Tuesday marked the last Pac-12 football coaches teleconference with a full roster. Next week’s will feature only the two championship-game coaches, David Shaw and Todd Graham. Some tidbits from Tuesday’s call:
‘Cats coach Rich Rodriguez, referring to the acrobatic, batted interception of Marcus Mariota Saturday in Tucson that ignited Arizona’s victory, said, “That’s a play I don’t even know if we could have thought about making last year. We practiced it in August and three months later, it comes back to being a big play for us.”
ASU has its Senior Day this week, in a game with Arizona for the right to host the Pac-12 championship next week, and Todd Graham says, “This is going to be my toughest Senior Day.”
Among other things, he says, “We’ve gone from a 2.3 team GPA to 2.8, and that’s not easy to do with a hundred guys. It has not been easy. There’s been a lot of straining and training and some conflict along the way. But I’m extremely close to these kids.
“We talked today, and want to have two Senior Days – one this week for the Territorial Cup, and then one here next week for the Pac-12 championship.”
Sonny Dykes, in answer to a question about speculation over staff changes, said, “If that’s what’s going to happen, it needs to happen as quickly as possible, just so everybody has time to get adjusted and we can figure it all out.”
Dykes cited depth problems exacerbated by injuries and a lack of veteran leadership as among the Bears’ problems. But he added, “There’s no excuse for us having the kind of year we had.”
Mark Helfrich said he had no problem with the outsized expectations at Oregon, saying, “When I took this job (I thought), ‘I want to be at a place like that.’ We know we’re going to get everybody’s best shot. That’s really hard.”
As for the ill-considered comments of a couple of players last week that the Rose Bowl didn’t hold great appeal for them, he said, “It’s completely our fault (for them) saying things that don’t represent anybody around here. It was part ignorance, part context, part expectations. That didn’t represent any more than two guys who were frustrated in a context, and I think it diminishes Arizona’s victory to say it did. And it didn’t really affect our team.”
Mike Riley lamented the “horrible” run defense by OSU that allowed Washington to trample the Beavers to the tune of 530 rushing yards, saying, “That was as out of character as I’ve seen us play, ever. I shouldn’t say I’m at a loss. We just have to coach better and play better than we did.”
The Cardinal hosts Notre Dame Saturday, bringing to mind a failed, goal-line thrust last year at South Bend by Stepfan Taylor that denied Stanford a possible victory.
“Last year we didn’t get it across the goal-line and I wasn’t a smart enough coach,” Shaw said. “This year in that situation (Utah and USC), we threw it, and I’m not a smart enough coach. It’s all about the results.”
The uncertainty over QB Travis Wilson’s head injury and his career going forward in football “puts us between a rock and a hard spot,” says Kyle Whittingham, referring to projecting a quarterback for next year. “We’ve got some decisions to make. That’s a big problem. I can’t give you an answer right now.”
To the question of whether there’s something to be said for handling success better after beating Stanford Oct. 12, Whittingham scoffed, “There’s something to be said about not losing your quarterback the next week.” Wilson was troubled by a hand injury before the head injury that ultimately sidelined him and sent the Utes toward their current 4-7 state.