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What Jedd Fisch said at his press conference to open UCLA week

arizona-wildcats-football-press-conference-jedd-fisch-preview-ucla-bruins-utah-utes-pac12-2022 Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

Arizona enters the final quarter of the 2022 season needing to win its last three games to be bowl eligible, a prospect that seems very unlikely considering the next opponent has been like the previous four: ranked, with a very good record.

“I don’t know if this is normal or not, to play four teams in the top 10 in the last five weeks, not sure if anyone else in the country has done that,” UA coach Jedd Fisch said Monday. “I don’t know where Washington is ranked currently (24th), but I know they’re 7-2. So for the last five weeks, our opponents are 38-7, and this is one of those weeks that we’re playing another team that is 8-1.”

Here’s what Fisch had to say at his press conference ahead of Saturday’s visit to No. 9 UCLA:

On playing at Utah: “No one seems to come real close when you go to Utah. And unfortunately, we were another one of those teams that lost by three scores, similar to (seven of the) last eight teams that played there. So we got to figure out a way to make our home field similar to theirs. I think what they have is an incredible aura over there. People go there and ... (the Utes) play extremely well and people struggle against them. Looking back, I think I saw UCLA last year lost by 20 at Utah against them, lost by 46 in 2019 against them at their place, and I know that when I was there in 2017, we lost by 31 against them. So we got to find a way to make our home field similar to theirs. They have an incredible crowd, incredible energy. People don’t want to play there, and that’s what we want Arizona Stadium to be like.”

On UCLA: “Another team that has accomplished what our goal is to accomplish over the course of these next four to five years. Coach (Chip) Kelly arrived at UCLA in 2018. We were 6-6, 6-0 at home, 0-6 on the road at UCLA in 2017, lost our bowl game. He went there and went 3-9, 4-8, 3-4, 8-4 and are now sitting there at 8-1 and No. 9 in the country. So hats off to that build over there those last five years, and that’s our goal, to get to a place where we can do the same. Looking forward to the challenge. They are a fantastic football team, extremely well coached on all levels. Their offensive line coach (Tim Drevno) I think is an excellent football coach. I coached with him at Michigan. You can see how well they’re running the football. Their defensive coordinator Bill McGovern, I’ve known for a very, very long time. Back to the Bergen Catholic days, back to New Jersey in the 80s, and obviously he’s a great coach. (Inside linebackers coach) Ken Norton and I coached together at Seattle, one of my favorite people that I’ve ever coached. (Running backs coach) DeShaun Foster, same thing. And then I have a ton of respect for Coach Kelly. So we got to work it out for us, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

On WR Jacob Cowing’s status: “We’ll know more in the next few days. Don’t know yet exactly if he’ll be good to go or not. We’ll see Tuesday if he’s going to be limited or not. I’ll know better tomorrow morning after we get another day of treatment in.”

On redshirting freshmen: “They all want to play, we don’t really talk about redshirting, really. They all get four years. Four years of football. You don’t ever know what’s going to happen, so if you have an opportunity to play, they all are chomping at the bit to go in. None of them want to be held out, none of them want to be held back. Don’t really talk about it. It’s not a topic of conversation for us. When they’ve been recruited here, that class of ‘22 that we brought in, every one of them I told I expect them to play as freshmen. So there was no hiding, they were told when they chose to sign with us and they chose to commit to us, they knew they were going to be part of the build, a very big part of it. And as each week has gone on, more and more pieces have become more and more involved. And excited to continue to see maybe a couple more this week will continue to help us. But there’s been no conversation at all regarding redshirt with those guys.”

On the trick play involving RB Speedy Luke: “I think 2015 I saw Auburn do that. And we ran it in 2017 against Kansas State in the bowl game. And then I haven’t broken that one out since. No, that’s not true. I ran it with Tayvian Cunningham against Cal (for 30 yards). I ran it with Tayvian Cunningham last year and then we ran it this year. It was just kind of a way of, a little deceptive run to kind of sneak him through and it worked pretty good. I think we got about a (28)-yard gain on it.”

On why freshman OL Wendell Moe made his college debut in the starting lineup: “The way he’d been practicing. Josh (Donovan) was a little beaten up from the game before, wasn’t able to take all the reps. So we’re kind of going through a couple of nicks and bruises there with Josh. And Wendell the last two weeks has done a really, really good job of practice. He’s very strong. He’s lost 38 pounds since he’s arrived on campus. You can see him moving really well. You can see him moving the 3-technique, you can see the confidence he’s having. So as he was gaining knowledge in our offense, it gave us more of a opportunity to play the two young guards. And now we’ve got two freshmen lined up with a sophomore in the middle.”

On how Moe played: “He graded out really well. Our run game was very good. We averaged seven yards per play. They averaged 5.7 per play, the problem was we ran 57 plays and they made 82. So we moved the ball at a very good clip. Looking back at the game, we were inside their 40-yard line, I think we had 15 snaps out of 52 inside their 40. And a lot of that had to do the way we ran the ball and a lot of that had to do with running the ball to the left. So I thought (Moe) did a really good job there. And then in pass protection, really no deficiencies. One time maybe he got beat a little bit but I thought he had a good first outing, and he was extremely excited about going back out there. And him and Josh were able to rotate series.”

On Sam Langi, who didn’t play after rotating at LG the first 8 games: “Sam will have the ability to rotate in at guard and at right tackle. He’s been able to play kind of a little bit of a jack of all trades. He’s been able to, really all four positions minus center, has been where Sam is rotating through, and he’ll continue to do that if need be.”

On the non-touchdown run by Michael Wiley: “They said that they hand hit the pylon before the ball. I don’t know what that means. They said that in pro football, if the ball is in your hand and it hits the pylon, it’s a touchdown. In college football, if the hand hits before the ball hits, it’s down at the half-yard line. So that was the explanation I was given him, and I accepted it and moved on. That was the first time I’ve ever seen that? As a matter of fact, I did not know that rule. An extension is the term used in the NFL, that the ball is an extension of your hand. So it was a little bit different in this case.”

On if Anthony Simpson has a green light to return every kickoff: “There’s one way that you’re referring to where he should have stayed in. A couple of those were right on about the half-yard line and you don’t have that much of an option. I mean, you can fair catch, we do tell them that. If we have a return setup, we would like to take the return. We don’t usually fair catch outside of the goal line.”

On how RB coach Scottie Graham handled all of Arizona’s fumbles: “He didn’t have to handle it because I was about ready to lose my mind, so I lost it for all us on that one. The running backs handled the ball well, first of all. Coach Graham’s group did handle the ball well, but he is our ball security coach for the (team). We put the ball on the ground seven times. The quarterback and wide receiver position, Jacob (Cowing) and Jayden (de Laura), particularly. That’s not okay. They know that. There was a couple of times on the exchange that ... unfortunately, maybe the running back might have been credited for (the fumble) on the one that hit Mike Wiley’s elbow. But all of that is preventable. I didn’t see any fumble that I would say wasn’t a preventable fumble. The question becomes how much of the elements affected the ball, I would say a lot. But I would also say that’s not an excuse. They put it on the ground twice. But in the end, you can’t drop snaps, you can’t fumble the ball.”

On Jacob Cowing’s muffed punt: “You’ve got to understand the wind in some of those punt situations, especially that one with Jacob. The wind started howling, and you got to let it bounce, unfortunately. I thought in the game at the moment, we should have fielded it, but then the more you watch, you watch the TV copy, you see how that ball just kind of spun at the last second. If you can’t field it, we just got to live with it. That was a tough one because it looked like he was right underneath it and then ... the wind blew, and I think he just kind of put his hands out there.”

On the passing game: “We weren’t very good in any area in the passing game. I thought that we had too many drops, first of all,. We should never even had a 4th and 20. We had Tanner (McLachlan) on a tight end over the middle screen that should have put us at a 4th and 5. First play the game we had a seam ball to Tanner that we should have made. I thought there was a couple of times that we left our read early, never should have thrown a go ball down the sideline on 3rd and 4, we had Dorian Singer on a shallow crosser in zone coverage for a first down. I thought that we got a little bit excited back there. I thought that ... the elements were kind of affecting us, I thought we didn’t really handle the full passing him the way we normally would. We certainly are a better football team than we showed.”

On choosing to practice on Election Day: “The new (NCAA) rule is that within (30 days) of Election Day every student athlete has to be given a day off. So for us, we gave an additional day off on the bye week. We gave them three days off, one of which was for them to be able to have early voting. We also had a roundtable discussion that was for the student-athletes to learn about all the different, let’s call it, options in terms of how to vote. How to use the mail-in vote, how to handle it if you’re out of state, how to vote. We also brought in some people to talk about the reason why voting is so important. We tried to get everybody registered to vote with Coach (Syndric) Steptoe. We made that available as well. And then we have constant communication. I believe within the athletic department, I saw two more events that are occurring, to be able to assist in that. We are not giving them tomorrow off. They have up until 2 p.m. prior to their first obligation in our building if they need to, if they want to go vote in person, but we did use that Monday of the bye week to encourage them to be able to go out and take care of anything.”

On if safety Jaxen Turner is healthy: “You probably saw that he was bandaged up pretty good, or braced up pretty good on his right hand. Just kind of dealing with some ... everybody’s dealing with something. He’s had a few other injuries ... mix and match bruises, but I didn’t find him to be hesitant or tentative. We just tried to rotate him and Isaiah Taylor a little bit more than usual to try to keep them fresh.”