that way, to start with. He runs lower to the ground and he is low to the ground. You have guys reaching and grabbing and getting what they can from him, because there’s not a lot. It happens at least a couple times every weekend.”