Snippets from Tuesday’s weekly Pac-12 teleconference with the league’s football coaches:
Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez said his team — newly bowl-eligible after beating Cal — has looked at last year’s 66-10 loss at UCLA, and “there wasn’t a single thing we did well. If you want to know what went wrong – everything.”
The Wildcats get the Bruins this week in Tucson, and Rodriguez said, “I would hope just from a competitor’s standpoint, if you didn’t play well against somebody, you’d want to have another chance, that they’d be embarrassed by the way they played and give it their best shot.”
Both teams are 3-2 in the South Division, and — depending on how front-running ASU fares at Utah — the loser could put itself in a major hole with regard to winning the division.
Todd Graham, the second-year coach, is losing the man who helped hire him after a protracted search, as Steve Patterson has been hired as the new athletic director at Texas, named to replace longtime AD DeLoss Dodds.
“He knew of me when I was head coach at Rice and he was at the Houston Texans,” says Graham of Patterson. “He was very instrumental in the search, throwing my name out there. We’ve been a great team.”
The connection could thus be made that when Mack Brown is gone as Texas coach, Graham will be an obvious candidate.
“I can’t do anything about what people say,” Graham said. “I can tell you I’m focused on this team and what we’re doing. We’re starting to do some things that resemble a team that can compete for a championship. Our mission is to stay grounded and focus on the things we can control.”
Graham already has had two jobs, Rice and Pitt, that he left after one season.
De’Anthony Thomas said matter-of-factly, in response to a reporter’s question, “I feel like, this team, we should at least put up 40” against Stanford. His coach, Mark Helfrich, downplayed it, saying, “I think he was expressing more confidence in his teammates and himself. You listen to the context, and he wasn’t really saying that (predicting scoring 40). At the same time, we should phrase it differently, and just play.”
Stanford’s David Shaw said he had no issue with it, quipping, “They put it on film. They’ve done it. That’s the mentality. I’m just glad he said only 40.”
The tone of Mike Riley’s voice reflected the sub-par performance of his team in a 31-14 loss to USC.
“We made mistakes we haven’t made all year,” he said. “It’s not easy to get down there (in the red zone) against USC, but when you do, you better get some points. We failed on that.”
He said quarterback Sean Mannion made some poor decisions: “He was hurried a little bit, but they were bad decisions, and he would tell you that. The first (interception), he should have drilled the ball in there instead of lofting it and looked off the safety longer. The second one was a throwaway. I think it was an example of trying to make too much happen.”
David Shaw has a lot on his plate this week (Oregon) but he took a moment to quash the notion that Stanford athletes might be more prone to be outside the norm of NFL football players – somehow more unwilling or unable to accept a culture of locker-room hazing. The incident in which Cardinal product Jonathan Martin left the Miami Dolphins after alleged racial and harassing threats from teammate Richie Incognito has become a disturbing national story.
“Linking what happened in Miami with Stanford is moronic,” Shaw said. “We have smart kids, tough kids, kids who are doing extremely well in the NFL, and we have more people in the NFL than what people call NFL-type (spawning grounds). And we’re going to keep pumping guys into the NFL. This was an isolated incident.
“I’m looking forward to a time when Jonathan Martin has a great career. I think he’s going to be a heck of a player at the next level.”
Jim Mora said the Bruins will get offensive lineman Simon Goines back from a knee injury, “but I’m not sure how much we’re going to play him.” Mora says the freshman-dominated line has “actually had two weeks where they’ve shown great improvement.”
Running back Jordon James, one of the nation’s leading rushers when he went out with an ankle injury several weeks ago, is expected to play at Arizona.
“I can’t give my coaching staff enough credit,” said interim coach Ed Orgeron. “Under an extremely adverse situation, not knowing what the future is going to be, we’ve become one cohesive unit. I’m very proud. It’s been a treat to come to work every day.”
The revitalized Trojans travel to Cal Saturday. That’s a series USC has dominated lately, winning nine straight.
Kyle Whittingham says QB Travis Wilson, benefited from a bye week and should be fine against Arizona State. He had been bothered by a bad throwing hand.
“We sure hope so,” he said. “By all indications in practice, the week off did him a world of good. He doesn’t have to wear that glove, he’s looking very sharp in practice. We’re hoping that translates into the game.”
This is the matchup of Utes co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson with many of the Arizona State players he helped recruit, but Whittingham says he hasn’t seen much difference in Erickson, saying, “He’s a pretty even-keeled guy. I haven’t noticed any difference in his demeanor this week.”
A year ago, Utah was throttled 37-7 at ASU in a game thought to be close going in. Says Whittingham, “It was one of our poorest performances since we joined the conference.”
WSU had severe problems with recognition of who had the ball last week when ASU’s Taylor Kelly was handling it. As Mike Leach said, “We looked a lot like other teams that have played those guys.” But Leach ascribed the problem more to the same affliction that he noted in his post-game remarks after the 55-21 loss, saying, “We didn’t pull the trigger very quickly (defensively). We spent way too much of the night hesitating.”
He also addressed QB Connor Halliday’s remark that WSU needs to be able to get off press coverage better on the perimeter: “We did pretty well against it much of the year. You’ve got to be violent with your hands. You have to get separation and get open. If you come up to the line of scrimmage passively, you’re going to get tied up. We need to be more aggressive with our hands and get separation.”