Arizona celebrated on the field and with their fans at the Rose Bowl after shocking UCLA on Saturday night, but it wasn’t long after the team returned to Tucson that reality set in.
The Wildcats must win their last two games, beginning with Saturday’s home tilt against Washington State and then the Territorial Cup on Nov. 25, to have a chance to earn a bowl bid for the first time since 2017.
“We got to win this game, that’s really how I look at it,” UA coach Jedd Fisch said Monday. “We have to do everything we possibly can to do everything in our power to play the best game we can possibly play. And we know we’re playing a very good team. They have a lot of years of success in a row. And they know how to win games. And it’s going to be our sole focus to find a way to play our best game this week. We want to play better than we did last week.”
Here’s what else Fisch had to say at his press conference to open WSU week:
On if the win over UCLA has already impacted recruiting: “Really nothing different has happened for us. We’ve had great success recruiting. We’ve had no issues with people returning our calls. We’ve had no problems with the people excited about our program. We played with a ton of young players, a lot of people in Southern California want to be part of our program. That’s been very evident since we’ve arrived. And it’s just the first step in what we believe will be success here in the future. But our job right now is to fully focus on trying to beat Washington State. Our guys certainly enjoyed that victory that they had Saturday in Pasadena.”
On how it felt to beat one of his former teams: “It is satisfying to watch our kids work as hard as they worked and reap a benefit like that. And the fact that we beat a team that was No. 9 in the country in the AP poll and No. 12 in the country in the College Football Playoff poll, who had only one loss who hasn’t scored less than 30 points all season. A lot of people that were questioning whether we can do that, we were 20-point underdog. And as I’ve said, keep making us the underdog, that’s great. No problem there. But our team’s gonna go out there and expect to win and do everything they possibly can do it. I think our team is very prepared. They work very hard it. And for them to see that if they trust the process of practice, if they trust the process of preparation, that they’ll continue to win football games. And right now we’re sitting here at 4-6 and will really work very, very hard to try to get these next two.”
On staying grounded for WSU after beating UCLA: “Well, they’ve not won two games in a row since 2019. September, I believe. So if that’s the case, we need to find a way to get grounded quick, and know that it’s our job to try to actually go back to back and see if you can win a couple games in a row. Our guys, they seem very grounded. They seem very ready to play. They seem focused on trying to get another one. Just like we told them, winning four this year compared to one is better than winning two or three, I guess, but winning five would be better than winning four, winning six would be better than winning five.”
On freshman OL Wendell Moe: “I think Wendell Moe is just going to keep getting better. More comfortable, feels what college football of like as a freshman, and wasn’t here (in the spring). So the fact that he was able to evolve and grow throughout the season and get better each week. My hope is that he gets better this week than last week, but I thought Wendell had a really good game. I thought our offensive line in general had a really good game. We ran the ball when we wanted to run the ball, and we ran the ball when they knew we were gonna run the ball, which is always the biggest sign of having confidence up front. And when it came down to pass protection, there’s a couple of things here and there that got us, but for the most part, Jayden had either a clean pocket or was on the move.”
On Jacob Manu and other freshman starters: “That was one team with Jacob Manu, T-Mac, Keyan (Burnett) and Noah (Fifita), three of them were (playing) in the game. T-Mac catching the winning touchdown, Jacob Manu had 10 tackles. That’s what we’re playing with, that’s what we are. We love it, we embrace it. When we told you guys we were gonna play with a lot of freshmen we meant it. When we said we’re gonna build the program the way we wanted to build it, we meant it. And you have guys like Jacob Kongaika and Ta’ita’i (Uiagalelei) that both were playing at Mater Dei last year, and Ta’ita’i had a huge sack in the game. You had guys that were truly affecting the game that were true freshmen. And clearly, Jacob Manu has taken on not just the role of affecting the game but being the leader of the defense.”
On Jayden de Laura facing his former team: “I would love to just say that it’s gonna be just another game for everybody. I would assume that it’s going to have some form of an impact on Jayden. It’s a little different situation than Hunter (Echols with USC). He was the starting quarterback there, he was the Pac-12 Freshman the Year there, and now he’s here. On the same token, it’s Jayden’s job to make sure it doesn’t affect him, and he doesn’t play the game any differently. And that he goes out there and he executes in the manner that he executed last week. And I believe he will, as you all know, I believe in Jayden de Laura very much. I think he has a great skill set, and if he can just play within himself and not let the opponent affect him, and treat them like they’re nameless and faceless, in a lot of ways that will help him and all of us.”
On LT Jordan Morgan: “Jordan will not play the rest of the season. And other than that, we’ll let Jordan disclose whatever injury specifics it is, but Jordan will be out for the rest of the year.”
On Morgan’s likely replacement: “Sam (LangI0 will be the starter, he would go in and start, and then we have a few other options there at the No. 2 spot. We’ve got Joe Borjon, we’ve got Jacob Reese. We could always move some guys around if we needed to. Jonah (Savaiinaea), big Jonah can move out there if we needed to do that. But right now our plan would be for it to be Sam and Sam did a great job.”
On if the team has been dealing with the flu or other illnesses: “We have not, knock on wood. We have not had those issues at this point in time. And I’m hopeful that we continue to get vaccinated for the flu. I know that’s been a big one. We push that pretty hard. And then also all the COVID vaccinations that our guys could possibly take, or get. Hopefully they continue to do that so we can stay healthy. We can’t prevent injury, so we might as well try to prevent illness.”
On the campus shootings at Virginia and Idaho: “Our thoughts here at Arizona football are with the families and friends and football community of Charlottesville, Virginia. College football is a small tight knit group, and the fact that we lost three student-athletes that are football players and what occurred. I don’t know Lavel Davis or Devin Chandler or D’Shean Perry, but I could just imagine what Coach Elliott’s going through right now, and just our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time. Obviously, just a horrible, tragic situation. And I know there’s another incident that’s going on to University of Idaho that occurred with students on campus, which is extremely close to Washington State, so I can imagine there’s some issues going up there up there, distractions. Scary, scary times and scary stuff. So our thoughts and prayers are with the University of Idaho student body as well.”