Tuesday meant teleconference day for Pac-12 football coaches. Some snippets:
‘Zona coach Rich Rodriguez assessed two facets of his team, an improved defense and a passing game that looks to have taken a step back from the Matt Scott days of 2012.
“We’ve gotten better defensively,” he said. “We knew we’d struggle big-time last year, but we had a little more experience, a little more knowledge, we got help from some of the new guys. I like how we’re doing there.”
With the passing game, he said, “The first couple of weeks of camp, I thought our execution should have been a lot better. I was a little disappointed in that. Over the last 3-4 weeks, we’ve gotten better and better. I like how our quarterbacks have gotten more comfortable and particularly how our new receivers have gotten better, and timing has gotten better.”
Todd Graham said ASU gave up about 125 yards on Wisconsin’s power run game and about 112 on the speed sweep, and expressed the belief that the ASU front is better equipped this year to deal with straight-ahead teams like Stanford (Saturday’s opponent).
“I don’t consider us a big defensive front, but I know we’re much improved from where we were last year,” he said.
Standout Will Sutton, Graham said, is now at 310 pounds after weighing 280 a year ago. Graham said Sutton practiced Tuesday after incurring a thigh bruise against the Badgers.
He also weighed in at length on the controversy at the end of the Wisconsin game, defending ASU and saying he didn’t think the win was tainted. Much more on that in Wednesday’s Times.
Mike MacIntyre said the Buffaloes helped serve dinner to about 800 displaced families Saturday after their game with Fresno State was postponed because of severe flooding in the Boulder area. Players also helped with projects like cleaning out basements.
“About a quarter of the campus had flooding issues,” said MacIntyre, adding that there was flooding in the areas where Colorado practices.
Bears have been gashed for 556.3 yards a game – nearly a hundred more than anybody else in the conference – and 7.4 yards a play. Pass rush (three sacks) has been a problem, partly because Cal has faced running quarterbacks.
“You always want to be able to put it in a nice little package and assess blame or whatever,” said Sonny Dykes. “This is one of those things that’s a little hard to do.” He cited the style of teams Cal has played, the lack of pass rush, and failure to “win a lot of one-on-one battles.”
Bears have a bye this week before a trip to No. 2 Oregon.
The disagreement between tight end Colt Lyerla and coach Mark Helfrich has been addressed, and Helfrich implied he wasn’t pleased with how Lyerla said Helfrich “threw him under the bus” by saying his absence due to illness was “circumstances.”
“He’s (Lyerla) regretful of some of the things he’s said,” said Helfrich. “That’s not who we are, not what it’s like to be part of a team. We’ve discussed that and moved on.”
OSU got through the Utah game with a patchwork offensive line, and Mike Riley says in “probably two weeks,” the Beavers might have their original group back together. “We’ve got San Diego State and Colorado, two tough games, then a bye. We’re thinking for sure we’ll have them practicing for the bye week.”
Riley returns to San Diego this week, where he coached the Chargers between his two Oregon State stints.
Asked for memories of Qualcomm Stadium, he said, “Most of my memories there aren’t great ones. But I love the environment, the stadium, the city. I’m excited to go down there and play a game.”
David Shaw said he tells his players to “flush” the previous week’s game plan, but he’s concerned that Arizona State might not have to do that this week. The Sun Devils just faced a power-running team in Wisconsin and they get another dose of it in the Cardinal.
“We usually like playing someone the week after they play a spread-offense team,” Shaw said. “This helps them (the Sun Devils) stay in the same mode.”
Defensive end Henry Anderson, who injured a leg at Army, “will be out a few weeks,” said Shaw.
Jim Mora said the turnaround at Nebraska from an 18-point deficit to a 20-point win was mostly the Bruins just relaxing.
“We were extremely tight,” he said. “With the emotions of the week (the death of receiver Nick Pasquale), I think our kids, they all wanted to do so well. I think we were pressing. We just weren’t playing how we typically play, which is kind of loose and fast. We were able to put together a nice drive to score a touchdown, we went in at halftime, and there was a really good feeling among our players. We settled down and put a smile on our face.”
Lane Kiffin said he saw a leap in confidence from QB Cody Kessler, “a very different player” from about the second quarter on against Boston College, after Kessler was named the starter early last week.
“He seemed very loose,” Kiffin said. “When stuff’s not going well around you . . . in that game (BC), different from the game before (Washington State), things started going well around him.”
Kiffin credited his team for doing “a great job keeping the noise out” after the loss to WSU Sept. 7. “It was just a classic case of, after playing really badly, all the negativity started swirling around. They did a really good job of blocking that out.”
Utes go to BYU this week, and Kyle Whittingham said of any lingering disappointment after the OSU loss, “You certainly have no problems getting your players up for this game. The emotion and passion take care of itself.”
Referring to Travis Wilson, who was 19 of 33 with three interceptions and rushed 13 times for 142 yards, Whittingham said, “I would assess Travis a solid ‘A’ (in overall progress). He’s growing up right before our eyes.”
Talking about the ties between the Seahawks and Huskies, Steve Sarkisian mentioned a link between Russell Wilson and Keith Price, his own relationship with Seattle coach Pete Carroll, the UW’s Marcus Peters and DiAndre Campbell being cousins of Seahawk Marshawn Lynch, and the UW having used the V-MAC to practice.
“It’s really an exciting time for our community,” said Sarkisian. “It’s great for the community that they’ve got two football teams that are playing really well right now.”
Mike Leach was asked about his long-held custom of calling plays as a head coach, something others sometimes wrestle with given the multiple responsibilities. Leach said he always wanted to go it, saying if he didn’t, “you’re kind of a meet-and-greet guy.”