Arizona has navigated its tough nonconference schedule, winning two out of three, and now has its sights set on Pac-12 play. The 9-game conference slate begins Saturday at Cal, a team the Wildcats have won six in a row against including last season’s lone victory.
UA coach Jedd Fisch didn’t go into too much detail about the Golden Bears (2-1) on Monday, other than to note that he and his staff had begun looking at film. The players are off Mondays, so installation of plays and schemes against Cal will start Tuesday.
Here’s what else Fisch had to say at his Monday presser:
On game balls: “A couple of game balls from the game. Jayden de Laura, Dorian Singer, Michael Wiley, Jonah Coleman, Jerry Roberts, Hunter Echols, and then Tanner McLaughlin was our Wildcat of the Week. Those guys all deserved it. Really good job collectively making plays, and also Kyon Barrs. Kyon Barrs got a game ball as well.”
On Singer’s claim of North Dakota State players taking cheap shots: “I didn’t see much of that. But then you can’t really tell what goes on in the scrum. You can’t really tell what goes on on the field. If Dorian said it, I’m sure Dorian felt it, but it’s hard to see from my perspective exactly, when you’re watching the film, what that really looks like.”
On the personal fouls called on Jacob Manu and Christian Roland-Wallace for low blocks (CRW’s was offset by an NDSU penalty): “It’s a new penalty as of 2022. You can’t cut outside the tackle box, so that’s a new rule that came into effect this year. And they made that rule for the safety of players. So both offensively and defensively now, you can’t cut. You used to be able to do that defensively, even more so up until this year, where you can protect yourself and if a guy was coming at you in space you can do that. But that rule was changed this year. I think both Jacob and C-Ro were playing off of last year’s rule on that.”
On Kyon Barrs: “I think that each week we’re going to hopefully see him become more noticeable, as his rehabilitation has gotten to the point that he’s pretty healthy at this point in time. He missed a lot of training camp time. We were very limited with his reps as he was coming back from the surgery. He’s feeling more and more comfortable. His weight is where he wants it to be, he’s full go on the field at practice. And now it’s our responsibility just to monitor his reps in practice to make sure that we’re able to give him the the best opportunity on Saturdays.”
On criteria for Wildcat of the Week: “What we’ve decided to do is when we determine the Wildcat of the Week it’s doing things right on and off the field. It’s making an impact in our program in many different ways. For (McLachlan) this past game, he’s shown that every time he hits the practice field, he takes as many reps as we’ve ever asked. He’s never been late to a thing he’s never showed up late on or (been) on any list in academics. He’s always demonstrated an ability to go out and help in the community when we’ve had community service events. And when he went out there this past game, he also produced as a player. Mike Wiley won that award week one and now Tanner week 3.”
On how Arizona found McLachlan, a transfer from Southern Utah: “That’s a Coach Paopao find right there. I think he knew somebody, either that knew Tanner or someone that coached Tanner in the past. When Tanner became available we were (asked) would you be willing to bring on a walk-on tight end that’s coming off of an ACL surgery that didn’t play for a year but has good film, and is a really good kid. And that’s kind of what was the initial conversation when it got brought to me. And then as he showed up, it was a lot more than that. So we’re pretty fortunate sometimes.”
On if McLachlan is also called T-Mac, like WR Tetairoa McMillan: “No. There’s only one of those.”
On the defense coming up big late: “Those two stops were the difference in the game and the outcome of the game, 3rd and 2, 4th and 2 on the 23-yard line. Now obviously we had to respond by scoring in that situation as well being, down four, but defensively the fact that they were able to get that done gave them a load of confidence. So when they went back out there, there was really no doubt in their mind that they were going to get the stop. Coach Nansen rallied the troops, the whole defensive staff was on top of it. Coach Walker, Coach Kaufusi, Coach Nansen and Coach Hunley down on the field. I heard Coach Hunley say, guys, one stop wins this game. One stop wins this game. After our score, so our defense went out there and then the players started repeating that same mantra, and it was a pretty quick three and out really at that moment, and they punted and then we didn’t have to give him the ball back.”
On adjusting the defensive scheme: “We just felt we had to play a little more zone coverages, so they couldn’t wheel anyone out the backfield. You’re so committed to trying to stop the run that you start adding more and more players. There’s pictures of 21 out of 22 players in a tight end zone copy of a film, you’re not normally going to see that. So when that’s the case you’re playing man to man coverage. When that happens, they were able to slip out two different times to be able to have explosive plays. So you just have to be able to mix in some zone, and if you make sense zone, then as they slip out they’re covered, which is what can cause a sack or a negative play. There was a time Jaxen Turner was standing right there when the quarterback looked to throw a wheel route and it cost them a sack.”
On what’s led to a smaller-than-planned rotation on the defensive line: “Certainly (Tia) Savea’s injury for two of the weeks, because we were short a player and so we couldn’t really rotate. I don’t envision that being the case this week. I think that he was a gametime decision last week, I thought he was going to play. We felt that it was the best interest to hold him out, which though of course eliminates his substitution pattern there. I would say that on the edges you’re talking about Deuce Davis, you’re talking about Deuce Lane, these are two freshmen, so we’ll probably not put them in as much in a tight game. Based upon the circumstances, those guys are pass rushers. And then I think you’ll start seeing more of a rotation now the more comfortable these guys get. But as we’re rotating guys, we’re talking about continuing to rotate true freshmen. Jacob Kongaika, Ta’ita’i (Uiagalelei). Deuce, the other Deuce. So as you’re taking guys off the field, you’re putting true freshman on it.”
On Manu’s first career start: “I thought he did a good job. He’s a very instinctive player. The cool part about him is that he made a tackle on kickoff, he made a tackle on punt, he made a tackle on defense, a few times tackles on defense, obviously. He was around the ball. He’s crafty, he could kind of feel the game, and he’s a football player. He’s a pretty instinctual kid.”
On Hunter Echols: “Hunter brings about veteran experience on a young team. So as we’re building this program up, it’s nice to have some guys that have done it, done it at different places. Guys that have graduated already, Hunter’s a grad transfer from SC, so he’s able to kind of keep the guys in check at some times, at some opportunities, and also motivate him in others. He also can help them gain confidence. ‘I’ve seen guys do this. I’ve seen guys like you do it. I trust you. I believe in you.’ And when you have those conversations, the players will respond and they’ve responded well to Hunter. They’ve responded well to Christian Young and Jaxen Turner and C-Ro, who have been here for a while, too, that are great leaders on our team. As has Jerry and Kyon have been. Our defense is probably filled with some good, veteran leadership.”
On the red zone offense: “We’ve been good in the red zone so far, we’re 10 out of 11 I believe down in the red area. The one we didn’t score on was the 4th and 7 that we had to go for it against Mississippi State. I mean, we could have kicked the field goal, I guess, to be 11 out of 11, but that’s not gonna help us win the game. I’m excited the way the guys have prided themselves in the red area and continue to want to score touchdowns.”
On using a unique formation on one play: “The play that you’re referring to is when we flexed the tackles out. That was just a play we’ve run before, just to try to spread their defense out a little bit and hit Tanner over the middle, which we did.”
On introducing some RPO concepts: “We ran the ball well. Not really an RPO team, but we’re able to use the quarterback in the running game, and so I think (de Laura) does a good job of ball handling. He’s a creative kid. So he does all sorts of things ... back there with the ball handling, and enables him to throw some bubbles and enables him to throw some slants and enables him to pull the ball. His creativity is what allowed us to kind of mix and match the run and pass this week.”
On de Laura calling an audible on 4th and 1 during the game-winning drive: “Jayden has the ability, when he sees certain looks, to get to certain plays out of certain formations. There’s criteria involved based upon the fact that plays are married to formations in a lot of ways. So he felt that he liked the look to be able to, let’s call it, brings two guys in on slants on an arrow concept to be able to open up the bubble for Jacob (Cowing), and he made that audible and made a great throw and Jacob made a great catch.
On his reaction to ASU firing Herm Edwards: “When I saw the news ... coaches don’t ever like to hear the the F word. It’s not fun for anybody for guys to lose their jobs. There’s families involved, there’s other staff involved. There’s other many things involved when it comes to that type of stuff. So it’s never really a good day in the coaching profession when that occurs.”