The 2019 season is officially over for the Arizona Wildcats, and it ended the way the previous six games had: with a disappointing loss.
The final one was just a little more painful, though, since it came at the hands of the Arizona State Sun Devils, who beat Arizona 24-14 on Saturday night in Tempe. ASU held onto the Territorial Cup for the third straight year while handing Arizona its seventh straight loss, dropping the Wildcats to 4-8 overall and 2-7 in Pac-12 play.
Our full recap can be found here. Below are some of the things coach Kevin Sumlin—who will be back for his third season, athletic director Dave Heeke announced after the game—said in his postgame press conference:
On Khalil Tate’s first interception: “It a was missed signal by the receiver, a miscommunication. RPO, there’s a route to be run. Obviously one of (the receivers) is blocking. So there was a miscommunication.”
On how ASU came back to win: “The difference in the game was a number of things. We didn’t match them in the second half, we ran more plays in the first half, the time of possession (was ours), but we only had seven points with our opportunities. But in a game like this, obviously those turnovers and missed opportunities (mattered), and a couple of missed field goals, it’s a combination of a lot of things.”
On ASU’s second-half game plan: “I think they came out and ran the ball, and got to the edge a bunch right out of the bat in the second half. We helped our defense, too, in the first half because we were leading in time of possession. They weren’t playing as many snaps, they got off the field on third down. It’s a combination of things, we turned the ball over and they played more snaps than we did in the second half. We made some big plays, we got some tackles for loss, but we also gave up some chunk yardage plays in the second half that we didn’t do in the first half.”
On why Tate started and played the whole game: “He had a good week of practice. It was no different than how we were making decisions before that. The game flow was different, probably, than the last two weeks because it was a tight game. He was running and using his legs to create some more offense, so we decided to just go with him.”
On what his message was to Tate prior to his final college game: “It was a message not just to him, it’s a big deal that he’s the quarterback, but we also had seniors out there. The message was about the seniors, guys like Cody Creason who didn’t play in five or six weeks, guys that got healthy to play in this game.”
On getting offensive linemen Creason and Josh McCauley back from injury: “It was amazing. They wanted to play, it says a lot about the kind of toughness that they have, unselfishness that they have. Every week you see them, it’s physically hurting but also mentally hurting for them not to play football. Our team has a tremendous respect for them as people. They had a huge impact on this team.”
On what was most disappointing about the game: “The thing I’m sad about is for the seniors, the way things played out and that they’re going. There’s a lot of work that goes into what these guys do. People see the three and a half hours on Saturday, but it’s all the work they put in (during the week). Nobody in there is happy right now. There are a lot of people in that room who care deeply about this football team, coaches and players.”
On Jamarye Joiner’s breakout game: “For a guy who’s played receiver for basically for five months, he’s gotten better and better and better every week. He was still playing quarterback in June. He’s learned the position, he’s become a better route runner. He’s returning punts, too, he’s gotten there. He’s got a bright future.”
On his message to a frustrated fan base: “People, including myself, care very deeply about this program. There’s a lot of things that go into it, and a lot of things that are involved. The way you get better is through recruiting and player development, and that’s where we are. Is it frustrating? Yes. I know fans are frustrated. But we’ve got to trust the process, and we have a process in place that I believe in and a lot of our players believe in. I can say this, our guys don’t quit. We play hard, and you start there. But you’ve got to execute better, you’ve got to develop players. And that’s my job. That’s my job to fix things. I know the fans are frustrated. Believe me, we’re frustrated. The way you handle these situations becomes important. You can’t go back and do a bunch of different things. How you respond to this is going to be extremely important.”
On his expectations for the 2020 recruiting class and the early signing period coming up: “We hit the road (Sunday). I’ll be in homes in the state (Sunday) afternoon. Two in particular. We start tomorrow with home visits. Last year the national statistic was around right at 80 percent of high school guys, junior college guys, both prospects, signed during the early signing date. From that standpoint right now, everybody has turned to that early signing date (and it) is extremely important.”
On the timeline for hiring a defensive coordinator: “With recruiting it would certainly help the sooner the better. But we want the right people. It’s more important, I think, to have the right person instead of just racing to get somebody in.”
On if losing the Territorial Cup stings more than other losses: “All losses are not the same because there’s things at stake. A lot of these guys know each other, coaches and players. Particularly the thing about this one is, there’s not another game. You live with this one for the whole offseason.”