Arizona played arguably its worst game of the season on Saturday, turning it over four times in a 45-20 loss at No. 14 Utah. The Wildcats (3-6, 1-5 Pac-12) have dropped four in a row, albeit all to teams currently or previously ranked in the AP Top 15.
Our full recap can be found here. Below is what UA coach Jedd Fisch had to say about the performance:
On the game overall: “I’m very disappointed in the outcome tonight. We need to coach better, we need to play better. We need to protect the football better. Those three things, you can always start and stop there. If we don’t do that well none of it’s gonna matter. We’ll certainly need to clean up a lot of things. But most of it came with just ball security, to be honest with you. You give Utah (four) turnovers, I would imagine that the stat is 0 and a million in beating them. I’m not planning on that to ever happen in a game again. But again, we got to learn from it and be better.
On the team’s mindset after a fourth straight loss: “I told our team we got a 3-game season right now, and I love the way our team fights. I mean it is special. If you can feel them on the sideline. You get a defensive stop, you hold them to a punt and then you drop the punt and you have to put them right back out there on the 9-yard line and all 11 of them sprinted out there, and I can point to numerous times that that occurred in the game. We get them to a safety and the first thing Noah Fifita says to me is let’s go score a touchdown, and let’s go for two. And that’s what you want.”
On what led to so many fumbles: “To point to the elements would be an easy cop out. We didn’t handle it well. I don’t know. I don’t know. We fumble the ball on a punt return. Jacob (Cowing) fumbled the ball on a 4th and 5 conversion. Jayden (de Laura) fumbled the ball three different times in the pocket, one time it looked like he had great security and they punched it out really well. Another time It slipped out of his hand. But it was on the ground like eight times. So I would imagine it was probably the elements, but I would also imagine that we didn’t do a very good job protecting the ball, and that’s disappointing.”
On if Cowing should have tried to field the punt he muffed: “It was a tricky one. It looked like I think it had his hands on the 9-yard line or something like that. We usually would tell him we want to field that so we don’t have the ball on the 1 like we did (early in) the game. If you can catch it now you’re in your normal offense rather than backed up offense. The wind took it, for sure, but I mean, I trust Jacob Cowing’s hands. I think he just misjudged it, and he wound up dropping it. He made the right decision trying to catch it.”
On going for it on 4th and 20 in the first half: “We’re in a situation that, we’re on the 34-yard line, and it would have been a 52-yard field goal. That’s a lot for us. We’re about 40 percent over 42 yards, and we haven’t kicked one over 50. And then you’re not gonna punt it because in that situation the sky punt guy was not really what we wanted to do there. So we felt like we had a good call. We had three guys over the sticks, and we had Cowing (open) ... they A-gap blitzed and we didn’t squeeze it and that’s what happened. And then we wound up not able to protect it. We got what we thought we were gonna get there. We just didn’t really have much of a ... it was a weird situation.”
On throwing deep on 3rd and inches from its own 11: “We called option to run the ball there to the weak side, and they lined up their free safety down there and blitzed it. Well, they were gonna blitz it, and the Will linebacker walked up into the B gap, and when those things happen, we checked out of the play and it was press coverage on Jacob Cowing. And we felt that traditionally he has been fantastic in those scenarios, and Jayden gave him a chance and we wound up not winning.”
On how much the result was due to Utah: “I think I credited Utah every day this week. They do so many things well, and they are in a situation—you look at their team, you look at how they’re built—and we didn’t we didn’t do a good enough job being able to attack her defense. I thought we had opportunities that we didn’t do a great job of taking advantage of. I thought we had times that we could have taken advantage of and we had a breakdown somewhere else. I certainly could coach better. All in all it was not our best game and clearly that’s why the production wasn’t what the production has been every other game, or most of the games this year. But you go to Utah at night in the rain, and we didn’t handle it well.”
On field position: “I think that’s what got us a little bit. I think the first drive we wound up hitting Mike Wiley on that little angle route ... and then we fumbled the ball. We had a snap that we didn’t field well and then we didn’t have good field position. You’re trying to punt out of your endzone on a drive, so you’re punting from the you know minus-4 yard line. They got the ball on the plus 37-yard line or something like that. So that was tough. Then we ripped off a run and we’re able to tie the game seven all. We just couldn’t get any momentum because we would move the ball past the 40 but didn’t end up (scoring). We turned it over a couple of those times when I thought we had touchdown opportunities.”
On Michael Wiley’s long run not being called a TD: “I was a little confused on that as well. Something about the hand touching the pylon before the ball touched the pylon. I don’t know that rule. I was confused, honestly. They put the ball on the half-yard line. They said something about, to the effect of his hand touched before the ball touched so therefore it was on the half-yard line rather than in the end zone. We just went (with) a quarterback draw the second play and scored and kind of moved on.”
On the defensive performance: “I know that they had 300 yards rushing, but you got to think about the way the game was going, too. When you turn it over as much as we turned it over, they had 38 minutes time of possession. They handed the ball off, it felt like a lot. They had a ton of carries and they wound up in a situation where ... they had 55 carries. When you have the ability to hand it off 55 times, you’re going to have a lot of yards rushing. We had 25 carries for 156, so I guess if we doubled it, we’d have 50 for 312. What we’re trying to do is avoid those games where 55 runs are occurring, but I thought our defense, honestly, did a tremendous job and they fought, they got them off the field. They took the ball away twice, they stopped them on the 1-yard line going in. We always tell them you defend every yard, every blade of grass. When you do that, those things happen. And then when you also look at it in terms of the way our defense responded when a turnover occurred on offense, they took the ball away one of those times and they did a decent job. But we got to be better on defense, we played a ton of young players, which was fun to see. Deuce Lane was out there were. One time I looked out there we had four freshman defensive linemen out there at the same time. I thought Ta’ita’i (Uiagalelei) had his best game, made a lot of plays. Duece Lane made a lot of plays, (Jacob) Kongaika made a lot of plays. Jacob Manu made a lot of plays. It’s fun seeing all those guys go out there. T-Mac probably had one of his best games, if not his best game. It’s fun to watch all these young guys go.”
On how he decides when to pull the starting QB: “Based on a lot of different, different things. You got to make a decision on where you are in the season.Where you’re going, is he getting hit a lot. You’ve got to keep a lot of things in mind as it’s going to try to be able to do the best thing we can do for our program. Not just selfishly try to grab some stats by keeping someone in or something like that. So what I wanted to do, and what Jayden was very comfortable with is, at the point in the game that we made the decision, he understood that it was the right decision and he wanted to get himself fully healthy for UCLA. And we wanted to see what we can do in the fourth quarter.”
On if he views this as a setback: “No. I just view it as a game that we played in this season that, these things happen. We went to Utah, we’ve just played back to back to back games. Washington is 7-2, I think Oregon is 8-1, I think USC is (about to be) 8-1, and these guys are 7-2, and we played back to back to back to back and went on the road to play this one. So we knew this was going to be quite a challenge. Our team isn’t set back at all. I just hope we’re all healthy.
On Cowing’s status after being helped off the field in the fourth quarter: “We’ll know tomorrow, but we won’t make any comments on that until we know for sure where we’re at there.”