Coach's Corner: Learning from UCLA

Arizona heads into the bye week on a positive note, if not a high one. The Cats outplayed UCLA but failed to come away with a win. The team will have a light week. It's a chance to work on things and rest up. Wildcat coach Mike Hankwitz conducted his weekly Sunday Teleconference, which will serve as his only official meeting with the media this week.

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"I was disappointed for our players. I was really proud of the effort they put forth and the way they approached the game. They had an excellent week of practice. They really made a great commitment. I thought they went out there and played extremely hard, and they competed. That's why I was so disappointed for them, because I wanted to see their efforts rewarded. But, like I told our players, we are going to keep pounding on that door until we knock it down."

"When you look at the game, it was a situation where we are learning. We are learning how to win, we are learning how to compete, and we are learning how to fight. We need to learn how to have poise in those certain situations and make plays that we are capable of making. We had too many missed opportunities to score. In the second quarter, we had 2nd-and-10 on the 31-yard line, and we threw an interception. Our quarterback was scrambling and throwing it on the run. In the second quarter, we also missed the field goal. In the third quarter, we had 2nd-and-10 on the 23-yard line, and we threw an interception. UCLA was in a zone blitz, and their defensive end dropped off, and I don't think our quarterback saw it in time because he tried to hit the quick slant against the zone blitz. In the fourth quarter, we were on the 39-yardline with a 2nd-and-10 and we threw the interception on our shuffle pass. And obviously, in the fourth quarter when we had 1st-and-goal from the five, we came out with no points. Those missed opportunities come back to haunt you."

"When you look at it, we were our own worst enemy. You can't really point to any one play or any one person because there were numerous situations where our mistakes really hurt us. On the one hand, it is very disappointing. I hurt for our players because I was really proud of their effort. But, on the other hand, it shows that we are capable of playing better. When they see the video and see the mistakes that we made, there are certain areas that we can make corrections in. So, let's not allow the disappointment and the hurt to keep us from giving that same kind of effort again. I think that if we can keep improving and giving the same kind of effort, we can win games. The players believe that, too."

"It is one of the steps you have to go through in order to learn what it takes to win. We have practiced harder, we have developed a better work ethic, and we are improving more in practice. I have seen great strides (in practice). That's the first step. The second step is learning how to compete and learning to put a great effort into the games. The next step is learning to have the poise to overcome adversity. When the players see all of the missed opportunities that we had that could have made the difference in the game, individuals involved in those plays are going to feel bad, but they don't need to feel like it was all their fault. You can point to a number of areas. But, if each guy who made a mistake or had a chance to do something differently realizes it, then he will be able to eliminate that one bad play."

"They (offensive linemen) have done a great job, and I was really proud of the way they came off the football in this game. We are continuing to improve in that way. It has been tough because we lost three different guys that have started and two from this season. When you lose a guy like Brandon Phillips, who is a veteran, a senior, is very strong, and someone that we think is one of our very best football players on our team, that really hurts. We lost (John) Parada (before the season), and we lost (Reggie) Sampay a few weeks ago. Then, you have to shuffle guys around. I did see a vast improvement in the way we came off the ball and stayed on blocks. I was very proud of that group."

"One of our major emphasis was to establish a running game. Our offensive coaches have done a great job of focusing on the things that we can do the best. We worked hard against each other at practice to do competitive drills, and we made it a major emphasis to get our running backs running downhill and attacking the line of scrimmage and hitting the creases. There were some times where we got bounced out, but that's what happened because all of the holes got squeezed off. The backs did the right thing. Earlier in the year, however, there were times where they were looking to bounce out when the hole was inside where they should have stayed, but we are doing a better job of hitting the hole and hitting the play the way it is designed to go. The combination of the offensive coach's scheming and the emphasis on the running backs running downhill is starting to pay off."

"We have reduced what we were doing. I don't think we were ever going out there and just being blitz crazy or doing too much. But, we had to change from the 3-4 right at the end of camp. Even though we tried to keep as much carryover with our secondary and the linebackers, there were still people in slightly different positions. We had to grow into that. When we cut it back a little, we wanted to establish something that we can hang our hat on. We decided that we needed to get good at our base in order to give us something to build around. We pointed out that our own mistakes were the things that were hurting us, especially not being in the right position. I think that when our players started realizing that, they started playing better."

"Even in the first half of both the Oregon and Purdue games, we showed that we could play with those people. We executed, but we had two or three bad plays in the half. Once we learned to eliminate those bad plays, we were capable of playing with them. In the TCU game, we got in position to win, but we had one bad play where we took an unnecessary gamble just before the half. Against Washington State, we had the one play where we had great coverage, but the defender turned the wrong way. We have made strides, and we are getting in the right positions. We have to learn to make the plays when we get in the right positions. We weren't out of position and making major mistakes (against UCLA). Our players realized that we have the ability to stop people if we continue to play like that."

"We were making improvements during those rough times, but we were not always sustaining those improvements and keeping the focus in the second half. After we had some adversity or had a bad play, we were losing our focus, and that kept us from seeing that improvement. Since the TCU game, we have made steady improvement. We had three turnovers in our last two games, and our run defense has improved. We held UCLA to 103 yards on 34 carries, and that's three yards a carry, so we are making progress."

"We need to get points when we get the opportunity (for field goals). I want to look at the video from the last couple of games with (special teams coordinator) Jay (Boulware) and see if it's fundamentals or a mechanical thing. Then, we will decide at that point which way we will go. We could open it up to competition in practice. We are going to work with certain areas of special teams a little harder this week, and that is certainly an area we will address."

"We came out of the (UCLA) game relatively healthy. With an off week, it will give us an extra benefit of getting some players totally healed up. We want to address fundamental things this week. There are certain areas that we can really focus on this week."

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