Q. So you've gone over the tape at this point?
Q. OK, to start with I guess the sacks, was there something consistent you were seeing with those?
A: Yeah, we struggled on the edge a little bit. We were pretty solid up the middle. A couple guys that usually play pretty darn well didn't play as well as they're capable, and we didn't find a way to get them help quick enough. There were times we needed to get the ball out quicker, which is a credit to them in terms of their coverage, and us not getting open quick enough. It's kind of like what I said las tonight, it's always something a little bit different every time, and this was very frustrating for all of us. But all of that being said, when it was the 4th quarter and our offense needed to bring us back and make plays, they were able to get that done. I have to give them credit for fighting, and being able to put those ten negative plays, those ten negative sacks behind them and move the ball down the field, score two touchdowns, and get us into position to try a field goal. So, it's very disheartening, obviously, to lose, and it's very disheartening to give up that number of sacks, but it's also encouraging to be part of a group of young men that fight the way they do, and I would expect nothing less of them.
Q: On the last play, was there any thought to taking a shot at the end zone instead of the field goal?
A: I felt like with four seconds left and with that being a 50-yard field goal, that was a much better opportunity for us to get the win than throwing the Hail Mary. And I know there's been a rash of Hail Marys being caught lately, but just statistically, your chances are better at kicking the field goal. And I felt like our kicker could make that.
Q: After watching the film, how did you think that Brett Hundley did handling the pressure?
A: Well, I think it was...I've seen him handle it better, but a lot of that pressure was quick pressure on him. You know, I think that any time a quarterback gets hit early and often, it affects him. And I think that he'll grow from this, and he'll learn how to handle it better. It's not always going to be clean, it's not always going to be perfect, and one of Brett's great attributes is to scramble away from pressure and improvise. I thought yesterday they did a really nice job of constricting the pocket and eliminating those options for him, but another great thing about Brett is he's got that short term memory that you have to have in terms of being able to move through adversity quickly and move on to the next challenge.
Q: On the defense, are there certain things you're seeing on the run defense that aren't getting done? It is a product of tackling, positioning?
A: I think that it's both, Chris. First and foremost, we came after them last night, and we played darn good defense for the most part. The problem is that any time you qualify a statement with what I just did "the most part" then you're looking at problems. We played hard, we played fast, we played physical, and we pressured, but in the second half, we really struggled to stop the run. It's positioning, it's tackling, it's trying to do too much sometimes. I certainly would not criticize their effort at all. They were able to put a drive together when they needed to put a drive together, and we weren't able to get them off the field. Like I've said, and I'll say forever, our job as coaches is to get them in the right spot, and if we get them in the right spot, their job as players is to make a play. As I said last night, we're all responsible for what happened last night, and we're all going to accept responsibility and we're going to fix it.
Q: How much did edge containment stand out as an issue last night particularly on that last drive?
A: They got some bounce plays out to the outside. What you need to understand is that it's not always a defensive end or an outside linebacker. Sometimes, you know, when they run this little split zone inside play, it's an overlap on an inside linebacker, and everyone's gotta fit it up right. It wasn't one thing, it was a couple of things on a couple of different plays. We just didn't get it handled the right way. To answer your question, it was a big deal. You saw it, the bounce, and getting to our left a couple of times, big plays.
Q: It didn't look like Priest Willis played last night. What was his status for the game?
A: He was fine. We used a little bit of a different group at times. We mix it up as you guys know quite a bit in terms of where guys play based on who we're playing. Yeah, he didn't play much on defense. As you guys saw, we left Fabian Moreau and Anthony Jefferson out there at corners, and we used Marcus Rios in there at nickel. And then we used Jaleel, Ishmael, and Tahaan in there at safeties, and then we rotated guys through. But it really didn't have anything to do with Priest or how he's been playing, it's just how these games unfold, and they really weren't throwing the ball much.
Q: Any update on Fabian, he was helped off the field?
A: Just a bruise. We came out of the game in pretty good shape health-wise. As you noticed, we lost Paul Perkins for a while there. He was sick, and then came back in. I thought that Jordon James did a nice job.
Q: What'd you think of Marcus Rios?
A: I think that Marcus is really developing, and it's great to see, especially considering all that he's been through. He played well, he's getting better, and he's getting more confidence, and to have him developing along with the way that Priest is developing is something that we need here down the stretch.
Q: For a drive like the last one that they had, how do you develop mental toughness for a situation like that?
A: Well, we are a mentally tough team. We've proven that time and time again, and I think we proved that by how we handled the first three games on the road. And I think we proved it how we responded last night against a good football team at the end. I'm talking about our offense, I guess, a little bit more there. But we are a mentally tough team. I think that sometimes...mental toughness can mean a lot of things, and one of the things it can mean is having an internal discipline to avoid the temptation to get out of your lane and try to make a play, and instead taking care of your assignment and having the trust that your teammate will do the same and that it will work. And that's hard to do, and sometimes you scramble. You try so hard to make a play that sometimes you do too much, and like I've said, sometimes it works out, but more often than not, it ends up getting you. I've seen forever, you watch games on TV, or you watch games on film, you see someone come under a block and make a play, and it's a heck of a play, and everybody oohs and aahs, but they weren't supposed to do that, and then the next time they come under a block, the guy gets outside the play and everyone just goes "what just happened?" And you say, well, the first time it was an exception. And that's just defense. And it's not just us, and it's not just this level, it's every level. That's how offenses gets yards. I mean, we could drop a defensive stop every play, hypothetically, or well, not hypothetically, theoretically would be a better word to say. But it doesn't work like that, there's a human element to this game.
Q: What do you tell the team to bounce back after a game like that, especially when you have an upcoming game against a team that's similarly desperate?
A: Well, we're a very resilient team. We've built a real mental toughness. I think we're tough-minded and I think we're very resilient. I will tell you that every player who played in that game yesterday came in today and spent time on their own evaluating that film, and when they were done with that, watching Oregon. I was amazed at how many guys came through. It was all of them. Some of them are still here, and some of them left and came back, but they've accepted responsibility just as the coaches have accepted responsibility for losing. We've got our 24 hour rule and then we'll move on. Having the opportunity to play a team like Oregon next Saturday gives us a tremendous...i think it's a great deal. It gives us some motivation to learn from this one and then move to the next one.
Q: What's your first impression of Oregon? I'm not sure how much you've seen of them...
A: Well, I've seen enough to know. They're incredibly explosive. They'll go into a game, they'll be in the process of a game, and they'll look like they're struggling a little bit, and then the next thing you know, it's three plays, 80 yards, and a touchdown. Or two plays, 80 yards and a touchdown, or four plays, 80 yards, and a touchdown. They're as explosive an offensive group as you'll find in all of college football, and they know how to win tight games. They've been in a lot of tight games, they've been in big games, they know how to win big games, they've played a lot of games in the Rose Bowl. Not necessarily against us, and they've won them. They're a hell of a team.
College football is incredibly exciting this year. I don't know where it's going to go the next few weeks. I don't know how many teams are going to end up undefeated at the end of the year. This conference is incredibly competitive, as we've said all along. I think Mark Helfrich or somebody said it, you worry about the Pac-12 beating themselves. You've got a lot of really good football teams, and you've got a lot of really competitive games--[Interrupted]
Q: And you've got the Western division of the SEC with Mississippi, Mississippi State, and Auburn all undefeated, but they all have to still play each other.
A: Yeah, it's really something. It's fantastic for the fans that love the excitement of that. I'm sure it's excruciating for the fans of every particular team that just pulls for their team. It's exciting for coaches and players that love to compete. I mean, it's going to be wild, and everyone needs to hang on, and crazy things are going to happen. What's important is that you stay on point, you do what you believe in, you're always trying to refine what you do to make things go better, you accept responsibility when things don't go right, when things do go right, you don't take them for granted. Our team does that. You guys have seen it now for two years and five games. There's a pretty good group of tough-minded young men around here, and I think we'll respond. It's amazing to me to watch these guys transform and the way they react now to a loss. They've always reacted with extreme disappointment, but it's just different. It's just different. I'm not going to say it's exciting, because you're never excited when you lose, but there's something there, and there's something on this team that's pretty darn special. And I'm not going to say it's going to be perfect, but they try like no other group that I've been around.
Jim Mora Sunday Teleconference
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