Coach Rich Rodriguez says he saw progress in QB B.J. Denker, beyond just the 363 yards passing the JC transfer ran up against USC. Says Rodriguez, “He got into a rhythm and it was good to see he threw guys open, instead of waiting for them to get open. You see that when guys grow into a system.”
Mike MacIntyre said he liked the play of true freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau of Bellarmine, saying his two interceptions against ASU came on a tipped ball and when a receiver ran a route wrong.
Asked about Liufau stylistically, MacIntyre said, “He’s more like an Andrew Luck who can throw it, but he surprises you how well he can run. I wouldn’t say he’s a dual-threat guy, but he’s got escapability. Please do not say he’s Andrew Luck. I wouldn’t say he’s dual-threat, but I wouldn’t say he’s a pocket passer. He’s kind of in-between.”
Mark Helfrich scoffs at the idea of the school doing anything to promote the Heisman candidacy of Marcus Mariota, saying, “The best thing anybody can do is play well as a team. I think he understands that and our team understands that. It’s kind of like in recruiting, people say, you’ve got to have the greatest mailers. But if you play well, guys recognize that.”
Mike Riley cast a look back to the losing opener against Eastern Washington, when he told his staff, “All the stuff you ever wanted in coaching is now in front of us, all the challenges.”
Riley went through a laundry list of problems that surfaced against Eastern: “We had a horrible start defensively – run defense, spread-option zone-read defense, pass-rush lanes, ‘cover downs’ by our linebackers, our coverage was poor, discipline in the secondary was bad – we had a long list of stuff to point at. Simply, we’re sounder and tackling better. I have a lot of respect for the Washington State offense and the numbers they had piled up. The thing I’m probably most proud of is, we had only two plays (allowed) over 20 yards.”
Referring to the Utah upset, David Shaw said, “That’s the hard part about losing. Everybody says, you’re supposed to win and something had to go terribly wrong (to lose), as opposed to saying the other team played better than us.”
Previewing the UCLA-Stanford matchup, Jim Mora said, “This is going to be one of the great matchups of linebacking corps in college football this year.” Then he went on a long, long testimonial for Bruins linebackers and special teams coach Jeff Ulbrich, whom he knew when Mora was a coach with the 49ers and Ulbrich was a player.
“I always told him if I had a chance to hire him as a coach, I’d want to do that,” Mora said. “The day I got fired from the Seattle Seahawks, I was in the process of trying to hire Jeff.”
Instead, Mora’s successor, Pete Carroll, did that, and Ulbrich spent the 2010-11 seasons with the Seahawks before joining the UCLA staff a year ago. Mora said Ulbrich is “smart, a great motivator, has a real passion for football and teaching football, and above all that, he has tremendous compassion for these players. He has a way of relating to players.
“Oftentimes, he’ll speak before me the night before a game, and I’ll have a message for the team. I don’t need to say anything else; the message has been sent.”
Ed Orgeron says “the play of the quarterback (Cody Kessler), the ability to throw the ball and stretch the field” and offensive coordinator Clay Helton’s play-calling infused a shot of life into the USC offense last week against Arizona.
Defensively, the Trojans have struggled. Says Orgeron, “Spread teams have given us problems. We’ve let the deep ball get behind us. They’re (problems) very fixable. We’ll maybe make some personnel changes.”
Orgeron says people from longtime late USC assistant Marv Goux to ex-coach John Robinson to former Trojans J.K. McKay and Ronnie Lott have talked about the rich rivalry with Notre Dame, to be renewed Saturday night in South Bend.
Says Orgeron, “I’m sure, come Saturday night, when we walk out onto the field in South Bend, Ind., it’s going to mean a lot to the team.”