Coach's Corner: Rebounding from LSU

Arizona football is reeling after a humiliating loss to LSU. The Cats have no time to rest as the Pac-10 season starts when Oregon comes to town. John Mackovic addressed the media two days after the tough loss.

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Mackovic began the press conference by discussing the Oregon game.
John Mackovic: "This is a Pac-10 game, so in some respects that is good because we know them, and they know us. We've played against them, and we will have a better opportunity to look at our game tapes from last year, but at least we know what they are like and what they do. Hopefully, that will give us some opportunity to feel better about getting ready for this week.

"Last year after we played them, they really went on a downhill slide, but they have that old pizzazz back. Their defense is playing like it played two years ago. They are very active, energetic, and they really get after the football. They have a good pass defense as far as being able to match a lot of coverages, and they mix up their blitzes. I would say they are blitzing and stunting almost 60 percent of the time. This is not a defense that stands around; I call them a play-hard defense. They play hard, and there is no one like Kevin Mitchell playing football in college. He is just one of those players who, if I were a regular fan, would be a favorite of mine. He energizes that team by the way he plays and how he does things. He blitzes, he covers, he knocks tackles down, and he just plays hard, which is infectious. He means business."

Next he moved on to the team's Sunday practice.
Mackovic: "One of the good things about working out on Sunday is that you watch the film, and you kind of get it over with and get it done. We can take Monday to start working, and the players can take Monday to go to school and catch up with things, and then Tuesday, we can come back and start fresh. I think that will be beneficial for everyone because I'm not sure that everyone is feeling great today, but everyone should feel a lot better about getting back to work tomorrow."

He then moved on to the disappointing LSU game.
Mackovic: "We had a lot of breakdowns Saturday night. Many of our breakdowns were breakdowns that LSU forced because they were not all unforced errors. LSU is a good football team; they were after us, and they really attacked us both ways. They were physical, well conditioned and well coached, and that forces you into errors. We also had unforced errors, especially those three personal foul calls.

"Defensively, we had some breakdowns that were just bad breakdowns. It was a combination of blown coverages and blown reads. Sometimes, we had the right coverage but the wrong read. We didn't have any pressure on the passer. The only time we had pressure on the passer was when we had a couple of blitzes result in sacks. That part of it was good, but if you sack them four times, and then you never get to them again, then the quarterback takes his four sacks and goes on. We don't have the power all of the time to be able to press the line of scrimmage, and that's why we have some of the blitzers to do that.

"We didn't play well on defense, but I still believe that our defense can be a good defense. We have to make sure that we rally to the ball, and we have to be in the right spots and take on a bigger challenge on a given play."

The two young quarterbacks were addressed next.
Mackovic: "It was tough for our young quarterbacks going in there (against LSU) and playing against a quality defense, one that can both put the pressure on you and cover your receivers one on one. I was disappointed for them because I was hoping that both of them could play, have a little success and get some things done. It was pretty obvious early on that we were going to get a lot of pressure. Even though we picked up the blitzes, it wasn't a matter of having people free all of the time. It was a matter of feeling hurried because the pocket was being pushed into us. Nic tried throwing over a couple of those ends, and they batted balls. One time, he was looking, and he couldn't find somebody; they were all so much taller that I am not even sure Ryan (O'Hara) would have been able to see over them. That made it really tough for him (Costa). I wish Ryan would have taken some of the underneath throws. He had some good deep throws, and he put the ball right on the money a couple of times. Then he had one wide open, and he overthrew Lance Relford. There were a couple of other times that I thought he could have gone underneath and given the ball up to someone else and kept the drive going. He was looking for the big play."

Question: What are your feelings on the quarterback rotation?
Mackovic: "The only thing that will really change it is if one of the two plays particularly well when he is in there, but it was about 50/50 Saturday because that is the way the night was going. But, if one plays a little better than the other, then the game plays will come a little more to him during the game. We still need to play them; there is no way for us to build some kind of experience in that position if we aren't willing to play some guys. As I mentioned last week, we are not going to jeopardize the game if we get to that point of just rotating for the sake of rotation, but it didn't make much difference on Saturday because it was about the same for each of them.

"Saturday night is almost unfair, but we have to look at it and see what they (Costa and O'Hara) can learn from it. They have to put that away. In the first game, Nic played really well, and Ryan had his ups and downs. Now, they have seen what it's really like. Now, they are going to find out what they are like, and we will see how they are going to come back. I do not necessarily say that it has to be proven this week, but I think that in the month of September, a lot of things will evolve at quarterback."

He switched gears and talked about the punters Danny Baugher and James Molina.
Mackovic: "We shifted from Danny Baugher to James Molina because we felt that James has been punting well in practice, and it was an opportune time for him to go in and do that. He did a good job. He placed the ball several times where we wanted it, and we were trying to kick it away from their returner as much as possible. He had the one big return where our coverage unit overplayed the pursuit course, and we didn't hold and contain on the backside. We had way too many people in one little cluster, and after the returner outran them, there was no way to catch him. So, that part wasn't very good."

He concluded talking about the team's outlook for the week.
Mackovic: "We have lots of work to do this week in just about every different phase. We have to look for some improvement, and we have to look for some things that we can do better than we've done. It is not a matter of making up this week for last week. We have looked all along at the month of September as a month that was important for us in order to grow, develop and improve with a team that is basically very young. The team has to find something that it can really hang its hat on.

"I'm interested, and they are interested. At least, we all should be interested in how we bounce back and what we do. The players have talked among themselves; they talked after the game about what needs to be done. More importantly than talk is how we work this week. There is work to be done. We need to be sure that we give them a chance to play with confidence by making sure they know exactly what to do and by being able to play as hard as they can.

"We have to play better football; it's as simple as that. We have to be ready to play, we have to play, we have to play hard, and we have to play smart. We have to create opportunities, and we have to take advantage of those opportunities. There will be a breakthrough game, but I don't know when. Hopefully, it will be this week. We have to make it happen. Nobody is going to give it to us. I don't expect Oregon to come in here flat and give us an easy game. They are going to come and play because they want to win the Pac-10, too. The first (conference) game either puts you in first place or last place."

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