UA’s defense generated four turnovers and two touchdowns as it allowed just three points in the second half. It allowed Arizona to erase a 14-10 halftime deficit, despite its offense being limited to just 265 yards.
Our full recap can be found here, and here is what Kevin Sumlin had to say afterwards:
On the overall performance of Arizona’s defense...
I thought that was a gutty performance. It’s two weeks in a row in the second half where the guys have really played very, very well. Last week, they allowed USC to score just once. Really, kind of the same story except for the things that we’ve been harping on—turnovers, getting off the field. We struggled in the first half, they were all third-down-and-long situations, which has been a nemesis for us, and that didn’t happen in the second half. And being able to get off the field on third down and being able to hold them on fourth down.
And then, again, the turnovers. I mean to force those it’s like anything else, the hidden plays, we dropped those balls early this year, we made the plays. And then, we were able to get some pressure on the quarterback and get the ball out. So, it’s a combination of a lot of things. It’s like anything else, you have games where your defense may not be playing that well and the offense’s job is to score one more point than your opponent to win. Special teams falls into that category, obviously, we’re working on a lot of different things there. But in a game like that, where we’re struggling offensively, your defense needs to keep you in the game or keep you ahead, and they did that.
What type of confidence did players take from Saturday’s win over Cal?
The guys are excited downstairs, but we’ve got a short week this week too. So, we’ve got a real short week coming up. I think we’re reasonably healthy with guys coming out of this game, and guys that missed this game with injuries. But all in all, I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned, as there are every week. But certainly, there’s got to be some growing confidence out of some guys that had success tonight. That’s what happens.
You’ve got to figure out, ‘Hey, first, we’ve got to keep getting better. We just have to.’ And, I’ll say this: this is an interesting group of guys just because you look at the six games that we’ve played, and they haven’t quit. At the end of the games, the ones we’ve lost, and we’ve played just as hard as in the ones we won. And because of that, we had that discussion on Monday: ‘You haven’t always done things right, and the things that we can control, penalties and things like that, we have to keep getting better and we have to keep taking a step.’ But, the thing that gives us a chance in all of these games is their effort. And, as long as we can continue to have that effort, we’re going to have a chance to win games.
On if Jamarye Joiner being inserted into the game on the third series of the game...
We were going to play him in the third series no matter what. So the decision was, unless we’re at the 15-yard line or farther back or we were backed up, he was going to go in on the third series. And then in the second half we were going to do the same thing basically. But the third quarter we didn’t have the ball. And then in the third quarter it became a field-position game. I just didn’t want to put him in a position back there.
On if Joiner was inserted to spark the offense...
No, a lot of guys have been getting reps at some point. He’s done a lot of good things in practice. Like I said, I wanted to get him in in the third quarter, but the situation wasn’t right to put him in that situation in the third quarter, and we just didn’t have enough possessions.
But moving forward we have a plan to get him and some other guys (in) that are practicing like crazy, take some pressure off of Khalil, take some series off. I think if you look at it at halftime, if you look at the second quarter, he pulled it and tweaked it (his ankle) again. So we have to have people ready to go, and the only way to do that is not just to have them practice, but to have them play in the game.
His thoughts on Colin Schooler’s interception and Azizi Hearn’s fumble recovery for a touchdown...
I don’t know, right now it’s all going fast. So, I’m just like you guys. It’s like a sack of a quarterback where the quarterback doesn’t see the sack coming and the whole stadium sees it and you can anticipate the sack, strip, fumble. And I see their running back closing in on Colin from behind, I’m like, ‘No!’ and he goes to punch it, and oh man. But it’s something that we’ve been talking about. The loose ball situation early in the year, we talked about everybody running the ball, everybody wanting to do some things and practicing those things. And Azizi, those are hustle plays, where a guy’s running to help block, or to help escort.
And you always talk about a guy who has a nose for the ball, and that’s not what it is, he’s just playing hard. And a lot of times, when you play with that effort, the ball’s going to bounce your way more often than not if you’re playing with effort. And that’s really the moral of that story because there’s a lot of guys that were running the ball with Colin. And sometimes the ball bounces your way with effort, and that can be the result.
On the defense creating multiple turnovers and touchdowns...
We’ve been talking about turnovers and those types of things, and that’s something that we were disappointed with early in the year, and something that we’ve paid great attention to. And in games like this, when that happens, again, effort and guys listening and understanding how important those things are in close games. You go back to the BYU game: we didn’t get any, but we didn’t turn the ball over. And our turnover margin situation gives us an opportunity to win games.
On how he feels about Scottie Young Jr.’s performance (two interceptions, one for a touchdown) after all he’s gone through (arrest, suspension, etc.)...
I don’t know, it was a happy locker room. I didn’t really have a chance to talk to him, so I can’t really answer that. Football means a great deal to him. So, I’m not sure what that means.