The final home game of the 2021 season ended like most of Arizona’s games this fall, with the Wildcats finishing on the losing end despite keeping it close.
But unlike in previous instances, this time the 38-29 loss to Utah produced some postgame reactions that hadn’t been seen around these parts in a while. So it goes when you no longer have a 20-game losing streak hanging over your heads.
“That was the the most upset I’ve seen our locker room in a while,” UA coach Jedd Fisch said. “I think it was because they just feel like we’re there now. And now all of a sudden when you’re there, and you’re playing games against the last four (opponents) the last four weeks we played, now you walk off the field, you go into the game with an expectation of winning, and when you go into a game with the expectation of winning you walk off the field … with a little bit of a bad taste in your mouth.”
Our game recap can be found here. Below is what else Fisch, wide receiver Stanley Berryhill III and linebacker Anthony Pandy had to say afterwards.
Fisch on the effort: “I thought our team played extremely hard and battled all the way until the end. Did what we asked them to do. We asked them to be an extremely physical football team, they were that today. I give so much credit to our players. You know, we’ve been banged up all year, as we all know, we’ve been banged up all last game, and you got two options where when you are where we are. You either say I’m gonna fight to get back, or you’re going to say, ‘eh maybe I’ll try to take one more week.’ And you saw our team today and every single player that could play played, and they battled all week long in practice to find a way. Extra treatment. Some guys didn’t practice but yet played, some guys couldn’t play, the whole deal and you just see how committed our team is to playing hard, to doing everything they can to try to find a way for a win.”
On Utah: “We know Utah was gonna be a very good football team. We saw what they did last week against Stanford. We saw what they did the week before. They’re playing very good football, and our guys matched them head to head on every single play.
On Arizona’s defense: “Our defense, I thought, had a really good game, they got some big-time stops at the right time. We had a couple costly penalties at the end of the half and at the end of the game. Utah ran for 460 yards last week. They ran for 160 this week. They ran for 294 the week before. They’re really good, and you’re not going to just get them off the field on every time, and when you have to tackle runners, and the way we coach is I want to see 11 guys running the ball on every play. And if you’re going to play like that, you are going to be a little tired sometimes. But we substitute, we got guys playing extremely hard. We got guys coming in and out. And I think we saw, even even the final drive I mean, it’s a 2nd and 15 they wind up hitting a slash run and calling a facemask there. But other than that, I think that really, they hit us on some scramble plays, they hit us on an option play. The quarterback did a nice job on a quarterback toss crack play. They’re they’re a good team, and I would expect that type of battle, and both teams were pretty tired at the end of the game.”
On Utah adjusting at the line to get receivers open: “I saw on one of them where they slipped a halfback out the back door early in the game for a big 30-yarder or 29-yarder. So I would assume it was a man beater where they tried to run wash everybody down and slide the back out by himself out on the right. They ran a keeper at the end of the game, that was a big one on 3rd and 1 that they threw over Jalen Harris’ head, where they slipped out on a tight end out you. Those are plays you just got to defend when you play man coverage. Sometimes they work, sometimes get call them in a zone and they don’t work. It looked like they were doing a lot of check with me at the line of scrimmage, so they were checking to get in and out of some plays and you know sometimes you just got to defend those.”
On having only 5 penalties and no turnovers: “Penalties were were way down. This is our first game without turning the football over. We’ve just got to be smarter. This is a learning curve and every opportunity we have is to teach and that’s what we got to, and that’s what we got to do and that’s what we get paid to do.”
On the failed 2-point conversion: “We were trying to run a variation of (Philly Special), a run-pass option where Berryhill was gonna try to flip it (Michael) Wiley, Wiley was gonna flip it back to Will, Will was trying to go out in the end zone. They played cover two, they’ve shown more blitz zero in that situation. What happened was, we wound up having a celebration that we blocked the punt and now we have to take a timeout to get the personnel right, then we’re missing a guy because Tayvian (Cunningham) got hurt, so we got to put somebody else in the game. We were hopeful that that corner was gonna bite up and try to tackle Wiley when it was coming around and double reverse and flip it over the top of Will but that this didn’t get executed. Whatever you want to call, it a Philly-type Special of some nature.”
On if he considered going for one: “Not at 31-29 not with (10) minutes left in the game. If it was in the third quarter, yes, but in the fourth quarter, no.”
On if Arizona has become a tough out: “I think the last four games had been an example of, when you play us you better be ready to play. I think Washington knows that. I think SC knows that, Cal knew it and I think Utah felt that as well. It certainly was clear, it’s 31-29 ... it’s a 2 point game and we’re you know going for two to tie the game up. I absolutely believe that we are a tough out, and soon the tough outs are going to become tough wins and tough wins for us are going to become, hopefully, bigger wins in that as we continue on this journey.”
On the special teams play: “I think the special teams, early on, maybe the first three games or so, was hurting us, and then the last (seven) have been unbelievable. They have just completely flipped the script. 57-yard field goal, punt block for a touchdown. The way Kyle (Ostendorp) has been punting. A 52-yarder and a 46-yarder, I mean he’s putting great he’s executing. Lucas (Havrisik), it was a 57-yarder and it was a kind of an either or call on that, and went up to him I said, ‘hey, it’s Senior Night, go knock it through, man.’ And it was awesome to see him do that. So special teams has become a big part of trying to flip the program.”
On if Will Plummer was limited by his injuries: “I didn’t feel he was at all. I thought he played a good game, he’s probably gonna want to take back about five or six plays that maybe we miss high or had a chance at somebody. I think we had some great chances and great opportunities today. And I thought he played a good football game with a lot of room to grow.”
On Plummer’s 43-yard scramble for a TD: “We were running the play that we hit Dorian Singer on on the sideline for about 40 later in the game, at the start of the second half, was the same call that we ran on the 4th down against (USC), the Will Plummer scramble. What happened was they blitzed cover zero on it and he just saw wide open A-gap and just took it. We always tell him, east and west scrambles (are) bad, north and south scrambles (are) good. He saw that A-gap right in front of them and hit it. They were blitz zero so they had no one back there.”
On the seniors and what he said to them afterward: “The guys that play their last game, I think we’ll probably address that more during Sunday. I probably don’t do a great job at the end of the game when it comes to getting all sentimental. I think more of that we’ll talk about on Sunday. I wanted to really talk to the team about the groundwork that they’re laying right now. And I did tell the guys that aren’t going to be a part of next year, they’re going to come back on their Homecoming, whatever year that’s going to be, and they’re going to be super proud of the team that they’re going to see because they’re going to be a part of what happened. They’re going to be part of the change. I think it’s very clear. I think we lost by five, seven, won by seven, lost by nine the last four games. You play those games like that, good things are coming and that’s what I told her team. Guys that could come back, I think most of the guys that can come back will come back, that’s what I believe.”
On if seeing his players unhappy with the result put a smile on his face: “After a loss, there’s not much that’ll put a smile on my face. But what I will say is what pleased me is the fact that our guys are so committed to making this thing right, that they are just so ... want to be a part of the change, that you’ve got guys that are coming up to me, the Tre Masons, the Anthony Pandys, saying they wish they had another year, versus the other deal where it’s, you know, this is time for me to go. And when you hear that from the captains and from the guys that want to be a part of it, it makes you feel like you got something really special that’s brewing. And I think what we’ll have here the next year or two will be.”
Berryhill on why the locker room was unhappy: “The game was down to the wire for the most part, and we know that we could have won that game as easily as we lost it, so yeah, of course people are gonna be upset. Now we’ ve just got to work on executing and paying attention to the details.”
On playing for the seniors: “It was an emphasis that we were playing for the seniors, regardless of if it’s their last game or they have an opportunity to come back. We know that we had to put it all out for them because this is their last game in this stadium.”
On what was supposed to happen on the 2-point conversion: “Pitch to me, pitch to Mike Wiley, and either Mike has to run it or throw the ball. They covered it well. Mike tried to do what he could and it just didn’t work out. (Will) ended up blocking. He said he saw some players just waiting at the end zone and seeing run a route so he did what I thought was a good idea and tried to pick up a block for Mike.”
On what his time at Arizona has taught him: “Learning how to face adversity, and rolling with the punches. You never know what you’re gonna get. We had three different head coaches, a couple different position coaches. You learn a lot, a lot of ups and downs and turnarounds, but it prepares you well for life.”
On Rhedi Short scoring on a blocked punt: “We blocked a punt against Washington, I think it was, and Rhedi dove on the ball, so we’ve been giving him crap about diving on the ball. That he could have scooped and scored. It’s a good feeling. It’s a game changer where we knew that if we had no turnovers, and we played (well) on special teams, we were gonna have a good shot and they just had no turnovers either.”
On not looking head to the ASU game: “We know that we have two more games. We just play one-game season, 12 one-game seasons instead of a 12-game season and looking past an opponent. Washington State’s playing pretty well, so we’ve got to lock in. We’ve got a short week and we’ll prepare to the best of our ability and try to go out there and get the win.”
Pandy on if the defense got tired: “I don’t think we got worn down at all. That last drive, they called that facemask call and that kind of messed us up a little bit. I don’t think we got worn out at all, the defense I feel like sometimes we just hurt ourselves. Defensively, it doesn’t really matter how long we’re on the field. We’re just trying to make plays, we’re trying to get the ball back.”
On what he’s learned during his college career: “I just constantly had a lot of change in college, so I feel like now I can begin my life adapting to change.”
On how Utah managed to get guys open: “They recognized what we were running sometimes, so maybe we got to do a better job disguising it a little more.”