Pac-12 football coaches teleconference: All eyes on the Utes and Huskies
The No. 17 Utes prepare to host the No. 4 Hukies at Rice-Eccles Stadium this week. Meanwhile many other Pac-12 teams continue to fight the injuries plaguing their teams and keep their players' eyes on the prize heading into the second half of conference play.
Utah's Kyle Whittingham
So far this season, the only Pac-12 team who has given Washington a run for their money is Arizona, who took the Huskies to overtime last month. Ahead of the Utes’ home game against Washington, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham studied that tape and noticed one thing: “They [Arizona] were able to run the football.”
Luckily for Whittingham, he takes pride in how his Utes run the ball as well. “If we can run the ball as well as Arizona did, we’ve got a chance,” he says.
As for home field advantage, there was some talk of the Huskies having to play at altitude in Salt Lake City, but something Whittingham says will be harder for the Huskies to handle is the electricity of Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“I’m impressed, but not surprised at all,” says Whittingham of Petersen’s success so far this season. “We’re excited to have the Huskies at our place.
Washington's Chris Petersen
Last week was the first week the Utes had allowed more than 27 points against them all season, a fact that was not lost on Washington head coach Chris Petersen. “[Utah’s defense] knows what they’re doing, they’re extremely disciplined, and they play hard,” says Petersen. “I’ve had a lot of respect for Utah’s program for a lot of years.”
When asked about whether playing at altitude in Salt Lake City will affect his team, Petersen was adamant that it “will not be a factor whatsoever.”
However, altitude or not, Petersen knows this, and the rest of the season’s games, won’t come easily. “These games are going to be hard fought and they’re going to go down to the wire."
Colorado's Mike MacIntyre
We’ve heard it, we’ve seen it, and we’ll keep hearing it for the rest of the season: Coach Mike MacIntyre’s players have bought in to the Buffaloes’ program. "They keep playing, keep working, keep pushing and keep fighting,” says MacIntyre.
What specifically has changed from the start of the season until now? The team’s confidence. “They don’t blink if something happens,” says MacIntyre. “Now they go in thinking they’re going to win.”
The Buffs have a bye week this week and come back to play UCLA next Thursday, a schedule MacIntyre has not experience before. His focus for the bye week is healing up some “banged up” guys and getting them back on the field. “It’ll be a heck of a game,” says MacIntyre. “The last three games…they’ve beat our butts. We’ve got to find a way to [win] here in Boulder."
Washington State's Mike Leach
Heading into this weekend’s game against Oregon State, Washington State head coach Mike Leach has one thing in mine: “Worry about ourselves.”
When asked about what Oregon State could be doing to prepare for the game, and the philosophy on not poking a wounded bear, Leach declined to comment because he “may get publicly reprimanded or fined,” but did imagine that other coaches have the same mentality of doing the best they can do with what they have.
Arizona's Rich Rodriguez
Arizona has been burning through its roster at an alarming rate this season due to an exceptional amount of injuries that have plagued the Wildcats. “It’s a freak of nature kind of thing,” says head coach Rich Rodriguez.
The Wildcats have not changed any practices in terms of offseason play or strength conditioning, so Rodriguez says it’s “just bad luck.” Luckily for Arizona and its fans, Rodriguez reports that quarterbacks Anu Solomon and Brandon Dawkins are healing up and have been able to practice fully this week.
In terms of attempting to prepare for so many injuries to hit a team at once, Rodriguez says the most important thing is to recruit versatile players who can play multiple positions.
Speaking of recruits, Rodriguez’s own son, Rhett, is a commit to play for the Wildcats next year. Despite the Wildcats’ rough season, Rodriguez knows that his son isn’t second guessing his decision. “He understands the profession,” says Rodriguez. “He’ll be ten times better than I ever thought I’d be because he grew up with it."
California's Sonny Dykes
The California Golden Bears are about to hit the road to play at the Coliseum, where the USC Trojans haven’t lost since head coach Clay Helton took over. That’s in the back of Cal head coach Sonny Dykes’ mind, however, as he’s having trouble finding a time for his team to even practice. The culprit for this? Midterms.
“The schedule’s been a disaster,” says Dykes. “It’s been incredibly hard on our kids from an academic standpoint.”
Another challenge the Golden Bears have faced this season, according to Dykes, has been emotional exhaustion. “We’ve had six straight weeks of emotional games and that takes a toll on you,” he says. “We hit that second overtime against Oregon and our guys were as tired emotionally as they were physically. It’s like playing two games."
Oregon's Mark Helfrich
It’s no secret that it appeared the Ducks lost their edge at the start of the season. Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich says this isn’t uncommon coming off multiple years of success, and the solution to it goes back to recruiting. “You’re always trying to identify why guys play,” says Helfrich. “Do they love football? Do they love to compete? Do they love to dig in regardless of whether they win or lose?”
“In the offseason it’s important to keep that competitiveness alive,” he says.
In the Ducks’ second overtime loss to the Golden Bears this past weekend, a moment that pulled at the nation’s heartstrings was Eugene-local and true freshman quarterback’s Justin Herbert reacting to the loss with tears.
“That’s something the guys rallied around and behind,” says Helfrich. “That was hopefully something that’s the catalyst for a different run from here."
UCLA's Jim Mora
UCLA head coach Jim Mora isn’t worried about bye week or midseason motivation for his Bruins. “They’re competitors,” says Mora. “If these were kids who were easily discouraged or disheartened they would’ve never come this far.”
Mora is looking forward to this week off for his team, as it gives him a chance to “dig in” with effort similar to that of training camp. His focus for the week? One word: fundamentals.
USC's Clay Helton
USC head coach Clay Helton is all kinds of focused on this weekend’s game against California, particularly on the Golden Bears’ quarterback Davis Webb. “He’s one of the best quarterbacks we’ve gone against this year,” says Helton. “The guy’s a winner. He’ll play on Sundays, there’s no doubt about it.”
When asked about the race to win the Pac-12 South, Helton says that’s exactly what it is: A race. “It seems like it’s like this every year in the Pac-12 South,” he laughs. “It’s going to be a race at the end."
Arizona State's Todd Graham
The Sun Devils hit the road this week to take on Oregon in Eugene, a team that has a quarterback who has really impressed Arizona State head coach Todd Graham. “[Justin Herbert] has great vision. He’s very poised, extremely talented with his arm and can extend plays,” says Graham.
Graham’s own team has been battling the injury bug all season, and it struck against last week’s game when Manny Wilkins went down for a second time this season. Graham is confident that Wilkins won’t be out for long, though, and says whether or not he plays this week will be a “gametime decision."
Stanford's David Shaw
Especially at this point of the season, Stanford head coach David Shaw is stressing the one-game-at-a-time and one-year-at-a-time mentality.
“The biggest thing is to try to win the next game you play,” says Shaw. “For us, we never talk about maintaining anything, we talk about improving. In college football, every year you have a completely different team. Cut the cord after last year ends and realize you have an entire new team.”
The Card’s star running back Christian McCaffrey came back to play in last week’s game against Colorado, so he was naturally a topic of conversation on the call. Shaw says he’s one of the team’s leaders and is always asking what he can do for the team. “With leaders, you have to be cautious that they don’t take on too much so they don’t stop doing well the things they’ve always done well."
Oregon State's Gary Andersen
Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen knows that what his Beavers needs to do to have a chance of winning this weekend is easier said than done: Playing as a team.
“Offense and defense and special teams need to work together,” says Andersen. “We need to work together to have a chance of winning.”
One player Andersen doesn’t need to worry about having a team mentality is senior Victor Bolden. “It was important for Vic to have a quality senior year,” he says. “He’s done some great things when given the opportunity and we’re going to lean on him to make plays for us.