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What Jedd Fisch said after Arizona’s win over North Dakota State

arizona-wildcats-football-jedd-fisch-press-conference-oregon-ducks-washington-huskies-pac12-2022 Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats wrapped up non-conference play Saturday with a 31-28 victory over North Dakota State. Our recap of the game can be found here.

After the game, Arizona coach Jedd Fisch spoke to the media. Here’s what he said.

On the fan support: “I appreciate our fans. The ZonaZoo was awesome. I think we’re continuing to build that up the way we want it, which is just a great atmosphere. Our fans showed up, and I think our fans will continue to show up and continue to build and continue to get this thing better. So I want to thank them for being here.”

On Arizona’s preparation: “Our players did a fantastic job tonight. It was a very clean football game. Four for four in the red zone, no turnovers. One penalty. Those are the things that when you talk about what our goals are offensively, defensively, and as a football team, we say we want to attack and protect the ball. We did that. Hunter Echols’ sack fumble was a huge part of the game. We said we want to score and defend the red zone. We were four for four in the red zone. And we want to be disciplined. When you have one penalty against a very good football team, that’s really, really disciplined football. Credit to our staff. I think our coaches did a great job preparing our team tonight.”

On expectations entering the game: “We knew this was going to be a very, very tough football game. We were the underdog. Everyone picked up against us other than Lee Corso. And that’s okay because our guys embrace that. And they love that. I thought you saw a team that was out there ready to roll and played really, really good football in all three phases. A credit to our players and coaches. We had a lot of playmakers out there. We knew we were going to have a tough battle. That wasn’t going to be a surprise. But we also know that we weren’t the 2016 Iowa team or the 2014 Iowa State team or whatever it might have been (FBS programs that lost to North Dakota State). We’re the 2022 Arizona team, and we were very excited about this opportunity. And now we’re on to Pac-12 play. We’re excited to get on an airplane here next Friday and play Cal.”

On Arizona’s defense: “It was a man’s game tonight. It was tough as nails. those guys were big and strong and our guys had to get down and dirty at the end. Third and two, fourth and two, make those stops at the end of the game. They put the Wildcat quarterback in, and our guys did a great job at getting the ball back for us. I made a decision at 28-24 to kick the field goal, and I just wanted to make sure that we kept the game within seven or eight. or four or three or whatever it might have been. When they had the ball down there, I was thinking they were gonna kick a field goal. They didn’t. It was a great stop by our defense, and our defense then got the stop again really three plays in a row making them go three and out and punt the ball on fourth and 10.”

On Jayden de Laura’s improved running: “The biggest thing I would say about Jayden and I and how we call the game and what we ask him to do is we’ve only done this for three games together. We’re just building a relationship. We’re building trust, and I’m trying to learn what he needs and how to coach him every day in practice, and he needs to learn what I expect and what I want. He’s a sophomore. We’re just trying to work through things, and I thought that it was a great learning experience last Saturday night. He probably saw some opportunities that he could have paid off and run. I’m glad to see that he did it this week.”

On how the running game opens up the pass: “We ran the ball for 36 times today for 165 yards. That’s good football. That’s what we need. One of the things that we’ve talked about as a staff is if your quarterback can get you about 40 or 50 yards, you can compete running the football, and in this game he got us 58 yards. That’s from scrambles. Those weren’t all designed runs. I mean, the touchdown run was a quarterback draw but other than that, most of the runs other than a zone read here or there were more of a scramble that he took off and instead of forcing the ball down the field, he made a great decision. But yet on the scramble that he hit Jacob Cowing on for the touchdown that made it 31-28, that was, he took off, he scrambled, he kept his eyes downfield, and one of the rules that we added was if you have a wide open guy, throw it. We just don’t want to force the ball. And that was one of the things that we did last week a little bit too much.”

On what North Dakota State did to limit Cowing’s productivity: “It was one of those games that just the way we were calling the game, there was just other guys that were the primary guys. Just for one player or another and we thought maybe we’d call something for cover three, and the curl pops or Dorian Singer pops open, or there’s an opportunity to throw it to somebody else. We’re not going to force the ball to anybody. We’re really happy with all the playmakers we have. Dorian Singer is a very good player. TMac is a very good player. Tanner McLachlan is a very good player. So are our running backs. Jacob is going to get his touches. There’s no question about it. We had some opportunities there. But we’re in it as a team.”

On whether the North Dakota State offense was difficult to defend: “They just do something that you don’t have to defend the rest of the season. It’s like playing an option football team. When you play at Air Force or you play one of the service academies randomly in the middle of your schedule, you run into a situation where you’re defending something one week that you won’t defend the other 11. So you have to handle a lot of gaps and there have to be able to be gaps down there. I thought our guys did a really good job at halftime adjusting to a couple of things in their passing game. And at some point in time, you make some stops in the A gap and you’ve got a chance.”

On Arizona’s conditioning: “Coach Owens and what he’s done with our team can’t be overlooked. When you look at what our team has done, when it comes to the strength and conditioning, and embracing the grind, of really wanting to work really hard to get bigger, stronger, faster and embracing that, that’s when you could run the ball like that at the end of the game. I really appreciate our strength staff. I appreciate how hard our guys are focus in on that aspect of the game. And all we want to do every week is just get bigger and stronger. We don’t want to use the season to stay consistent, to stay at average. We want to get bigger and stronger and bigger and stronger.”

On the program’s growth: “We’re just trying to build. We’ve asked our players to trust the process. I credit Dave (Heeke) and Derek (van der Merwe) for trusting and allowing us to build this program the way we wanted to build it. We knew that we were going to take some lumps and do some things different and bring in a bunch of new players and make some changes and on top of that we were able to build a program and we’re just getting started. This is just the very beginning of this process. But I do believe that our guys love the fact that they’re Wildcats. If you love being a Wildcat, you’re going to work hard and you’re going to give extra then you’re going to do more, and we brought some good players in. We developed. We continue to develop our players that are here. And I think it will continue to get better in the years to come.”

On how big a step forward a win like this is for the program: “It’s a step forward, but we go on to Pac-12 play.”

On whether Arizona was on the ropes late in the game: “I never felt about our team. I felt that our team, we emphasize resiliency in our program, and we emphasize that next play mentality and I didn’t feel that we were on the ropes. I felt like they moved the ball and we moved the ball. They move the ball and we moved the ball. I felt no flinch. There was no flinch at all. And when our team went out there after we scored to make it 31-28, I heard our defense say one stop wins the game. That was the mentality we had, and I really respected our defense and the way they handled that. At halftime everybody was rooting for each other. We had a huge drive there were 51 seconds left in the half. We got the ball and we drove down and got a field goal. That field goal made the difference in the game.”

On the performance of the offensive line: “I think that every week our offensive line is continuing to get better. I think that if we just get better, we will continue to see progress. We learned a lot from last week’s game. But that was last week’s game. And tonight is behind us as well. And it’s time for us to move forward. Our offensive line hopefully came out of the game healthy. think they did from what I understand. So we’re going to get them back to being full strength. And then we got to go take on a very good Cal team.”

On his emotions at the end of the game: “I was very excited. It was personal.”

On what he thought about the NDSU crowd turnout: “Not much about what they brought, really. I looked behind us and I loved the Zona Zoo. I looked around and I saw a great bunch of red and blue out there. That’s what I was focusing on and then our team. I hope that the next home game, which is Colorado, I hope we fill the whole stadium with red and blue.”

On the thought process of inserting Jacob Manu into the starting defense: “We played base defense rather than nickel because of how big they are with their fullbacks and their tight ends. We played with three linebackers, normally we just play with two. So when we went to that new defensive structure to stop them, we added the third linebacker and that was Jacob. So another true freshman playing 50 something snaps. Pretty cool. That Servite team was pretty good last year.”

On already tying last season’s total in takeaways: “We talked all offseason about the importance of taking the ball away. We’ve taken it away six times in these three games. We know we took it away six in 12 (last year). Our goal now is to each week, take it away again and keep taking it away. And you can see it’s a mindset, it’s a mentality. I appreciate Coach Nansen embracing what I’ve asked for there which is just an absolute mentality that you go after the ball at all costs at all times.”

On what he’s learned about the team through non-conference: “I think we’re getting better. We are believing in the process of improving. We recognize that we’re gonna have all sorts of different ways to win a game. We might win a game on offense defense, special teams. It might not be pretty, it might be pretty, I don’t know. But I know that our team embraces the grind, trusts the process, plays with passion, loves their teammates. If you do those four things and keep that next play mentality, we’ll do our best to get better next week.”