Pac-12 coaches teleconference: David Shaw disagrees with Steve Sarkisian
Every Tuesday, all 12 Pac-12 head football coaches jump on a conference call with the media to look back at the week past and look ahead to what's next. This week:
Following Stanford's 31-28 victory against Washington on Saturday, Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian told a local radio station he felt the Cardinal began to fake injuries in order to slow the tempo of the UW offense. Sarkisian also accused Stanford assistant Randy Hart of telling the Cardinal players to go down. So Stanford head coach David Shaw made sure to clear some things up at the beginning of his conference call session.
Stanford's David Shaw
Shaw opened the conference call with a statement at his own request, and he quickly worked to refute Sarkisian's claim that the Cardinal were faking injuries. “I must say, we don't fake injuries. We don't condone it, we don't teach it, we don't allow it," Shaw said. “I don't care what Steve Sarkisian thinks he saw. I think it's unprofessional to call out another assistant coach on another team by name. I think that's wrong."
Two of the players that went to the ground against Washington were senior linebacker Shayne Skov and defensive lineman Ben Gardner. Shaw said Skov underwent an MRI on his knee but could play this week against Utah. Gardner was battling dehydration and an arm injury.
Shaw on the defense of the Utah Utes, who host Stanford this week: “They have defensive linemen that don't get moved. Our philosophy is to move people, and these guys don't get moved. They make it very, very difficult to run the ball inside.”
Utah's Kyle Whittingham
After falling at home in a close game against UCLA last week, the Utes must quickly refocus to play against No. 5 Stanford. “My estimation is they're the most physical team in the Pac-12,” Whittingham said before adding that his team's defense isn't all that soft.
Whittingham on Bruins linebacker Anthony Barr, who had two sacks against Utah last week: “Glad he's in the rearview mirror.”
Washington's Steve Sarkisian
Sarkisian didn't want to discuss the debate over his alledged faking of injuries by Stanford. The UW coach said he didn't hear what Shaw said earlier on the conference call, only adding that his staff, “saw what we saw. We'll leave it at that. Two reasonable people can disagree on something and move forward,” Sarkisian said.
Washington faces No. 2 Oregon this week, and it's hard to pin down one thing the Ducks are really good at – there are just so many things Mark Helfrich's team does well. But if there's one item that stands out to Sarkisian, it's the turnover margin. Oregon is third in NCAA with a margin of plus-eight thus far in 2013. “I think that's the hidden stat in all of this that goes unnoticed,” Sarkisian said.
Losing to Stanford in a game that went down to the wire could be a mentally tasking experience for the Huskies, but Sarkisian said playing Oregon next actually might help his team get over it. “I think it was very quick and easy to point out, 'Guys, we don't have time to sulk.' We have to get back on this horse and get ready mentally and physically.”
Oregon's Mark Helfrich
Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota was an under-the-radar recruit who took over as a freshman because of his skill set. Now, he's popping up in Heisman conversations for other reasons. “He's always been a great by-example guy, but we want more than that,” Helfrich said. “He's taken on more of a vocal role … communicating what the standard is in some regard. (His) presence and knowledge is exceptional.”
Frequent blowouts by the Ducks mean they could be missing out on learning how to handle tight games in fourth quarters. Helfrich said he doesn't see it as an issue because he and his staff try to make every snap difficult – even if it's not. “We try to make every situation we're in a high-anxiety situation and therefore a normal situation,” the Oregon coach said. “We want our guys to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I'm good if (not playing in tight fourth quarters) happens throughout the year.”
USC's Ed Orgeron
Orgeron is trying to keep his team upbeat in the wake of the school firing coach Lane Kiffin. The interim coach said the players have been smiling more in practice thanks to a relaxed but focused atmosphere: “It was a critical week for us to get back to USC football. These guys had been through a lot. I tried to ease up on 'em.”
Running back Silas Redd, who hasn't played this year after undergoing two knee surgeries, has already practiced with USC and Orgeron said he should be "full go” against the Arizona Wildcats on Thursday.
Orgeron on if there will be any significant changes to the schemes since Kiffin's departure: “It's hard to make wholesale changes in a week. There will be some different things out there. But we're going to stick with a similar format we've had at USC for years.”
Arizona's Rich Rodriguez
The Wildcats head to Los Angeles and will face a USC team on Thursday that seems refocused. As for Arizona, Rodriguez said his team has worked on overall execution on the offensive end since losing 31-13 to Washington two weeks ago. “We had execution issues from last game in both the run and the pass game. The last game with the weather and everything that happened, we didn't throw well.”
On what to expect from the Trojans: “I think defensively they'll be pretty similar. Offensively we're a little bit unsure. I think more than anything what I told my team, we're going to get a fired up USC team that's going to play with a chip on their shoulder and fly around.”
Colorado's Mike MacIntyre
Can a team take anything away from a 57-16 loss? The Buffs are trying to do just that this week, and MacIntyre believes he saw some good things out of his Colorado team despite what appeared on the scoreboard against Oregon. “We went into the game saying we weren't going to stick our toe in the pool and see how cold it was, we were going to dive in,” he said. “They know what they have to fix, and they know they can make plays. Now we have to keep doing it.”
Another metaphorical philosophy to keep his team held high: MacIntyre said Colorado has crawled along the valley floor. Now, the Buffaloes must "climb the mountain," he said.
On playing the ASU Sun Devils this week and what stuck out on film: “I see the really skilled receivers. I see a running back who can make people miss, and I see a quarterback who is accurate,” MacIntyre said.
Arizona State's Todd Graham
One of the statistics that stands out for Graham after a 2-2 stretch against Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame is the fourth-quarter points scored. ASU is averaging 17.2 points per fourth quarter this season, the most in the nation.
Graham on receiver Jaelen Strong, a redshirt sophomore transfer with 569 receiving yards this year. “He's been tremendous. He's still not even close to learning and mastering what we're trying to do with him. We pride ourselves being able to take those guys and transition them fast … he's going to get a whole bunch better because he's just getting started. There's so much fundamentally that he can do better.”
Oregon State's Mike Riley
Oregon State's offensive line was decimated by injuries but a bye week has given the team a period to bring back some players slowly. Offensive linemen Grant Enger, Gavin Andrews and Josh Mitchell returned to practice, as has fullback Tyler Anderson.
Washington State hosts Oregon State in Pullman, Wash., this week, and Riley has liked what WSU quarterback Connor Halliday is doing as he's grown more comfortable in the Cougars' offense. “I've liked him since high school. He came down, was in one of our camps,” Riley said.
The Beavers have nine players on their roster from the state of Washington, and Riley said the proximity and wealth of talent from the nearby state is a priority for recruiting. “We like the close access. Sometimes we're closer than Washington State is to a kid up in the I-5 corridor. We feel real good about recruiting that state and certainly have gotten some good guys,” Riley said.
Washington State's Mike Leach
WSU quarterback Connor Halliday threw for 521 yards and completed 41-of-67 passes in a 44-22 victory against Cal last week. Leach thought it was the junior's best performance of his career. “I think we definitely need to improve, but I think it was his best day of commanding our offense overall,” Leach said. “Like everybody, we're still battling consistency.”
On defending the Beavers' own prolific quarterback, Sean Mannion: “He's big and strong, kind of mobile. Pretty experienced because he started for quite some time. And he can throw it way downfield."
UCLA's Jim Mora
Last season, UCLA was cruising through the schedule before getting blasted by a down California team, 43-17. Mora thinks that experience helped him as a coach, and it leaves the Bruins with little reason to look ahead in the schedule despite the Golden Bears struggling this season. “It's a memory that needs to be remembered,” Mora said. “What I remember is I did a poor job of getting this team ready. It's been a constant reminder to me. I go back and revisit my approach that week. That one was on me.”
Mora on what's next for UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, who ran, threw and caught a touchdown pass last week against Utah: “He punted, you know; he also punted down to the 8-yard line. I don't think he'll return kicks.”
Running back Jordon James injured his ankle and offensive lineman Torian White is out for the year with a severely injured ankle. Mora said Paul Perkins and Steven Manfro will be two of four running backs who could see carries. Meanwhile, Caleb Benenoch and Conor McDermott will see more time on the offensive line in place of White.
California's Sonny Dykes
Dykes on "The Drive," the Pac-12's in-depth show focusing on the ins and outs of the Cal football program: “I haven't watched it. My media people watch it, kind of give me reports … The Pac-12 has been really good. The people that are working on the show, the camera guys, the producers, they've been really, really good. We're having a rough season so I think it's hard when you have somebody around all the time. But you know, from everything I've heard, it's a pretty fair chronicle.”
Dykes was asked if there's a reason the Pac-12 sits above other conferences in terms of the number of penalties called, and the Cal coach said the number of fast-paced offenses in the league might have a lot to do with it. “It lends itself to having more penalties. It just does,” he said.