Pac-12 football coaches teleconference: Utah, Oregon discuss Kaelin Clay's premature celebration
Jim Mora again handed compliments to Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright, while Mark Helfrich and Todd Graham discussed how they think the College Football Playoff committee should and will function in this week's Pac-12 football coaches teleconference. That, and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham reacted to a wonky play made by Kaelin Clay against Oregon last week.
Utah's Kyle Whittingham
Kaelin Clay's 78-yard catch and premature celebration before he crossed the goal line last week led to an Oregon touchdown, but Whittingham is putting blame on himself. “My opinion is it starts with coaching in not doing a good enough job of instilling in our players what needs to happen,” the Utah coach said. “He's a standup guy. It's just one of those unfortunate things that happened.”
On how much Clay's mistake hurt the Utes from am emotional standpoint in making it a 7-7 tie rather than a 14-0 Utah lead: “It was like the air went out of the entire stadium.”
The Utes visit Stanford this week knowing they have to get the passing game churning against a stout Cardinal defense. “We've got to be balanced, we can't be one-dimensional,” Whittingham said.
Oregon's Mark Helfrich
Helfrich doesn't know whether College Football Playoff contenders will be judged by the selection committee on their win margins. What he does know is that winning helps. “I don't know the percentages that will affect anything,” he said. “Again, it's individuals that are making subjective evaluations at some point.”
The Ducks the score with a 100-yard fumble return last week when Utah's Kaelin Clay prematurely celebrated what he thought was a touchdown, but they've been in the Utes' shoes before. Byron Marshall celebrated the same way earlier this year during Oregon's victory against South Dakota. On that play, Marshall kicked the ball through the end zone after dropping it. The Ducks used it as a teaching lesson. “We learned kind of the easy way,” Helfrich said. “Our hiccup turned into a touchback.”
UCLA's Jim Mora
An honest Mora said that some in Seattle might have been rubbed the wrong way this week. He was all business when he took UCLA into Washington despite his history as a former Husky player. He admitted that his alma mater means more to him than he was leading on. “For last week, it was, I'm a UCLA Bruin, I'm a football coach here and my goal was to go win a game,” Mora said. “People in Seattle might have misconstrued it as insensitivity. That was what bothered me about last week, is I couldn't say what I felt.”
Another week, another opportunity for Mora to give Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright some love. “I never liked this word in scouting, but he's 'crafty.' He just gets it done,” Mora said. “I look at Scooby and I say … he's a freakin' baller. He's going to play football for a long, long, long time, because he knows how to play.”
UCLA has played well on the road, and Mora said how the Bruins operate on the road has helped focus the team. “Everything is just like clockwork,” he said. “I think there is a certain routine to traveling that just gets you focused."
Arizona's Rich Rodriguez
Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright wasn't offered many scholarships from major universities out of high school. Rodriguez said he might have been under-recruited because he wasn't the best self promotor. While high school students from smaller schools can use various tools to avoid going unnoticed, Wright kept it to football. “We thought all we would do is bring attention to him by offering him,” Rodriguez said. “Now with the help with the internet and different websites ... Scooby was never about that thing. He just played. He's still that way.”
Rodriguez confirmed that sophomore receiver Nate Phillips will miss the rest of the year with a broken bone in his foot.
Washington and its first-year coach Chris Petersen visit Tucson this week, and while Rodriguez has never competed against the former Boise State coach, he has a great deal of respect for him. “He's a star in the profession,” Rodriguez said. “I've just watched his teams from afar. We were kind of similar when we were at West Virginia and he was at Boise. We were both underdogs.”
Arizona State's Todd Graham
ASU took a bludgeoning from UCLA in late September but has responded with five wins – four came against ranked teams. The defensive turnaround has been the key factor. “We run a complex scheme,” Graham said. “We were just making a lot of errors. At one time we talked about scaling back: I'm glad we didn't.”
A motivational quote from Graham while looking back at the 62-27 loss to the Bruins: “Like anything in life, sometimes you get your head kicked in. You have to get off of the ground.”
Graham also has his opinions about what the College Football Playoff committee should look at in evaluating teams for postseason play. His philosophy has a bit to do with the Sun Devils scheduling tough teams like Notre Dame, who ASU beat this past week. “To me you have to look at strength of schedule,” Graham said. “Also how you're playing at that time, too.”
Colorado's Mike MacIntyre
Colorado enters a bye week knowing it won't make a bowl game, so there will be an emphasis on giving younger practice players more attention with next year in mind. “We're really banged up so we're trying to get guys healthy. We're working with a lot of our younger guys and non-travel guys,” MacIntyre said.
Quarterback Sefo Liufau suffered a concussion in the Buffs' loss to Arizona this weekend and is still recovering. “He still has concussion symptoms,” MacIntyre said. “He's definitely going to be out this week. We'll see what happens next week.”
Stanford's David Shaw
Shaw's football team is usually the more physically imposing squad when it's lined up against opponents. That might not be the case against this week's opponent, the Utah Utes. “They have a lot of big human beings,” Shaw said. “For us it's about … do we want to block them more than they want to not be blocked?”
On why Stanford has recruited Utah well: “There are some really good schools, which is always a key for Stanford. (Assistant coach) Lance (Anderson) has been able to go in there and find those guys who are willing to leave the state of Utah, which is tough.”
Stanford's 5-4 record puts it out of the running for a big bowl game, but Shaw said it hasn't gotten his team out of focus. “The challenge isn't any different,” he said. “The feeling is different because the bowl game we have a chance to go to is murky.”
Washington State's Mike Leach
Leach, a quite quirky man himself, spoke on the off-the-field personality of Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week and WSU quarterback Luke Falk: “I would say very regular guy, extremely regular. Very focused and disciplined in terms of watching extra film. Very calm, laidback guy.”
After a bye week, the Cougars visit an Arizona State team currently in control of its own destiny in the Pac-12 South. “They're a very good team in all phases,” Leach said. “They had a good season from last year and I think they're drawing from that.”
Oregon State's Mike Riley
Washington State quarterback Luke Falk, in his first start, roasted the Beavers for 471 passing yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions to lead his Cougs to a win this weekend. “He got the ball out of his hands quickly, so his reads were decisive,” Riley said. “He put the ball in the right location, very efficient.”
Riley said Oregon State ran the gamut in trying to pressure Falk. There weren't many positive results for the Beavs. “We rarely could get to him, and when we did it didn't seem to rattle him,” Riley said. “We tried to counter it with pressure or different coverages. He seemed to have a real good beat on matching up their pattern of what we were playing.”
Arizona State visits Corvallis this week, but Riley discussed his thoughts on the atmosphere in Tempe. “What I always remember is the field, how nice it is, how fast it is. It's just a very good home for Arizona State and the atmosphere is always good,” he said.
USC's Steve Sarkisian
It's never easy for a quarterback to learn a new offensive system, but Cody Kessler has grown into the position at USC well. “Probably the biggest thing in all that is his confidence and belief. He's grown and matured,” Sarkisian said.
The Trojans host California on Thursday, and Sarkisian said the versatility and balance that Golden Bears running back Daniel Lasco brings has been the biggest factor in the offense's growth. “Without a doubt, I think he's the guy you notice the most, and that's to take nothing away from (quarterback) Jared (Goff),” Sarkisian said. “He's the guy who makes them the most difficult to defend.”
Sarkisian on Cal being perceived as a pass-first team: “They're striving for more balance. It's more evident and it makes it difficult to defend.”
California's Sonny Dykes
This Thursday, California will key on the Trojans' big-play capabilities from Nelson Agholor, Adoree' Jackson and JuJu Smith. “The biggest thing we have to do is we can't give up a bunch of big plays defensively or special teams. They've got some big-play players on offense,” Dykes said.
Dykes pulled out a very interesting statistic that explains how much experience a young defensive backfield is getting this season. “We've defended 80 more passes than anybody else in college football,” the Cal coach said. “Our secondary has seen pretty much everything this year.”
After coaching at Louisiana Tech, Dykes knows the positives and negatives of working in a bigger athletic department. “You have tremendous resources, but you do have a difficult challenge just by, again, getting everybody on the same page,” he said.
Washington's Chris Petersen
While acknowledging that Oregon's athletic facilities are the tops in the conference, Petersen said that the strength in the Pac-12 comes in how impressive those facilities are across the board. “I don't know if there's a school that's clearcut above everyone else. You come here and look at these new facilities, it goes on and on. It's hard to get an advantage in any area in this conference,” he said.
Shaq Thompson has been spending more time at running back in recent weeks, but that means he's been less of a factor on defense. “We tried to play Shaq on both sides and he's done some of that,” Petersen said. “At that running back and linebacker position … that's hard. Running backs take such a pounding. We just look at it week to week.”