Arizona has begun preparations for Saturday’s trip to Utah, the start of a 2-game road trip that will see it face another two ranked opponents after having faced two in October.
Before fully diving into the Utes, though, UA coach Jedd Fisch looked back on Saturday’s 45-37 Homecoming loss to No. 10 USC and discussed a variety of other topics at his Monday press conference:
On reviewing the USC film: “No real surprises. I’d say the outcome of the game really came down to the fact that we five possessions in the red zone and scored three touchdowns and kicked two field goals. They had five positions in the red zone and scored five touchdowns, and that’s an 8-point swing and it was an 8-point final. We have to find a way to score all times we’re down there, which would be five touchdowns in that scenario, and hold them to the three touchdowns and two field and then we would have won by eight. We got to be able to, these one-score games, we gotta start flipping them. I think our guys have continued to be competitive, continuing to build to having really good football.”
On if he considered going for it rather than kicking those two field goals: “In that (first) situation it was 10-7. And then it was 17-10 and then we kicked that field goal to make it 17-13. No, I think points are important. If it was closer, when it was third and 8, if we got to a 4th and 3 or 4, probably inside of five I probably would have gone for it. But I don’t think 4th and 8 on the 8, in a game where there’s only a one-score game, I didn’t see the reason not to make it a 1-point game, to make it 17-16. So neither one of those were really ones that I felt to go for it. Especially the way the game was going. It felt like it was just a good football game where we can keep the game within a score.”
On the offense: “Our offense is hitting on all cylinders right now. I think we’ve moved up 80 spots in almost every offensive category, that he would keep track of. So that was that’s exciting, and we’ll continue to see if we can get better and how much better we can get.”
On the personal foul against Jerry Roberts: “It should not have been a foul. It is what it is. There was no foul there.”
On goals for the defense over the remaining four games: “Get the ball away. Take take the ball away. Get some sacks and hold the scoring down. Right now we’ve got to find a way to keep the scores down. We’ve gone against some really good teams. I saw today that the No. 8 team, the No. 9 team, the No. 10 team and the No. 12 team in the country are the four out of our five games that we’re playing right now, and Washington at Washington is the fifth game. So we’ve gone through the gamut there. Oregon scores a lot, they’re an outstanding team. USC scores a lot. We’ve had a tough stretch there, playing really, really good football teams. But the goal (for) these next four, with Utah and UCLA, Washington State and the team up north is we’ve got to find a way to just bring the point total down, get off the field a couple more times, and then take the ball away. if we can just take the ball a few times that’ll make a huge difference.”
On using seven defensive backs vs. USC: “They were playing with four receivers and one back, no tight ends. So when they went into what we would call 10 personnel, our answer was going to be we were going to add DBs in the game, and either A, force them to hand the ball off and then tackle with our DBs, or two, be able to run some more coverage scheme with more DBs is in the game. We were happy with the way that package looked for us. We wouldn’t do that against three receivers, only against four receivers.”
On how the defense played vs. USC: “I thought we actually did some some good things on defense. We made them have a lot of third downs. The problem was the third downs were 3rd and 2, 3rd and 3, 3rd and 4, 3rd and 2. There was one point that I looked up and it was like they were 8 for 9 on third down but it was like in the middle of the second quarter and they had already had nine third downs in the game. I think that we tackled pretty good. There were some great plays that were made by them. Their quarterback’s a really good player. There were some times that I think against other players there would have been a much better chance to go down. One of the most important, impressive ones was at the end of the game. They had to go for a fourth down. They had to go for it to on fourth down to win that game, in my opinion. I think they thought we’d go down and score and tie the game up. That would be the only reason why you would ever go for it on fourth down in that situation instead of kicking us deep and making us go 90 yards with no timeouts. They went for it on fourth and we would have had to go 60 yards. Three stops, the stops on first down, second down, third down and then Jacob Manu was a shoestring away from getting that snap on fourth down, which would have been fun to see what would have happened then, in that case. So I think defensively there were some unfortunate plays that were called that didn’t allow us to show some of the times when we got off the field.
On Jacob Manu: “You can see his production showing up. He’s extremely active. He’s a leader out there. He’s a great communicator. He loves football. He loves being a part of it. He’s very much like T-Mac, obviously they were teammates, but you watch them they both have smiles on their faces at all times playing football. They love it, they embrace the game. And I think that’s what we’re seeing from Jacob. He’s trying to make as many plays as he can make. He’s just gonna get better. He wasn’t here in the spring. He had no offseason program with us, he had no offseason spring football, so together having the starting experience then coming back in the spring and staying in the system will really helpful him.”
On other freshmen getting more time on defense: “I thought Jacob Kongaika had a good game. I thinl he only had about 16 to 18 plays in the game, 83 total defensive snaps. Gave him about 20 percent of the game. I think probably about 25 percent will be good for him this coming week, just continue to get better, stronger. I think T’ait’ai (Uiagalelei) did a lot of good things, started the game. Continue to work on his technique in regards to, especially the line gains and line stunts and working hand in hand with the defensive ends next to you. (Ephesians) Prysock, I thought played really well. They’re loaded at the receiver position. There has never been a question about USC and the amount of quality wideouts they have. I think everybody’s either a 4- or 5-star player over there at receiver, and I thought that Prysock did a great job of stepping in and playing really good defense. Tacario Davis played in that seven-DB package, and I would say that he did a lot of great things. There was maybe a curl route that was caught kind of close to him. But other than that, he’s long and he’s gonna be a huge part of our success moving forward. So defensively I think those would be the five, plus Jacob (Manu), those six guys that played and we’ll continue to see who else we can get out there. Obviously, Deuce Davis is continuing to show up. The more Deuce play, I think the better Deuce will be.”
On his ‘aha’ moment with Dorian Singer: “I think it was a USC game was the first time we put him, the first time he was really productive. The catch hade made against ASU, one-handed, that Will (Plummer) threw all the way down the sideline the second play of the game was one of those just ridiculous catches that I think we said we’re glad we gave him a scholarship. Or I think maybe after the game I said we’re going to give him a scholarship as soon as we can. Where the ‘aha’ is coming now is he’s making those plays consistently rather than weekly. They’re happening daily. His ability to go up and make plays, he takes it, almost every practice rep. His practice mentality is exceptional. So we’re seeing more and more of these moments where he’s not afraid to go up and just high point the ball and his confidence continues to grow. When your coach three touchdowns in a game your confidence has now gotten to a point where he think he believes that I’m always open.”
On preparing for Utah without knowing status of injured players: “We have to worry about us. We got to figure out how to play better fundamentally. I don’t think it’ll really matter whether or not if their tight end plays or doesn’t play, (does the) running back play or doesn’t play. See what happens with (quarterback) Cam (Rising). For us it’s going to be, can we be more gap sound? Can we beat their tackles with the pass rush? Can we improve on our line gains? Can we find a better way, or a more consistent, way to cover their guys down the field. And then whomever they play will then determine what we need to do, if we need to change a coverage or adjust something. But for the most part right now it’s all about us and it’s all about can we get better at all of our fundamentals and techniques so whoever lines up we’re lined up to play them.”
On his favorite Halloween costume as a kid: “I was dressed as Buddy Ryan for about three straight years when he was the head coach of the Eagles. I grew up an Eagles fan. My dad went to school in Pennsylvania at Penn, always was an Eagles fan. So I grew up as one. I think probably fourth grade, fifth grade, sixth grade I dressed as Buddy Ryan, and then quickly moved to the offensive side of the ball.”