Pac-12 coaches teleconference: Jim Mora is not stalking Marqise Lee
In the final Pac-12 coaches teleconference of the regular season, UCLA coach Jim Mora discussed the Bruins' "all hands on deck" mentality and made it clear that, despite his open obsession with USC receiver Marqise Lee, he is not stalking him. Also, coach Mike Riley expressed frustration over Oregon State's four-game losing streak, and ASU's Todd Graham goes third-person on us.
UCLA's Jim Mora
In a loss to Arizona State, the Bruins turned to defensive back Ishmael Adams to kick-start the punt and kick return games a la transforming linebacker Myles Jack into a running back. The end result: Adams finished with a punt return of 49 yards and 185 total yards on five kick returns, including one 69-yard effort. “We've kind of been looking for someone that could give us a spark,” Mora said of the return game. “We have an all-hands-on-deck mentality here. Ish raised his hand (when coaches asked for volunteers to give returning a try). He used to do that in high school.”
Mora has compared USC Trojans receiver Marqise Lee to former NFL star Marvin Harrison. He sees them as smooth, athletic receivers who can run any route. Mora is conscious about his gushing over UCLA's rival receiver. Between two off-the-field run ins with Lee and his frequent comments about Lee to the media, Mora had to clear something up. “I've seen him twice in L.A. in the last year, and he probably thinks I'm a stalker.”
Mora said the USC and UCLA rivalry includes two teams whose brands are embedded in the mainstream football culture. Because of it, the Trojans and Bruins have little need to deviate from their historic identities – i.e. you know the powder blue and gold means UCLA. “We're not teams that are dilly-dallying with our uniforms,” Mora said.
USC's Ed Orgeron
Ed Orgeron isn't saying he plays up the rivalry with UCLA, but he's not saying it's not on the Trojans' minds. “We don't put one game over another, but we do understand … it's important,” Orgeron said.
Arizona State's Todd Graham
Graham said the Sun Devils' increased usage of quarterback Taylor Kelly in the run game is conscious and goes back to a simple statistic. “I'm a big research guy,” Graham said. “Every game that Taylor has rushed for 50 yards or more, we've won. That's why you see that grow.”
This week, ASU will have its own defense keyed on a quarterback who can run in Arizona senior B.J. Denker. “He's a winner,” Graham said. “I like the way he operates the offense. Extremely quick and athletic. Great decision-maker. He's a handfull, a guy who poses a lot of problems."
Graham said this might be the hardest senior day in his coaching career. As his second year in Tempe concludes, Graham said part of the reason he took the ASU job was because he saw the potential that in 2013 have the Sun Devils playing in – and with a win against UA, hosting – the Pac-12 title game. “I did know this: I knew there was talent here,” Graham said. “Being at the right place at the right time is what happened to Coach Graham.”
Arizona's Rich Rodriguez
After a home loss to Washington State, the Wildcats bounced back by thumping No. 5 Oregon. Rodriguez said the difference between the two games wasn't about effort. "We want to be optimistic but we have to be realists first and foremost," he said. "If we play well and the other team makes a few mistakes, we can win any game. The effort and the preparation has really been the same all year. We just made some critical errors (against WSU) and we're not good enough to overcome that.”
Ka'Deem Carey took a school-record 48 carries against the Ducks on Saturday. Rodriguez said that 10-15 pounds of added weight have helped his stamina. It's not the only reason Carey can handle such a heavy load. “Lots of guys don't get clean shots on him. He's always twisting and turning his body," Rodriguez added.
Next up, Arizona faces ASU in the Territorial Cup. Carey and company will be dealing with a talented defensive front. “They are very athletic, they have great strength and size, and you know, they're veterans,” Rodriguez said. “They've been there, done that.”
Colorado's Mike MacIntyre
How long does a rebuild take? MacIntyre is finishing up his first year of a ground-up project in Boulder, and he's learned from mentor David Cutcliffe, the current Duke head coach, that it depends on the situation. Cutcliffe went 4-8, 5-7, 3-9, 3-9 and 6-7 in his first five years before leading the Blue Devils to a 9-2 record this season. “People say 'oh, you're not on the timetable,” MacIntyre said. “I think it takes time to build a program in an elite conference.”
Looking to the offseason, MacIntyre said that he wants to see his team become more physically capable of stacking up against the Pac-12 elite. “We know where we need to improve at. We just need to be a stronger, more physical football team,” he said. “That's something we'll get better at.”
Utah's Kyle Whittingham
Utah closes its season against Colorado, which has a similar 4-7 record despite widely being considered behind the Utes in terms of where the program stands. “It's been a frustrating season for sure, so many close calls, coming up short,” Whittingham said. “It's been tough to deal with.”
Recruiting-wise, Whittingham has a tough offseason ahead. He wants to add more team speed to the Utes on both sides of the ball, but he could also end up recruiting another quarterback. Problem is, Whittingham doesn't know if the head injury to sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson will be career-ending or not -- and won't know for three months. “That puts us in between to a rock and a hard place,” Whittingham said.
Whittingham disagreed with the assertion that his team didn't know how to handle success such as a win over then fifth-ranked Stanford earlier in the year. “There's something to be said about losing your quarterback each week,” he said of Wilson, who missed time with a hand injury before suffering a concussion. “It took away our momentum.”
Stanford's David Shaw
Shaw doesn't see the ups and downs of a college football season being hard on his team. He sees that simply as a typical season. It's easy for players to recover from big wins or tough losses – until there aren't any more games to prepare for, there's always motivation to attack the next day. “If we win a big game, they don't cancel the next week,” Shaw said. “If we lose a big game, they don't cancel the next week.”
On the a growing rivalry against Notre Dame, which visits Palo Alto, Calif., this week: “It's nice to build a rivalry out of conference. It's positive for all of us to play really hard, physical games late in November.”
Last year, Stanford fell to eventual national title runner-up Notre Dame on a controversial overtime play. Shaw remembers when his running back, Stepfan Taylor, seemingly crossed into the end zone with a second-effort on a 4th-and-inches in overtime, but the play supposedly was blown dead prior to Taylor breaking the plane. The Stanford coach said he hasn't revisited the game tape since last year – he doesn't want to. “The replay official said we didn't cross the line so we didn't cross the line,” Shaw said, noting his well-chronicled opinion of the play.
Oregon State's Mike Riley
Oregon's State's season hasn't gone as planned. After going 6-1, the ceiling has come crashing down on the Beavs. They are coming off a 69-27 loss to Washington leading into the Civil War game against what's bound to be a cranky Oregon Ducks team. What went wrong against the Huskies last week? “It's like, what didn't?” Riley said. “You've got to stop the run and run the ball. That's where we failed miserably the other night.”
As far as specifics go, Riley expressed a good deal of disappointment and few answers. The Beavers were failing in terms of gap responsibility, Riley said, “and then it went on with not finishing tackles. And not getting anyone to the ball. That was out of character as I've seen us play, ever.”
On the premise that OSU quarterback Sean Mannion's confidence perhaps has fallen off in the last few weeks: “He's actually good. He's pretty much a realist ... which is kind of nice, he's always the same. He comes back to work. I think he's great that way.”
Oregon's Mark Helfrich
Prior to losing to Arizona this weekend, Oregon Ducks De'Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff made comments that seemingly took another trip to the Rose Bowl for granted – they wanted to fight for a national championship, after all. Helfrich said the comments didn't show that Oregon was overlooking Arizona. “I think (the comments are) part ignorance, part context, part outside expectations," Helfrich said. "That didn't represent any more than two guys who were frustrated … and I think it diminishes Arizona's victory to say it did. It didn't affect our team.”
So with that, are the Ducks ready to play in the Civil War this week? “They've flushed it well,” Helfrich said of the 42-16 loss to Arizona.
Helfrich said he enjoys the high expectations in Eugene. Even if the Ducks fail to reach the goal of national title game or bust, he's glad to be a part of it. “That's the reality of it,” Helfrich said. “When I took this job, I wanted to be at a place like that. The line we want is very hard, very difficult. Every week, we know we're going to get everyone's best shot. We've earned that over the years and that's hard.”
Washington State's Mike Leach
With Thankgiving on the horizon, Leach is most thankful for his team's improvement and attitude. “The thing that I'm most happy with is nobody gave up … or flinched,” Leach said. “Everybody just kept working.”
Washington's Steve Sarkisian
Washington hosts rival Washington State in the Apple Cup, and Sarkisian is most worried about the Cougars' success in extended passing plays. “They're getting their plays off the original playcall, and now they're also creating plays when things break down,” he said.
As for the UW offense, Sarkisian said the Huskies must be wary about where the WSU defensive backs are and what they're doing. “They love to bring the corner blitzes or (safety) Deone Bucannon off the edge,” he said.
Asked about his memories of WSU assistant coach Dennis Simmons, who played football with Sarkisian at BYU, Sarkisian had this to say about the native of Memphis: “Penny Hardaway and Dennis are good friends.”
California's Sonny Dykes
Cal took a 63-13 drubbing against Stanford to finish a hellish 1-11 season. First-year coach Sonny Dykes says he'll look at himself in the mirror heading into the offseason. “It all starts with self-evaluation, and that obviously starts with me and my coaching staff. You step back and you say, 'What worked? What didn't work?'”
Asked if dealing with youth and inexperienced has helped him value veterans more, Dykes said he hopes to build a team led by veterans one day. “I think anytime you've had a chance to be on good football teams and have good programs, that's where it starts,” he said. “We're young and then our young guys got injured. And then we got really young. There's no excuse for us having the kind of season we had.”