It’s back to the grind for the Arizona Wildcats, who were off last week following 10 consecutive Saturdays (or Fridays) of competition. The time off allowed the players to get healthy, recharge their batteries and, in many cases, go home for the first time in months, while for Arizona’s coaching staff they took advantage of the break to ramp up recruiting efforts for 2019 and beyond.
“Well, we’ll see how it benefits us,” Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin said Monday at his weekly press conference. “I know we’re one of the few teams in the country to play 10 weeks in a row. With the combination of travel and late games, 10 weeks in a row, we needed a week (off).”
The bye may have come at the perfect time for Arizona (5-5, 4-3 Pac-12) considering who its next opponent is. Washington State (9-1, 6-1) is ranked eighth in the latest Associated Press poll, leads the North Division and is the Pac-12’s only hope of getting a team into the College Football Playoff.
Arizona is a 10-point underdog for Saturday’s game at Washington State, which will kick off at 8:30 p.m. Tucson time. Thankfully, that will be the Wildcats’ last night kickoff of the regular season as the Territorial Cup on Nov. 24 against Arizona State is slated for a 1:30 p.m. start.
Here’s what Sumlin had to say about Washington State, Cougars coach Mike Leach and other topics:
On whether he has a familiarity with Mike Leach from their Big 12 coaching days:
“Mike and I have known each other a long time. We’ve shared ideas, we’ve visited with each other. Is there a familiarity? Yes. There’s familiarity the other way, too.
On how Leach’s teams have changed over the years:
“There’s some wrinkles now. The first thing that’ll jump out at you is, they lead the league in time of possession. They still lead the league, they still lead the league in points. They’ve been extremely effective defensively with negative yards play. They’re leading the league in sacks now.”
On if he has any good Mike Leach anecdotes:
“Not one I can share. I’ve got plenty of good ones, though.”
On WSU quarterback Gardner Minshew, who leads FBS with 385.2 passing yards per game:
“You see his maturity and his experience. He has gotten more and more confident throughout the year as he’s played. That just comes with experience and playing together with people. He’s a leader, he’s a competitor, you see that in games.”
On if he watched Washington State’s win at Colorado on live television:
“I got back and watched some of it. I was gone recruiting. I was actually at a junior college football game Saturday afternoon. But with the magical help of DVR you’re able to watch a lot of things. You always watch the TV copy, I do. I was able to watch a lot of football (on Saturday).”
On Arizona’s high number of late kickoffs:
“I don’t control that. It’s my first year in the league, I’ll assess that in the end.”
On how he keeps his team focused when a game isn’t played until Saturday night:
“We have more meeting time on Saturday than we do on Friday. We don’t have to be as rushed Friday afternoon and Friday evening.”
On the Pac-12 South Division race:
“I think the focus has been the game this week. Last week it was the bye week. These guys seem to be … really, we’re a better team when we focus on one thing or a time. The last couple of weeks I think we’ve done a good job of that.”
On how recruiting went during the bye:
“It was good. We’ve been on national TV just about every week. From a lot of people’s perspectives, (recruits have) seen us. They’ve seen our style. That’s been good for us, just from brand recognition and just being able to see who’s playing.”
On how the bye may have helped with injuries and the team’s overall health:
“It can only help. We’ll see today. Today will be the first day back (since Thursday).
On the coldest game he was part of as a coach:
“I was grad assistant in Pullman. Then I went Laramie, Wyoming with Joe Tiller. After that I spent five years in Minnesota. You can pick one of those places, it was pretty cold at some point.”
On how Arizona has improved since its last road game (31-30 loss at UCLA on Oct. 20):
“We didn’t have our starting quarterback at UCLA. We didn’t have a couple of people at UCLA. Personnel-wise we’re really better off than we were at that point in the season.”
On how he handled the Oct. 23 arrests of freshmen Dayven Coleman, Jamarye Joiner and Darrius Smith:
“We were notified almost immediately. Even by one of the players. We addressed that with them, addressed it with the families. We’ve disciplined them internally.”