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October 16, 2007

Mike Stoops reviews USC game

On Monday, at his weekly press conference, UA head coach Mike Stoops reviewed the UA's 20-13 loss to USC. Here are several quotes from Stoops on the game.

Opening Statement:

"Going back through Saturday's game, I thought we played a pretty complete game for the most part. I really like the way our kids played. I thought we played with a lot more passion and toughness. It just looked like a much more complete team on Saturday. We had a lot of opportunities.

"I think our kids really put themselves in position to win the game and that's what we wanted to do in the 4th quarter. We had some chances. There are so many plays in the game that we missed out on. The wrong end of a fumble, a misplay here or a missed guy there, it's just a lot of little things. Offensively we had guys open. A little more time in some situations and we're going to hit a guy. The quarterback came off a read a time or two and didn't go to the right guy. It's just the little things like that. Different plays, we had some opportunities.

"We didn't want to take a bunch of chances, we didn't want to take a bunch of negative yardage plays and give them the chance to get big plays early in series so we tried to keep the game manageable. Offensively, I thought we did a good job.

"Defensively, we were in position probably 95% of the game. We got out of position a couple plays and that really cost us. Plays that we worked, we talked about. The last zone play we just had a young kid in there that gets cut off, out of his gap and just didn't make the play. When you're in a gap control defense, we're in a defense to stop the run, and that's what's frustrating. We can't commit any more guys to the line of scrimmage and they made a play. That's what good teams do. USC was resilient and just kept in there and made some plays.

"I thought (Mark) Sanchez made some nice plays in the 4th quarter to keep drives alive where we had him surrounded. He scrambled and made a couple plays. Just our overall play, I felt much better about the way we played as a team. We played hard and the kids really gave a great effort. We had our chances but just didn't make plays when we had to. That was pretty much the game. Their defense is legit, they're banged up a little bit offensively but they're still USC. They have a lot of good players.

"I thought Spencer (Larsen) played an outstanding game. Antoine (Cason) made some plays; we made some plays defensively. I thought our coverage was much more solid. I thought our pressure was good. I thought Mark (Stoops) had a good plan. We got pressure consistently pretty much throughout the course of the game, something we hadn't done consistently. It was just a much cleaner game all the way around.

"The three turnovers really were costly. The interception down there on the 20-yard line going in before the half was big. Robbie (Gronkowski)'s (fumble) was a first down on the 50 and that was big. We were moving the ball. The other one was on another first down on the 42. We had a good run play and he just mishandled the ball. Those are things we can't do and win. Putting the ball on the ground and fumbling. We got one back - Terrell Reese fumbled and we were fortunate to get that one back. When you play a physical game, like USC plays, you have to hold on to the football."

On USC's defense:

"They're a very physical defense. Up front they create a lot of confusion. We had guys open pretty much all day. They get (the quarterback) out of your comfort zone and that's what you don't see. When those teams pressure you, the quarterback has to anticipate and do things a little bit quicker in his rush and that's tough. When we did have time, we rushed it and that's what those guys can do to you."

On Arizona's last drive:

"We dropped the corner route on the second down play. I thought we had the guy wide open and he just dropped the ball. It would have put us I think at the 35 with a first down. It's hard to go downfield with the pressure they put on the quarterback; just give them time."

On the series before Keenyn Crier's 83-yard punt:

"I thought we would get the ball back with good field position because we had played good defense the whole game. That's what was frustrating. They hit the 3rd down and 2, we're all over the boot pass, if we just made the tackle he gets just enough yards. I just like our position in that series. We made a critical mental mistake. I thought (Joe) McKnight made some great plays, and that's just what they've been missing. The punt return and run were huge plays in that game."

On getting Nicolas Grigsby back in the game in the second half:

"Chris (Jennings) was doing some good things and that's why we stuck with Chris. I think we would have (brought Grigsby back in) had Chris not made some plays. Chris went in and did a really good job. He received the ball well. There has to be some consequence for putting the ball on the ground. That's football. That's the first thing you learn as a running back, you can't put the ball on the ground and we're putting the ball on the ground way too much. That's something we have to emphasize.

"We work it pretty much daily. It's carelessness with the football. If you turn the ball over it eliminates everything you do well. It took us out of a couple drives and it took scoring points off the board when we fumbled their interception. It takes a great play and it just took everything way.

"Sure it's a great interception, a great play, but if we don't lose the ball, we're down at the 20-yard line with a minute to go. It was a huge play in the game. That's just how it's gone. I don't know how conclusive their fumble was, but it was close. We pick it up and go to their 50, up three. We just can't get that one break to get over the hump."

On Willie Tuitama's play against USC:

"I thought he made some great throws throughout the course of the game and went to some backside reads. He continues to show development in this offense. Willie's gotten better and better. He's done a lot of good things throughout the course of the game. He made some great throws in the game. So he continues to improve

"(He needs to improve) his decision making, like all quarterbacks. I think quarterbacks always can get more comfortable in seeing the field and understanding when we get an open receiver we've got to get him the football. There were certain times when we had guys (open); things he'll see, he'll understand. It's a learning situation for him as well. He's been through a lot in two years so he continues to progress. I'm pleased with the way Willie has hung in there and done some good things. He just has to keep getting better, like everybody."

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