Pac-12 football coaches teleconference: Mark Helfrich isn't worried about his legacy
Each week the football coaches of the Pac-12 gather on a teleconference to talk with the media and address the trending topics of the week. Check Pac-12.com each Tuesday afternoon for a recap of that day's call.
Mark Helfrich fielded some questions about his legacy following the Oregon Ducks' big win over Michigan State, and Steve Sarkisian's USC Trojans got their own significant victory in the midst of some off-the-field issues. That and more from this week's Pac-12 football coaches teleconference call.
Oregon's Mark Helfrich
Oregon's big victory against top-10 powerhouse Michigan State means there's room for players to get lost in the success. Helfrich's players have seemingly done well in looking ahead this week. “Celebrate it, absolutely,” the Ducks head coach said said. “And then go back to work.”
Helfrich, on what his biggest impact on the program has been since taking over for head coach Chip Kelly two years ago: “I have no idea. I've said from the beginning, I don't own a stamp. If we're the group and team that kept on winning after Chip Kelly left, that's a good enough legacy for me.”
The Ducks turn around to face Wyoming on Saturday, and Helfrich knows his players will face a well-coached team that gets nitty-gritty with detail. “They really scheme you in special teams to a degree – there's an absolute plan,” Helfrich said. “They're very multiple on defense. It's the most defense we've seen this year in terms of variation.”
Redshirt freshman receiver Devon Allen scored two touchdowns against MSU on Saturday. Helfrich admitted he was afraid the Olympic-caliber hurdler would choose track and field over football: “(Offensive coordinator) Scott Frost and I were joking right after he won the (110-meter hurdles) national championship. I looked at him and I said, 'That might have been too fast.' The other part of it is the guy loves football.”
Oregon State's Mike Riley
There are two different reasons for the Beavers recording 13 penalties in each of their first two games. In Week 1, it was procedural issues. Last week, OSU “...kind of majored in pass interference and holding, so it's more technical stuff we need to clean up,” Riley said.
Oregon State led Hawai'i on Saturday by a 38-7 score before it allowed 23 straight points in the fourth quarter to eek out a win. “We did all the things to give them the edge,” Riley said. “All the things you do to let a team back in it, we did it.”
Riley added that his team has played seven quarters of good defense this season – that fourth quarter against Hawai'i was the eighth. “I'm encouraged but I know we have not even arrived yet. The competition gets nothing but stronger,” he said.
Arizona State's Todd Graham
Graham has a hard time gauging his defense. In Week 1, the Sun Devils faced small conference school Weber State. Against New Mexico last week, ASU played against an uncommon triple-option offense. “If we just eliminate the mental errors and the breakdowns and continue to gain confidence – I mean, these guys are fast. We're gaining depth. We're getting there,” Graham said.
ASU visits Colorado this week, and Graham believes he'll see a much-improved Buffs squad compared to last season. “I think they're a lot better. Offensively, they're a lot better. You just can't give up cheap ones against them,” he said.
There are hardly any issues for ASU's own offense. The line is excelling, Taylor Kelly is doing his thing at quarterback and the receiving group has more depth. “I think we're better in every area on offense,” Graham said.
Washington's Chris Petersen
The Huskies surely didn't expect a game against Eastern Washington to be such a shootout. UW held off the Eagles 59-52 to move to 2-0. “ I thought there would be some points scored, certainly not like that,” Petersen said.
What issues made for such a close game? “A couple of our DBs were in positions to make plays and they just executed better than we did, that's the bottom line,” Petersen said.
On the positive side of things, Washington has seen a great deal of production from nose tackle Danny Shelton, who had four sacks against Eastern Washington. Sacks are an uncharacteristic figure for a nose tackle. “Danny's been doing a really nice job,” Petersen said. “He's just playing hard, he's a really powerful guard. Nose guards usually don't make many tackles.”
USC's Steve Sarkisian
Sarkisian earned a signature victory just weeks into his first regular season as USC's head coach. A win against Stanford on Saturday came amidst off-field distractions, including the peculiar Josh Shaw fib about how he got injured and then athletic director Pat Haden's mid-game meeting with game officials last Saturday. So when will a drama-free week give Sark a break? “I don't think that exists around here,” he cracked.
During the 13-10 win against Stanford, USC lost captain Hayes Pullard to ejection after the linebacker was flagged for targeting. “I thought the guys really responded well when he was ejected,” Sarkisian said.
Sarkisian said that the Trojans spent extra time in preparation for the Stanford showdown in working on red zone defense. It was time well spent. “We felt like our red zone defense against Fresno [State] was not very good,” Sarkisian said. “We dug deep. People are going to move the ball, that's football. Just because they drive the ball into the red zone doesn't mean they earn the right to score.”
With such little time to patch together a recruiting class after leaving Washington last season, Sarkisian's recruiting success in his first year with USC relied on a bit of luck. “It was a really talented year in Southern California,” he said. “We just made it our focus. Really rolled the dice a little bit. Three of those kids, we didn't know until signing day if they were coming to us. We just trusted our gut, trusted our instincts.”
California's Sonny Dykes
Cal's two victories have gotten the season off on the right foot, but with a bye week coming, Dykes thinks there's could be a little loss of momentum. That said, he believes his team could also use some rest. “We had a very physical fall camp,” Dykes said. “I think we're all a little bit worn out physically as well as mentally. It's one of those things where it's probably not a perfect time, but at the same time I think it's needed.”
Dykes, on why the Golden Bears have seen such great strides to start this season: “The biggest thing is we just needed to get better in so many ways. It just started out by building a good culture in our program, developing a good work ethic.”
Arizona's Rich Rodriguez
Arizona last faced Nevada in the 2012 New Mexico bowl, where it needed to come from behind in the final few minutes to win. Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo is about the only familiar piece for either team. “How lucky we were to win it; that's the first thing that stands out to me,” Rodriguez said of the bowl game. “That's so long ago, so many things have changed.”
While Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon didn't put up big numbers in Week 2 against UTSA, Rodriguez was pleased with his young quarterback. “I think it was a learning experience for him. I don't think he played poorly. After watching the tape with him, he did some really good things, too,” Rodriguez said.
On the Nevada defense, which held up well against Washington State's spread attack last week: “Defense did a tremendous job against a very explosive offense, a very veteran offense. Overall, I was really impressed.”
Washington State's Mike Leach
Leach has said he wanted linebacker Darryl Monroe to unclutter his mind. He elaborated on that comment on Tuesday. “I just don't think he's played his best football,” Leach said. “I know he's capable of playing better than he is. He's just got to pull the trigger and do it. I don't know if he's thinking too much.”
The Cougars fell to 0-2 in a loss to Nevada this past week, and Leach is left answered questions about why his team is inconsistent in its focus. “We've had a transition with a lot of players. We're a young team,” he said, adding that he's attempting to build a winning mentality.
Utah's Kyle Whittingham
Through the first two weeks of the season, Whittingham is most impressed with the defensive line led by Nate Orchard. “Defensive line as a whole had a pretty good game on Saturday,” Whittingham said of a 59-27 victory against Fresno State. “Jared Norris, inside linebacker, is playing really well.”
The offensive output has been there, too. The Utes have outscored their opponents by an average of 37 points. “So far the tempo is what we're hoping it would've been,” Whittingham said. “We're executing very well.”
Stanford's David Shaw
Stanford's red zone opportunities were there in a showdown against USC last week, but the Cardinal didn't take advantage. “You're talking about opportunity to score a lot in that game,” Shaw said. “And not just score an extra four points to win that game.”
On what was the issue with the red zone offense: “It's just errors. Just too many errors. There's really nothing that we did that was unfixable. It was just making a mistake at the wrong time. That hurt us against a really good football team.”
Colorado's Mike MacIntyre
Which offensive threats for the Buffs' next opponent, ASU, is MacIntyre most worried about? “Shoot, all 11,” he said. “Their line is good. Their running backs are good. The quarterback is excellent."
Better open-field tackling and better kickoff coverage are among the improvements to make despite Colorado beating UMass last week. “We're concerned about a lot of things,” MacIntyre said.
Lining up with the Sun Devils' up-tempo offense and keeping up with the speed at which they operate will be key for CU this week. “They try to get you out of gaps,” MacIntyre said.
UCLA's Jim Mora
UCLA recovered from a rough Week 1 by better protecting quarterback Brett Hundley and getting the run game going against Memphis. Mora, however, wasn't too hot on giving up 35 points to the Tigers. “Defensively, they had 17 different run concepts,” Mora said. “We didn't handle it as well as I'd like to handle it. We over-pursued. We were not happy about our performance on defense.”
Mora said that Paul Perkins, who finished with 23 carries for 98 yards against Memphis, has gotten hot in the last two weeks, but he'd still like to use his other running backs. Perkins has just been the hot hand. “If one of those guys gets hot, we're going to work the ball to them,” Mora said. “Paul has really stood out to us.”
Texas is next up for UCLA, and even though the Longhorns fell to BYU, 41-7, this past week, there's no overlooking how much talent will be lining up against the Bruins. “They always have top recruiting classes and you see that talent,” Mora said.