Arizona’s hopes of being able to play in a bowl game at the end of the season are gone, as Saturday’s 31-20 home loss to Washington State knocked the Wildcats out of bowl eligibility. Jedd Fisch’s second year will culminate with the Territorial Cup, which Arizona (4-7, 2-6 Pac-12) hosts on Friday.
“Our focus is strictly that and I told them that,” Fisch said afterward. “Normally we have a 24-hour rule to move on. We have a 24-minute rule, it’s time to get ready for the Cup.”
Our full recap can be found here. Below is what Fisch said following the defeat:
On the game overall: “Disappointed in the result of the game. Washington State is a very good team, as I’ve been saying all week. Very good defense. Can’t turn the ball over four times against a good defense and expect to win. I thought our defense played really well today, thought our defense played with great passion and effort and energy today. I thought offensively we did a lot of good things and then we wound up getting stop in different spots.”
On the offensive mistakes: “A little bit of Murphy’s Law today, what could go wrong did go wrong. We had an opportunity to throw a pass back to Jayden (de Laura) on 4th and 2 in the endzone for a touchdown and wound up having a little pressure on the left side and Mike (Wiley) had to keep it on the 4th and 2 and he got stopped a quarter of a yard short, where Jayden was standing in the end zone by himself. Had a chance to pick up (Jacob) Cowing on the first third down of the second half, and snap doesn’t come back, so the snap’s on the ground. Had a couple of chances to complete some balls in the endzone, didn’t finish some of our routes, and we had some opportunities to play great football and we just didn’t on offense. Some plays stopped us, we stopped ourselves more than anything. Hats off to them. But our focus at this point time is all on the Cup.”
On if de Laura was pressing against his former school: “I don’t think anything had to do with pressing. There were some plays that could be made that weren’t made for a lot of reasons, but I think that I did not see any pressing going on. I thought those were just plays that were made by their defense that caused some turnovers.”
On what caused the second and third interceptions: “The second one was a miscommunication with the protection. So the offensive line protected one way, quarterback thought there was a protection issue, which there was, which there shouldn’t have been, and he tried to get a hot throw out and the receiver didn’t expect to be hot because he shouldn’t have been. That was the intersection (intended for) Jacob and then the one with Tanner (McLachlan), Tanner should have kept going.”
On the skirmish between de Laura and Jacob Cowing during the first half: “It was just two competitive guys. There was a play that we were hoping to make and we didn’t, so there was just two competitive guys just disappointed in each other. They’re fine. He throw him a touchdown on the last play of the game.”
On Sam Langi starting at left tackle: “I think he did okay. Obviously when you have a player like Jordan (Morgan), he’s gonna be missing at times. But I thought Sam did a really, really good job stepping up and stepping in in that situation. And I thought that, for the most part, we were able to do some good things. I’ll have to watch the film to really see how it all worked out. But we didn’t play good enough as a team.”
On Washington State’s defense: “They’re the number one scoring defense, I think, in the Pac-12. I think they’re a very, very good defense. I think they’ve only let up more than 30 points once all season. USC had 30 and Oregon early on had 44. Other than that, everybody’s been held to low points. They give you just enough blitz to make you, you got to be aware of their pressures at all times. They’re long, they’re tall up front. They play good coverage scheme. We just didn’t execute our offense is really what happened more than anything.”
On Arizona’s defense: “The growth I think has come from the amount of young players we’re playing in there. I think early on in the season, I would say we were probably playing somewhere in the range of 13 to 14 players on defense. And now I think we’re playing up to about 19 to 20 players on defense, so they’re fresher. They’re coming in with more pass rush because they’ve not necessarily been playing 53 reps in a game, they’re playing 32 reps in the game or 34 reps in a game. I think that’s a huge part of the pass rush. I think some of our pressures have begun to hit home, as Jacob Manu has been able to really impact a lot of the pass rush by just adding himself into some of the pressures.
“We’ve been a little bit more aggressive with our safeties in the blitz scheme, and Gunner Maldonado I thought showed up today a lot in the backfield. And then I also believe that they’ve just gotten better. I think that it’s a true progression of a team with a first-year coordinator. First year that they’ve all been together just continuing to get better on defense. I would say really the Utah game I thought we played pretty good. And then I would say after Utah, I thought we played really good. And I think this was probably our best performance on defense, give or take a couple plays here and there.”
On if Arizona was looking ahead to the Territorial Cup: “We have to treat adversity and prosperity the same. We cannot sit in a situation where we win a game and then we’ve got to win a game to get back (in bowl contention) and then worry about the Cup or not win a game and worry about the Cup. To me the Territorial Cup is its own game. It’s its own game in a season. It’s an 11-game season plus one, and it’s our job to figure out a way not to let that plus-one affect any outcome of any other game. And today was not good enough on offense, it was not good enough, really in the end on defense, because we let up too many points, and we didn’t score enough. So as a team, we didn’t play well. And we need to be better, we know that. We can’t put the ball on the ground. We can’t throw interceptions, and I’m sure it’s very hurtful. The locker room is very hurt right now. But it also understands we’re on to the team up north, and that’s where our focus is starting now.”