Everything Jedd Fisch said after Arizona's 45-20 loss to Utah
Utah ran for a season-best 306 yards, Arizona fumbled the football seven times while losing four of them, and the Wildcats walked out of Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday evening with a 45-20 loss.
Coach Jedd Fisch told the group they now have a three-game season to try and reach bowl eligibility. They’ll need to be better than they were.
He met with reporters after the game to talk about what went wrong. Here’s everything he said, with video of the press conference below.
“Very disappointed in the outcome tonight. We need to coach better. We need to play better. We need to protect the football better. Those three things, you can always start and stop there. If we don’t do that well none of it’s gonna matter.
“I also told our team we’ve got a three-game season right now and I love the way our team fights. I mean it is special. If you can feel them on the sideline. You get a defensive stop, you hold them to a punt and then you drop the punt and you have to put them right back out there on the 9-yard line and all 11 of them sprinted out there, and I can point to numerous times that that occurred in the game. We get them to a safety and the first thing Noah Fifita says to me is let’s go score a touchdown, and let’s go for two. And that’s what you want.”
“We’ll certainly need to clean up a lot of things. But most of it came with just ball security, to be honest with you. You give Utah (four) turnovers, I would imagine that the stat is 0-and-a-million in beating them. I’m not planning on that to ever happen in a game again. But again, we got to learn from it and be better.”
On the fumble issues
“To point to the elements would be an easy cop-out. We didn’t handle it well. I don’t know. I don’t know. We fumble the ball on a punt return. Jacob (Cowing) fumbled the ball on a fourth-and-5 conversion. Jayden (de Laura) fumbled the ball three different times in the pocket, one time it looked like he had great security and they punched it out really well. Another time It slipped out of his hand. But it was on the ground like eight times (seven, specifically). So I would imagine it was probably the elements, but I would also imagine that we didn’t do a very good job protecting the ball, and that’s disappointing.”
On WR Jacob Cowing’s status
“We’ll know (Sunday), but we won’t make any comments on that until we know for sure where we’re at there.”
On Cowing’s decision to field the punt he muffed
“It was a tricky one. It looked like I think it had his hands on the 9-yard line or something like that. We usually would tell him we want to field that so we don’t have the ball on the 1 like we did to start the game. If you can catch it, now you’re in your normal offense rather than backed-up offense. The wind took it, for sure, but I trust Jacob Cowing’s hands. I think he just misjudged it, and he wound up dropping it. He made the right decision trying to catch it.”
On going for it on fourth-and-20 in the first half, and whether it was his call to go for it
“It’s always my call to go for it. We’re in a situation where we’re on the 34-yard line and it would have been a 52-yard field goal. That’s a lot for us. We’re about 40% over 42 yards and we haven’t kicked one over 50. You’re not gonna punt it because in that situation the sky punt guy was not really what we wanted to do there. So we felt like we had a good call. We had three guys over the sticks, and we had Cowing. They A-gap blitzed it and we didn’t squeeze it and that’s what happened. We wound up not able to protect it. We got what we thought we were gonna get there. We just didn’t really have much of a… it was a weird situation.”
On the third-and-1 deep throw that fell incomplete
“We called option to run the ball there to the weak side, and they lined up their free safety down there and blitzed it. Well, they were gonna blitz it, and the WILL linebacker walked up into the B gap, and when those things happen, we checked out of the play. It was press coverage on Jacob Cowing and we felt that traditionally he has been fantastic in those scenarios, and Jayden gave him a chance and we wound up not winning.”
On Utah taking away Cowing and Dorian Singer
“I’ll always credit Utah. I think I credited Utah every day this week. They do so many things well, and they are in a situation — you look at their team, you look at how they’re built — and we didn’t do a good enough job being able to attack her defense. I thought we had opportunities that we didn’t do a great job of taking advantage of. I thought we had times that we could have taken advantage of and we had a breakdown somewhere else. I certainly could coach better.
“All in all, it was not our best game and clearly that’s why the production wasn’t what the production has been every other game, or most of the games this year. But you go to Utah at night in the rain and we didn’t handle it well.”
On losing the field position battle
“I think that’s what got us a little bit. I think the first drive we wound up hitting Mike Wiley on that little angle route that took us… and then we fumbled the ball. We had a snap that we didn’t field well and then we didn’t have good field position. You’re trying to punt out of your endzone on a drive, so you’re punting from the minus-4 yard line. We ran a screen to give us a little space, but they got the ball on the plus 37-yard line or something like that. So that was tough. Then we ripped off a run and we’re able to tie the game 7-all. We just couldn’t get any momentum because we would move the ball past the 40 but didn’t end up (scoring). We turned it over a couple of those times when I thought we had touchdown opportunities.”
On Wiley’s long touchdown run not being ruled a touchdown
“I was a little confused on that as well. Something about the hand touching the pylon before the ball touched the pylon. I don’t know that rule. I was confused, honestly. They put the ball on the half-yard line. They said something to the effect of his hand touched before the ball touched so therefore it was on the half-yard line rather than in the endzone. We just ran a quarterback draw the second play and scored and kind of moved on.”
On the defensive play
“I know that they had 300 yards rushing, but you’ve got to think about the way the game was going, too. When you turn it over as much as we turned it over, they had 38 minutes time of possession. They handed the ball off it felt like a lot. They had a ton of carries and they wound up in a situation where they had 55 carries.
“When you have the ability to hand it off 55 times, you’re going to have a lot of yards rushing. We had 25 carries for 156, so I guess if we doubled it, we’d have 50 for 312. What we’re trying to do is avoid those games where 55 runs are occurring.
“But I thought our defense honestly did a tremendous job. They fought, they got them off the field, they took the ball away twice, they stopped them on the 1-yard-line going in. We always tell them you defend every yard, every blade of grass. When you do that, those things happen. And then when you also look at it in terms of the way our defense responded when a turnover occurred on offense, they took the ball away one of those times and they did a decent job.
“But we’ve got to be better on defense, we played a ton of young players, which was fun to see. Deuce Lane was out there were. One time I looked out there we had four freshman defensive linemen out there at the same time. I thought Ta’ita’i (Uiagalelei) had his best game, made a lot of plays. Duece Lane made a lot of plays, (Jacob) Kongaika made a lot of plays. Jacob Manu made a lot of plays. It’s fun seeing all those guys go out there. T-Mac probably had one of his best games, if not his best game. So, yeah, it’s fun to watch all these young guys go.”
On knowing when to pull the quarterback
“Based on a lot of different things. You’ve got to make a decision on where you are in the season, where you’re going. Is he getting hit a lot? You’ve got to keep a lot of things in mind as it’s going to try to be able to do the best thing we can do for our program, not just selfishly try to grab some stats by keeping someone in or something like that. So what I wanted to do, and what Jayden was very comfortable with is, at the point in the game that we made the decision, he understood that it was the right decision and he wanted to get himself fully healthy for UCLA. And we wanted to see what we can do in the fourth quarter.”
On whether he views the lopsided nature of the loss as a setback
“No. I just view it as a game that we play in this season that these things happen. We went to Utah, we’ve just played back-to-back-to-back games. Washington is 7-2, I think Oregon is 8-1, I think USC is 8-1, and these guys are 7-2, and we’ve played back-to-back-to-back-to-back and went on the road to play this one. So we knew this was going to be quite a challenge. Our team isn’t set back at all. I just hope we’re all healthy.”