Here’s what coach Steve Sarkisian said during his nearly 20-minute press conference earlier today.
But first, a quick note on left tackle Micah Hatchie, who left Friday’s game after being leg-whipped.
Sarkisian said Hatchie is “still pretty sore. He got leg-whipped there in his lower leg in a goal line scenario. I think it was the play before Austin (Seferian-Jenkins) caught his touchdown pass. So Micah had been playing realy good football for us. He had been playing really good for the last month and a half of the season. I think that took an effect on the game with (Ben) Riva moving to left tackle. Anthony Barr all of a sudden became involved in the game. We need to get Micah healthy. As important as Keith (Price) is, Micah is to to what we do. Hopefully we get him back sooner rather than later.”
On to the transcript …
(Opening statement) “To recap the ballgame, it’s been a while here, an extra day. Obviously a frustrating loss. We’re tired of being close, I have to admit to you. We’re tired of being close. Played a good UCLA team on the road, and when you play a good team on the road, you can’t stop them 14 points and the reality of it was that’s what we did. Gave them great field position on the first two drives and they converted that into two touchdowns and we played catch-up the rest of the night. I thought we had a couple opportunities defensively to get the ball back and weren’t able to capitalize on that when the ball was on the ground to recover a couple fumbles. Obviously the interception that gets called back on the pass interference. And then three pass interference penalties on third downs, which those same three drives result in 21 points. So some self-inflicted wounds that when you’re playing a good team you can’t afford to do because they’re going to earn their own yards their own way. So frustrating in that aspect. I will say I was proud of our guys and their ability to fight back when we were down 27-7. I thought they showed a lot of grit and a lot of heart to cut that lead to 27-24, and then probably the most critical drive of the game is when we cut it to 27-24, UCLA’s ability to put a drive together, convert three third-downs to extend that lead back to 34-24 and it kind of remained a 10-point game the rest of the way. We couldn’t cut into it. So really disappointed, quite honestly, frustrated. But the reality of it is we’ve got to go play a team that’s hungry and upset because they’ve lost three heartbreakers in a row too. We don’t have time to sit around with a woe is me mentality. We’ve got to go play in Corvallis Saturday night on senior night for those guys, a hostile environment. It’s going to take a great effort from our team to get a victory.”
(On Dexter Charles penalty) “It’s tough because we already get penalized a lot. We get a lot of penalties and probably the majority of those, deservedly so. when you get one that isn’t, and is obviously very clear to see that it’s not a penalty, and not only is it not a penalty, it takes seven points off the board for you in a critical ballgame, it’s hard. But the reality is that one play is not the reason why we lost the game. Sure, would we have loved to have that touchdown? No doubt about it. But there’s other plays in there too that we could have helped ourselves better.”
(On changing the review rules) “I don’t pretend to be an official. I’ve got a big enough job to do on my own. I know in speaking with the Pac-12, I sure would like to get to a point where we almost adopt the NFL model for review, where all scoring plays are reviewed, all plays within two minutes are reviewed, anything outside of that put the onus on the coaches to decide to challenge or not. We’re obviously not there yet. That would be a play that wouldn’t be able to be challenged anyway, quite honestly, so you look at the call, you play the hand you’re dealt, you try to fight through the adversity and go make the next play.”
(On Keith Price fighting injury) “Lot to it. I think first of all, we’ve been in a lot of battles together. Keith and I have been through a lot together, and Saturday was hard on everybody … our entire team knew he wasn’t going to come out and play in that second half. I wanted to make sure he knew that we were there for him, one, first and foremost. Two, I thought he showed a great deal of leadership, knowing he couldn’t play, to come back on that field and be there for Cyler and the rest of the team. I thought just epitomizes what this guy stands for. He loves this university, loves this football program and he was right out there, first guy greeting guys coming off the field. The second piece is, I’m not going to put him on the field if he’s not healthy enough to play. He’s going to have to show me Thursday that he’s able to make the throws that he’s capable of making. We’re going to allow that shoulder some time to get some of the swelling out of there, the inflammation out of there, so that he feels good on Thursday to go out and throw. And if he’s capable of doing that, we’ll play him. If he’s not, we’ll go with Cyler. And we’ll prep all week as if Cyler is the starter. And he’s definitely capable of being that. And then come Thursday, after Thursday’s practice, we’ll make a decision and move forward.
(More on Price’s shoulder) “He’s got a sore shoulder. He got landed on. He’s not really sure exactly which play it was. It was the last two plays of the first half. He gets hit on both of them. But the adrenaline’s rolling, you’re excited, you’re playing the game. Hard to tell. He didn’t really know. And then all of a sudden the pain set in, after the incomplete pass on third down and kicked the field goal, then he’s like, man, this thing is really hurting. So where and exactly that occurred, two hits in a row, whatever that was, the swelling was immediate in there and restricted his movement, restricted his ability to move his arm above his shoulder in a throwing motion. With what our medical team has done, in my opinion have done a great job already identifying it. The swelling is reducing rapidly. His movement is much better today than it was the last couple of days. So we’ll see where he’s at Thursday. I don’t count the guy out. He’s a fighter, he’s a competitor. I think he’s playing a really good football game there in the first half. If the touchdown pass to String doesn’t get called back, he’s well over 200 yards passing against a good defense. Hopefully we get him back. If not, I know he’ll be the first guy there helping Cyler prepare and getting ready to play Saturday.”
(Structural issues?) “No. it’s just pain tolerance.”
(One-week thing?) “I don’t know. We’ll see. We’ve just got to get ready for this ballgame. We’ll see what Thursday tells us and we’ll move from there.”
(Feel similar to Corvallis in 2011?) “A little bit different in that the knee injuries there and the ankle injuries there going into that ballgame were kind of lingering. They were adding up as the weeks went on. This is an isolated deal, so we don’t have quite as much information. I knew going into that game the amount of pain he had been going through for weeks, and we had all watched him battle through it in those ballgames, and I made that decision earlier in that week to start nick Montana. This one’s a little bit different in that this is an isolated kind of area for concern of how he responds to it. So a little bit different, but it’s similar in the fact that it’s Oregon State, it’s late in the season, it’s a ballgame both teams would love to win.
(Wildcat play to Bishop Sankey that failed) “It was a play we had ran earlier in the ballgame that was very effective for us. We used Bishop on it earlier. It got us a good amount of yardage. It was a play that we really felt like was going to work again. The look was there for us again. We had a bit of a miscommunication on the play where we didn’t execute it the way it was executed earlier in the ballgame. Obviously it was a new quarterback in. it was a new left tackle in with Micah being out and there was a bit of a miscommunication, and to UCLA credit, because of our miscommunication they had a player in place to make the play and he made the play, and that forced us into the fourth down.”
(Fourth-down play that failed) “Fourth down, we were anticipating man to man coverage, which is what we got. We had liked our matchups on the perimeter whether it was with Stringfellow, or with Austin, or with Kevin Smith, and allows the quarterback to go to the matchup he feels great about at that time. He went with Stringfellow which I don’t blame him at the time. Damore’ea was having a fantastic game. Maybe not his best throw, there was a little bit of contact and the ball went incomplete. But i think it was a play we gave the quarterback some options to go to the best matchup at his disposal and their guy made the play.”
(What worries you about OSU quarterback Sean Mannion?) “Well the challenge is if he’s standing back there patting the ball and staring at our secondary with time, he’s going to throw it accurately. He’s a really accurate passer down the field so we have to find a way to generate some pressure on him. We know Cooks is going to get his touches. We know Hamlett is going to get his touches. We know Mulaney is going to get his touches. We can’t let Mannion stand there and pat the ball.”
(What’s the key in finding balance between defending down the field and screen game?) ”That’s their system and they do a great job. Coach (Mike) Riley is a tremendous offensive coach. They force you to defend down the field, 40, 50 yards down the field and when you put all your emphasis there it’s the slow screen game to the back, to the tight end, things of that nature so you have to defend it all. In this conference, there’s good offenses and every week there’s unique challenges. This is another one so our ability to defend these guys is going to be critical to our success Saturday night.”
(What’s stood out about Cyler?) ”I think he’s got great athleticism. I think we’ll see him as he plays more. He’ll run the football more. I think he’s trying to find his way some of when is the right time to run it when is not. We need him to run it. That’s one of the assets he possesses when he’s on the field. He’s a very accurate passer. He has more arm strength than people probably give him credit for. We saw that in the game the other night. His legs are something that need to be a factor in the game when he’s playing.”
(How many times could he have run?) ”I don’t have the number right in front of me but it was probably a good five to eight times in that ballgame where he had an option to run it. There was probably two in the future where i’d say hey Cyler I’d like to see you run it there. He didn’t that night but I think he will in the future and when he does we’ll know what he’s capable of. We’ve seen it a couple of ballgames here in the past where he’s pulled that ball and made some big plays?
(Type of runner that Jake Locker was?) ”I think he’s a little bit different. Jake was a physical guy. Jake was a very physical runner, strong. Cyler, a little bit more of a glider, a little bit more elusive. I don’t think he’ll take quite as many hits as Jake but I don’t think he’ll outrun as many as people as Jake did. When Jake got the edge he was going to outrun you. The guy is legitimate 4-4 speed. I don’t think Cyler has that speed but I think he is a little bit more elusive.”
(Bounce back?) “I think so. We’re a hardened group. I think we have a great deal of resolve in our locker room amongst our coaching staff. Nobody’s happy. We’re not happy that we didn’t go down and win the game. and we didn’t. We’re upset about it. We’re frustrated. But we know what we’re capable and we know there’s plenty still for us to go out and accomplish. And it’s going to take really good efforts to do so. I think we have the leadership in that locker room to do it. I think we got really good coaches that can make it happen. It started this morning and away we go.”
(Slow starts against top competition?) ”Everything’s been different. Every time it’s been different. We didn’t hold on to the ball Friday night. Two of our best players. I don’t know who else I’d rather have the ball in their hands than Austin and Bishop. They knocked it out. Good players knocked it out so I think every game is different. Every game takes on it’s own personality. We fell behind the other night for a variety of reasons. Obviously, fumbling the ball twice, getting pass interference penalties, on third down, but that hasn’t been the constant theme whether it was Arizona State, or Stanford or Oregon. It’s been a variety of things. But when you play good teams and make mistakes good teams capitalize on it and so we’re not in a mold yet to handle making mistakes and always being able to overcome those mistakes. We need to go out and play a good, clean football game and when we do we’re pretty good. That’s the goal for Saturday night.”
(What message isn’t being received on the penalties?) “You know, I don’t know. I think our guys play really aggressive football but we have to be smarter. And then trusting our technique in my opinion is part of it. I think to one play in particular the pass interference on Marcus Peters on the far sideline. He’s in awesome position. He’s in great position. If he turns around he’s going to intercept the pass. I think it’s just the believe of knowing when we do things right we’re capable of being right. But when we grab face masks and when we get pass interference penalties and when we false start, those are self inflicted wounds that we don’t need to do to ourselves and so we’ll continue to work at it. Again, I’ve looked at every area and every aspect of this thing and one thing that is a little frustrating on our end. We are the most penalized team. But if you take our opponent’s penalties, they are the least penalized opponents in the conference. That part’s a little discouraging to me.
“I’m all about officiating the game equally. If we’re going to have 11 penalties and UCLA is going to have eight it is what it is but when you go into ballgames and one team has 10 and the other has two and things of that nature that’s when it gets frustrating on our end because I don’t think our guys are maliciously out there holding or committing pass interference penalties.
“You’d just like to see it called equally for everybody. Whether that happens all the time or not I’m not sure.”
(What would you say to fans who are upset?) ”Nobody’s more frustrated than me. I can tell you that. Ask our players that. I think we have a good football team. Because we’ve lost four games this year to four Top 20 teams, three of which are on the road, that’s not an excuse because we’re good enough to go beat those teams. I know we are. Whether it’s a mindset, whether it’s a hurdle that if we do it once we can do it twice and then the third time, but I know we’re capable of doing it. It’s frustrating for me. Frustrating because I want for these kids to have that success. I think they’re deserving of it. They work their tails off for me. They do everything we ask them to do. For people to feel however they feel, I understand it.
“Believe me. If they could jump inside me and in my heart and in my head nobody feels more frustrated and worse about it than me.”
(Are you baffled that you don’t win on the road?) “I don’t know if I’ll use baffled as the word. I am frustrated by it. We’re a good football team. For how good we played a week ago, forget who the opponent was, but just the way we played the game a week ago as opposed to the way we started the game against UCLA. It’s really frustrating. We got to dig deep into our sports psychology to figure out why that’s occurring and what’s going on because we’re capable of much more than we’ve put out there, especially on the road.”