LAS VEGAS—Jedd Fisch walked into an interview underneath Allegiant Stadium, and as he sat in front of some microphones and faced reporters he had the look of a guy who knew how close he’d come to pulling off an unexpected result.
“Disappointing that we did not finish that game off,” Fisch said following Arizona’s 24-16 loss to BYU in his head coaching debut. “We felt we had a really good opportunity to win that football game and we didn’t, we didn’t get that done.”
The UA has lost 13 consecutive games dating back to October 2019, yet the overall vibe around the team on Saturday night was far different than following most of the previous setbacks. Per Fisch, it was quite different inside the locker room as well.
“These guys, you should have heard in the locker room, they could not be more excited about practice on Monday,” Fisch said. “Could not be more excited about the opportunity to get back out there.”
You can read our game recap here. Below is what else Fisch said following the 2021 season opener:
On what he thinks of his team: “I think we have a really good football team. And I think we have a chance to do some really cool things moving forward. And I’m excited about that. I can’t wait to get back out there on Monday, at the practice field, and I can’t wait for Saturday’s game at home against San Diego State. And I really do hope and expect that we have 50,000 people to watch this team play, because our guys will not let anyone down.”
On QB Gunner Cruz: “He did a lot of things that were pretty good. But there were some things that we can improve upon. We certainly can’t take four sacks. We took sacks that knocked us, two out of field goal range, two out of possible go-for-it situations. We can’t do that. We had a couple of guys open in the end zone, ended up having a misread here, a misread there, which we need to improve upon. But you want to talk about a kid that battled. I mean, this guy’s got four years of football left in him, and he battled his tail off, and I can’t tell you, this is not easy. Going to a neutral site with 50-something thousand people in an NFL stadium … and be able to go down and still battle and battle and battle. I feel really really good about the way Gunner played tonight.”
On the quarterback rotation, and if will continue: “We’ll have to watch the film on it, I think Gunner play really well. Will (Plummer) did a nice job when he went in, it was just a situation where Gunner got pretty streaky, pretty hot there at the end of the second quarter, and I just didn’t see a reason (to change). The second drive or so I was going to go back to Will, in the second half, but I really liked the way we were moving the football, even though the points weren’t necessarily reflecting it. We’ll see how they practice this week. But if you’re gonna go out there and, whatever, have a 141 quarterback rating in your first game you’ve ever started, it’ll be tough not to play Gunner right now.”
On Cruz’s interception: “There was a misread in coverage. The backside safety rolled over the top and they went to post high, I think that I thought it was going to stay in 2 shell, and I just read one guy and the backside safety made the play there. It was good football played by BYU. They disguised it well. They did a very nice job of disguising their coverages tonight, and that caused us some early discussions on the sideline and were able to take it from there.”
On the defense: “I know our defense is gonna be really salty and really good. The fact that they can have confidence in us, when we went for it on fourth down in our own territory two different times, and there was no hesitation by the defensive staff, the defensive coordinator or by the players, that we were willing to do that, gives me a lot of confidence moving forward.”
On the offensive line: “We ran the ball for (4.2) yards a clip, which is pretty good. We went for it on short-yardage situations, we were 100 percent in short yardage, which is a credit to the offensive line. I think we had five of those, two 4th-and-1s, three 3rd-and 1 or 2s, where we ran the football. I thought that we pass protected really well. We need to know how to get rid of the ball sometimes. I would say those sacks that occurred, you know, maybe one of them was up front, the rest of those, we’ve got to do a better job knowing what’s coming, and I’ll take the blame on that. I’ve got to call better plays there.”
On going for it on 4th-and-inches from the UA 24 on the opening drive: “I was not going to go for it, probably this afternoon, but when I looked out there and I saw that we had to go that far and I know how hard our team practiced, I said there’s no way they’re going to stop us. And when it happened again and we had to go that far, I said there’s no way they’re going to stop us. We got a 6-4 quarterback, weighs over 230 pounds. And if you can’t get that much that’s a problem. We got a center and guards that are confident in the guys behind, and there was no doubt that we were going to make that. I’d do that all over again and. We need to do that. It’s football, and it’s a situation in the same way (with) why we punted when we punted because it wasn’t the right decision to go for it on 4th and 8 on the 38-yard line. And we were able to put them down on the 1-yard line. So we’re going to try to make those decisions every time, each game will be different, but I feel really confident in our team, to be able to make those plays.”
On Lucas Havrisik missing two field goals: “We got a great field goal kicker, we’re going to be 100 percent in that situation. I just told Lucas, when he lined up for the last field goal, I said ‘you’re gonna make it like you do every day in practice.’ We practice field goals Tuesdays and Wednesdays every day. He makes them. I said, ‘you’re gonna make these and you’re probably not gonna miss a field for the rest of the year.’ So, just keep it moving. These things happen, and I do expect. He knows his job and he’s gonna do a great job at it.”
On what he learned about his team after being down 21-3: “No flich, no flinch at all. We drove right back down. We had a great drive, missed a field goal, had a great drive, made a field goal had a good drive, got down to the 30-yard line, took the sack, went to a situation where we had to punt it, coffin corner punt, and put the ball on the 1-yard line. And there was, honestly, I don’t think there was doubt in my mind that the defense was going to create a safety on that play. They came out there with such a energy and passion, when they were they were backed up, and I’ve gotta say that it was pretty cool. And it was a pretty cool response by our offense after that, starting with a special teams return. That was a true complimentary football part of the game. But we’re gonna keep working at it.
“I learned that our guys are going to fight to the very end. You should have seen, there was no doubt we were going to get the onside kick if you ask any member of that sideline, and there was no doubt we were going to score with 49 seconds left to tie the game and we all knew what 2-point play we’re going to call. So that’s what I love about our team. I love where we’re headed. And I can’t tell you how proud of the guys, the way they have themselves in the locker room.
“I looked at JB Brown with 48 seconds left, after we lined up to kick a field goal, I said ‘JB, we’re gonna make this field and we’re gonna onside kick and we’re gonna win this game.’ And he goes, ‘I know.’ When you have that type of passion and that type of energy … it didn’t work out, but these guys, these guys love Coach Brown, they love our coaches. They love the assistant coaches, they love the their teammates, and we’re going to be a pretty good football team. “
On how this team differs from prior ones at Arizona: “I don’t think we’re the same team. There was none of us that were here. We have 200 people that work in Lowell-Stevens, 148 of us arrived December 28 and beyond. So, it’s really hard for me to compare. I really don’t want to. We just want to compete. I love the way our guys battled and I love the energy and the fight.”
On his coaching debut: “Disappointing, disappointing. I could have done a better job. I should have called a better game earlier. That won’t happen again. I think we need to do better in certain playcalling opportunities in terms of the game as a head coach. As the game gets started I probably played more role of offensive coordinator, of calling the game and that’s where my brain is other than timeouts and game management and decision making upon some field goals. I want to do a better job coaching this team and I do appreciate the way our team handled it all, though.”