Tuesday marked the weekly Pac-12 football coaches teleconference. Herewith, some snippets:
Scooby Wright is playing at an all-league level, having recorded three sacks and forcing three fumbles Saturday at Washington State. Says Rich Rodriguez, “I think he’s got a lot more physical skills than maybe he gets credit for. He’s extremely strong and athletic and got great instincts. He understands the game and he plays so hard on every snap. It’s like every snap is going to be the last one he plays.”
Tuesday, Wright was named Bronko Nagurski national defensive player of the week by the Football Writers Assn. of America.
The stats say Arizona State is No. 11 in the Pac-12, allowing 181 rushing yards a game, but Todd Graham says not to worry about it.
“Your stats on the season are cumulative,” he said. “It matters how you’re playing now. I think we’re very good against the run right now. We’ve played outstanding defense. Look at the Stanford game and tell me how we are against the run.”
Sonny Dykes’ team scored 41 points against Oregon, but he didn’t bite on my question of whether the Ducks might be vulnerable defensively, saying, “You’d like to think of it as just that you’re (the Bears) pretty good at offense. I’m just going to think of it that way.”
The Buffs have lost two overtime games, and been in it late in the game against Oregon State, leading Mike MacIntyre to say, “We’re not where we used to be, but we’re not where we want to be. We’re 0-5 in the Pac-12, and we definitely could have won four of them for sure. No doubt whatsoever.”
Stanford unveiled more spread formations and more uptempo offense against Oregon State, but it probably figures that with Oregon’s proficiency at it, Mark Helfrich didn’t seem to think it looked all that different, saying, “They were certainly more efficient. Offensively, they were certainly in a different rhythm. (But) they’ve looked pretty good all year to me.”
Mike Riley says QB Sean Mannion is “being a leader” in the face of a difficult season in which two Pac-12 teams have held him under 125 yards passing.
“He’s got young receivers and we’ve got a hodge-podge of offensive linemen,” Riley said. “It’s impressive. He’s hanging right with it.”
On the Pac-12 reform measures adopted Monday, David Shaw said, “I thought they were all very good. I thought they were all kind of where college football is going – taking care of student-athletes, making their lives on campus better and at the same time, still allowing them to be student-athletes.”
The Bruins, almost weekly, have been nominating linebacker Eric Kendricks for conference defensive player of the week, but against Colorado, Jim Mora thought Kendricks’ play was off the charts.
“I told the team yesterday, I’ve seen Eric play 35 games and I’ve never seen him play as well as last week,” he said. “I thought he was phenomenal.”
The Trojans’ game Saturday will match them with a WSU team that’s been beaten down recently. Steve Sarkisian said he figures the Cougars will battle, and of his own team, he said, “We’re obviously a frustrated group. That’s another gut-wrenching loss we took (at Utah) Saturday. That’s the second one of those we’ve had this year. What I will say is, I’m impressed with our staff and our team and their mindset to come right back and go to work.”
Some have questioned whether Utah ran an illegal “pick” play at the goal line to beat USC, but Kyle Whittingham isn’t buying it, saying, “Who’s saying that? No, we didn’t pick anybody. We just ran motion, ran a receiver to the flat. You see it just about every week.”
Whittingham conceded that there’s a lot of gray area in the interpretation. A couple of weeks ago, Florida State survived Notre Dame because an Irish receiver was flagged (correctly, in the NCAA coordinator’s view) for an illegal pick.
“If your receiver who’s not the primary guy happens to get in the defender’s path by virtue of his route, that’s just football,” Whittingham said. “If you make an intentional and obvious attempt to find that defender, now it becomes illegal.”
USC’s Steve Sarkisian, when I asked about the legality of the play, said, “It was legal, because no flag was thrown. The way I’ve been viewing this stuff now is, you can get emotionally hijacked over officiating. I’m not going to let that happen to me.”
He noted the process of asking the league to review questionable calls and said, “You send in (and get responses), some of them favorable, some not. We just have to continue to coach better.”
Chris Petersen, commenting on the Pac-12 reforms, said he doesn’t think the four-year, guaranteed scholarship is “really that big a deal. If guys are eligible, doing the right things academically and staying out of trouble, they should be (at a school) the whole time.”
Overall, he said, “I just think it’s the right thing for the student-athletes. When we pay close attention to the medical issues and concussions, I think everybody wants to do that.”
Mike Leach had a laconic response to the question of why the Pac-12 has seven of the most-penalized 20 teams in the nation.
“That may have something to do with the guys calling the games for the Pac-12,” he said.
Leach says he gauges the penalty equation on the basis of his team’s flags and the opponents’ against his team.
“Spread teams are going to get penalized more, typically, but their opponents are too,” he said, adding he thinks it’s because there are more matchups easily seen by officials.