Tuesday marked the penultimate Pac-12 football coaches teleconference of the 2014 season. Some highlights:
Relating to Washington’s time-management snafu at the end of the 27-26 Wildcat win Saturday, coach Rich Rodriguez acknowledged that “every coach has a chart, how much time can get run off . . . I’ve kind of got it memorized.”
When I asked if he has a designated coach responsible for an alert on when a kneel-down is appropriate, Rodriguez said, “Me.”
The Wildcats play at Utah Saturday.
Todd Graham says receiver Jaelen Strong is “50-50” for the Washington State game with what appeared to be concussion-related symptoms sustained against Oregon State, and safety (and WSU transfer) Jordan Simone practiced Tuesday after aggravating a stinger against the Beavers.
As for the defeat at Oregon State, Graham lamented a third-down blitz that went for a long, pivotal OSU score (it was picked up well by the Beavers), saying, “We need to stay with the blitzes we’ve done all year long. We up and tried a new blitz . . . they were 1 for 12 on third down, and we lost the game (on that play) on third down.”
The Bears are only a game out of bowl eligibility, but Sonny Dykes says the subject isn’t in play in Berkeley.
“We’ve never talked about it,” he says. “We’ve never said the words ‘bowl game.’ Our players have believed in kind of our process, which is to focus on things we can control. I’ve always felt we don’t need to dangle carrots in front of our players. They work hard, they’re motivated; all that does is (create) distractions.”
Cal visits Stanford in the Big Game Saturday.
Mike MacIntyre is ready to put the Pac-12 South up against the SEC West – or any other college division.
“I think we’re in the toughest division in college football, period,” said MacIntyre, whose team plays a team out of its division, Oregon, that will test the Buffaloes in Eugene. “We’re losing some close games to some of the best teams in America.”
The Ducks host Colorado Saturday – the league’s best team playing the league’s worst – but Mark Helfrich says, “We just talk constantly about us and about our process. We treat it (the challenge) the same, we’ll meet the same, prepare the same and try to get better. There’s a million things in that Utah game (Nov. 8) that everybody can get better at.”
Asked about last year’s 69-27 loss in Corvallis to Washington, this week’s opponent in Seattle, Mike Riley was forthright, saying, “I would hope we have lots of motivation. Funny you asked about that. I just asked them how much they remembered that game at the end of practice today. So I guess there’s many different buttons that are pushed about motivation. That one, that may be very, very appropriate for most of us here.”
David Shaw seemed to give something tantamount to a pep talk about his team, saying that he sees spurts of some of the Cardinals who went to BCS bowls the past four years.
“We’re not a bad football team,” he said. “When you turn the film on, you’ll see a dominating defensive performance. But a couple of plays go here and there that hurt you. It’s been a little bit of just about everything, things that typically don’t happen to a Stanford football team.”
Shaw mentioned “too many short runs that could have been long runs,” dropped passes or poor throws and protection issues.
With USC dead ahead at the Rose Bowl, UCLA appears to be trending in the right direction, with solid wins against Arizona and Washington.
“If you were going to do a graph (of the season), it would be rather jagged, but always trending upward,” said Jim Mora. “I think the last couple of weeks, we’ve just been a more consistent football team in all areas.”
With Washington’s clock management a hot topic this week, Steve Sarkisian was asked about how USC handled it last week against Cal, when it took time-killing losses to end the game.
“If you saw us the other night, (you might ask) ‘Why’d we lose 19 yards on the last play (when Cody Kessler ran backwards to kill the clock)?’ Well, the goal is to win the game,” said Sarkisian.
Punter Tom Hackett has been a huge weapon for the Utes, downing 18 kicks inside the opponent 10-yard line. Kyle Whittingham said Hackett “may have been the MVP” in the overtime win at Stanford.
Whittingham said former assistant Jay Hill, now head coach at Weber State, “discovered (Hackett) down in Australia.” Hackett was an Australian rules football player.
A solid effort at Arizona (at least until the final 90 seconds) could be a positive sign for Washington, Chris Petersen concedes, saying, “I think they know how hard they played. It’s hard to feel good about the end result, but we’ve got guys who get it, they’re smart guys. They’re going to have to rally with their best effort. The thing that’s amazing about this league is, everybody’s good.”
The Cougars have an 11 a.m. kickoff Saturday in Tempe, and WSU publicists are trying to determine whether they’ve had an earlier start locally.
Mike Leach said he’s a “little bit” concerned about possibly lethargy at that hour, saying the players’ day would start at 5:30 or 6 a.m.
Asked if he recalled an earlier start, Leach referred to a Cotton Bowl when he was coaching Texas Tech. That was the game in early 2006 when Alabama nipped the Red Raiders, 13-10.