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What Jedd Fisch and Arizona players said after win over UTEP

arizona-wildcats-football-postgame-jedd-fisch-jacob-cowing-jayden-delaura-gunner-maldonado-utep-2023 Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona won its third consecutive game at home, beating UTEP 31-10 on Saturday night to wrap up its nonconference slate. It was another strong defensive effort, while the offense took a little while to get going but still ended up with a season high in yardage and committed just one turnover.

“I thought today was the best team win that I can remember that we’ve had,” Arizona coach Jedd Fisch said afterward. “And now we gotta get to Pac-12 play. We got to up our game. We got to play better, and we got to see what we can do moving forward.”

Here’s what else Fisch, quarterback Jayden de Laura, wide receiver Jacob Cowing and safety Gunner Maldonado had to say following the win:

Fisch on the defense: “Really, really proud of the way defense is playing. Three points against NAU, 10 points tonight. To be able to play that type of defense, and the defense they played last week as well. I think our defense is really stepping up. I think at one point they were under 30 yards rushing at the end of the third quarter or something to that effect. I think UTEP came in here really wanting to establish the run game, be physical. I think they have a very good football team that’s battling through and doing everything they possibly can right now to find that identity and make some plays. Hats off to the defense, the defensive staff put together a great plan against a different type of scheme than we’re accustomed to going against.”

On the offense: “Very, very efficient. I think (de Laura) was 79.3 (percent). I don’t think he’s ever hit that number before (at Arizona). He had three touchdowns, no interceptions, 285 yards passing. Really played clean football, really clean football. That’s what we asked of him and challenged in this week to do.”

On Cowing getting 10 catches against his former team: “Wanted to make sure we got him the ball, get the ball in his hands. And glad to get him that touchdown catch.”

On Tetairoa McMillan: “Another big time catch. As we all know he makes those naturally. He had another good game. I think he’s disappointed clearly that he put the ball on the ground, did make up for with a touchdown, and we know what kind of football player he is.”

On McMillan’s one-handed catch: “I’ve seen a lot at this point. I’m going to see a lot of those over the next few years. He’s super gifted.”

On Michael Wiley: “Mike Wiley did a great job, and the whole running back corps. I felt we ran the ball extremely well today.”

On only having 7 points in the first quarter in 3 games: “We talk about scoring fast, and we want to make sure we continue to play good football right off the bat. We’ll work through it and see if we can score faster earlier.”

On the run game: “All five of those guys(including de Laura) had great production on the ground, and when you can do that and you can have 25 (or) 30-something carries, 32 carries for 244 yards, that’s a really, really good day at the office. That’s over, that’s about eight yards of carry. And I think I credit that to our offensive line. Coach (Brennan) Carroll does a great job of putting the running game together and coordinating that, and then to be able to mix in the running backs. Coach (Scottie) Graham has a great feel on which back should go in when. It’s fun to see all of them do things.”

On what he has liked most about the defense: “The team defense. The fact that when ... you’re able to play fundamentally sound, great technique, and then be able to at all three letter levels, the D-line, the linebacking corps and the secondary, were all able to make sure the fits were right. The force was right. The communication seemed to be at an all-time high of our games, based upon many guys were never out of a gap. It didn’t ever feel like we ... were not in the right position to make a play. And that comes down to communication, that comes down to the amount of time that is spent walking through plays, practicing, the preparation involved. The coaches have done a tremendous job. And I think when you play great team defense, we’re now going to just assume we’re going to play with great effort. We’re going to assume that we’re going to always run to the ball. But then when you can become gap sound and fundamentally sound, that’s when you can really take that defense to the next level of having one or two guys at every point of attack.”

On the offensive line: “We’re really proud of the development of our younger guys. Coach Carroll has done a great job of not just coaching them but identifying the talent, who to bring in, who to coach. The type of efforts he wants to get from those guys. We know that Jordan Morgan coming back was a huge plus for the program. We know that Jonah Savaiinaea is continuing to grow. And then Josh Baker, he’s the unsung hero. Really nobody talks about Josh, what Josh has done. I mean, he knows this offense inside and out, his relationship with Jayden and the way they can communicate, whether or not to check a play, whether or not to change the play, how we’re gonna pick something up. Those type things that Josh is able to do is really what’s enabled the offensive line to gel.”

On Jordan Morgan: “His athleticism at left tackle is demonstrated, that we can pull him, we can kick out with him. He’s such a great athlete that he can cover ground downfield. He’s a fantastic puller. He’s a great athlete, NFL scouts love that part of him. He certainly helps us. This was a great game for us to be able to make them defend the whole width of the field. Other times we’ll make them defend end zone to end zone, but this was a type of game that really, we were a downhill running team. We were able to get our yards in a lot of chunks in the run game, and then be able to make them chase a couple (plays) sideline to sideline.”

On if the nonconference slate has prepared Arizona for Pac-12 play: “We saw a couple of different defenses throughout these three games. Now it’s a matter of being able to really focus in on these next nine games, at one game at a time. Right now everybody seems to be healthy. I keep saying I’m hopeful for (Raymond) Pulido, we at least got him to the game this week, so he was there. So that’s our first step. Then we’ll see what that looks like to get him back. I love the way the other guys are playing getting experience. I think that the fact that Speedy Luke, DJ (Williams), Michael, Jonah (Coleman) are all able to carry the ball and be able to move, that’s going to give us great advantages throughout the Pac-12 conference. Butt we got to be better. We got to be better in every facet. We got to score more points, and we got to get back to the drawing board and see what we can do to continue to be the explosive offense we want to be.”

Cowing on facing his former team: “Pretty cool, going against some of the guys that, when I first got to UTEP they got there too and they’re still there. It was kind of cool going against them in a live game and not practice.”

De Laura on the offense: “I just got the ball into this guy’s (Cowing) hands, T-Mac’s hands, Montana’s hands. Just let them make plays. I don’t need to do too much, and it’s kind of what we went over when we were watching film against Mississippi State. Just use all the tools.”

On T-Mac’s catch: “That’s an everyday thing. I’m gonna put it out there: he is probably the most athletic person I’ve ever been around. He can pick up any sport and dominate.”

On the run game: “The run game really helped us with the pass game. We needed to get the run game started early in the game, early in the first quarter. We’ve got a great running back room, and if they’re rolling, that makes (the receivers’) job easier running routes, and that makes my job easier throwing the ball. We just rely on them to do their job, and the O-line to do their job blocking up front.”

On if it’s been difficult to be told not to try to do too much: “Not now,with the maturity that I have now, and the relationships I have with these guys. I kind of understood easily what Coach Fisch is talking about. I wish we had kind of ... run over this topic earlier, before the year, but it was good. I had to hear it. I really kept that in the back of my head. When I had to run I ran, when I had to throw it away I threw it away. And then when there were other times when I could go out there and make something happen, like the pitch to Wiley, I rolled out and we were just on the same page.”

On Josh Baker: “Josh is one of the hardest workers around in this building. He’s not ready talked about. It’s crazy to be in meetings, because we have meetings on Fridays in the morning, and he’s just sitting there clicking through (things). He’s calling it like he’s a coach.”

Maldonado on what’s different about the defense from a year ago: “I think communication has been a big deal. Just another year with Coach (Johnny) Nansen. Got a bunch of guys that were here last year, they know the defense well. And then just the culture. (Martell) Irby comes in and changes the energy in the room. That’s not something that you get with every person. We’re getting coached hard, and we like it that way.”

On what he’s learned most this season: “Don’t try to do too much. Just do my job and trust the other 10 guys, just be disciplined. Do your 1 of 11 and trust the rest of them.”