Despite a 2-3 league record and losses to three of the four teams above them, Arizona (3-5) is only a game out of first place and theoretically could be only a half-game out of first after this weekend. A lot would have to happen for that to be possible, first and foremost the Wildcats winning Saturday at home against Oregon (5-2, 2-2) in a game in which they’re heavy underdogs.
Coach Kevin Sumlin was asked about the tightness of the Pac-12 South during Monday’s weekly press conference but he had no interest in dissecting the entire division.
“All I do is deal with us,” Sumlin said. “We’re trying to beat the next opponent, and the next opponent is very talented.”
Here’s what else Sumlin said ahead of the Ducks’ visit to Tucson for Homecoming:
On Khalil Tate’s status after sitting out the UCLA game:
“Don’t know yet. The reason is Sunday is the players’ day off, so the assessment will happen today and that’s why that happened last Tuesday. We’ll evaluate him today, look at it, and see where he is. I’ll probably say something tomorrow about it.”
On Rhett Rodriguez’s performance in his first start:
“I thought Rhett did some things that were really good, some things that he would take back. He’s very, very critical of himself. In the end he gave us the ability to win the game, so that’s the takeaway.”
On why freshmen QBs Kevin Doyle and Jamarye Joiner, who were expected to play at UCLA, didn’t get into the game:
“The plan changed, a little bit, because of where we were. We were behind.”
On the continued third-down issues:
“I’ve made a big point of it, it’s about winning football games. It’s about staying on the field and getting off the field. The emphasis has been on that. This is a results-oriented deal. Your job on defense is to get off the field and your job on offense is to stay on the field. Whatever that means. Each side wants to end something with a kick. Statistically, if you look at, for our league, offensively, we’re not the top, we’re not the bottom (Arizona ranks seventh in the Pac-12 in third-down offense). Defensively we’ve had some issues with that. Do we need to be better? Yes.
On WR Shawn Poindexter’s play:
“I think he’s made plays all year. He’s proven, consistently, that he can make plays.”
On RB JJ Taylor’s fumble, which had him holding the ball on the side his defender approached from:
“What you would prefer is on the outside arm, but you also don’t want him switching the ball a lot.”
On if that was the best the offensive line has played in a game without LT Layth Friekh:
“No. We can always get better. It’s not like everything’s broken. But it can be better. There’s some things that are really positive that came out of Saturday night, but in the end we didn’t win. We had some negative yardage plays and we turned the ball over too many times to win the game. In a close ball game, those things can’t happen.”
On the emergence of defensive linemen JB Brown and Jalen Harris:
“PJ (Johnson) has made a real difference in the front, and so a lot of times, when he’s out of the middle, if he’s on the edge, a lot of people are turning protection to him. And those guys (Brown and Harris) are getting singled up.”
On the decision to switch Christian Young from safety to cornerback:
“He’s been playing great on special teams, been playing great in different situations. He’s been a really, really good player. It’s time.”
On efficiency in the red zone, where Arizona scores 78.6 percent of the time but has only 15 TDs on 28 possessions:
“Obviously we’d like for it to be 100. Points are points. The touchdown percentage … that ratio is a little bit different than just straight numbers. The bigger percentages to me is start point and field position. We didn’t get enough points out of our starting point (against UCLA).
On UCLA coach Chip Kelly’s play-calling during the game-clinching final drive:
“That’s football. I’m using timeouts, too, which helps the plan. The execution was there. That’s how you win and lose games.”