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What Jedd Fisch, Dalton Johnson and Tanner McLachlan said after Arizona’s loss to No. 7 Washington

arizona-wildcats-football-washington-huskies-postgame-jedd-fisch-dalton-johnson-tanner-mclachlan Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Arizona was unable to pull off a major upset on Saturday night, falling 31-24 at home to 7th-ranked Washington before a sold out crowd on Family Weekend. The Huskies were the highest-ranked opponent to play at Arizona Stadium in 10 years, and the Wildcats gave them their toughest test of the season.

“We told our team all week it was gonna be a heavyweight fight,” UA coach Jedd Fisch said afterward. “We felt it was gonna go all 12 rounds. We felt like we were going to be in a position at the end to win or lose, based upon the last possession, and that’s what happened.”

Our full recap from the game can be found here. Below is what Fisch, safety Dalton Johnson and tight end Tanner McLachlan had to say about it.

Fisch on the overall performance: “I thought our defense played outstanding. But not surprising. Not surprising. Our defense has played great all year. And everybody just wants to come up with a reason why. The reason why is because they play great team defense. That they respect one another, trust one another, love one another and play for each other. And that is what it’s all about. Offensively, I thought we did a lot of good things, under some interesting circumstances. Obviously, there’s a couple of things we would like back, as we always would. Wish I could call perfect game, but I’m not sure that’s ever happened. I wish we could all be perfect in everything we do. But I would say we had a lot of great opportunities tonight to be in position to take this game down to the very end. It was just a great game.”

On Noah Fifita’s first start at QB: “I though he did a really good job. I thought he handled the play calling extremely well. We had one penalty for 12 men in the huddle, that’s something you learn from. We had one time he tried to audible and we had a false start. Couple of penalties there. We threw one interception that we want back. Those are things that we all talk about, regardless of the quarterback we can’t be careless with the football, and that was the one time there that I would say we want that back. Other than that, I thought his decision-making was excellent. I thought he used his legs at the right time. I thought he was very accurate on most of his throws. If you look at the way he handled himself, no one would have ever known it was his first college start. He was everything we expected him to be. As I said all week long, If Noah was going to start there was not going to be one change in what we did. And that’s because of the way all those guys prepared in the quarterback room.”

On the status of injured starters Jayden de Laura and Michael Wiley: “I think both of them are pushing very hard to come back. And we didn’t really know for sure, until really when they woke up this morning, what they could or couldn’t do. And I would imagine they’ll be back in the tubs tomorrow early, and fighting to get back on the field. I know they missed this opportunity very much. And what we’ll do is we’ll see what that looks like all week long, but recognize that Jonah (Coleman) and DJ (Williams) and Noah all stepped up, and I think the whole team rallied behind the group and were ready to play.”

On falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter: “We had a thought process there that we were gonna have to settle in on both sides of the ball a little bit and see what it was gonna look like. We didn’t settle in the way I thought we would initially, offensively. I thought we’d be ready to go quicker. Defensively, I knew we’re gonna get a lot of challenges early. But the message that I sent to the defense all week long, the message that I’d said to Johnny (Nansen) all week long was, they’re gonna make plays. They’re gonna make plays. Live with it. They’re a very, very good offense. And when that happens, you have to be able to handle it. And don’t flinch. Don’t panic. Don’t get nervous. Stick with your plan. You got a great game plan ready for these guys. So what if it happens early? They went up 14-0 early, then we got the ball, we had a 13-play time we scored a touchdown, it’s 14-7. Now it’s a normal game. I think everybody settled down after that second drive of the game for both sides of the ball. Everybody played good football after that.”

On Tetairoa McMillan playing through injuries: “I tried to pull him out about five different times, I don’t know if you guys caught it, but he was just waving me off. When he was trying to massage his shoulder, massage his elbow. He got tackled that one time when he was running a chase route. But he’s tough as nails. He got one defensive holding, one DPI. Didn’t flinch, kept going, made plays for us throughout the whole game. He caught two touchdown passes. He’s a fantastic football player. His attitude is just fantastic every time he gets out there.”

On his message to the team afterward: “They had (25) first downs, we had (28) first downs. They had 31 points, we had 24 points. It went back and forth. We battled, we fought. We’re a good football team. So, we finished a little short in this one. Maybe the next one we won’t. We feel the program’s turning, or turned,whatever the right word is. We got here two years ago off of 12 losses in a row a 63-point defeat, and it took a while to build it and recruit the way we want to recruit and bring the right people in here and get the coaches the way we want them, and get the players in here to believe in what our program is. And I believe our players believe that. You’re not going to win every single game, or not yet, but we are going to keep fighting badly, and I think our guys walk away proud with how they played. Disappointed on the outcome and fired up to go play USC.”

On pressuring Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. and the play on 3rd down: “We had two sacks on him, which he’s traditionally not sacked. We had a couple of pressures on him that we needed. They converted on a 3rd and 14 that resulted in a touchdown, that one hurt us. I mean, they made an unbelievable catch and throw on third down over Dalton Johnson to the tight end, and that’s just great football. I mean, they got good players. They got big players ... and that was great coverage. I think that there’s probably a couple of those third downs that, if the ball goes up in the air then we might have stopped them. And then there was the other one (where) we ripped the ball out on the third down. I thought Stukes landed in bounds with it, but they said they couldn’t tell. But other than that, I thought our defense just battled and played good football. I mean that was good football against a great offense. Coach Nansen has gotten these guys to play extremely hard. They chase the ball, they run the ball, they know what’s coming, they’re prepared, and you can see it in the way we play. I mean, that was the No. 1 offense in the country and a 7-point game.”

On the sellout crowd: “That was a fantastic turnout, a fantastic showing. It was great energy out there. I love the passion, man, that’s why you coach college football. That’s why we’re all here.”

Johnson on the defense reacting to Washington’s play calling: “A lot of sideline adjustments. Just realizing what worked and what didn’t. In our nickel personnel, we were trying to obviously take away the deep shots, so we were staying on top in the third level. You gotta a linebacker on free release back trying to play the low hole, and obviously you can get outflanked sometimes. Our adjustment was to stay in our dollar personnel and put a DB on that.”

On Arizona’s ‘Dollar’ package with 7 defensive backs: “I like that package a lot. I trust my DB brothers.”

On what Nansen said to the defense afterward: “We competed well, we executed well. Just got to put it behind us, focus on USC next week. He was super proud of us, he was letting us know how he loves the way we play.”

On if this was a moral victory: “You could benefit from this. Learn from it. It’s a lesson.”

McLachlan on Fifita’s performance: “Awesome. To come in and that be his first time starting, to go against a top-10 team, for it to come down to the end like that, I don’t think you can ask much more of him.”

On the shovel pass to him that was intercepted: “Just trying to get open so he could see me and make the connection. I should have come back through the ball and then knocked it out of the defenders hands.”

On the difference between Fifita and de Laura now that he’s played a full game with both at QB: “I mean, that’s kind of a loaded question. Really, I go out there I focus on my job, just doing my 1/11th. If the ball comes to me, great, if it doesn’t, just put my head down and work.”