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Kevin Sumlin discusses Colorado win, Khalil Tate, J.J. Taylor’s health, red zone defense and more

NCAA Football: Arizona at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Behind a career day from Khalil Tate and some timely defensive plays, the Arizona Wildcats beat the Colorado Buffaloes 35-30 on Saturday to improve to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Pac-12 play.

Our recap can be found here, additional takeaways can be read here, and here is Kevin Sumlin’s postgame interview along with a full transcript, courtesy of

On the keys to the win: “It was across the board, we had to make stops on defense, we held them on third down, we gave up some yards but made some critical plays down the stretch. Offensively we had to put some points on the board. We had some problems running it in the first half, they basically loaded the box and put some big dudes in there. We weren’t getting the 5-6 yard runs that we are used to getting, we were only getting 2-3. So we threw it a lot more in the second half and got the ball on the perimeter, I think Khalil went 23 of 27 in the second half which opened up some things for our running game. Because we couldn’t run it we had to move the ball, getting the ball on the perimeter and hitting some deep shots down the field. I think that loosened things up a little bit and we were able to run it in the fourth quarter.”

On the defense making timely stops in the fourth quarter: “It was really critical, really the whole fourth quarter. Getting the fourth down and the fourth down stop is the one that everyone is going to point to but there were other plays made early in the game to keep this a close game while we struggled on offense. And then finally being able to get some things done offensively and they got some things done themselves. Heck of game but you don’t win a game like that without everybody. We weren’t moving the ball in the first half, we gave them short fields. We deferred (the opening kickoff) for really the first time, I was worried about the wind a little early in the game. We have been here before and the late afternoon winds kick up around here so we wanted to try and use that in the second half but that never really happened. Lucas (Havrisik) had a nice night tonight, they didn’t have a kickoff return tonight so that helped us a lot. He made all of those extra points and he also averaged 40 yards a punt which is better than it has been. So all three phases had a lot to do with this win.”

On when he knew Khalil Tate would play: “He practiced all week so I think it showed today. He wanted to play the week before, he just wasn’t right and we went through that last year. I knew a little more when he wanted to see the designed quarterback runs later in the week and that is when I knew he was ready to go. He wasn’t talking like that the week before. Once he asked me about those (plays) then you knew he was planning on playing and was ready to go.”

On health of RB J.J. Taylor, who only played one series: “He wanted to get going, but we didn’t want to risk it too much. He wanted to see how it was. He is going to be fine. We are going to need him down the stretch. Bam Smith got nicked up tonight so I have to check on that.”

On only having one penalty: “We have been on both sides of that. The one we had today wasn’t on the kids, it was on the coaching staff. We were trying to substitute when they didn’t substitute and went no huddle so that’s on us. It’s not the players. Does it have a factor? You know it does. When you get behind the chains or off schedule it puts pressure on your offense and your defense.”

On the designed quarterback run that clinched the game: “We got extra hats and extra blockers. We needed to get a first down and they were out of time outs at that point. We needed five or six, handed off and he put his head down and got some lead blockers in front of him to get the safest play. So we just snapped it to the quarterback and ran for the sticks with everybody else blocking for him. So he put his head down, got the first down and we ran it out.”

On holding Colorado to a field goal in the fourth quarter: “I think you saw a couple guys make some big plays. They went up-tempo. Trevon (Mason) made a play to make them a little bit off schedule and then Colin Schooler makes a play. We had some negative yardage plays down there. When that happens, somebody’s got to make a play. In that situation we did. It led to a field goal which ended up being the difference in game really.”

On everyone being involved on the sideline: “I think that is a big deal about this team right now. It has been like this ever since we left Hawaii. Guys cheering for each other at practice. I have never questioned these guys’ effort. They play hard every game. We just have not been the smartest. We weren’t great today running the football, but we executed in the passing game. When you get one penalty or one turnover, you are going to take that all the time.”

On the importance of this win: “They are all important. There is no secret. I said it last week at the press conference, but we struggled on the road last year. I told the team that we are not talking about last year. This team is different. The mentality is different. They have shown that. They are growing. In critical situations they have made the right decisions. Last year we did not. We played a bunch of games like this last year and lost a bunch of close games. That comes down to making good decisions in critical moments. They have been doing that for the last couple of weeks.”

On the decision to blitz on the last defensive series on fourth down: “In that situation we are talking about everything. It was fourth and five. Do we heat it up? Do we play coverage? My concern was he had scrambled and made first downs. The thing about blitzes is, yeah you get pressure, but we pressured him a couple times and he got loose on us. He was moving around all over the place. He threw a touchdown before the half on a scramble situation. Pressure is one thing, but we were moving him off the spot and he was still making plays. That was the concern. If we’re going to pressure him, we have to be gap sound and rush all the gaps to try to pin him in there. Then you are exposed playing man-to-man.”