Tuesday is Pac-12 football coaches teleconference day. Some bits and pieces of what was said:
‘Cats reserve running back Adonis Smith might finally get on the field Saturday in Pullman because of injuries to Nick Wilson and Terris Jones-Grigsby, and that would be the capper on a pretty wild collegiate ride.
Smith, from the Bay Area, actually committed to Washington State under Paul Wulff in 2010. But he bailed and signed with Northwestern.
As a sophomore in 2011, he had 266 yards rushing for the Wildcats and was their fourth-leading rusher. The year before, he started a game, and during his time in Evanston, he was an All-Big Ten academic honoree.
Then Smith was on to UNLV for the 2013 season. But he’s finishing his college tour at Arizona.
“He got more reps in the bye week,” said coach Rich Rodriguez, adding of Smith’s transfer, “He contacted us. He’s been around a little bit. He’s a mature guy. He’s been fun to coach. He’s almost like a freshman, new to the system. But he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do.”
Todd Graham says, “What’s helped us is, we’ve played better on special teams and defense. Offensively, we’ve been pretty steady all year. I like this team because of that. If you had told me at the beginning of the year, you’re going to lose your starting quarterback going into the toughest part of the season and you’d be 5-1, I’d say these guys have impressed me.”
Sonny Dykes’ team “hosts” Oregon at Santa Clara Friday night in the new Levi’s Stadium. The Bears get a team that has exploded from its downer loss against Arizona early this month to reel off 87 points and thump UCLA and Washington.
“Washington State played really well against them,” Dykes said. “Arizona made some plays down the stretch and won the ball game. I think Oregon has gotten better. I think their offensive line is much improved. They’re playing more steady than they were early in the year. They’ve looked great the last two ball games.”
Mike MacIntyre lamented the start of the 56-28 loss at USC, saying penalties gave the Trojans life early, from where they rolled.
“We started out poorly,” he said. “We threw the pick, and on defense, had two chances to get ‘em out on that first drive. We had a hands-to-the-face penalty, and a slight holding penalty on a running back coming underneath that could have gone either way.
“Then we roughed the punter, which gave them another drive. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot at the beginning of the game, which got them out to a track meet that we couldn’t catch up with. If we hadn’t had those penalties, the game would been a lot closer.”
The Buffs get the other LA team this week, hosting UCLA.
The blossoming of freshman running back Royce Freeman, who scored four touchdowns against Washington, has been a major factor in Oregon’s recent surge. Obviously, Freeman wasn’t scared away by the presence of five-star back Thomas Tyner.
“We’ve been preaching for a long time that you need more than one of those guys,” said Mark Helfrich. “Ideally, you have at least three or four. Invariably, those guys take so much abuse during the season that guys need a blow . . . it’s kind of that edge you have to walk. (You want that) ‘gimme-the-ball’ type attitude and you want a team guy at the same time.”
Mike Riley gave short shrift to a question about whether the Stanford team the Beavers face this week might feel it has its backs to the wall.
“So are ours,” he said. “It’s a big game that way. The thing I’m concerned with most is just blocking ‘em. That defense is crazy-good. How they feel, I’m not sure. We’ve just gotta prepare for them, and we’ve gotta get a win.”
Riley confirmed what seems inevitable, that offensive lineman Isaac Seumalo, one of the best players on the team, probably will redshirt after a long, slow rehab from a foot injury.
After the offense shut down in a 26-10 loss at Arizona State, David Shaw said Tuesday, “I’ve done a poor job structuring our offense so that our guys can be successful. I have to utilize personnel better, I have to get guys in position to where they are comfortable and where they can be successful. I put that on me. I’ve got to help these guys so that they can be the great athletes that they are.
“We’ve sputtered too many times this year. We can’t scrap our offense. What we’ve done has worked here. (But) we can’t sit here and say, keep doing what we’re doing.”
Jim Mora expanded on the story of Marcus Rios, the defensive back who made the game-saving interception at California, after two years ago fighting for his life at UCLA Medical Center with a rare sinus fungal infection.
“It was a really emotional time,” Mora said, referring to the aftermath of Rios’ sideline pick. “Fulfilling, inspiring. It just meant a lot to a lot of people.”
Mora said Rios rejoined the Bruins in the spring “but was still very underweight and working to get his strength back. Through the course of the season, anytime he doesn’t feel right, we make sure to get him to the specialist right away. He missed a couple of games where he hasn’t felt right. We’re not going to mess with that, not going to take any chances.
“The last 4-5 weeks, his body looks like it used to. He’s got his confidence back. He was developing into a really, really good player for us before he got sick. To see him back to where he was is great for him and great for the team.”
I asked Steve Sarkisian what he makes of Utah, a team succeeding without a passing game recently.
“I’ve said it all along,” he replied. “If you want to be a really good football team, you’ve got to run the ball and you have to stop the run. Utah does a good job with both those things . . . Kyle’s (Whittingham) done a great job of building that team the way he wants them to play.”
The Utes have announced they’re starting quarterback Travis Wilson this week, after Wilson came on in the third quarter at Oregon State and helped his team to a double-overtime win.
Remarkably, Utah has thrown for a mere 162 yards in the past two games, but they’re road victories over UCLA and OSU.
“We’re waiting for somebody to separate and really take ownership of the position,” said Kyle Whittingham. “I’m not a two-quarterback-system fan. We would love for one of them (the other is Kendal Thompson) to take ownership and be the guy.”
The Huskies, who had seemed to redirect their season with the win at Cal, had it done to them in turn by Oregon, but Chris Petersen says that doesn’t change the M.O.
“Just go back to work and put the tape on,” he said. “Figure out the things we didn’t do right, and on to the next thing. That’s no different, no matter what happens . . . it always kind of comes back to us – take care of what we can control.”
Peyton Pelluer, Skyline High product and son of ex-Cougar linebacker Scott Pelluer, has moved ahead of Darryl Monroe on the depth chart at Mike linebacker. Monroe has been limited in practice recently, but hasn’t had a great year in any case.
“He’s instinctive and plays really hard, that’s probably the biggest thing,” Mike Leach said of Pelluer.