Tuesday morning marked the final, full 2014 Pac-12 football coaches teleconference. A few snippets from the call:
Apparently, I didn’t get my question in quickly enough, and RichRod’s segment got shut down before it ever got started.
Anu Solomon, the Wildcats’ starting quarterback, was in a boot at Monday night’s UA practice after aggravating an ankle injury at Utah. If he can’t go against Arizona State, the job goes to Jesse Scroggins.
Asked about his status, Solomon said, “Who knows?”
Todd Graham said ASU will prepare for facing Solomon in the Territorial Cup and said, “They’re (the Wildcats) going to be prepared either way.”
As for having just met WSU’s Luke Falk, Graham said, “He’s a tough guy. We hit him, we got after him. He took some shots. I thought he showed great courage. I was impressed. He’s going to be a good one.”
Sonny Dykes’ team will be facing a BYU club riddled by key injuries to quarterback Taysom Hill, who went out early this year, and running back Jamaal Williams. They remain the Cougars’ leading two rushers.
Christian Stewart, a 6-2, 208-pound senior (and JC product) with a 17-5 touchdown-interception ratio, has taken over for Hill. The Cougars are 7-4 and coming off a 64-0 win over Savannah State.
“They’ve chosen to emphasize a little different part of their offense,” said Dykes, a staff mate at Texas Tech of BYU assistant Robert Anae.
The Buffs are in much the same position they were in in the old Big 12 – without a natural rival in their conference. Back in the day, Colorado sort of adopted Nebraska as its rival (even though the Huskers were pretty much consumed by beating Oklahoma, not Colorado).
“I definitely think it’s a rivalry,” said Mike MacIntyre. “It’s the last game of the year, we play ‘em every single year, we don’t rotate. I don’t know if it’s a big game for them, but it’s a big game for us.”
When I asked Mark Helfrich if he’d gone to a Civil War game as a kid, he said he recalled “going up to Parker Stadium and getting drenched in one of those low-scoring games.” (But it wasn’t the infamous 0-0 scoreless tie, since that one was in Eugene in 1983.)
Helfrich, who grew up in Coos Bay, has heavy family ties with Oregon, with both parents, a brother and an uncle having gone there.
Mike Riley recalls being a seventh-grader when he saw his first Civil War in person – at Hayward Field in Eugene. By my calculation, that would have been in 1965, the final Civil War in Eugene before Autzen Stadium was opened in 1967.
“I remember Thurman Bell, who’s still coaching here at Roseburg, making a great play to win the game,” said Riley. “My dad (his late father Bud) was coaching the DBs. It was really fun to be a part of, and I feel thankful to this day to get to get involved in the game.”
A note on Bell: He just finished his 44th season coaching at Roseburg, where he has won 330 games.
Ty Montgomery will miss the UCLA game with a shoulder injury, David Shaw said, but he’s optimistic Montgomery will make it back for Stanford’s bowl game.
Stanford has a six-game win streak against the Bruins, tied with UCLA’s run from 1963-68 as the longest in the series.
The Cardinal will have to contain the league’s leading rusher, Paul Perkins (1,265 yards), and Shaw talks about the Bruins’ “dedication to the running game and how physical they are up front. And as soon as you don’t account for the quarterback (Brett Hundley), he takes off on a 25-yard run.”
Jim Mora conceded that the expectations of the preseason got to his team and said the recent improvement has to do with narrowing the focus.
“They were probably a little uptight early in the season with all the expectations,” Mora said. “We have six scholarship seniors on our team; I don’t think people realize that. It got to us a little bit.
“We just focus on each day and making sure we’re doing all we can to prepare to be at our best that day. It’s like we’re looking at life through a straw right now.”
Steve Sarkisian lamented a couple of key plays in the 38-20 UCLA loss he thought could have been game-changers, particularly one late in the half with the Bruins ahead 17-14 in which UCLA got pressure on Cody Kessler and he threw an interception, after which UCLA scored to take a 10-point halftime lead – and then punched in another one with the second-half kickoff.
As for bouncing back to play Notre Dame, Sarkisian said, “You get beat by your rival across town and fall out of the Pac-12 race, we easily could have said, ‘Woe is me.’ (But) here comes arguably the best rivalry in college football. Honestly, this is probably the best thing for us.
“Both teams are kind of in similar situations – backs against the wall, a bunch of shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. I’m sure coach (Brian) Kelly is saying the same thing.”
Kyle Whittingham didn’t exactly embrace Colorado’s idea that the regular-season-ending game Saturday is a rivalry.
“A rivalry has to develop on its own,” Whittingham said. “I don’t know if you can force it to happen. Proximity, it’s certainly the closest Pac-12 school to us. A rivalry to me signals some bad blood, or something that’s happened that makes it so. Even though we’ve got a great deal of respect for them, we don’t really see that as a rivalry at this point in time.”
For the record, the teams have played surprisingly frequently – 60 times, with Colorado holding a 31-26-3 edge.
Chris Petersen has been getting the full grilling about his perception of the nature of the Apple Cup rivalry, and said, “I don’t think you get the full extent until you get to the place, and then, ‘Oh yeah, this is another big rivalry.’ You don’t really know the intensity until you get there, and then, ‘Yep, there it is.’ ”
Pullman, at least its football layout, is apt to look a little different to Petersen, who was there in his first year as offensive coordinator at Boise State in 2001. Before that, he made the trip to the Palouse in his 1995-2000 tenure as receivers coach at Oregon.
Arizona State showed WSU a lot of press coverage last week in the Sun Devils’ 52-31 victory, and Mike Leach says he thinks the Cougar receivers response to it was “mixed.” He added that, “Washington will do some, not a lot of it. It’s not their nature to press that often.”