Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Monday Press Conference Transcript
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: September 17, 2012
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Sept. 17, 2012

TUCSON - 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 was pretty pleased for the most part about Saturday's game. They were a little sluggish in the beginning. Our tempo was a little bit slow on offense in the first half. They picked it up in the second half. Defense was a solid performance which is what you would hope would happen against an FCS school. It was a good win. But our guys understand this is a whole other level of what we are going to go in on Saturday night in Eugene. It's going to be a big challenge. They're a very good football team, one of the best in the country and have been one of the best in the country for the last several years."

On expectations for first trip to Oregon:

"It'll be the first time I'll be up there. It's one of the most hostile environments in college football and the crowd is into it, I'm sure, with it being a Saturday night and on national TV. It's going to be loud. We know crowd and music noise in practice. But we are cranking that up another level this week because we want to make sure there is no communication issue for offense and our defense as well."

On how much of his own influence he sees in Oregon's offense:

"I don't know. You'd probably have to ask Chip (Kelly). Chip and I met a long time ago when he was at New Hampshire. He always does really neat stuff. I am sure we watch each other on film and we see a lot of similarities. They will push the tempo and if they get a big play they will come right back and play the same play over again. They won't let you substitute defensively. He's done a really good job of it. He has a lot of fast guys playing fast."

On whether or not Arizona and Oregon will be noticed for running the same schemes:

"I don't think it would be way off (to say they are similar). It would be closer to a lot of other comparisons in the spread. I've said many times, if you see one spread, another spread can be completely different. In the spread, there can be two different versions of the spread. We are probably closer, philosophically, to Oregon than most teams out there that run a shotgun spread type of system."

On Oregon receiver De'Anthony Thomas:

"I remember when he got out of high school. We were trying to recruit him. I had a few conversations with him on the phone. At that time he was one of the most explosive high school players and now he is one of the most explosive college players. I mean, there's no one catching him. They'll hand him the ball, they'll throw it to him, and he'll return kicks and punts. He's a nice young man. I had no doubts that he was going to have a successful career. I just wish he wasn't in the Pac-12."

On whether the team is able to simulate De'Anthony Thomas in practice:

"We have a couple of fast guys but I don't think we have anybody as fast as him. It's hard to simulate that. We can simulate their tempo. I'm sure they can probably say the same thing as far as how fast they complete the plays. A fast guy like him, a good quarterback as well, they have some really fast guys. I was fortunate enough to coach a fast team that had fast players in that position; you can do some pretty good things offensively. I don't know who we are going to have in our young freshmen. We have some guys that run pretty good but this guy is not just fast, he's shifty too. He'll make you miss and he runs through arm tackles. With some guys, they may not play fast but when he gets the ball in space, he'll stick his foot around and go right past you. When they get going, there's no wasted movement. If you didn't have to play them, it would be a great teaching tool to your guys to say this is how you use your speed when you're returning kicks and running the ball."

On how to stop Oregon's offense:

"They key, to me, is you have fast guys in the open field so you can get more than one guy to him. The first challenge is trying to catch him. Then, if you can get catch him, can you get him on the ground. So tackling in the open field is going to be a big issue. We have to make sure we get guys there. That's a huge thing. They thrive on big plays and always have. They have guys that can take it. Having explosive players brings a lot of benefit. We have some good players, but do we have a lot of explosive guys, I don't know yet."

On Arizona's tackling:

"We tackled well the first three games. Not as well against Oklahoma State but they have some pretty talented guys. In the first and last game, we certainly tackled well. And that's going to be key defensively for us, getting there and getting them on the ground."

On what lessons he has learned in prior coaching experience about being ranked in the beginning:

"I'm not really worried about whether we're ranked or not. I'm worried about how are we preparing and how we are working. I'll go back to this `coach speak' about process. Are we doing the things we are supposed to, are we preparing the right way, whether we won the last three games or lost the last three games those kinds of things are never compromised. We are keeping the main thing the main thing. We aren't practicing any differently this week. We aren't preparing any differently as far as our structure and practice goes. We just have to get better at what we're doing."

On Dan Pettinato and Hank Hobson:

"They are healthier and there shouldn't be any restrictions. We didn't want to play them a lot against South Carolina State because they haven't played a lot. We wanted to make sure they were 100 percent. Looks like both of those guys are 100 percent going forward."

On confidence boost after beating Oklahoma State:

"It gives us some confidence. I think Oregon is a better team; they're a little faster, and it's a tougher environment being on the road. I would like to think that we're going to play the same no matter who we're playing or where we're playing. If you're really prepared and you've worked really hard, I think that's the best way to build confidence rather than who you've been playing."

On traveling with the team:

"We traveled to Fort Huachuca and spent four or five days up there. We took a nice trip to La Paloma for a night at the end of camp. We're going to ride a bus, get on a plane and fly up there. We're going to get back late, at 4 o'clock in the morning, so that won't be easy."

On Richard Morrison's punt returning:

"Any time you get a stop defensively is a reason to be happy because you get the ball. Richard is probably our best at catching punts, and he's had a couple good balls. He should be okay."

On players overachieving:

"I don't want to say I'm surprised by the walk-ons starting, like Jared Tevis, Tevin Hood, and Sir Thomas Jackson, because they had played pretty well in practice. Jared has been really consistent all three weeks. I'm not surprised at all by Matt Scott. We knew in the spring we had someone pretty special. We just didn't know how quickly he'd pick up the system. There are still a dozen or so plays he'd like to have back but there's no question Matt has been a huge key for us offensively."

On meeting Chip Kelly:"I don't remember if it was at West Virginia or at Clemson, but I know it was when he was at New Hampshire. We kind of followed him after we talked because he had some great ideas and did some really neat stuff there. Immediately (at Oregon), he made his presence felt as the offensive coordinator there, and they probably knew that, and that's why they made him head coach. The success they've had there the past three or four years has been phenomenal."

On the feel for Oregon:

"I've only had two days to watch film. By Thursday I'll have a better feel for it. Not just this year, but last year, they get up on people so early that they don't have to do anything a lot of the second half. They're going to do what they do. They'll be the first ones to tell you that they have a system they run. Will they have a few things that they haven't done this year to show us? I'm sure they will. We may have a few things, too. I think Chip (Kelly) will be the first to tell you, they do what they do. That's been their structure and it has worked."

On importance of running the ball

"We still could get better up front. Last game we did a better job, which is what you would hope. We have to be able to keep possession of the ball and get first downs. This is the last team you want to get a bunch of three-and-outs with. This game is critical as far as getting first downs, keeping possession of the ball, and making every possession truly count."

On backup kicker Casey Skowron:

"I think he was the student manager for the women's soccer team. He came out for the tryout and did a pretty nice job. I almost put him in Saturday but I wanted to get John (Bonano)'s confidence back. Casey has done a good job in practice, though, and he'll be on the travel squad. From soccer team manager to backup kicker, there's a story for you."

On Oregon's quarterback Marcus Mariota:

"He's really good. He's a perfect fit for their system but he could play any system. He's fast but he's got a live arm, he sees the field. For a young guy, a redshirt freshman, he's playing as well as any quarterback in the country. I'm very impressed. The backup is a good player, (Bryan) Bennett could play for anybody."

Sophomore safety Jared Tevis:

On Oregon's speed:

"We just have to contain their speed. They got a lot of quick guys, and they hit the holes quickly. We just have to contain them and play hard."

On Oregon's ability to break tackles:

"They break tackles, so if we wrap up, we should be in good shape."

On De'Anthony Thomas' explosiveness:

"He looks real explosive. He has a couple of big plays every game so we just have to contain him and have our defense be disciplined."

On how practicing against Arizona's offense prepares them for Oregon's offense: "We been practicing against a no-huddle throughout camp, and we have a real upbeat offense just like they do. But there are differences between the offenses, and it will show in the game. But it does prepare us to practice against our offense because it is similar to theirs."

On (Jeff) Casteel teaching tackling:

"He just teaches us to run to the ball and put our face in the arms of the tackler and smother him. He likes to teach us individually on tackling techniques and work on getting low. But it's really just the mindset."

Senior offensive lineman Trace Biskin

On Autzen Stadium:

"Every time we go up there, it is always an experience. They have a great atmosphere up there. It's really loud and really hectic. I was telling the guys yesterday that Oregon is the only original Pac-10 school our senior class has yet to beat. We're definitely thinking about that and using it as motivation. We're going up there with a mentality of us against the world."

On the quickness of Oregon's defense:

"Our film of them shows us that they move around really fast but if we play physical and move around with them then we can defeat their defense."

Senior quarterback Matt Scott

On Autzen Stadium:

"I just remember it being very loud up there, and it's a great atmosphere. The crowd plays a huge factor, so it's going to be a great game."

On emulating the atmosphere of Autzen in practice:

"We have been practicing communicating but it's always hard to emulate thousands of people screaming real loud, heckling and doing other stuff. It's really hard to simulate that."

On Oregon's defense:

"They have a good defense; they play hard and tough. But this offense plays hard and tough as well. Our guys up front played real well. The past three games, our playmakers have been coming through. So this offense is capable of beating them."

On the confidence of the offense affecting Saturday's game:

"It might but our confidence also relies on us being able to execute. It relies on execution during practice and working hard every day."

On this week being a week to advance Arizona's relevance:

"Oregon is a top-five team. We're coming off a strong week, and we want to show them that we are capable of beating them."

Sophomore cornerback Jonathan McKnight

On De'Anthony Thomas:

"Every week he makes amazing plays, so we need to run to the ball, tackle hard and wrap him up"

On watching Oregon on TV:

"They are always exciting to watch on TV because of the type of offense they run but their team can be beat. We just have to play really hard against them."

The Wildcats will make their first road trip of the season and open Pac-12 play facing the Oregon Ducks on Sat., Sept. 22, at Autzen Stadium. The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. PT and air on ESPN.

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