Oct. 8, 2013
There were a lot of positives in the UCLA game, except we weren't able to overcome the six turnovers, and that was the real storyline of the game. I don't think I've ever been a part of a game where we turned it over six times and won, so that was our biggest liability on Thursday night.
Our guys played hard and did some good things, particularly on defense. I'm proud of the way the defense hung in there in the second half. The sudden-change defense was very good. With the amount of turnovers that we had, we should have given up more points, but I'm really pleased with the way the defense responded in those situations.
We're looking forward to Stanford. Heck of a football team. They're physical-- probably the most physical team in the conference. They're a very balanced team, offensively they are about 50 percent run and 50 percent throw. They're doing a nice job defensively, as usual. They've been good on defense for a lot of years now, but just like I said last week with UCLA, these guys are very deserving of their No. 5 ranking. They had a tough game against Washington and pulled it out. Washington statistically beat them up, but not in the final score, which is all that matters. We're looking forward to another opportunity on Saturday, another home game, and we're looking forward to another packed house and a rowdy crowd at Rice-Eccles.
On Travis Wilson playing ill against UCLA:
He was in bed the whole game day leading up to that game. He got sick, actually, the night before that, and hasn't gotten over it yet. He's under medical care, and they gave him a new dose of some different antibiotics to try and get rid of this thing. He should be OK. He should be at practice later today, hopefully, but he's been pretty bad for the last few days.
On hosting a top-five team:
It's a great opportunity. Anytime you have a team with that lofty of a ranking, obviously it presents an opportunity for you and a big challenge at the same time, but our fans are going to be getting used to that in the Pac-12. That's just how it is, and we're excited about the chance to line up against a quality team like Stanford on Saturday, and our guys will be ready.
On interceptions against UCLA:
Very few were on Travis. He got hit a couple times just as the ball was coming out, which changed the direction of the football, and the flight. A couple of them were right off receivers' hands. One was a great play by the defense, a play that the ball just kind of bobbled around and (the defender) ended up making the play at the end before it hit the ground. A broken route structure - one time you would have a slant and go dialed up, but didn't get the whole signal on the outside, so we just ran the slant aspect of it and put the ball up. That was the one the safety intercepted in the half.
If its bad decisions, bad throws, it's one thing. You still say, 'There were six interceptions,' which is a huge negative, but it was not all on Travis, in fact, very few were on Travis. One or two.
On the running back rotation:
We're trying to find out if one of the three will separate themselves, and right now they're all giving us good production. Lucky's over six yards a carry, Bubba's over five yards a carry, Kelvin's around four yards a carry. It's not a situation where we're searching for someone to give us some production because we're getting production. It's we're searching to see if anyone's going to separate themselves, and if not, then they'll all continue to get carries. They're all producing, they're all contributing, and they're all doing a nice job in pass protection. I don't see that as a negative. I see that as something that if it happens, great. If not, it's not a big problem as long as we're getting production from each guy. They say when you have more than one quarterback, you don't have any. I don't think that applies to other positions like it does a QB.
As long as they're all three contributing and none of them are separating themselves, it'll probably continue like that. If we get a guy that starts to become more productive than the others, then that particular guy will be the lead ball carrier, but right now that hasn't happened.
On close games:
We've had two close games that we lost. We're 3-2, and the two losses were the overtime loss against Oregon State and the one on Thursday. I think we're knocking at the door. We've got to make a few more plays -- that's the short version. When you're close like that, it usually comes down to a play or two or three plays that's the difference, which has been the case in those two games. The opponents have made those plays, and we haven't. We've got to find a way to make those plays.
We'd like them deeper. We prefer touchbacks. Ty Montgomery is a tremendous kickoff returner for Stanford. He's a real weapon, and you saw him take the opening kickoff against Washington Saturday night. So, we've got to try to keep the ball out of his hands. Our kickoffs have not been what we need them to be, and we're continually working on that and hopefully can get them a little more hang time and a little more depth.
On the secondary:
It's taken steps forward, without a doubt. We've still got a lot of work to do. I'm not going to say that we're there yet, because we're not there by a long shot. Keith McGill -- the play he made on the interception pick six -- if we had won that game that would have been the play of the game in my estimation. We didn't win the game, so that's a moot point.
Keith is second in the league right now in passes defended. The other corner, Davion Orphey, has been a little banged up, but he's progressing as well. Justin Thomas and Mike Honeycutt at the nickel spot - we're pleased with the progress, but we've got to continue to get better. As long as they keep the work ethic and the focus that they've had the last few weeks, then I think we're going to be on the right track. Hopefully that continues.
On third-down offense:
That's two games in a row that that's showed up, and it's a problem. We're paying close attention to it and trying to get it solved. We're 3-of-27 in the last two games, which is awful, on third down. It's one of our primary issues right now. The biggest issue is there have been too many third-and-longs in those third downs, which means we've got to be better on first and second down at getting ourselves in third and manageable instead of third and nine-plus. That's the first step. That's been a huge point of our focus of the last three days is to try to remedy that.
On Jared Norris:
He's been a positive for us. He's just a sophomore, and between him and Jason Whittingham at that inside linebacker spot -- Jason's really played well the last couple games also. That's been a big plus for our defense. As we know, last year we struggled at that position, so to have those guys step up and start to be consistent playmakers has really helped. That's another trend we hope continues.