Assorted notes and quotes from Tuesday’s Pac-12 coaches teleconference:
‘Zona (3-2) is in the middle of a hellish six-game stretch in which it faces all six Pac-12 teams ranked in the Top 25 this week. It has just finished with the Oregon schools, which were second (Oregon) and 18th (OSU), after which it gets Stanford (18) Saturday, then following a bye, the Wildcats have Washington (23), USC (13) and UCLA (25).
“We knew going into the season we were going to have a pretty good stretch of ranked teams,” says Rich Rodriguez. “But you come to a place like Arizona to play a great schedule and a great league. You have to learn to adapt to it.”
“We’re definitely not where we wanted to be (at 1-4), but we’re not going to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves,” says Jeff Tedford. “We’re going to attack this and stay together.” Tedford says he has addressed his team on the need not to let negativity over the program or his job status seep in. “We can’t let that creep in here,” he said. “We need to stay true to each other and continue the fight. We’ve been in a lot of close games. The only way I know to approach it is continue to work hard.”
The Buffs (1-4), bruised psychologically and physically, don’t play until Oct. 11 against Arizona State. Jon Embree says ASU junior defensive tackle Will Sutton “needs to go. He needs to start getting paid. He’s the best defensive lineman I’ve seen, by far, in our conference.” Except Embree called Sutton “Burton.” No need to get this guy riled up.
Trying to tamp down criticism of QB Josh Nunes, David Shaw said in reference to the Washington loss, “He threw four bad balls. At the same time, he threw five great balls. He threw some great deep balls and we didn’t catch them.” Shaw conceded, though, that Nunes “took a step backwards this past game. I expect him to bounce back.”
Despite a slow September, Matt Barkley has “handled it really well,” says Lane Kiffin, pointing out that Barkley didn’t force the ball downfield against Cal when the Bears took away the deep pass. He scoffed at the notion that the Stanford loss put the Trojans off the radar and thus able to focus within, saying, “I don’t think at SC you’re ever really off the radar.”
A huge imponderable is whether USC center Khaled Holmes is healthy for Thursday night’s game in Salt Lake City. He left the Cal game Sept. 22 with an ankle problem (after having sat out the Stanford game Sept. 15 in what was a pivotal absence). “I’m not sure what his status is,” says Kyle Whittingham. If the matchup between Holmes and Utah’s Star Lotulelei “actually comes to fruition,” Whittingham says, it would be “maybe the best center in the league against maybe the best nose guard in the country. And maybe Holmes is the best center in the country.”
A stat of interest for USC’s Barkley: Last year the Utes led the conference in pass interceptions with 19. This year, they’re dead last with two.