Opening “Not a whole lot different after reviewing the film. I think same sentiments as…it’s hard when you run 46 plays, don’t do a lot. Don’t do anything in the first half, first downs - all that kind of stuff. It puts a tremendous strain on everybody else. It was disappointing. It was good to see K.J. settle in a little bit the second half, run the ball a little bit the second half. Good teams, Stanford, answered right back in the second half and put us right back on our heels.
“Different style team this week. Equally explosive on offense, we’ll have our hands full there. Looking to make some strides on offense.”
Looking to get a little healthier on defense this week? “Yes. Like I said after the game, at this point in the season sometimes it’s rotating bodies. You get some guys back, guys out. But yeah, we’re hopeful we’ll get a couple guys back, ready to roll a little healthier than they were last week.”
Uphill climb going up against a team like Stanford with a banged up defense “I think the main thing is playing a really explosive offense. I think we’ll have guys and we’ll be healthy enough to where that’s not going to be the main issue. I think Arizona’s the main issue.”
Is the plan to get Jake Browning the number-one reps in practice again? “We’ll see how he is tomorrow and if he’s ready to roll, he’s ready to roll. Hopefully he is.”
Was the plan to shut him down for all of last week? “We didn’t shut him down. He threw last week in practice. It’s how much zip can he put on the ball. Every day he gets a little bit better.”
What was your post-game evaluation of K.J. Carta-Samuels? “He knew where he was going with the ball. That sounds easier than it is sometimes with all the different coverages and those type of things, but he really did. He was really decisive where he was going with the ball. I think Stanford is a really good pass rushing team. They really are, they really put a lot of pressure and they get great push. That d-line is relentless. They do a great job and we knew that going in. A couple times it was hard for him to set his feet like he needed to to get the zip on it. When he did a couple times in the second half and the protection was a little bit better, he threw a couple nice balls. You’re going, okay. That’s how it should look. That’s how we know he can throw. I thought the second half was certainly better than the first half. We had the ball so little in the first half. I think the biggest disappointing thing was the third downs in the first half, the three-and-outs and not converting in some manageable third down situations. A little better in the second half.
What did you think about with regard to his decision-making on the zone reads? “It’s interesting to look at it on tape. I think one time he even came off and said I should have kept that. But you look at it on tape and you can kind of see what a guy was thinking out there. He’s still going to have to out-run a guy. It wasn’t like it was quite as open as we thought it was from the field and maybe what you saw as well. I think there was one…three times where he had options to pull it. I think one he would have liked to pull.”
Was his touchdown run a designed run? “It was not a designed run. It was really…he had a couple of very, very good reps in the second half, throwing the ball and that scramble was another really good one. He did a great job making a guy miss and getting into that end zone. It really called for…sometimes when you empty things out if it’s not there and they are rushing three guys it looks like a quarterback draw - which sometimes it can be built into that type of thing. He did exactly what he needed to do."
How do you manage being fair to Carta-Samuels but also trying to jump-start the offense? “It’s frustrating. Like I said, we’re all frustrated when we’re going three-and-out and having so few plays. I mean, that’s as few plays as I think I’ve ever been associated with. And so that’s what I’m frustrated – leave him on the field, and I know when a guy gets into a rhythm, he can do some really good things. And everybody get into a rhythm – the run-game get into a rhythm, then we can throw it a little bit. But when you feel like you’re dealing with so little margin for error and everything has to be just right to move the chains against a good defense, it can be frustrating when you’re going three and out."
Anything you can change in terms of playcalling or scheme to get better starts in the first half? “Like I said, I think each game there’s certain things that you go back and you say, ‘yeah, maybe call this one different.’ But it’s not a lot of that. We put the tape on and every play, if we get execution here, and execution there, we have it. A lot of times, it’s like, one guy. And that’s a little bit of the frustration."
On not being able to call some of the early offensive script due to lack of third-down conversions, first downs, etc. “I think the lack of third-down conversion hurts you a little bit. You have some openers that you’re trying to see some different formations to see if they’re going to play us the rest of the game kind of like we’re thinking, so it’s important to get some of those looks and see what we can kind of come back to later. But I think the main thing is not converting on third downs, or we get a first down and then (only) run four plays or five plays. If we can stay on the field a little bit, I know everybody feels a lot different. And hopefully score a touchdown one of these early drives.”
On seeing spread offenses the rest of the way after Stanford “It’s certainly what you see more often than not. I think the main thing though is, when you look at anybody, are they good at what they do? There’s just a lot of different styles. Now, Stanford’s style is unique, and they’re just really good at what they do, as well. It always comes down to I think players, obviously, first and foremost, and the scheme, are they good at what they do? You start with Stanford on offense, and that offensive line is really, really good, and they’ve got a spectacular running back, and that fifth-year quarterback knows what he’s doing. I mean, like we talk about, they’ve got all the pieces in place. And so you put the new film on of somebody, and it’s like, OK, we don’t see a Stanford type anymore. Is that a good thing? Well, everybody has enough wrinkles. And like Arizona, they’re a juggernaut on offense. They’re leading the conference in offense and points all those type of things. So they are hard to slow down, as well. So a new set of problems. So I really think of it more so as just, well, how good are they? How much talent, how much skill do they have? But it may help a little bit that you see quite a bit of zone read. But I think it doesn’t slow them down at all. Those guys still operate at a high, high level."
On if he thinks offenses will start to evolve back to power running “Yeah, I think you might see some more power teams, but I don’t think you’re going to see a ton. What I think is different is the athletic running quarterbacks that there’s a lot of those guys out there. That’s what a lot of the high schools are doing. You spread them out and put such tremendous stress on the defense. The NFL is a different game. They cannot get that guy dinged at all. They’ll dabble in it. You see some teams are very cautious and very smart; it’s not going to be their whole system by any stretch. I think everything is cyclical, but I don’t see it going back to the old days. You might have some teams that kind of gravitate to the Stanford style and that will be unique to them.””
On how he thought the defense performed against Stanford “I thought they played like the kind of normally do. I thought they played real hard. I thought they played physical against a physical offense. I think, again, what hurts the defense tremendously is when we don’t create a lot of offense. I think that puts a lot of pressure. I think the game, the momentum, and the energy changes when you do some things on offense. We just didn’t have the ball much. I think that really stresses them against a good offense. They power you for five yards, five yards, four yards, and then they get a nice play-action game off of it. They do enough to move (Christian) McCaffrey around and get him the ball. I thought they battled hard. I thought they battled all game long, but when you’re not creating a ton of offense it puts stress on the defense as well.”
On preparing for Jerrard Randall and Anu Solomon “Well, (Jerrard Randle) runs the ball more than (Anu Solomon), but their style is what it is. Thye’re a running offense. (Anu) Solomon runs the ball as well. He’s a zone-read quarterback. It’s not like they’re deviating tremendously from what they do. They may have more designed runs for him, quarterback draws and those kinds of things, but they’re not creating a new offense for him.”
On if he has to fight the urge to hand it off to Myles Gaskin more than they do “We definitely need to get him the ball. He’s proven than he’s making plays for us, without question. We also need to have some balance to our offense to be able to get the passing game going a little bit. That’s the rub; that’s the interesting part of things. Yeah, he keeps moving the chains for us a little bit, but they’re just going to keep packing the box and make it a little bit ridiculous if we don’t get some things going in the pass game. We need to be able to get some explosive things going, which have been minimal for us.”
On if Stanford adjusted their plan to limit Myles Gaskin “Not really. They kind of played like they had played most of the game, kind of how we expected them to play. They have a lot of defense; they have different coverages and their disguised when they do that. But it wasn’t different than what we thought. Myles (Gaskin) made a couple really good moves, made some guys miss to get some things started. A couple of times we blocked things pretty cleanly. A little combination of those two things.”
On how much of an offenses success or struggles falls to the offensive coordinator “I think we can go through every single play and show you where it is. The head coach, the quarterback, those guys always have to take the bullets and there are a lot more people involved than just that.”
Ben Burr-Kirven wasn’t didn’t seem like a highly recruited guy — what did you see out of him then … and now that he’s becoming a bigger part of the defense “I go back to that ‘highly recruited thing’ — that’s very, very overrated. There were a lot of people that liked Ben, including us. And when we got him we felt really, really good about it. You never know until you get guys here — I always say that — to know their football instincts. … He plays with great energy. He’s really, really sharp on the field, as well as off the field. He gets things really, really fast. If something happens out there, or somebody gets him on something, he almost comes back chuckling on the sidelines … and it’s not going to happen again. So we’re excited about him. He’s been doing a great job, not only getting good reps at linebacker but on special teams he’s really been showing up.”
You said you hoped Kevin King's injury wasn’t serious. Is that how it turned out? “It’s not serious.”
What are the unique aspects of Arizona’s defense? “You see a lot of ‘odd’ defenses, three-man front these days with all the spread-type teams. What’s a little different is how they stack the linebackers … and cover them up. It’s really unique. They also run a nice blitz package out of those guys, so it’s not just three guys rushing you all the time. The blitzes come from different (areas) and sometimes it’s tough to identify where they’re coming from. Talking about the Stanford offense, Arizona’s defense is unique in terms there’s not a lot of guys in our conference that run this style of defense. So it’s something new here and in three days (of practice) we’ve got to prepare for.”
With a defense like that, is finding their tendencies maybe more crucial this week? “Yep … and they’ve got some more (good) coaches as well. So they know — there’s a lot of defense there in terms of blitzing and who’s coming through what gap and all of a sudden you’re starting to chase ghosts. So we’re always trying to simplify things for our kids, so you can see a thousand different defenses — ‘now he’s hitting this gap; now he’s hitting all these different combinations’ — and so we’ve got to simplify it, and we’ve got be able to pass-protect and we’ve got to be able to run-block.”
And knowing your personnel on offense, how much have you had to maybe simplify things or pare down the playbook? “We’re very aware of that with the new guys we have. I don’t think that, in terms of what we’re putting into the game plan has been handcuffing by any imagination. Sometimes it does show up a little bit in execution — not so much blown assignments, maybe a step short, maybe a little bit late (is) increased; not being able to react at the snap of a finger. So that shows up a little bit. But we feel like we’ve just got to keep building on it, and each one of these guys seems to be making progress each game.”