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What Jedd Fisch said at his press conference to open UCLA week

arizona-wildcats-football-jedd-fisch-press-conference-osu-ucla-fifita-wiley-savaiinaea-2023-pac12 Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Jedd Fisch had to wade through is second field storming after Arizona upset No. 11 Oregon State, the team’s second consecutive win over a ranked opponent. A larger than normal amount of the announced crowd of 45,000-plus were still at Arizona Stadium when the clock hit zero.

Now comes a Homecoming clash against No. 20 UCLA, where Fisch previously coached and against whom he earned his first upset victory last season on the road.

“Should be a fantastic football game,” Fisch said of Saturday’s matchup, the five in a row against a ranked foe. “Really looking forward to Saturday night, the environment, and what it should look like for a big-time college football game against a really, really good team.”

Here’s what else Fisch had to say Monday at his press conference to open UCLA week:

On his evaluation of the Oregon State game: “I would say it was a very good team win. Holding that offense to only 24 points, seven of which came in a 2-minute drive at the end of the game. Which happened too quickly, but they were down 10 at that time. And then the way that special teams played. I thought offensively, again, it was one of those games (where) we had 62 plays of offense. There wasn’t a ton there. We had one turnover, which stopped the drive midfield. We had three series the whole (first half). All in all I thought it was an excellent team win, and probably one of the best overall team games.”

On Arizona’s special teams: “Looking back on the game that we just played, that was a lot of good film, a lot of good stuff to look at. I’d say the one thing that we didn’t necessarily hit on enough after the game was what a great job our special teams did in that game. If you look at the two punt returns, those were critical to the success of the team. You look at the two punts, we only punted the ball a couple of times. Changed your position both times, that long, long one from Kyle (Ostendorp), and then the punt that backed them up by Noah (Fifita). Both of those were huge plays. The onside kick that we were able to knock out of bounds ... was a big time play in a very tight, tight game. And then a 51-yard field goal by Tyler Loop. We talk so much about offense and defense ... I talked about that yesterday what a great job our special teams did.”

On the fourth quarter: “We did nice job moving the ball and did a nice job of stopping them when we needed to. And that was a critical part of it. It was a 3-and-out in the most critical time of the game. It was a 5 1/2-minute drive in the most critical part of the game.”

On safety Gunner Maldonado’s recent play: “I think Gunner sometimes got trapped into people thinking he was supposed to be covering somebody he wasn’t, thinking he was supposed to be on a play that he really wasn’t supposed to be a part of, so he kind of got knocked early. Not rightfully so. I don’t think he should have been knocked early like he was. I think he keeps getting better and better and better every single week. A lot of times there’s evaluations on guyss through whether it be PFF or others, that they think that a play is supposed to be defended by a certain guy and it’s not. So it is what it is. I think if you watch the way he’s tackling, he had 10 tackles, and the most important part of that is when you’re the safety, if you don’t tackle them that means nobody’s there. He did his job, and he does his job each week in practice and games, and I’m really excited to see Gunner continue to improve.”

On being able to run the ball in fourth quarter after struggling early: “The first half we had 27 plays, I think it was. We had 18 passes and nine runs. They played us a little differently than we expected them to in the first half defensively, so we had to adjust to that it. The way they they played with their bigs against our 12 personnel group, so we had to change some of our runs at halftime. We had to make some adjustments at halftime and then the third quarter, we wound up having just a couple of drives but we felt like adjustments we were going to make we’re going to come in handy at the right time. And then I felt as if we got to a point that our runners, we were able to substitute four different runners constantly. I think the defensive line got worn out a little bit.”

On what goes into changing a program’s culture: “When it comes to culture change, I mean, it starts with when you walk in the door and decide what you want the culture to be like. And then it’s a matter of how many players can buy into culture right away, believe in your culture. Then you’ve got some attrition that occurs, and sometimes you have addition by subtraction. Other times you have big losses and you have to be able to overcome those losses, in terms of players. What we needed to do is we needed to get younger players older. When you get younger players older then they can start getting to younger players behind them to understand the culture better. As our players continue to improve, improve on their fundamentals, a lot of our culture has to do with being fundamentally sound and trusting the process, embracing the grind. That’s a lot of our culture is, loving your teammates. And for that to be the case, that that takes time. That doesn’t just happen overnight. The grind is a long period of time. Loving your teammates, you just don’t love everybody right away. So we’ve invested a lot into that. I think that as we continue to grow, it also comes down to how good can we be schematically. Can we continue to improve there? I think we made a great focus in terms of what we do on offense. We’re a good offensive football team. And we’re a good defensive football team, and that’s part of our culture, being good not just in one phase. So I would say that’s really started to happen this year, where we believe that we’re a full team rather than just a stats team, where you’re just trying to be good in statistics or good in certain areas. You got to be a good team to be able to overall win. As we continue to grow, I think we’ll get better and better and better. More players will then tell the younger players this is how we do things. This is how we act. This is how we talk, this is how we practice.”

On Noah Fifita winning a third Pac-12 Freshman of the Week award: “He’s continuing to go out there and impress. I think he’s been rewarded for that. Noah certainly has gotten the accolades the last three (games), and that’s fantastic for Noah, rightfully so, he’s deserves it. He’s completed over 70 percent of his passes in each game, and I expect him to continue to get better.”

On right tackle Jonah Savaiinaea struggling vs. OSU: “There was a couple of plays that I think he’d like to have back for sure. A lot of it has to do with down and distance situations. You have to be aware as a lineman, are you pass setting like it’s 1st and 10 or are you pass setting like it’s 2nd and 10 or 2nd and 15. A lot of times on 1st and 10 you’re gonna run set, or a short set, so to speak, where it seemed like that’s Jonah did on that play, and would up getting beat on a quick inside move. Where if he really was processing that it was 2nd and long he would not have set like that. I would say that other times, you got to understand where your help is coming from. Most of our protections are slide projections, where your help is either coming from the guard to his left tackle or a tight end to his right. You learn from experience. He was a guard last year. He’s been a tackle most of this year, but we’ve also had to go in to play guard. And with reps will come more opportunities for him to really be better.”

On what’s enabled Kevin Green Jr. and Malachi Riley to get big targets: “The way they practice. You practice well, you practice hard, you’re gonna keep finding more opportunities. Those guys practice really, really well and really, really hard, and if you do that, you should get rewarded for that. When Jacob Cowing had to get evaluated for a tackle, we took it took him out and looked at him real quick. While they were looking at him we put Kevin Green in, and KG made some great plays. The one really obviously what we’re all talking about is the 30-yard play on a choice route, but KG can do all those things. Every chance he’s had to go in, he’s done a nice job. And then Malachi had a jet for a big play down the field, a 40-something yard gain with us backed at our own 6. The way he opens up his stride and the way he runs, he’s gonna be a special player for us here in the not too distant future.”

On being able to sell people on a vision without anything to back it up: “It’s not easy. But we believed 100 percent of what this program was going to become. We believed in the Tucson community. We believe in the University of Arizona, as a coaching staff, that we believe that we saw a vision of what we wanted to look like, and we spent all of our time selling our vision. And when you sell your vision and you talk through what you want it to look like and what you believe it (should be) looking like, we’re just getting started. And I know it sounds it feels like we’ve been around for a while, but not really. We’re barely into two and a half years. And I think that if we can continue to improve and get better, it’s not going to be as hard to sell.”

On letting Loop attempt a career-long 51-yard field goal: “I asked him how he was feeling pregame, he felt like the ball was coming off his foot really, really well. The air was great. We’re in our own stadium. We had a little altitude situation, so the ball flies off his foot, and I just felt like in that situation when he was as confident as he was, I was more confident in his foot than I was in a 4th-and-6 call at that time.”

On allowing a season-high 4 sacks: “Four sacks is too many. Certainly, the grounding was unnecessary. We didn’t need to take that, just throw the ball way there. Two the sacks, I’m not sure there was a way to get out of those. Hard play actions, where they kind of beat us on one pretty quickly, the other one he stepped in the pocket, they came back around. The goal here is to not take sacks, and how quickly you can get the ball out of your hands and throw with rhythm and timing is really critical.”

On Michael Wiley’s return from an ankle injury and having him out there late in the game: “I think we’ve all seen how good Mike is as a pass catcher, and as a blitz pickup guy. I didn’t want to play him more than about 10 or 12 plays in the game this game back, because you’re really never sure exactly how it’s gonna look. So we kind of had a plan for him this week. I feel much more confident, after watching him tiptoe down the sideline and turn the jets on, on a 40-yard completion. I saw him get tackled a couple times around his ankles, looked like he popped right back up. So we had a plan initially, of what we wanted that first game to look like, and now I feel very confident that he can go back to really being able to toe the rock and do all the things he can do.”

On Halloween: “Big Halloween guy, love candy. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. My favorites. Follow closely behind my peanut M&Ms.”