Pac-12 coaches teleconference: Kevin Sumlin readying for return to Houston
Kevin Sumlin, Arizona
Khalil Tate was held to just 14 rushing yards in Arizona’s 28-23 loss to BYU Saturday night in Tucson. Was that part of Arizona’s game plan – to feature him more as a pocket passer – or was it BYU’s scheme that resulted in the low rushing total? “Certainly a little of both,” Sumlin said. “We have to do a better job to get him more involved schematically with his legs, but BYU did a great job of keeping him in the pocket and not rushing from the outside.”
Arizona next travels to Houston, where Sumlin was the head coach for four years, going 35-17 and winning two conference championships. “I’ve got a lot of friends in Houston and being there for four years and then being right up the road for six years, there’s a lot of people that I know that I’m very close to that will be great to get into the stadium,” Sumlin said about returning to Houston, noting this will be his first time stepping into Houston’s stadium since he was the head coach there.
On Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, the defensive player getting the most Heisman love in the country this year: “You have to plan for him. He’s a guy you have to be aware of,” Sumlin said. “The guy is right over the football every snap. He’s extremely disruptive, and we have to be aware of he is.”
Mike MacIntyre, Colorado
Nebraska’s season opener against Akron was cancelled due to weather concerns. So does Nebraska not having played a game give the Buffs an advantage? MacIntyre doesn’t necessarily think so. “I believe playing a little bit does help some but at the same time we don’t have any film on Nebraska. All we have been able to watch is Central Florida,” he said, alluding to Nebraska first-year head coach Scott Frost’s tenure at UCF. “I think it’s kind of a wash as far as this game.”
The Buffs and Cornhuskers were bitter conference rivals until they both left the Big 12. Saturday’s meeting in Lincoln will be the first time the teams have played since 2010, but MacIntyre mentioned his student-athletes are well aware of the tradition in this rivalry. “The kids have heard a lot about the rivalry… [people have] been talking about it since the end of last season. They do understand how big of a rivalry it is, and they’re excited to play in it.” A couple of MacIntyre’s assistants – co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini and running backs coach Darian Hagan – both played for the Buffs against Nebraska.
On wide receiver Laviska Shenault, who wowed fans and media members alike with his 11-catch, 211-yard performance in the Buffs’ 45-13 win against Colorado State, including an 89-yard touchdown reception that helped break the game open even more early in the third quarter: “’Viska is an excellent athlete, a phenomenal young man, he can do so many different things,” MacIntyre said. “We’re excited about what ‘Viska can do.”
Kyle Whittingham, Utah
Whittingham was one of the many coaches asked about the Pac-12’s initiative to shorten the length of football games. The longtime Utes head coach said he was in favor of it, mentioning the shortened halftimes from 20 minutes to 15 minutes (he’d like to see the NFL-style 12-minute halftimes, but 15 is better than 20). He also mentioned that not stopping the clock on first down would also save a lot of time (I’ve been saying this for years).
Whittingham’s thoughts on Northern Illinois, the Utes’ next opponent: “They’re physical. They play hard. It’s really a blue-collar outfit like ourselves.” He noted that although Northern Illinois lost to Iowa 33-7 on Saturday, it was a 3-0 game midway through the third quarter.
David Shaw, Stanford
Early-season Heisman candidate Bryce Love didn’t put up his usual gaudy numbers — amassing just 29 yards on 18 carries in the 31-10 win over San Diego State — but Shaw was quick to point out Love’s work picking up blitzes. “The best thing about it is Bryce doesn’t live in his stats, and Bryce is a football player,” Shaw said. “He had to be a great pass protector, and he was… His pass protection allowed JJ Arcega-Whiteside to get 200 receiving yards.”
Stanford and USC have met early in September over the last few years, and the media was curious to get his thoughts on playing such an important game so early in the season. “I think we’d all prefer it to be a little bit later, but I don’t mind it. They’ve been great games."
What did he think of USC true freshman quarterback JT Daniels’ performance against UNLV last week? “I don’t think that any of us who saw JT play in high school are surprised that No. 1, he won the job, and No. 2, that when he went out there, he was effective,” Shaw said. “He’s a football gym rat. He knows what to do and how to do it.”
Mike Leach, Washington State
Leach said he was encouraged by the way his offensive line played against Wyoming, noting that he thought his young guys up front “played pretty well.” Redshirt freshman Abraham Lucas and redshirt sophomore Josh Watson got some name-recognition love from Leach, as did others.
Leach on Gardner Minshew’s first game as Washington State starting quarterback (38-of-57 passing, 319 yards, three touchdowns and one interception): “I thought he did a good job. I thought he got better as the game went on. I thought he did a good job of moving the unit... I thought him getting in sync [with the rest of the offense] was a pleasant surprise.”
After a solid road win against Wyoming, how does Leach make sure his team is focused for its home opener against San Jose State? “I think the biggest thing is focus on your work. I think the important thing is no matter who you play is to focus on yourself,” Leach said. “We need to get better that’s what we need to focus on.”
Justin Wilcox, California
Cal is playing at BYU, which is at elevation — 4,551 feet. Is the high altitude a concern for Wilcox and his guys? “We’re going to have a great week of practice. The altitude is what it is,” Wilcox said. “They’re not going to move the game. The game is going to be held in Provo... We’re going to have to play our best.”
On BYU’s new offensive scheme with first-year offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes: “They’re a really good offense. I thought they played well last week… [It’s a] different system than they played last year,” Wilcox said, mentioning the use of the fly sweep and how all the pre-snap movement created problems for the opposing defense (in this case, Arizona).
Chip Kelly, UCLA
Kelly was pretty tight-lipped about the status of quarterback Wilton Speight, who injured his back in the second quarter of UCLA’s 26-17 loss to Cincinnati. “I’m not a doctor, so I can’t go into anything with it,” he said.
So what did he think of Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who came off the bench to complete 15 his 25 pass attempts for 117 yards? “I think Dorian did a good job. We were planning on playing him at some point in time for us anyways,” he said.
Would he’d like to get a look at Devon Modster under center at all? “I’d like to get a look at our entire team in game action,” Kelly noted.
Clay Helton, USC
As the Trojans get ready for Stanford, Helton noted that he thought one of the major keys to the Trojans going 2-0 against the Cardinal was their ability to keep the Card off schedule with respect to down and distance, so trying to contain Bryce Love is still a major concern for USC even though he didn’t have a huge game against San Diego State. “First down efficiency is so important because they can live in that third and one to three world and they’re the best in the country at it,” he said.
Helton had high praise for Stanford quarterback KJ Costello, a kid Helton recruited when Costello was in high school. “I think KJ has made them extremely dangerous. KJ does a great job of diagnosing where the 1-on-1 matchup is with his wide receivers,” Helton said. “He gives his kids the opportunity to make plays, and that’s what really has changed over the last year... They are truly balanced now; you have to both stop the run as well as the deep ball.”
What will Helton’s final message be to true freshman quarterback JT Daniels before he takes the field for the first road game of his collegiate career? “Just don’t overthink things, take what the defense gives you,” he said. “There will be big-play opportunities – when they are there, pull the trigger. When they aren’t, pull the ball down.”
Arizona State, Herm Edwards
So, Herm, could you have imagined your first game as Arizona State head coach would go as well as it did, a 49-7 thumping of UTSA? “No, I think going into that opener for all coaches there’s a little anxiety,” he said. “You don’t know how they’re going to react. They responded very well. We got some points early and that helped... Our fans were magnificent. It was a great college atmosphere.”
The win over UTSA was great, but now the Sun Devils must play a 15th-ranked Michigan State squad that has been fairly consistent in its success over recent years. Edwards was asked what would it mean to beat a team of Michigan State’s stature. “I just think I’m a real believer in trying to build a program, and Michigan State is an established program, they’re one of the better programs,” Edwards said. “This is what you’d like to become as a football team. There’s a lot of work to be done... Michigan State has always been in the mix the last 10-12 years, and we’re trying to become more competitive in the Pac-12.”
Mario Cristobal, Oregon
What did Oregon’s first win under Mario Cristobal, a 58-24 victory over Bowling Green, mean? “It validates a lot of the hard work we did over the offseason,” Cristobal said, noting he was pleased with the reduced number of penalties the Ducks had (just three for 35 yards) but also mentioning he saw plenty of areas for improvement.
Cristobal was also asked where quarterback Justin Herbert has made the most strides. “Probably the most significant improvement in him is his role as a leader,” he said. “He has such a strong grasp of the offense... He has taken a really strong step as a natural leader. He wants more, that’s best part about it. He wants more, and we’re expecting him to take another step in the next couple of weeks.”
Chris Petersen, Washington
What major questions did Petersen get answered in his team’s 21-16 loss to Auburn? “You’re just curious about how the first game is going to go and how guys are going to step up on a big stage. It’s just really to simulate that in practice. That first quarter was not good, but then they settled down,” Petersen said, noting that he thought his team was in a pretty good spot late but was disappointed in the final drive that sealed the Huskies’ fate.
Petersen made some interesting points when asked why he thinks true freshman quarterbacks are starting to see more game action. “I think the one thing is that football in high schools is getting more sophisticated. They’re doing things that we’re already doing,” he said. “They have a good base of knowledge on RPOs (run-pass option) and coverages and all those things... A lot of those guys come in the spring time and stuff like that. I think it leads to guys being more ready than they used to be.”
Jonathan Smith, Oregon State
What did Smith learn from his first game as head coach at Oregon State, a 77-31 loss at Ohio State? “We got great capability to compete with effort for 60 minutes,” he said, before noting that there are plenty of details that need to be fine-tuned.
On quarterback Conor Blount, who stepped in for an injured starter Jake Luton and completed more than 60 percent of his passes and threw two touchdown passes: “I thought he prepared very well, and sometimes that’s tough to do when you’re not the starter. I thought he made plays with his eyes... I was really proud with his preparation because we didn’t miss a beat when he came in.”
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