Pac-12 football coaches teleconference: Talking the Pac-12 South and rivalry week
The final full Pac-12 football coaches teleconference included a few injury updates that could have a major impact on the outcome in the Pac-12 South. Plus, Utah and Colorado can't figure out whether they have a true rivalry, Mark Helfrich and Mike Riley have old memories of the Civl War, and Sonny Dykes goes in depth about the philosophy tree of the spread offense.
UCLA's Jim Mora
While many people thought the Bruins would eventually crash following some close victories at the beginning of the year, Mora looked at it another way. This team, as good as it is now, is still pretty young. UCLA simply had to learn to drown out the pressure early on in the year. “We have six scholarship seniors on our team,” Mora pointed out.
Mora, on managing the Bruins over the past month as they have found a groove: “We just focus on each day and making sure we're doing all we can to prepare to be at our best that day. Really took the focus off anything other than that day. “
Stanford's David Shaw
Shaw said that receiver and return man Ty Montgomery will miss the regular season finale with a shoulder injury that he suffered in the Big Game against Cal last weekend. That puts a cramp in the Cardinal's plans to spoil UCLA's chance of a Pac-12 title game berth and hand the South Division to the winner of Arizona and Arizona State. Montgomery will likely return for Stanford's bowl game, Shaw said.
Stanford visits a No. 8 UCLA squad that is hitting its stride at the right time of the year. What's changed since the Bruins got off to a rougher start than most anticipated? “I think what happens to just about every team is you face some kind of adversity early in the year,” Shaw said. “Sometimes it just starts to click and starts to gel.”
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley has evolved as a player during his college career. He's stepping up in the pocket, protecting the ball and making “NFL throws,” as Shaw put it. “You just see the natural maturation of a great athlete becoming a really, really good quarterback. He's starting to become exactly what everybody thought he was going to become when he was a senior in high school,” Shaw said.
The UCLA rushing attack stands out to Shaw as the identity of Jim Mora's team. “I think it's the dedication to the running game and how physical they are up front (stands out),” he said. “You have to account for the quarterback, because he's a runner, too.”
Arizona State's Todd Graham
Arizona State allowed 601 passing yards to WSU quarterback Luke Falk last weekend, and it impressed Graham, who liked the young quarterback's toughness. “He showed great courage,” Graham said. “I was impressed having a kid that young – cause what we do, we attack and we put pressure on him. He's a real solid decision-maker.”
On ASU's philosophy behind recruiting on the junior college level: “I like guys who have kind of taken the path least-traveled. A lot of the junior college players … there's a sense of urgency. They don't have four years.”
Graham said the Sun devils will prepare for the Territorial Cup expecting Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon to play. Solomon was injured during the Wildcats' win over Utah on Saturday and his status remains unclear.
ASU brought Pac-12 referees to campus this offseason to educate its players about the rules. That, in part, has helped the Sun Devils play cleanly and smartly. An analogy from Graham summed up why it's important that his players know the ins and outs of the officiating. “If we're playing backgammon and I know the rules and you don't, I have a better chance of winning than you,” he said.
Colorado's Mike MacIntyre
The Pac-12 expansion a few years back brought Colorado and Utah into the conference, and to MacIntyre, there's definitely something brewing despite CU's tall ladder to climb in the league. “I definitely think it's a rivalry,” he said. “This is a big game for us. I don't know if it's a big game for them, but it's a big game for us.”
Utah's Kyle Whittingham
While MacIntyre sees the proximity and pairing of Utah and Colorado enough to be a rivalry, the Utes might beg to differ. They have enough rivalry in the state of Utah. “It's my own opinion that a rivalry has to develop on its own,” Whittingham said. “I don't know if you can force it to happen. Rivalry to me signifies some bad blood … something that happened or transpired that makes it so.”
Another week, another round of speculation about who will start for Utah at quarterback following a 42-10 loss to Arizona. “Travis (Wilson) is the starter, but we've got to make sure we get the guy out there that gives us the best chance to win. A lot of that will be predicated on practice this week,” Whittingham said.
Washington State's Mike Leach
Leach doesn't believe Washington will use press coverage against the Cougars like Arizona State did in the Sun Devils' 52-31 victory this week. “I think Washington will do some of it, not a lot of it. You know, you just have to react to it,” Leach said. “Other than turn the ball over, we did throw for over 600 yards (at ASU).”
Washington State won't look to next year by playing younger players in the season finale. The Cougs have pretty much been relying upon youngsters to this point, Leach said. “We got 33 guys that hadn't played before this season. It's pretty much (about) just taking care of where we're at,” he added.
Washington's Chris Petersen
Let's just say that when Chris Petersen was head coach of Boise State, he was on the good end of a rivalry between the Broncos and intrastate opponent Idaho. It's a different feeling for Petersen as he enters his first Apple Cup game – Washington and Washington State have a little more back-and-forth going. “This one's much more even,” Petersen said. “I think that's what makes it even a more exciting rivalry.”
California's Sonny Dykes
Dykes believes there were two original philosophies of thought amongst the first spread offenses. One philosophy from the Air Raid offenses under Washington State's Mike Leach, West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen and Dykes began with a pass-happy ideology that used wide splits on the offensive lines to create a wider edge – that limited the variety of run schemes. On the other side was the Rich Rodriguez group that also included the Oregon Ducks, who used the spread to emphasize “a very complicated run game and a pretty simple passing game,” Dykes said. “I think everybody has kind of merged. Oregon's passing game has gotten more diverse. Our run game has gotten more diverse.”
Dykes liked the accountability from the Pac-12 when the conference acknowledged that the officials from the Stanford-California game made mistakes in reviewing several would-be scores for the Golden Bears. “It was a bit frustrating Saturday. Just the delay and stoppages in play, I don't know if that's good for college football. It has a negative impact on the product, I really believe that,” Dykes said. “Clearly we had some things go against us in that regard … it's frustrating but that's part of football. I was pleased to see the Pac-12 respond and take action.”
Cal hosts BYU to close the regular season and could earn bowl eligibility with its sixth win. “They're very multiple in what they do schematically,” Dykes said of the Cougars' defense. “They do a lot of different things, especially out of the backend. As a playcaller, it's real hard to get a beat on them. They just keep you off balance.”
Oregon's Mark Helfrich
Helfrich has lived the Ducks-Beavers rivalry as a man who grew up in Oregon. His parents went to Oregon, and Helfrich maintained he's been a Duck fan since he was a young lad. “I still am a young lad. A young-ish (lad)… just bald. I've been an Oregon fan my whole life. I was always on the correct side of the rivalry.”
As usual, Oregon isn't letting the noise from the College Football Playoff impact what it is doing this week. It's only about getting better in preparation for the Civil War. “Managing the noise and managing the outside influence is something we have to work on constantly in this Twittersphere,” Helfrich said.
More on the rivalry between Oregon and Oregon State: “Like any intrastate rivalry, it's a huge deal across the state. There's a lot of mixed communities across the state.”
Oregon State's Mike Riley
Riley hopes his Beavs remember last year's Civil War game, a slim 36-35 loss that saw Oregon State nearly pull off a major upset. “We were actually at an all-time low heading into that game,” Riley said. “I hope our guys remember the competitive nature they had and the way they played.”
Riley remembers his first Civil War. His father, Bud Riley, was the Beavers' defensive backs coach in 1965, and Riley remembers witnessing OSU defensive back Thurman Bell pick off an Oregon pass late in the game to help his team to a victory. “I remember going to Hayward Field. I was in the seventh grade,” Riley said. “Just an unbelievable scene.”
Oregon State upset Arizona State two weeks back, and it will need another strong effort to pull off a win over the Ducks. What do the Beavs look for in hoping they can recreate that game? “You start with confidence. You have to believe,” Riley said. “It's no different than any other opportunity to win. It's about preparation.”
USC's Steve Sarkisian
USC didn't play up to its own standards in a loss to UCLA last week. The Pac-12 title hopes are gone, but the Trojans are happy there's enough motivation to move forward with Notre Dame coming to town. “Honestly it's probably a blessing. You go into a game (last week) and you feel great about your opportunity, and you don't play or coach the way you're capable of doing it,” Sarkisian said. “Boom, here comes arguably the best rivalry in college football. Both teams are in very similar situations. There's a bunch of shoulda-coulda-wouldas.”
Sarkisian said the 38-20 loss to the Bruins could have gone differently, but USC simply couldn't take advantage of key plays. “The thing that jumped out is I feel like we missed the opportunity in the game that could have swung the game in our favor,” Sarkisian said.