On the 11th week, they rested. Well, sort of.
The Arizona Wildcats will not have a game this weekend, their bye coming after 10 consecutive weeks of competition, which followed more than a month of intense preseason practice and preparation.
In other words: these guys needed a break.
“I think the bye comes at a good time for us,” coach Kevin Sumlin said Monday. “It didn’t look like that at the beginning of the year but it does now. We’ve just got to continue to play the way we did the last few weeks.”
Arizona heads into the bye sitting at 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the Pac-12, a record that prior to the season wouldn’t have been lauded but in the present is looking pretty darn good. The Wildcats are in a three-way tie for first in the South Division.
Just because there’s no game this week doesn’t mean Arizona will be idle. Here’s what Sumlin said about how the bye will be handled, along with other topics:
On the importance of the bye week from a health and rest standpoint:
“I don’t know that it’s a pause-and-reflect time. For us, it’s more of ‘hey, here we are, let’s get healthy.’ There are a lot of guys that we’ve depended on for the last 10 weeks in a row that have played a lot of snaps. We’ve got some guys that need some rest. We’ve got some other guys who have contributed that need some practice time.”
On the bye-week schedule:
“We’re practicing today, and we’re going to practice Tuesday and we’ll practice Thursday. That will give our coaches a chance to get out nationally, and in the state, to see some games. To be in schools and also to see some games live.”
On staying focused during the time off:
“Our practice schedule keeps guys engaged. Our meeting schedule keeps guys engaged. It’s a blend of what you do during the bye week and what you do during the game week. This schedule keeps our guys sharp and gives them some time off. We’ve been talking about one opponent every week. This is about us this week.”
On warning the players not to get in trouble during the break:
“We talk about it every Saturday night. It’s not just this week. Obviously there’s some more free time this weekend. A lot of these guys will go home, they haven’t been home. The way the schedule sets up, a lot of the freshmen come in during the summer. Really since August, we’ve been practicing and playing. We’ve played 10 straight weeks. A lot of guys will go home and see that family.”
On the emergence of DEs JB Brown and Jalen Harris:
“I think it’s a combination of things. You can’t ignore that their production has risen along with the movement of PJ (Johnson) to defensive end, to the other side. Those guys are getting more chances, more one-on-ones. Certainly they’ve benefitted from it.”
On RB JJ Taylor’s balance and perseverance on late runs against Colorado:
“It was typical JJ. He’s got great balance, good talent. He’s got great want-to. He made two different runs with the hand down to get the first down. And then the breakout run on the sideline, and being a smart player and not running out of bounds. That tells you the experience he has, the intelligence he has. He’s talented but he’s also a smart player.
On the season debut of RB Nathan Tilford:
“He’s a little rusty. He’s one of the guys we talk about now. It’s going to be a big couple of weeks for him. Ideally we don’t want to hand it to JJ 40 times. We’re all better off when we’re splitting time (in the backfield). This is a great opportunity for him, to get back to practice and show what he can do. I think he’s got a lot of talent. I think he works hard.”
On the status of RB Gary Brightwell, who missed the Colorado game:
“We’ll see. We’ll see about this week. I know sometimes you think I’m being coy, but we haven’t seen him do anything. We’ll probably know a little bit more later in the week.”
On the offensive strategy when starting a drive at your own 1-yard line:
“You’ve got to get it out of there. Our goal, when you’re backed up there—everyone wants to go 99 yards, right?—our goal is two first downs. That’s just our goal, internally, to make sure we don’t give (the opponent) a short field.”
On how much sitting out the UCLA game has helped QB Khalil Tate:
“Obviously he looks healthier. (Against Colorado) that’s the first time we’ve seen him run like that in a long time. You always appreciate something that you really like to do and can’t do, and that’s been a struggle for him when he’s played, and it had to be a struggle for him to go to Los Angeles and not play. I think he’s made the most of the last couple of weeks. These two weeks can only help him.”
On the difficulty of defending deep passes:
“I don’t think it’s a lost art. I think you’re seeing a lot more man-to-man coverage. Because of having to load the box to stop, not just running backs but running quarterbacks now. Those guys have got to come from somewhere and they come from the back end. You’ve got a lot of isolation out there. There’s some big dudes out there, the receivers. The term 50-50 ball has become en vogue. Everybody’s working on it, everybody’s coaching it, but at a certain point it’s one-on-one out there.”
On K Lucas Havrisik’s mental toughness after losing starting job:
“There’s only one or two ways to go. Some guys understand it, and take ownership and continue to work, and some guys can go the other way. Based on what happened with him earlier in the year, we really had a comparison during the week and made a change. Instead of pouting or going a different way he continued to work at it. You never know when your opportunity’s going to come. I think kicking off kept him engaged. I think that helped him. There’s a big difference between the driving range and the golf course. There are some guys that can hit it a long ways, but you get in there and there are trees and water and sand and hills, it changes a lot of people’s golf game.”