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What Jedd Fisch said at his press conference to start Colorado game week

arizona-wildcats-football-jedd-fisch-press-conference-cal-colorado-tackling-dorian-singer-pac12-2022 Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Arizona is coming off its worst performance of the season, both on the scoreboard and defensively, but next up is the kind of opponent that the Wildcats can get right against. Winless Colorado, which fell 45-17 at home to UCLA on Saturday to open Pac-12 play, is the first power-conference team in 65 years to start a season as poorly as it has.

The UA (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) are heavy favorites over the Buffaloes, the most it has been favored against a non-FCS school in almost five years. But while on paper they’re better than the upcoming opponent, the Wildcats have a lot of improving to do this week in order to producing a convincing victory.

“I think everybody realizes that we didn’t play our best game on Saturday,” UA coach Jedd Fisch said Monday. “Certainly felt like there was a lot of things to build off of, offensively, to be better than we were. We felt like we left some yards and points out there. Defensively, we felt like there’s a lot of things we can build upon to be better there. And for us to continue to build a program and keep getting better, we need to keep getting better at every game.”

Here’s what else Fisch discussed as his presser to open Colorado week:

On the defensive struggles: “I know that our defense will continue to improve tackling, and against the run. We know that we’ve had some struggles the last two weeks and we’re looking forward to the opportunity to get better there at practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.”

On where the roots of the defensive problems lies: “It’s usually the same thing, which would be tackling, it would always be the starting point. It’s that first tackle that (they’re) breaking through. I think the other part of it is that we weren’t necessarily in our gaps. We weren’t as gap sound as we would like to be and all of a sudden have two guys in one gap and nobody in the other gap and next thing you know that run can go. And when you’re a one-gap defense, meaning everybody’s responsible for one gap, if you have two guys in one gap and no one in the other, that’s where you can kind of get caught. And that’s really what got us both in the North Dakota State game and the Cal game.”

On how to improve tackling: “We do tackling drills at practice, but we don’t tackle to the ground in practice. At this point in the season, you’re in week five, to start tackling guys in the ground, other than our basics period at the end with our younger players that aren’t playing the games, we really can’t do that. But what we feel that we needed to emphasize more of is more tackling drills. So it’s not just gonna be one period, it’ll be two periods a day. Really, the key of tackling is body position, and if we can continue to emphasize being in the right body position, then I think we’ll do a better job of getting them down. I’ve never been anywhere where you take them to the ground in the season, so it would be probably the same for everybody.”

On possible personnel changes on defense: “We’re always gonna look to evaluate if there’s somebody that we can put in the game, or are there different packages that we can incorporate with ... let’s call it extra safeties or extra linebackers or extreme D-linemen or whatever it might be that you need to do to stop the run. We’ve kind of been researching that, looking at that today, looking at that yesterday afternoon and just seeing if there’s some things that we need to do differently or if we just need to really be more gap sound and more fundamental sound when it comes to stopping the run a couple more times. There were three third down and threes and two of them we were tackling them in the backfield. And we had one situation where it should have 4th and 6 and they would have had to kick a field goal and they wound up pushing the pile all the way through and we can’t let that happen. We’ve got to be able to have two guys around to make that tackle.”

On Jayden de Laura’s career-high passing performance at Cal: “I think if you ask Jayden he’ll say there was probably about another 100 out there that he would like back as well as probably one of those interceptions.”

On the run game at Cal: “I think we ran for 150 total yards, there was 15 yards in sacks that got taken away from that. We ran the ball fine, we ran the ball when we needed to. We really didn’t have a problem moving the ball up and down the field. On the first play of the third quarter we ran the ball for a 10-yard game. It was first and 10 on the 45, ran the ball again, it was second and 7, ran the ball again and got stopped and then threw it, it was incomplete. And then on the next drive, we got stopped on an option play on 3rd and 2, and then the game was about an 18-point game that became an 11-point game. Still mixed the run in a little bit. But I thought that our passing game was outstanding.”

On the delay of game penalty in the third quarter: “There was a little bit of a communication (issue) going on (of) is that (incompletion to Dorian Singer in the end zone) being reviewed? Are we looking at that? We’re trying to get information, to not have to use a timeout ... as they’re telling me that they’re looking at it. And while they’re telling me they’re looking at it, by the time we were told that it’s going to stand I think there was nine seconds on the play clock. We have to look at the mechanics of that. I needed to call time out or Jayden needed to call time out, and we didn’t. And then we need to make sure that we just can’t go backwards in that situation. We were on the 17-yard line. And it was, at that point in time an 11-point game, it was 35-24.”

On Singer’s emergence as a go-to receiver: “I would say Dorian has embraced the grind of what we’re asking him to do. He’s embraced playing every snap. I think his numbers are close to like 98 percent, 97 percent of the snaps in games. His hands are exceptional. He can really make any contested catch. We threw that one ball behind him a little bit on that in cut, which normally he would make, I would expect Dorian to make that. But when you look at what he’s done, really since he’s been here, arrived here as a walk-on, earned himself a scholarship based on the way he played the last five weeks of last season. Then embrace all the TMac and the Jacob (Cowing) talk all offseason, and just kept working, working working. Never missed a rep. I don’t believe he ever missed a practice in spring or fall. And then has continued to improve his ability to to make a bunch of plays, and he’s now really got great playmaking ability. And his blocking improved this past week as well. There was a couple of runs that we ran early in the game where he ended up really being the guy that washed down the safety to allow Mike Wiley to bounce two runs.”

On Singer’s dual-sport abilities: “I think he’s really an innate, instinctual basketball player. He’s a phenomenal basketball player. And when you watch some of the things that he does, you can see basketball was his first sport or his first love. You watch him with the ball in his hands. You watch his his eye-hand coordination. I think the instincts come from when he’s catching the football. But when he’s learning the route running, the run blocking, the spatial recognition that occurs on a football field, I think every day is is a development there and I’m really impressed with how hard he’s working to get better at being a great wide receiver.”

On the initial expectations for TE Tanner McLachlan: “Throughout camp we really enjoyed watching his progression when he was coming back from the knee injury , and seeing how talented he was as a catcher. What we needed to see is, could he cut. It was all straight-line speed. We were just working, all throughout the spring practice was straight line, straight line, straight line. And as we were continuing the process of seeing who was gonna play for us and in the evaluation and how we’re trying to build the offense to where we wanted it to go, his athleticism was showing up, but we weren’t really sure. As each week has progressed, he’s become more confident in our system, and as he becomes more confident I think that he’ll continue to to make plays. I think he had 88 yards receiving this past week. And again, there was probably about another 25 or so that we could have gotten on the ball. I expect him to continue to be a nice vertical threat for us.”

On RB Speedy Luke: “Speedy is doing fine. He’ll probably be out for four weeks to six weeks. It’s traditional numbers for an ankle sprain of his nature and his position. So we’re out about one week right now and then we’ll have to see how he does, how he progresses. But the challenge of course is always how quickly can you come back as long as you come back healthy. So he’s hitting the rehab hard. And while he’s in the rehab, I feel really good about DJ (Williams), Jonah (Coleman) and Michael, and then we’ll have that competition for that fourth spot with Drake (Anderson) and (Stevie) Rocker and some of the other guys.”

On not playing more of the younger receivers and tight ends: “It’s just always been my philosophy anywhere I’ve ever been that we haven’t played a ton of receivers in a season. We play at a fast tempo, we don’t substitute a lot. When we do substitute we substitute guys to come in for certain plays or packages. But I think that the whole idea is to play your best, just like you do in the NFL, and then if there’s somebody that has an opportunity to stow a guy or develop, you develop on the practice field, and then as your time continues to come that’s when you make your strides.

“These guys are freshmen, and we’re playing with a lot of freshmen but we don’t need to play just with the freshman team. There’s a great amount of experience there. Tanner’s played a lot of football, just not here. Alex (Lines) has played a lot of football. And then Keyan (Burnett) is continuing to grow and build and learn, and then I think as Keyan continues to get better Keyan’s going to be a special tight end for us. As is Kevin Green. Kevin Green is going to be an outstanding slot receiver for us. I think AJ (Jones) is going to continue to grow and be a really, really good wide receiver for us in the future. But the beautiful thing that you have in college football is you have time, and you don’t have to make those decisions immediately. And you just let the best guys play and the next group work really hard to find a way to get on the field. And then as they continue to improve your depth improves and your team improves.”

On de Laura’s pooch punt at Cal and his impromptu one vs. North Dakota State: “We learned about his punting ability in camp when we decided that we were going to have that ability to have the quick punt, or the quick kick that we used this week, which we missed by about a quarter of an inch. That would have been a fantastic (situation), being up 14-7, make them drive 99 1/2 (yards) there. The North Dakota State one was interesting. We were trying to go fast and they switched the ball out, so Singer had a ball and the ball was spotted, and no one knew what to do with the second ball so they just threw it right to Jayden and instead of him chucking it he just turned around and punted it. He’s beautiful.”

On the improved OL play: “The offensive line is getting better every week. Brennan Carroll has done a great job with our offensive line. And you watch Jordan Morgan’s progression, I think that Jordan is playing at a fantastic level of left tackle right now. And then as you go throughout the offensive line. I think we’ve up six sacks or eight sacks, something like that. But I’d say probably we’vee really given up about two, three sacks. A couple of them we just take it based on time, based on a situation, based on the snap over a head or snap on a ground ball. I think Josh Baker, we’ve had one or two snap issues, but other than that you see his development. Paiton Fears is playing better than he did a year ago, he’s more comfortable in the office, what we would ask him to do. Big Jonah (Savaiinaea), we’ve talked about him really since he’s arrived how fortunate we are that we got big Jonah here early so he can be a starter for us, and he’s proven that. And then Josh Donovan has been there, with Sam Langi now, for a bunch of years of college football and those guys working together and spelling one another has helped us to be able to play six offensive linemen, not five. I think that really helps our depth and also to be able to stay fresh.”

On the play when Cal’s Jadyn Ott escaped from a scrum for a touchdown: “The push the pile philosophy is ... every official officiates that completely different. Sometimes they stop it quick, because they’re trying to, they’re talking about the health and safety of how many guys are stopping forward progress. Other times they let the play go a little bit longer. Other times you’re somewhere in the middle. Other times ... how many defensive players are jumping in the pile will determine ... how quicklg they’ll blow the whistle. I think you just play through the whistle, and that’s what we talked about to our team about. You don’t make a decision when the play is over. The officials make the decision when the play is over. And therefore we just have to always, without a doubt, find a way to play through the whistle, not assume the whistle is coming.”