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What Jedd Fisch, Jayden de Laura and Martell Irby said after Arizona’s win over NAU

arizona-wildcats-football-postgame-jedd-fisch-martell-irby-jayden-delaura-nau-recap-quotes-2023 Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona’s 2023 season got off to a great start on Saturday night with a 38-3 win over NAU. The Wildcats were able to avenge the embarrassing home loss to the Lumberjacks from two years ago while showing off a revamped defense, not to mention offensive efficiency and a big play on special teams.

“We’re getting better,” UA coach Jedd Fisch said afterwards. “We’re certainly getting better as a team. I mean, two years ago, we sat here against this team and didn’t have the same conversation. And it’s a testament to the way our assistant coaches that recruited, it’s a testament to the amount of players that we have that are young coming in that can contribute and were able to get in this game.”

Our full recap can be found here, as well as our take on the players of the game. Below is what Fisch, quarterback Jayden de Laura and cornerback Martell Irby said afterward.

Fisch on the game overall: “Good start to the season. I really think that all three phases played good, complimentary football. I would certainly say that it was a good, hard fought game. I think we showed that we have ... our defense has improved. I think that’s been very clear. They played with great passion and energy. I thought that was nice to see. I thought that it was good to see, really, everybody work to get better every play, and they took the challenge of being a physical football team tonight. There were some penalties that came along with their passion and their energy, and kind of their, let’s call it four weeks of practicing against themselves. I think that showed up a little bit, that we need to clear up. And we will, we certainly will. But I don’t think there was any question that they played with incredible passion and energy tonight, at all three phases.”

On NAU: “That was a physical football game, and hats off to NAU. I thought they came in here with a physical mentality. They were very much a team that came in with confidence. I thought they played very hard, and I think Coach Ball does a great job with this team.”

On how he thought the offense fared: “It was strange. Jayden was 18 for 24. We had 53 played for 478 yards. We were 4 of 5, I think, in the red zone. Where I was disappointed is that we wound up giving the ball away twice when we shouldn’t have. One of them was a fumble on 1st and 10 and one of them was an interception on 1st and 10. I thought Jayden was very efficient. That one interception late, that was strange, something got ... him and T-Mac just weren’t on the same page there. We got to clear that up. Other than that, obviously we don’t want to turn the ball over with the fumble. But I’m really, really excited with how Jonah Coleman played. I thought he had a really big game tonight. Gave him a game ball. And great to have Jordan Morgan back.

“For the small amount of plays (that we had) ... I think we had a very efficient night. But there’s a lot to clean up. And I would say, that as we continue to build this offense with the expectation of being elite, we can’t have those couple plays.”

On Jayden de Laura’s 53-yard TD run, and if he would have made that play last season: “I don’t know if he would have been as fast as he is now. He ran a zone read play and pulled it and felt it crashing in and took it. I just don’t know if he had that same burst as he does now. We always talk about how a good job our strength staff does, and I think that’s another indication. I think he was flying. I didn’t know he had that in him, so it was nice to see him take it up the sideline. I thought he did a great job on that one.”

On de Laura’s fumble and giving himself up on a play like that: “It’s one of those tricky deals. When you slide feet first you really expose your upper body and your head in a rough way. We try to slide headfirst and protect yourself. That’s something that we we’ve talked a lot about. That was not that. That was trying to play fullback. We do not like that. So we need to work on really protecting himself in a better manner. I think he would tell you he should have scrambled earlier, he sat back in the pocket forever there waiting for something to happen. I think if he took off a little bit earlier, there would have been a little bit easier way for him to give himself up. And that’s what you need to do in those situations. There’s no place (for that), we don’t need for him to expose his head in that regard, or really his body.”

On the running backs: “Our running backs, we’ve been talking about them all year, how good of a group they are. They all catch. They all go through past routes every day with us. They’re really good runners. But in addition to being really good runners, they have an ability out of the backfield that really makes them a dual threat. And the fact that all four of them are capable of doing that really allows us to be able to put anybody in at any given time and keep them fresh. You can see when DJ (Williams) went in, you can see how hard it was to tackle (him) because he had such fresh legs after the other two guys were playing the first quarter and a half.”

On the defensive performance: “Very excited with the way the defense played because they played, not just extremely hard, but they played for 60 minutes. I mean, every time they had to go out there they went out there with energy, passion and a ferociousness. The idea (of) being able to bring more players in, we’ve talked about that defensively with the defensive front. That rotation makes a huge difference. You can see a fresher player makes a difference. They’re harder to block. Now we got a challenge coming up this week with an SEC school that is going to have a really big offensive line that we’re going to have to really be able to rotate our guys then as well. But it was certainly nice to see probably four or five linebackers played the game tonight, and certainly eight to 10 defensive linemen, if not more.”

On Martell Irby’s play: “First, we gave him a scholarship last night, so that was awesome to be able to do that. I saw there was an article written about his story, and I thought it was awesome that we were able to share with Tucson, what this kid has gone through and how important it was for him to play this year. And he did it, really, off pennies, and the fact that we were able to give him a scholarship was awesome. And then for him to come in and then play as much as he played, the passion, the energy he brings. He is certainly a huge asset to our program. So it’s great to have that contribution.”

On Gunner Maldonado getting ejected for targeting: “The call is the call, the call was the right call. I mean, it is what it is. We got to keep our head out of the game. And it was the right call not to call it on Jacob (Cowing). I thought when they threw the flag it was gonna be targeting on Jacob and it wasn’t, they kept their head out of the game. We need to do a better job with that. We can’t risk, or suffer of the consequences. Now Gunner can’t play the first step of next week. I know they’ll review it and look at it and maybe they’ll say he can (play), but I don’t think he can. I thought (Isaiah Taylor) stepped in, and the good thing is, we talked about the safety battle all of camp, the safety battle really was just an ongoing battle that really all those guys were expected to play, and all those guys have the ability to play. So I don’t think it was a real drop off at the time, but I thought Gunner was playing really good football. It certainly looked like the defense certainly continued to play a very, very high level regardless of who was playing safety.”

On the penalties, and if they were similar to ones during the final scrimmage: “I think tonight’s penalties were a little bit different because in scrimmages you don’t ever have like roughing the passer or those types of penalties. So those aren’t ones that necessarily exist. I don’t think we had a holding penalty, but we definitely had way too many penalties, 11 penalties for (89) yards, a lot of that I think came with passion. But we’re gonna clean it up. We’re gonna get after that part of it for sure. And we can’t have, what three or four personal fouls ... and then we had a couple of defensive offsides. We just can’t have that that’s not going to be a winning formula for us and we know that, and we will attack that as well.”

On Treydan Stukes leaving the game due to injury: “The details aren’t really clear at this point, but we did have to take Stukes out based upon a hit during the game.”

On freshman Raymond Pulido’s absence: “Raymond Pulido had a little bit of a bike accident on Thursday night (riding) home from practice, so he was not able to play in the game. But I believe he’ll be back. He unfortunately, Thursday night on his way home from practice, about 6:15 wound up falling off his bike, I guess. We took care of that, stitched him up, but kept them at home. Hopefully he’ll be back next week, and if he is then he should be able to be full go.”

On facing Mississippi State: “We got a big challenge ahead of us this week coming up against Mississippi State. We got to be a better football team. We got to get less penalties. Better all the way around. Coaches, players alike. We’ll do a good job getting into the tape, we’ll get our players back here tomorrow and we will attack the film and get ready for a very good SEC opponent across the country.”

Irby on getting put on scholarship: “That was nothing short of a blessing. I can’t really explain it, coming out here, my circumstance and situation, all that I feel like transpired before that, prior to that. I just feel like it’s just a testament to God’s grace. I’m just glad that my love for the game turned into a scholarship.”

On the defense playing so well all game: “I gotta start firstly with Coach Johnny Nansen, Coach Akina and all the way down, all of our coaches just harping on effort. Not something that you show one play or another play, but giving your all whether the ball’s coming to your side or across the field. I feel like throughout spring ball, throughout camp that’s something that was one of our main, main topics. And tonight that showed. We’re just going to continue to try and take it to the next level.”

On defensive coordinator Johnny Nansen’s postgame message to the team: “He was excited. He was happy that we were able to take what we were talking about during the week and apply it. Obviously there’s so many things that we need to correct.”

On the blocked field goal and what it meant to the team: “That’s something that we work on every day. It was just a beauty to see the hard work turn into execution, turn into a big moment for the team.”

De Laura on Irby: “From the first day he came in, he’s probably if not the hardest worker one of the hardest workers. Humble guy, he really don’t talk about himself at all. Not that I can remember. Keeps his nose clean, keeps his head down, keeps the main goal the main goal and then he’s a great person on and off the field. So I know I can rely on him if I ever need anything.”

On his fumble and if he would have done things differently: “At the end of the day, I’m just playing football. When you second guess yourself that’s when you usually get hurt. I’m out there just playing. If I go out there (again) I’d probably do it different, but I can’t.”

On if he could have made the 53-yard TD run last year: “I think I could have did it last year, too. I think. That’s just credit to (Tyler Owens) just getting me faster, stronger and more confident in my running.”

On his confidence in the running backs: “Very confident, I would say. Our running backs can really do a lot of things. I trust them. I trust them to make plays, to play football. Just not even think about it, and it’s just a credit to their hard work.”

On what he remembers from last year’s Mississippi State game: “All in all, I just got to be better. Take care of the ball, distribute the ball to the playmakers and really just stick to Coach Fisch’s game plan. It’s simple, I just got to get better.”