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Kevin Sumlin discusses Arizona’s defensive woes, pass-happy offense and more at weekly press conference

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When last we saw the Arizona Wildcats in action, Khalil Tate had been tackled a yard short of the goal line as time expired at Hawaii. Since then the players and coaches have had plenty of time to figure out what went wrong, and what needs to change before the Wildcats return to action on Saturday night.

To say the team is itching to get back into action might be an understatement.

“A lot of guys on this team are looking forward to playing this weekend,” coach Kevin Sumlin said Monday during his weekly press conference.

Sumlin said he spent the long flight home from Honolulu watching the game film, noting a few positive developments but also plenty of specific issues that needed to be addressed.

“The positive was we averaged 7.6 a play offensively,” he said. “The negative was they averaged 7.6 a play. That’s an issue.”

More than anything, though, the concept of consistency that he brought up throughout training camp was one of the things that was most lacking.

“We were not very consistent,” he said. “That will still be the message. I think our guys understand that. There’s things that we did very well a week ago. There’s some things that we were awful at. And so that’s the inconsistency. If we don’t know what we’re going to get out of you consistently, then you’re going to hurt this football team.”

Here’s what else Sumlin discussed ahead of the home opener against NAU:

On how the team handled the early bye:

“I think it was very different. Because you have a bye week, you don’t have a chance to really get back on the field that quickly. But it does give you an opportunity to really look inside you, where you are, work on yourself, work on our team. Without having to play a game immediately that week. There’s good and bad in that situation. It gave us an opportunity last week to really look at personnel, really address some issues from a chemistry standpoint. Last week was more about us than it was about opponents.”

On FS Scottie Young’s struggles against Hawaii:

“Some of it’s by alignment, and knowing where his help was. There are some things that we have gone and worked on in the past week to change up some of those alignments. I rode back (on the plane) next to him. He was not happy about his performance. He was embarrassed.”

On the performance of the defense, which allowed 595 yards:

“Our coverage was not very good. We couldn’t get to the quarterback. The one time we did get to the quarterback, we hit him and got a penalty. Our pass rush has gotta be better. I think there’s a blueprint out there from that game … we’re going to have to change some things defensively and probably pressure some more but we’ve got to cover. We’ve got to get more pressure on the quarterback, and there’s ways to do that without bringing six or seven or five (players). And when they go empty, there’s five receivers out there, you can do the math.”

On QB Khalil Tate’s play, particularly late in the game:

“Obviously, he’s healthy, and you see the difference. Everybody can see that he’s healthy, and he can be productive when he does use his legs.”

On why the offense started with three consecutive pass plays:

“I think the opening play of the game was a shock play. Anytime you’re in an RPO system, it’s 50-50 based on the defense. You’re in an RPO system and you’re getting boxes that get loaded or you get people rolling down doing some other things, you run the risk of throwing the ball a couple of times in a row. But as we got into the game and started taking tags off of plays, we saw the difference in what we were doing from a play-action standpoint and just a pure run standpoint. If we’re not accurate early it’s different.”

On whether RB J.J. Taylor, who had only 15 touches, was underutilized:

“I don’t see him being a 30-touch-a-game guy. We don’t want that because of his durability, because of what he does. And I think we have two or three other capable backs that can keep him healthy, keep him fresh. I don’t look at it necessarily with (Taylor) at 15, we look at the whole group, and that whole group is touching the ball half of the time.”

On who stood out positively in the opener:

“I thought some individual players showed up, particularly some of the young players that we hadn’t seen in action, (running back) Mike Wiley being one of those guys. Some of the young guys who played on special teams did a nice job. We’re going to give more of those guys a chance this week.”

On the play at right tackle:

“We split time at (right) tackle with Edgar Burrola and Paiton Fears. We had 74 gradeable plays on offense … and they split 37 snaps apiece. The best thing you can say about tackles is when you don’t notice them. Those two guys are battling it out and probably will continue on that path.”

On JUCO WR Tayvian Cunningham’s strong debut:

“It’s interesting, right. He’s the last guy we signed, just about. He’s a track guy, which you saw, he’s got that real speed. He got here right before we started (training camp). He’s continuing to get better, continuing to figure it out. He hasn’t played a lot of football. I think you can see his explosiveness, he scored six or seven touchdowns in the return game in junior college.”

On WR Stanley Berryhill’s underrated performance:

“That’s why we gave him a scholarship last year. I mean, he’s always got it. Great character. Great personality, fun to be around. He’s just a team player. This guy just goes out and does his job. He’s a leader on this team, not just offensively.”

On Berryhill getting penalized for celebrating with fans after his TD catch:

“It’s right. Rules are rules. As I’ve said before, you understand the one point of that, the fan engagement, but we’ve also seen the ugly part of that from fans. The separation between fans and players becomes more and more important as you watch all kinds of sports right now. I get the rule. That was really a quick thing, but all in all it becomes more important.”

On true freshman CB Bobby Wolfe’s play and its impact on the secondary:

“Bobby is really athletic, really fast. We put him in some man-to-man situations against a real receiver and he covered him. And he made some really good tackles in open space. That can give us confidence. It gives us the opportunity to move Jace (Whittaker) around a little bit. We know what we have in Jace, we know what we have in some of these other guys, but we’re going to get to (face) three, four, five wides. We’ve got to be able to put some cover guys on the field.”

On K Lucas Havrisik’s 53-yard field goal after three straight penalties:

“Lucas did a great job throughout all that but we put pressure on him with back-to-back-to-back penalties. He’s always had a strong leg. The issue has been how accurate is it.”