Arizona’s first Pac-12 game of the 2022 season did not end well, with the Wildcats getting outscored 28-7 in the second half en route to a 49-31 loss at Cal.
Our full recap can be found here. Below is what coach Jedd Fisch said afterward:
On Cal: “I thought they put together a really good plan, specifically on offense. They did a great job of attacking us.”
On trying to make a comeback late: “From being out on the field, I feel like there was a chance in that fourth quarter, when it was 42-31 and we got the stop when we got the ball back. We felt really good about our chances to drive back down and make it a 4-point game.”
On dealing with a loss like this: “I think that, as we’re building this program, unfortunately these games can occur, where we have opportunities, but we don’t seize them. It’s 24-21 at the half, we have the lead and we have the ball to start the second half and we start with a 14-yard run (to) put us in good position, but we don’t finish it. And I think overall we just need to do a better job coaching, better job playing, better job finishing. Finishing tackles, finishing blocks, finishing runs, finishing catches. Can’t win a game when you turn it over three times and take it away zero. You can’t win a game where in the fourth quarter we had opportunities that we didn’t seize. Not good enough today, and looking forward to getting back home for two in a row.”
On what he told the team in the locker room: “I told our team that we have to be better than that. We can’t let them run the ball for 300 yards rushing, or whatever that number was. We have to play better run defense. We have to coach better offensively, coach better on defense and all the way around. We’re very aware of that and we have to play better, and we’re just going to continue to work at our job to get better every day.”
On what he saw going wrong with the defense: “During the game I get pretty wrapped up in just calling the offense, so it’d be hard for me to answer that question. We got to make tackles. I wouldn’t use the words poor efforts. I just don’t, I haven’t seen enough of it to make a decision on why, or to be able to determine what happened.”
On Jayden de Laura: “I thought Jayden did a lot of great things in the game. I think he threw for 400 yards in the game. There was more yards out there. He made good decisions all the way throughout until the very end of the game when were down 18 and maybe he threw one out there for Dorian. In the end we need to be better around him, and we also know that he can play better as well. The interceptions came at weird times. They were both in the fourth quarter both, the second-to-last and the last drive. I think that really, if you look at how Jayden played overall, he was pretty special. So it’s kind of one of those weird dynamics that you got to just talk to him about a couple plays, rather than talk about the overall game. I don’t think there’s really much reflection of those interceptions with really how the offense played.”
On de Laura taking more chances when playing from behind: “I think that’s normal. And one of the things that we talk about is there’s a game within the game. You’re playing a game and you’re making decisions, but then you’re also playing the score and you’re playing the situation. And there’s times, on first and 10, where you don’t need to make the same decision as you’d make on fourth and 10. Or there’s times when you’re on the 20-yard line that you don’t have to make the same decision as you’re on the minus-20 yard line. The two interceptions occurred, one was on first down, one was on second down, not a fan of first or second-down interceptions. Interceptions should come on third down or fourth down, because of the fact that you’re trying to convert at that moment. In these situations, you have scrambles, you have checkdowns and you have opportunities to throw it away. So we’ll continue to build off of that.
On the third quarter: “They had the ball for most of it. We had three possessions. We had five possessions in the first half and scored on four of the five. Disappointed we didn’t score on the first possession of the second half. I thought we were in good position, especially after the first play of the second half. And then when they scored and then they stopped us on a 3-and-out and then they scored again in the third quarter, the quarter almost got away. And then we drove all the way down, and then that was (when) I think we had a fumble there. So that was tough. That was a tough ... let’s call it a three series sequence.”
On being able to learn from this game: “For the most part, I believe this is how we’re going to learn, we’re going to build. This is the process of building, go on the road for Pac-12 game against a team that was determined to play really well. And you can see it, and they did play well. We’re gonna be able to take a ton from it. Number one is that I’ll do a better job coaching this week. Offensively, I’ll make sure we put our guys in the best possible position every time. I know defensively they’re gonna take that same mentality. I know our staff is excited to get back at it. We’re gonna play a team that’s desperate for a win back at our place. We’re excited about going back home. And we’re going to do everything we can to go 1-0. That’s our mentality, that’s our plan and that’s what our goal is going to be come next Saturday night.
On comparing the North Dakota State win and Cal loss in terms of turnovers and penalties: “We certainly can and we will, and we’ll continue to show what we need to do to improve every week. And we recognize that as we’re building it, there’s going to be the ebbs and flows. And we have to try to find a way to be a little bit more consistent.”
On having two 100-yard receivers in Jacob Cowing and Dorian Singer: “I thought that really we had opportunities to have more than that. I thought that (Tanner) McLachlan had some more opportunities that we could have found him for over 100 yards. I think we have good receivers. I don’t think there’s a question about that, and we have good quarterback and a good passing game. What we need to do is continue to build off of that and see how good it can become. Can it get better next week? It needs to. Can it get better running the ball?”
On how not stopping the run opened up Cal’s passing game: “Definitely safe to say that we’re hoping to stop the run. When you can’t stop the run or you struggle against the run it makes it very challenging to defend the play-action passing game. And where you saw their big chunks occur was off of play-action passes, because as you start committing more and more defenders to the run, you start seeing more and more opportunities in space in the field, and I think that’s what we saw when the big chunk yardage started coming in the passing game.”
On how the defense can get better: “It’s going to come down to tackling. It’s going to come down to shedding tackling. It’s going to come down to fundamentals. And I think that’s one of our biggest focus that we’ve had is, how good can we be in fundamentals? And can we improve our fundamentals by focusing in on becoming a better run defense? We recognize the importance of that as we move forward against our future opponents.”
On why safety Jaxen Turner didn’t play in the second half: “It look like there was some ... his shoulder has been a little bit banged up, so we took him out. I don’t know the results of where that’s going.”
On the status of Speedy Luke, who had surgery during the week: “Speedy had a high ankle sprain that he got fixed. And that should be somewhere between a 4- to 6-week injury.”