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What Jedd Fisch said after Arizona’s home loss to Washington

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The Arizona Wildcats blew a two-score halftime lead Friday night to fall to Washington 21-16 at home. Here’s what head coach Jedd Fisch said after the loss.

Fisch’s opening statement: “We continue to get in fistfights with our hands tied behind our back. We’re in a situation where we have 10 penalties for 75 yards. We’re in a situation where it’s first and 10 on the plus 28-yard line, we call a screen pass, and instead of dirtying it we throw it to the defensive lineman. We’re in a situation where we had three fourth and inches. All three of them I decided not to go for it, based on the way our defense was playing and based on the fact that we were on the minus side of the 35-yard line. And all three of them came back and haunted us. So, if we’re going to continue to turn the ball over and commit 10 penalties in a game, we’re going to be a very disappointed group in the locker room. If we can learn how to cut those penalties down, if we can learn how to finish, get an extra yard or so, do a good job figuring out a way to finish some drives, we’re gonna have a happy locker room. But the story is truly being written as we speak. I heard once before that while you’re rebuilding and changing things in the program, you go from losing big to losing small to winning small to winning big. I have all the expectations in the world that we’re going to start going to that winning small, winning big year in the future. But right now, these tough games against Oregon, tough game against UCLA, tough game tonight, tough game against BYU, tough game against NAU, you’ve got five games and you talk about a possession. We have got to find a way to make those possessions more valuable. We got a locker room full of tears, and I expect that. I love the way that our guys fight. But on top of fighting, you need execution. And now it’s time that we continue to get better with our execution.”

On the decision to punt on 4th and 1 in the fourth quarter: “It was 16-14 and if we didn’t get it, they would have been in field goal range right away. So, I didn’t see that being an option. I wanted to go for it. My offensive coordinator hat said go for it. But, in order to represent our team properly, I couldn’t look at our defense in the face on the 30-yard line if we didn’t get a fourth and one in a two point game. I just didn’t feel like that was the right move. I expected our defense to stop them. We punted it down there, they got the ball on the 18 yard line and they drove 82 yards. So that was not the expectation when we made that decision.”

On whether Arizona should have ran the ball on play where Will Plummer threw interception: “Yeah, I could certainly point to play calls all the time that if it works, if it doesn’t work, it’s good, it’s not good. We felt we couldn’t have called a safer pass. We called a screen pass. It was unfortunate. Yeah, if I could get it back I certainly would call something different if somebody told me what was going to be the result, but I wouldn’t have called something different if I didn’t know the result. I feel like we had an opportunity to look like we were going to try and take a play action shot. We just got to that first and 10 on the 28, it’s the perfect time to take a shot to get in the end zone, and it was a play action pass screen. It wasn’t executed, and I’ll take the blame for that.”

On how much the interception changed the momentum of the game: “I don’t know. I hope not. I know we spend all this time talking about mindfulness and mental toughness and understanding that every play is its own play and every play has a five seconds of being absolutely focused in on your job regardless of what happens the play before, the play after. I understand there’s always a game of momentum. Would I have loved to have been able to go up 19-7, absolutely? Maybe even 23-7. I thought that was gonna be an opportunity to do so. But our defense in the past has responded extremely well in sudden change situations that we can point out. Certainly in the UCLA game, there was two turnovers that occurred, and in the Oregon game. They really responded well, so I expect them to respond well. I expected them to continue to play great defense. Unfortunately, we got beat on post over the top and that happens. I’m sure I’ll be not sleeping very much tonight thinking about calling a run there.”

On utilizing Jamarye Joiner more at quarterback: “Yeah, I think we’re gonna have to really evaluate the best way to move the ball and use more of that. I think that Jamarye… he’s played quarterback. He can play quarterback.”

On Plummer’s performance Friday: “Will did some good things tonight. Will converted on a third and 10 that got us the first touchdown. He scrambled okay. He did some good things. We were trying to get closer for the Hail Mary. He hit BJ (Casteel) twice. We got two drops. We knew we couldn’t reach from where we were and we had 16 seconds, so we tried to hit, and he’s going to come out as two incompletions, but really it should have been seven yards, seven yards and throw the Hail Mary from the 50. But unfortunately we didn’t execute on that and we’re gonna have to use both those guys moving forward for sure.”

On Arizona’s too many men on the field penalty during Washington’s last drive: “It looked like to me we were aligned. In the front we were aligned in, and it seemed like the linebackers were pointing out that there was a gap open, so LT (Leevel Tatum) ran on the field, but we had 11 guys. The linebackers were responsible for those gaps, so it seemed like, I don’t know exactly if it was a D lineman that should have been in and a DB not in, if there should have been a linebacker. Obviously that’s inexcusable. That is not something that is even remotely in my mind that that could have happened when that happened. So we need to get that cleaned up. We need to get that fixed. We can’t have those things. We can’t have defensive offsides. We had a third and eight and a third and 10 where we jumped. Wound up being third and five and they wind up converting. So, again, self-inflicted wounds.”

On what he told the team after the game: “I told the team, ‘you earn the right to win. “It doesn’t just get given to you because you play a good half of football or because of the fact that you feel like you should win. You have to earn that right.’ And that’s exactly what we’re going to do and we’re going to find a way to win one of these games moving forward, if not more than one. I believe we should win all the games that we play. and that will not change. Our team believes that as well, and we’re going to continue to build this thing the right way. So, when the time is right for us to start winning, it’ll become contagious. We’ll win a lot more than just one.”

On whether the team is dealing with a negative psyche after so many losses: “Yeah, I don’t know. It was 13-0, then 13-7, and then the offense responded, moved all the way down and kicked a field goal to make it 16-7. I don’t know. It’s like I don’t believe in like curses and bad vibes and all that other stuff. I don’t believe in any of that. I think the truth of the matter is you just got to play good football. And if you can’t handle the adversity, right, if you can’t have the adversity then other guys have to handle the adversity. We need to make sure the right guys are saying hey, it’s just the next play. Let’s just play the next play. And we spent a ton of time on that. And I really believe that there’s nothing about anything other than they made some plays and we didn’t, And we need to do a better job of executing at the end.”

On the defense’s performance: “It’s always tough without watching the tape. I was excited about the way we were playing, right? We were playing very good football, but the handful of plays are the plays. They are the plays. It’s the hole. We held them to 70 yards except for the other 170 yards, whatever that might be. Offensively, it’s the handful of plays. We’ve got to make the plays, right? We’ve got to make them on offense, so they say the same thing. Defensively, we’ve got to not allow the handful of plays. You’re only going to lie one or two, whatever it might be, but I just think at this point in time, you just got to find a way. You find a way to stop the momentum. You find a way to get the stop when needed. You find a way to go score a touchdown. You find a way to throw the ball into the ground on a screen. You find a way to call a better play, and that’s when we’ll start getting the momentum. And once it comes, I think that everybody knows we’re going to be a good football team.”

On the status of RBs Drake Anderson and Michael Wiley: “They might have been able to if we needed them. They were really just emergency situation. We really needed one more week. They needed one more week to really feel comfortable to put them in the game. (Gunner) Maldonado, he really wasn’t even ready to go with the shoulder. He fell on it at practice on Thursday. He was kind of getting ready to get back in it and fell on his shoulder so it kind of just tweaked it just enough that I didn’t feel good with him going either. But I guess if we had injuries at running back, maybe. But it was better for them in order to be healthy for SC.”

On Jalen John and Stevie Rocker filling in at running back: “I thought they ran the ball well. I’m excited to hand those guys the ball for the next four years. You’re talking about two guys that are freshmen. They’re getting experience right now, they’re getting experience. And I think Stevie had about 10 yards a carry, right? 10 yards a carry. Busted a 57 yarder or 52 yarder. Jalen, 19 carries for 67 yards. Not enough yards per carry, but it’s good for him to feel what 19 carries feels like. That’s different, that’s different for him. So we need to find ways that he and Stevie continue to get reps, while the other two guys come back too. We got a good running back room. We got a good running back room, and we’re gonna have to use them. All of them probably.”