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What Kevin Sumlin said after Arizona’s loss to UCLA

<span data-author="5158751">arizona-wildcats-football-ucla-bruins-what-went-right-wrong </span> Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats fell to the UCLA Bruins 31-30 on Saturday in Pasadena, falling to 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the Pac-12.

Sophomore quarterback Rhett Rodriguez made his first career start for the Wildcats, going 15 for 34 for 231 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions.

One of those interceptions came in the end zone. J.J. Taylor and Gary Brightwell combined for 275 rushing yards and a touchdown on 34 carries. Taylor had a costly fumble near the goal line after a long run that was recovered by the Bruins for a touchdown. UCLA won the turnover margin 3-1.

Arizona out-gained UCLA 520-460, but the Bruins went 8 for 18 on third down, and converted a few at the end of the game that allowed them to milk the clock.

The Wildcats trailed 10-0, then 17-7, before tying the game at 17-17. They even held a lead early in the fourth quarter, but could not hang on.

Here is what UA head coach Kevin Sumlin had to say after the game.

On how Rodriguez handled the pressure...

“He made some mistakes. He would be the first to admit that, but in the end, he gave us a chance at the end of the game to really win. So, I have to go back and look at the tape per usual. Talk about it on Monday. With the mistakes he made we still had a chance to win the game on the road and be successful so from that standpoint you would have to say that it is a positive thing for him.”

On what made the difference in the game...

“I think that down the stretch you have to give UCLA credit for how they handled the tight situation in the second half, but we also did some things that allowed them to extend drives. Really some penalties that we did not have in the first half. I think we had two in the first half to their ten. Then we had four critical ones late third quarter late fourth quarter that helped extend their drives. I think they only had two penalties in the second half. We had two turnovers in the end zone. Punch out on JJ and pick in the end zone which certainly would have translated to more than one point in the game. We had our opportunities and basically if you look at the sum of the whole game they made plays with the turnovers.”

On starting two freshmen corners since Lorenzo Burns, Jace Whittaker and Tim Hough were out...

“They’re freshmen corners. We had a lot of young guys out there and a new quarterback. Like I said this team continues to play extremely hard, but we have to be a smarter football team. That is something we are working on; situational football. In tight games you can’t give away yardage or the football and we did that tonight.”

On areas he’s seen Rodriguez improve since arriving on campus...

“You do not know what that is until you are out there. There are a lot of things in practice that you’ll see that you think are there, but I thought he handled the situation well. He communicates well on the sideline. I thought he operated well, except for the turnovers. One was a poor throw and the other bounced off of somebody. I thought in general he handled his surroundings and the tempo.”

On Arizona’s early offensive struggles...

“Schematically they did some different things early. A little bit different than they’ve been. They played same two fronts, but they were jumping in and out of both of them. Which led to some issues for us. We got some young guys and new linemen so sometimes the communication as far as what you know as a coach or what you know as coaches can be difficult to pass onto different players in different spots. In the second half we were able to communicate a lot better.”

On the thought of letting UCLA score to have more time...

“I used the timeouts on the second and third down in that situation. The decision was made on fourth down with six minutes to go in the game with basically all your timeouts. We kicked the field goal because it gives us an opportunity to kick another field goal and win the game. You don’t have to go 70 yards, only 40 so that was the thought process there. If you don’t make the fourth-and-5, the game is over right there. You are going to need another possession either way so that’s where that was but no we used the timeouts and tried to get a stop. The thought was to stop them and get the ball back.”

On how this loss feels compared to the Utah game...

“Obviously last Friday was a completely different situation. But nobody in that locker room is happy. One point or 21 points it still goes the same way. Like I said, we continue to play hard with different guys on the field. No one is going to question these guys’ effort. The decision making in critical moments hurts in a game like this and unfortunately it’s a learning experience for some guys. It should be for the whole team. That was the message in the locker room. When you’re in these types of games you have to find a way to close out. Tonight was a situation that UCLA did that, they did a good job answering our scores. We did enough things in the end where we could have scored more than two points.”