Part two of Steve Sarkisian‘s Monday press conference is in the video above. Below, you’ll find the 2,969-word transcript.
(Opening) Obviously a frustrating loss. We’re tired of being close; I have to admit it. We’re tire of being close. Played a good UCLA team on the road, and when you play a good team on the road you can’t spot them 14 points. The reality of it was, that’s what we did. We gave them great field position on the first two drives. They converted that into two touchdowns and we played catch-up the rest of the night.
I thought we had a couple of opportunities defensively to get the ball back and weren’t able to capitalize on that when the ball was on the ground to recover a couple of fumbles. Obviously the interception that gets called back on the pass interference and then three pass interference penalties on third down which those same three drives result in 21 points. So, some self-inflicted wounds that, when you’re playing a good team you can’t afford to do because they are going to earn their own yards their own way. Frustrating in that aspect.
I will say that I was proud of our guys and their ability to fight back when it was 27-7. I thought they showed a lot of grit, a lot of heart, to cut that lead to 27-24 and then probably the most critical drive of the game was when we cut it to 27-24, UCLA’s ability to put a drive together, convert three third-downs to extend that lead back to 34-24 and it kind of remained a 10-point game the rest of the way. We couldn’t cut into it.
Really disappointed, quite honestly. Frustrated. But the reality of it is, we’ve got to go play a team that’s hungry and upset because they’ve lot three heartbreakers in a row too. So we don’t have time to sit around with the ‘woe is me’mentality. We’ve got to get ready to go play in Corvallis on Saturday night on Senior Night for those guys — a hostile environment — and it’s going to take a great effort by our team to get a victory.
(on the Pac-12’s admission that the hands to the face call on Dexter Charles negating a touchdown should not have been called and how tough is that to swallow?) It’s tough because we already get penalized a lot. We get a lot of penalties, and the majority of those are deservedly so. But when you get one that isn’t and obviously very clear to see that it’s not a penalty — and not only is it not a penalty but it takes seven points off the board for you in a critical ball game — it’s hard. But the reality of it is, that one play is not the reason we lost the game. Sure, we would have loved to have had that touchdown — no doubt about it. But there’s other plays there too where we could have helped ourselves better.
(Is it getting to the point where all scores should be reviewed for every part of the play, given that scores are typically pretty important plays?) Again, I don’t pretend to be an official. I don’t…I’ve got a big enough job to do on my own. I know in speaking with the Pac-12, I sure would like to get to a point where we almost adapt the NFL model for review where all scoring plays are reviewed, all plays within two minutes are reviewed, anything outside of that put the onus on the coaches to decide to challenge or not. We’re obviously not there yet. That would be a play that wouldn’t be able to be challenged anyway, quite honestly. You live with the call and you play the hand that you’re dealt and you try and play through the adversity and go make the next play.
(on Keith Price’s toughness and mentality and have you already seen that this week? What will you need to see from him this week?) A lot to it…first of all, we’ve been through a lot of battles. Keith and I have been through a lot together. Saturday was hard on everybody. Our entire team knew he wasn’t going to come out in that second half. I wanted to make sure that he knew we were there for him, first and foremost. Two, I thought he showed a great deal of leadership knowing he couldn’t play to come back out on that field and be there for Cyler and the rest of the team. I thought it epitomizes what this guy stands for. He loves this university, he loves this football program. He was right out there, the first guy greeting guys coming off the field. That’s the first piece.
The second piece is, I’m not going to put him on the field if he’s not healthy enough to play. He’s going to have to show me Thursday that he’s able to make the throws that he’s capable of making. We’re going to allow that shoulder some time to get some of the swelling out of there, the inflammation out of there so he feels good on Thursday to go out and throw. And if he’s capable of doing that then we’ll play him. If he’s not we’ll go with Cyler (Miles). We’ll prep all week as if Cyler is the starter and he’s definitely capable of being that. Come Thursday, after Thursday’s practice, we’ll make a decision and move forward.
(What does he have with the shoulder and what’s the potential for him coming back?) He’s got a sore shoulder. He got landed on. He’s not exactly sure which play it was. It was the last two plays of the first half — he gets hit on both of them. The adrenaline is flowing, you’re excited, you’re playing the game — hard to tell. He didn’t really know. And then the pain set in after the incomplete pass on third down and we kick the field goal he was like, ‘ This thing is really hurting’. Where exactly it occurred or two hits in a row, whatever that was … the swelling was immediate in there and restricted his movement, restricted his ability to lift his arm above his shoulder in a throwing motion.
What our medical team has done, and in my opinion have done a great job already, is identifying it. The swelling is reducing rapidly; his movement is much better today than it has been the last couple of days. We’ll see where he’s at Thursday. I don’t count the guy out; he’s a fighter, he’s a competitor. I think he was playing a really good football game there in the first half. If the touchdown pass to String doesn’t get called back he’s well over 200 yards passing against a good defense. We’re hopeful to get him back; if not he’ll be the first guy there helping Cyler prepare and get ready to play Saturday.
(Is it structural with the shoulder, or just a matter of pain tolerance?) No. Just pain tolerance for him.
(Is it most likely just a one-week injury?) I don’t know. We’ll see. We’ve got to get ready for this ball game and we’ll see what Thursday tells us and then we’ll move from there.
(Does this feel at all similar to 2011 and the OSU game?) A little bit different in that the knee injury there and the ankle injury there going into that ball game were kind of lingering. They were adding up as the weeks went on. This is an isolated deal, so we don’t have quite as much information. I knew going into that week the amount of pain he had been going through for weeks and watching him battle through it in those ball games, and I made that decision earlier in that week to start Nick Montana. This one is a little bit different in the sense that it’s an isolated area for concern and how he responds to it. So a little bit different, but it’s similar in the fact that it’s Oregon State, it’s late in the season, it’s a ball game both teams would love to win.”
(on the two play calls at the end of the game and the choice to run the Wildcat) It was a play we had run earlier in the ball game that was very effective for us. We used Bishop (Sankey) on it earlier, it got us a good amount of yardage. It was a play we really felt like was going to work again and the look was there for us again. We had a bit of a mis-communication on that play where we didn’t execute it the way it was executed earlier in the ball game. Obviously it was a new quarterback in; it was a new left tackle in with Micah being out and there was a bit of a mis-communication. To UCLA’s credit, because of our miscommunication they had a player in place to make the play and he made the play, forced us into the fourth down.”
(on the fourth-down call) Fourth down we were anticipating man-to-man coverage which is what we got. We had liked our matchups on the perimeter whether it was with (Damore’ea) Strinfellow or with Austin (Seferian-Jenkins) or with Kevin Smith…allows the quarterback to go to the matchup that he feels great about at that time. He went with Stringfellow, which I don’t blame him at the time. Damore’ea was having a fantastic game. Maybe not his best throw, there was a little bit of contact and the ball went incomplete. I think it was a play where we gave the quarterback some options to go to the best matchup at his disposal and their guy made the play.
(on OSU’s screen passing game) That’s their system and they do a great job. Coach Riley is a tremendous offensive coach. They force you to defend down the field — 30, 40, 50 yards down the field, and when you put all your emphasis there, then it’s the slow screen game to the back, to the tight end, things of that nature. So you have to defend it all. In this conferences, there’s good offenses every week, there’s unique challenges, and this is another one. So our ability to defend these guys is going to be critical on Saturday night.
(on Cyler Miles) I think he’s got great athleticism. I think we’ll see him, as he plays more, he’ll run the football eve more. I think he’s trying to find his way some — when is the right time to run it, when is not? We need him to run it. That’s one of the assets he possesses when he’s on the field. He’s a very accurate passer. I think he has more arm strength than people give him credit for — we saw that in the game the other night. But his legs are something that need to be a factor with him in the game.
(How many times did you call a run option for Miles on Friday?) I don’t have the number in front of me … but it was probably a good five to eight times in that ballgame where he had an option to run it. There was probably two of them where I’d say, ‘Hey, Cyler, in the future I’d like you to run it there.’ He didn’t that night, but in the future, when he does, we all know what he’s capable of. We’ve seen it in a couple ballgames here in the past where he’s pulled that ball and made some big plays.
(How does he compare as a runner to Jake Locker?) He’s a little bit different. Jake is a very physical guy — Jake’s a very physical runner, strong. Cyler is a little more of a glider, a little more elusive, I think. I don’t think he’ll take quite as many hits as Jake, but I don’t think he’ll outrun as many people as Jake did. When Jake got the edge, he was going to outrun you. The guy’s a legitimate 4.4 speed; I don’t think Cyler has that speed, but I think he’s a little bit more elusive.
(On team’s ability bounce back) I think so. We’re a hardened group. I think we have a great deal of resolve in our locker room (and) amongst our coaching staff. Nobody’s happy. We’re not happy we didn’t win that game. We went down to L.A. to win the game and we didn’t. We’re upset about it. We’re frustrated, but we know what we’re capable of and we know there’s still plenty for us to go out and accomplish, and it’s going to take really good efforts to do so. But I think we’ve got the leadership in that locker room to do it; I think we’ve got really good coaches that can make it happen, and it started this morning and away we go.
(Is there something to the slow starts recently?) No. Everything’s been different, every time it’s been different. We didn’t hold onto the ball Friday night (with) two of our best players. I don’t know who else I’d rather have the ball in their hands than Austin and Bishop, and they knocked it out — good players knocked ‘ em out. So I think every game is different, every game takes on its own personality. We fell behind the other night for a variety of reasons — obviously fumbling the ball twice, getting pass-interference penalties on third down, but that hasn’t been the contast theme, whether it was Arizona State or Stanford or Oregon. It’s been a variety of things. But when you make mistakes against good teams, good teams capitalize on it. We’re not yet in a mold to handle making mistakes and then knowing that we can overcome those mistakes. So we need to go out and play a good, clean football game, and when we do we’re pretty good. That’s the goal for Saturday night.
(on Micah Hatchie’s injury) Micah’s still pretty sore. He got leg-whipped there in his lower leg in a goal-line scenario … Micah had been playing really good football for us. Micah’s been playing really good for the last month and half of the season. I thought that that had an affect on the game with (Ben) Riva moving to left tackle. Anthony Barr all of a sudden became involved in the game. So we need to get Micah healthy. As important as Keith is, Micah is really important, too, to what we do. So hopefully we get him back sooner rather than later.
(on penalties) I think our guys play really aggressive football, but we have to be smart. And then trusting our technique, in my opinion, is part of it. I think the one play in particular, the pass interference on Marcus Peters on the far sideline — he’s in awesome position, he’s in great position. If he turns around, he can intercept the pass. So I think it’s just the belief of knowing that we’re capable, when we’re doing things right, that we’re capable of being right. But when we grab facemasks and when we get pass-interference penalties and we jump and false-start, those are self-inflicted wounds that we don’t need to do to ourselves. We’ll continue to look at it. I’ve looked at every area and every aspect of this thing. The one area that is a little frustrating on our end — we are the most penalized team, but if you take our opponents’ penalties, they’re the least penalized opponents, of common opponents, in our conference. So that part’s a little discouraging to me.
I’m all about officiating the game and officiating it equally. If we’re going to have 11 penalties, and UCLA’s going to have eight, it is what it is. But when we go into ballgames and one team has 10 and the other team has two … that’s when it gets frustrating on our end. But I don’t think our guys are out there maliciously holding or getting pass-interference penalties. You just like to see it called equally for everybody. Whether that happens all the time or not, I’m not sure.
(on fans’ frustration) Nobody’s more frustrated than me, I can tell you that. You can ask our players that. I think we have a good football team. And because we’ve lost four games this year to four top-20 teams, three of which are on the road — that’s not an excuse, because we’re good enough to go beat those teams. I know we are. And whether it’s a mindset, whether it’s a hurdle that we can do it once so that we can do it twice and then a third time — but I know we’re capable of doing it. It’s frustrating for me — frustrating because I want these kids to have that success. They’re deserving of it; they work their tails off for me; they do everything we ask them to do. So for people to feel however they feel, I understand it. But believe me, if they could jump inside me and my heart and my head, nobody feels more frustrated and worse about it than me.
(Are you baffled some, because you’re so good at home?) I don’t know if I’ll use ‘baffled’ as the word. I am frustrated by it. We’re a good football team. For how good we played a week ago — forget who the opponent was — the way we played the game a week ago (against Colorado) as opposed to the way we started the game at UCLA was really frustrating. You know, gotta dig deep in our sports psychology to figure out why — why that’s occurring and what’s going on, because we’re capable of much more than what we’ve put out there, especially on the road.