Arizona dropped its home opener to Mississippi State on Saturday night, falling 39-17 to drop to 1-1 on the season.
The Wildcats turned it over three times but also forced three takeaways, while they were limited in the run game and struggled to take advantage of most of their trips into MSU territory.
“I thought we were in the game the whole way through,” coach Jedd Fisch said. “All in all our guys competed till the very end. And they played really hard tonight.”
Our full recap can be found here. Below is what Fisch had to say about the loss:
On Mississippi State: “They’re a good football team. I don’t think there’s any question about that. And that didn’t surprise us, that they’re very good football team.”
On learning from the loss: “As we continue on this build we’re gonna go through some ebbs and flows. We have a lot of young, we have a lot of new, and we’re continuing to try to improve every single day, which we will. And it’s exciting to see us play the way we played defensively, took the ball away three times. Clearly we’re getting what we emphasized there.
“As we’re building this there’s gonna be a lot of growing pains. I think that as we trust the process, and our kids understand they’re gonna go out there tomorrow and they’re gonna have a hard practice, and they’re gonna embrace that grind. And they’re gonna continue to build off of it because what we’re gonna see here over the next three years is we’re gonna see T-Mac make most of its plays. We’re gonna see Jonah (Coleman) continue to break tackles. We’re gonna see all the young guys be able to handle some things, and I am looking forward to that. I think every single day you see our football team improve, and as long as we can keep doing that will be okay.”
On the last drive of the first half: “We took a sack shouldn’t have taken. We need to do better there.”
On Jayden de Laura’s 3 interceptions: “Three tipped balls were interceptions today, and we tell our team all the time tips and overthrows on defense, you got to get those. On offense you got to avoid them at all costs. And we got three tips that were all interceptions.”
On de Laura’s play: “I think he probably had some ups and downs. There were some good plays that he made. Drove us down a bunch of times. But there was just too many critical errors that we need to improve upon, and I can help them out there.”
On why de Laura didn’t run on scramble plays: “That’s something we talked about, and I think we’ll get better there. And I can do a better job at practice making sure that he recognizes that those running opportunities, when they do present themselves, and take advantage of them in a game versus sometimes in practice you want to try and make the receiver work and the DB work and whatnot. That’s on me. I think that he’ll continue to improve. Jayden is a special player, and he will continue to lead us.”
On the run game: “It was very hard to run the football tonight. I would certainly say what was very frustrating was that, we wound up snapping the ball over our head and now it’s a 2nd and 19. We never got into the good down and distances that would allow us to continue to run the football. And then we wind up in those two 2-minute drives. We need to be able to run the ball better. And I think when we can have balance we’re a better football team.”
On why the offense seemed out of sync most of the night: “I would say down and distance got us. When we were ahead of the chains we were okay. We’d have a good drive or a good four or five plays, even backed up and then we get a negative (play) or try to run the ball on second down and lose a couple. Throw an incompletion on 2nd and 10. And now it’s 3rd and 10. We took two sacks in two different drives, those things they hurt you. We took a delay of game, which is very frustrating. We’ve had two of those in two weeks.”
On how Arizona’s defense played: “Defensively I thought we did a really, really good job all the way around. I mean, they’re gonna always get yards. I don’t know how many they got. I saw that we ran, I think, 76 plays they ran 74 plays. Traditionally they’re about 15 plays higher than their opponent. We wanted to make sure that we ran a lot of plays today and we tried to do that.”
On defending the pass: “I think in their passing game, they’re always gonna have some guys open. They practice it all day, but they ran the ball well, too. And they’re going to just keep passing it. They don’t really care if they’re in a minus-five with a minute left they’re gonna throw it and continue to throw it.”
On time of possession: “Against them, they run the clock down to like a second, two seconds every single time. I can’t think of many games that I’ve researched on them in the last 15 times that they didn’t win the time of possession. Mississippi State’s gonna win the time possession almost every game. They’re going to hold the ball, they’re gonna wait, they’re going to snap it at five, four, three, two. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to play faster than that. So it’ll be a challenge to win time of possession against a team like that when you can’t run the ball.”
On dealing with MSU’s defense: “They keep everything in front of them. And I thought they did a really good job. And I think that every day we’re going to continue to find a way to improve, and be able to build this program that you can handle all the different looks and all the different defenses and be able to go out and execute and recognize that. We’re just going to get bigger, we’re just gonna get stronger, we’re just gonna get faster all season long and all offseason as we continue to match up against teams like that.”
On Michael Wiley: “My thoughts on Michael Wiley at all times are very strong because I think he’s just a fantastic person and fantastic kid. He was our Wildcat of the Week last week. And he does everything right. He started the game extremely well. We had a chance to hit that screen on the left sideline that went for about 40 and they called it back when they said Jayden’s knee was down or Mike would have had another 40 yards tacked on. We would have been driving right back down in the red zone the second drive of the game.”
On Jaxen Turner’s strip and fumble recovery: “It was everything that we asked him to do. We asked him to lawnmower the football, which is just get your hand in there and rip it out. Like you’re starting a lawn mower. He did that, he did it tremendously. The ball was loose on the ground, he scooped it up and and ran it all the way back. Jaxen does that, he’s got a great feel for the ball. He almost had a pick today, he had a pick last week, took the ball away that time and I appreciate his efforts every day.”
On getting freshman Noah Fifita into the game late: “You’re always one play away at quarterback. So, if you can go in there ... that was a lot for him, right? You’re going in there and going against a very good football team, you’re down three scores at the time, and have to drive the field and he drove us all the way down. He made a great play, great play on the corner. That’s the first throw. First row was a tremendous play to get us going. Great job, hitting T-Mac on the scramble on the sideline. And really he checked that ball to T-Mac on fourth down, and for a freshman to have the moxie and confidence to be able to make an audible on 4th down and 6, in your first (action) and make the right check was pretty cool. So it’s a great opportunity for Noah. Our culture is strong because of the young guys that came in and because of the guys, the older guys that stayed. And we’re just continuing to get started here. I believe that we’re going to have great nights ahead.”
On cornerback Treydan Stukes returning to action: “He was limited. He made a pick, but he was coming back from that injury so we tried to keep him down to 15-20 plays as we continue to work him back up.”
On the crowd: “Our student section was incredible tonight. People told me about people leaving early at halftime, they were packed. It was packed when he came back in the third quarter. It was packed really all the way through. We made a couple of huge stops on third and fourth down because of the student section. They were awesome tonight. I thought our fans in general were great. It looked like there was a lot of people there. And as we’re building our program, we need them to keep fighting with us and keep building with us. And as we build this stadium to be a packed house, we’ll continue to improve and play better.”