Oct. 29, 2013
Once again, turnovers led to our demise. It was unfortunate. We played exceptionally well on defense. Special teams was excellent as well. We definitely won the special teams battle. We couldn't get much generated on offense, but there are going to be games that are defensive struggles. There are going to be games that are offensive shootouts. The one common denominator in those games, and in every game, is turnover margin. That's the thing that usually is the difference-maker. And in this game, it was exactly that. F our turnovers and no takeaways and you're probably going to win zero games a season doing that. It's something that's got to be corrected. In our losses, it's showed up. In our wins, it's been the reverse. It's pretty apparent what our issue is. We've got to get it fixed. That's the long and short of that.
We've got a week off, as far as no game this week. We'll practice, we'll work Monday through Thursday, give them a three-day weekend, then come back Monday of next week to get ready for the Sun Devils who are coming to our place. Excellent team, by the way, very good football team. First place in the [Pac-12] South. Great offense, second only to Oregon in total offense and scoring and playing really good defense, too. Very complete football team is what Arizona State is.
On the offensive line:
We feel they give us the best chance to win. They're the guys that have been playing together since last spring. Isaac Asiata is a guy who does a great job and maybe merits an opportunity to play some snaps in a game, but other than that it's those five guys who are clearly the best five that we have at this point in time.
On the quarterback decision against USC:
Going into the game, we hoped that Travis [Wilson] was going to be able to be effective. It turned out not to be the case. We struggled, brought [Adam] Schulz in to try to get a spark and get something going. Brought him in and didn't really have a whole lot of success there either. Conner Manning was never really a serious consideration to put him in. He's got the redshirt label on him right now. He's a true freshman. He's probably not quite ready for a situation like that. That's where we're at. We've got to get better play at quarterback. We'll be the first ones to tell you we've got to get more effective play there. That's something going forward that's got to improve. Now, Travis was lights-out the first five games, we had very good quarterback play and it's just been the last couple games that we've had struggles.
Reviewing the USC game:
There was a lot of positives on the defensive side of the ball. We played our best defensive game of the year by far. We stuffed the run, and gave up a few things in the throw game. You're never going to completely shut down a quality Pac-12 team like USC, all across the board on defense. But if we can get that defensive effort then --250 yards, 30 yards rushing and 14 first downs, not very productive on third down --that was just a big positive.
The kicking game, as I mentioned, was a big positive. We out-netted them every time we punted. We gained in field position four or five yards better than them in the kickoff, kickoff return game. We did miss a field goal, that was disappointing. They were, what, 4-for-5 on their field goals, and we were 1-for-2. So there was positives there, not a lot of positives on offense, hard to find a positive there other than we played hard. The players were playing hard and they're giving great effort, just not getting great results the last couple weeks.
On turnover margin, interceptions by the offense and lack of takeaways:
Just got to keep working on it. We work on it every day in practice, we have turnover circuits and things that we do and emphasize in practice on a daily basis. Plus, we've missed out on a bunch of opportunities this year. It's not like we haven't had several opportunities to intercept the football. The ball's been on the ground several times now. We've had the opportunity to recover several fumbles, but we have the opportunity to recover more that what we've gotten. So, we just got to keep working and keep preaching it.
The turnover margin is just that, it's the turnover margin. It's not all just the offense turning the ball over, it's combined with the defense not taking it away. If we take it away four times like they do, then it's even. So, that turnover margin is a team effort, not just an offensive thing.
A bunch of the interceptions have been off deflected passes where it's been right in our hands. The one on the tumble screen Saturday should have made a completion and a gain instead of a huge swing in momentum with the turnover. So it's been that and a couple poor decisions and I'm not going to say that there hasn't been some poor throws and poor decisions, because there has been. But a great portion of those interceptions have been -- I don't want to say flukes, but (they were) things that should not have happened.
We're breaking in three new secondary guys, four new secondary guys when you count the nickel package when we have five DBs on the field. I've been pretty pleased and proud of the way that secondary has come together with eight games, and we still have four to go, so it's not a complete season. But so far, the body of work has been pretty competitive; we made some plays on the ball Saturday and have come along with a step forward each week throughout the season. Where we started with those guys, experience-wise, and just their amount of time in Division I football for a lot of them, it's been a pleasant surprise for us. Not a surprise, but a positive for us.
On Conner Manning:
We're to the point now where we don't think that's a viable option in his best interest or ours in the long haul. And it's a win-right-now mentality. You've got to worry about the moment, but in fairness to Conner and in thinking objectively, what that would bring to the table for us right now and in our situation, we don't think that that's a smart move at this point in time.
On matchups against Arizona State:
I think our defensive line matches up with anyone in the conference, and that's been proven so far every week out. Let's see, our linebackers I think are playing really well. I think Jacoby Hale had a big impact on the game, Trevor Reilly -- who's a slash guy, he's a part-time linebacker, part-time defensive lineman -- I think that's a good match for us. Our running backs have been productive when they've had opportunities. We didn't have much opportunity to get them underway on Saturday. And the kicking game, I think that our kicking game matches up week in and week out with anybody.
On the run game:
We probably under-utilized Kelvin [York] a little bit on Saturday and he's going to get more carries. So the one thing that will happen is that Kelvin will get more than what he's been getting the last couple of weeks. He's earned that. He's ran physically, and in hindsight, we should have used him more on Saturday.
On losing the tight ends:
It's been a huge departure from what we planned all spring and fall around those guys in a lot of ways and the utilization of their skills. Jake Murphy was having a very good year prior to going down and Westlee [Tonga] hadn't done as much as we hoped he would have, but [it's] not his fault. We just needed to get him more involved. We had a complete change in personnel groupings when we lost those guys, but that's the nature of the deal. Everybody in the country's down a certain amount of guys, and you've got to adjust and respond and be able to move forward. But it was certainly something that impacted us.