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Weekly Press Conference Transcript

Oct 27, 2014

TUCSON, Ariz. University of Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez and select players met with media members at a weekly press conference on Monday. Below is a brief transcript.

Head Coach Rich Rodriguez

Opening statement:

“I thought we got contributions from all three phases at different times in the Washington State game and I thought our focus was good. We knew they were going to throw the ball a lot, but we didn’t expect it to be 70 times. I don’t think anyone relaxed until the last minute or two of the game, but the way we came out in the first and third quarters showed that our guys were mentally into it and focused. They faced adversity well and now we have an even bigger challenge. UCLA is a team that many people picked to win the league and thought would be in the final four. They are having a good year even though they’ve lost a couple of close ones. To be able to beat them on a Saturday night in that arena and against their talented players requires us to play really well and have a great week of preparation. We can’t wake up Saturday and say we are going to beat UCLA, we have to try to win every day this week.”

On having success on the road:

“It usually stems from our guys getting ready to face adversity and loving the play of the game. Obviously at home you get a boost and some adrenaline from your crowd. When you’re on the road and it is just your guys, they can take pride in themselves that they can handle anything that is thrown at them. In the past couple of years there were a couple of road games when we did not play very well. I think our guys have been taking a business-like approach from the time we get on the plane to when we get back, and I think that has really helped.”

On preparing for UCLA:

“You certainly have to be aware. They can throw out some wrinkles that you haven’t seen and that’s the hard part. You have to be fundamentally sound if they do. Last year they would have had us on the fake punt if they completed it. You have to be prepared for almost any scenario and sometimes that is difficult to do, particularly when you have new guys on special teams. We have been able to handle some of that so far. In the last game, we were mostly looking for an onside kick from Washington State, and they did it. I though Terris Jones-Grigsby did a great job of stepping across the line on the kick before the ball went 10 yards. You have to prepare for every situation and we talk about it a lot, but as a head coach I worry about that all the time.”

On decision of pulling the nose tackle:

“We have done the even front before and a lot of times it was in more of a passing situation. It wasn’t something that was totally new and our defense probably felt that we were going to mix up more with even fronts and odd fronts. Our even front pressures were doing well. Even though we weren’t getting a lot of sacks, we were getting some pressure and holding out. Those guys had to rush the passer 80-some times, so I know they got a little tired. It was a way for us to get our fastest guys on the field defensively and it worked out.”

On preparing for UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley:

“The biggest difference preparing for him is his willingness to run, and when he does run, he is fast. He is a big guy that breaks a lot of tackles. You will see a lot of times that someone thinks they’ve got him pinned up or tackled, but he will break through an arm tackle. He and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota are probably the two best I’ve seen in terms of big athletic guys that break tackles and won’t go down by just putting an arm on them.”

On Anu Solomon and the offense:

“Most of the time when you are backed up on your own two-yard line you would run the ball, particularly with a redshirt freshman. You may just hand the ball off a couple times and make a safe throw, but Anu has shown us that he has a pretty good grasp of our offense, and he is still learning. There are situations in every game that we would like to have back, but I think this past game he was seeing the field the best he had all year including when he was backed up. He made some really good decisions, saw the field well and made some really good throws. We call plays and approach the offense like he is a veteran, and we really have since he started in the first game. Sometimes I have to sit back and remember that this is first time he has seen some of these defensive plays or situations. You try to cover everything in August and hope that he is prepared, but inevitably there are going to be times in a game when coverage is new. His demeanor and ability to understand the moment have been really good, and I think that is why he has had so much success.”

On defensive lineman Trevor Wood and linebacker Antonio Smothers:

“They gave us a little boost and we had to get them in the game because we were rushing the passer so hard on every play, and that’s hard to do when you are a 270-pound defensive lineman. We’ve moved Trevor back and forth, but for the rest of this season he is going to stay at defensive line. Smothers, who is like Scooby (Wright) and Derek (Turituri) is a linebacker who we thought was a pretty good pass rusher. He got a few reps, and going against the teams we are going against in the next few weeks we will continue to rep those guys in.”

On winning games in the Pac-12:

“I’m not surprised at anything in our league. It doesn’t matter whether you’re home or on the road because every week is a challenge. People say the Washington State game was a good road win, but any win in our league is a good win.  I think because of the parity, our league has never been better than it is today and I think it will keep getting better in the next few years, as well.”

On cornerback Cam Denson:

“I thought Cam competed really well. He is a true freshman going against some pretty talented wide receivers. The interception was a tremendous play and there were a couple plays where they got him, but he kept competing and I was proud of him. One of the things we liked when we were recruiting him was how he loved to compete, has great ball skills, and would be able to help us on both sides. We saw early on that our depth was going to be an issue at cornerback so we put him over there and he was willing to do that.”

On receiver DaVonte’ Neal:

“We have a couple guys like him that are explosive, such as Cayleb (Jones), Tyrell (Johnson) and Samajie (Grant). We have guys that have the ability to make big plays because they’ve seen it in practice. DaVonte’ is an excitable guy. He loves to come out to practice and is always the life of the party, so to speak, out there. He loves playing and his energy is always going to be there. DaVonte’ is not one to lack confidence, but what you want in the game, he has done it in practice and throughout his career. He is going to learn from every experience he has and will get better going forward.” 

Sophomore Receiver DaVonte’ Neal

On his 81-yard punt return:

“It felt good being able to contribute to my team. Opening up the game with a big punt return like that gave us a spark, so it was really good for everybody.”

On UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley:

“I know that Brett Hundley is a good quarterback with a strong arm. He also can move with his legs, so I think our defense is going to do a good job of containing him. We also know that his offensive line gives up a lot of sacks which is going to be an aspect that our defense will focus on. We’re really just focused on us and that’s all that’s on my mind.”

On opponent’s fans booing the team:

“We love it. It’s a good thing for us. It means they see us and see what we’re doing and feel threatened, and we know that we’re doing something good and we want to keep it up. The more boos we get the happier we are. At the end of the day, I silence all that crowd noise out because all that matters is the players that have ‘Arizona’ written across their chest. We do get something out of the boos, but the most important and only thing that stays true is how the team feels about you. We have very supportive people behind me and this team, too.”

Senior Free Safety Jourdon Grandon

On being successful on the road:

“Being successful on the road is mostly because of how close our team is. When a team goes on the road, they need to have a tight bond with one another. When there’s 70 of us against the opponents and all their fans, having a strong team bond and the chemistry we have going into it makes all the difference. Another thing is that our attitudes have definitely changed within the past year. We believe that we can win anywhere against any team, it’s just a matter of having the confidence. It’s a confidence boost for the team to be able to win, even when on the road.”

On the back-end tackling in the Washington State game:

“The tackling in that game was excellent in my opinion. We took it upon ourselves and said that we were going to be in the open field a lot with the other team, so we have to make sure that we’re making those tackles and knocking it down. We knew they were going to make catches, it’s just the yards after the catches where they’ve been successful.”

On being ranked in the top 15:

“Being ranked in the top 15 is cool to see, but then again, at the end of the day, it’s just a number. We need to stay focused and not let that number next to our name get in our heads.”

On not being recruited to UCLA:

“I was never contacted by UCLA which is kind of a sore sport for me that I was never recruited there. No one from my high school team was recruited to play there either. Now I really want to win this game especially after the debacle a few years ago. That particular game at the Rose Bowl brought on a lot of disappointment and embarrassment.”

Senior Running Back Terris Jones-Grigsby

On being the strongest guy on the team according to Head Coach Rich Rodriquez:

“Coming in as a walk on, I was 5-8 and a little undersized weighing 165 pounds fresh out of track season, so I knew I had to be in the weight room. I’ve always had a strong lower body, so I stuck with that and that’s what keeps me going. I was one of the smallest running backs, but now I gained a good 30 pounds of mostly muscle.”

On throwing the ball on the two-yard line:

“I think that was the right play in that situation because when you’re on the two-yard line, everybody expects a run. Nobody expects a pass and when we throw the ball, we have those guys who are going to catch the ball. Not only that, if we did decide to run the ball, we have guys who are going to run and give it everything they’ve got. I think that Coach Rodriguez knows exactly what he’s doing, and that was one of his great play calls.”

Arizona is back in action on Sat., Nov. 1 in Los Angeles to take on UCLA at 7:30 p.m. PT/MST. For continued coverage of Arizona football, follow the team on Facebook at facebook.com/ArizonaFootball and on Twitter @ArizonaFBall.