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Coach Whittingham Weekly Press Conference Recap- Week 8

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Utah Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In Monday’s press conference coach Kyle Whittingham recapped the team’s win over Arizona State and looked ahead to this week’s game against Cal.

Opening statement…

”As far as last week’s game, really outstanding effort by our defense and it was good to get a win. Two football teams going at it, two ranked teams, so it was a great performance by our defense, but turned the ball over four times. We were able to overcome that though, which doesn’t happen very often. We move on to a new challenge this week in Cal. As far as injuries in the game, none were season-ending, so that is the only statement about that. Back at home again. Cal has had some ups and downs this season. Started the season 4-0 with a big win against the Huskies and as of late, have not been able to continue that success. We know they are a good football team and we know that they play outstanding defense, so they will have all of our attention this week just like we do every week. There is no looking past anybody, there is no being distracted about what is going on elsewhere in the league as far as who is positioned where, it is all completely focused on the Bears.”

On the job Morgan Scalley has done this year…

”Defense played outstanding like I said. The numbers were as good as I can ever remember as far as a statistical standpoint. I thought the plan was very good going in, but again the plan is only as good as the players that are executing it and the players did an outstanding job. The front four applied pressure all night long. The backend was outstanding, obviously with the four completions the entire night for 25 yards, and that doesn’t happen often in this day in age in college football. Morgan is doing a great job – Morgan and his staff. It isn’t a one-man staff, it is Morgan and the entire defensive staff. But when it all boils over it comes down to your players. That is the bottom line. Their talent level and their mentality and the commitment that they have to what you are doing.”

On the battle between Drew Lisk and Jason Shelley…

”Well Drew has really been improving and has progressed, so it is pretty much a week to week thing. They have kind of jockeyed back and forth between that No. 2 spot. Coach Ludwig this past week thought that Drew had the better practice week so he got the nod when Tyler went down and then later in the game when we wanted to up the QB run game because we were trying to take some clock off, Jason is the better quarterback run guy.”

On in the last three games opponents only converting on 18-percent of third downs and if that has to do with what they are doing on first and second downs…

”Third-and-eight and third-and-nine is a lot easier to defend than third-and-two. So first and second down have a great deal to do with your third down success. That really stems from people not being able to run the ball. If you can’t run the ball effectively, they are going to find themselves in third-and-long a lot more often than if the run game is producing.”

On what he has seen on film on Cal’s linebacker player Evan Weaver…

”Great player. We have a lot of respect for him and have been watching him all season long when we turn games on in the weekend. He is a big, physical and tough linebacker and he makes a lot of plays. We think he is a tremendous player.”

On what strengths Drew Lisk and Jason Shelley and their strengths…

”Drew is an absolute student of the game. He has complete understanding of the offense. He is accurate throwing the football and is a really good decision maker. Jason is more athletic and a better runner and of course you have a better understanding of what Jason’s got from last year in the extensive playing time that he got.”

On Cal’s defense being so consistent…

”Well Coach Wilcox is an outstanding defensive coach. He has had a lot of success in his career as a defensive coordinator and he is just a really outstanding defensive mind. You can see his influence and feel his influence on the defense, and they just take a lot of pride in what they are doing. When you have a team that is united, you don’t really get down on one side of the ball or the other, you just keep playing hard, and that seems to be what they do there. They don’t care about what success or lack of the offense might be having, they are just going to play hard and keep doing what they are doing.”

On the play of Jaylon Johnson and the challenges he has met the last few weeks…

”Outstanding. As I’ve said so many times, that is such a weapon for a defensive coordinator to have. The ability to take something away, not hope, but just knowing that it is going to be taken away. They had that one catch for seven or eight yards and that was it, and that is attributed to Jaylon. But as much as Jaylon this particular week, the front four had the quarterback on the run from the first second, which really helps the secondary out.”

On what statistics he looks at as far as pass defense and why he thinks they are doing so well…

”We look at pass defense efficiency. That is our No. 1 barometer of how we are doing defensively. The reason is you can’t really control how often a team passes the ball. A team can throw the ball 50 times, they are going to get 250 yards, that is just the nature of the beast. So, what you do is look at what happens when they do throw it. What is their completion percentage, how many yards per attempt, touchdown to interception ratio. Those are the kinds of things we look at when we are trying to gauge how we are doing in pass coverage.”

On what he wants to fix in the run game after Arizona State…

”We didn’t hit movement as well as we usually do during that game. There were some twists and stunts that we didn’t handle like we should have. They loaded the box up a lot too with some zone blitzing and run zone blitzes. They were the second-best run defense in the Pac-12 and among the top 10 in the nation I think going into the game. We knew it was going to be tough sledding in general but then they did some things that we didn’t handle very well in addition to that.”

On the current Pac-12 standings and how they are looking at it…

”We are not concerned with who is playing who, who has to lose and who has to win. There is too much football left. All we have to do is win this week. Our whole focus and whole objective is trying to get a win this week and not get distracted by anyone else’s business.”

On the Pac-12 depth this year…

”I think this is one of our greatest strengths, but maybe our biggest weakness. We cannibalize each other. Every week somebody knocks off somebody. You always hear the term inexplicable win or loss. There is no inexplicable loss in college football period, let along in the Pac-12, because it is college football. You have to be ready to play every week. To say that a team is favored by a couple of touchdowns, how can you explain them losing – it is because of the nature of the game. There is so much emotion and the matchups, injury factor, there is just so much that goes on. I think this year has been more balanced than previous years. Every week it feels like somebody who you had no expectation of winning, comes up with a win. That is just the nature of the game.”

On if Bradlee Anae has become more of a complete player…

”He has definitely become more of a complete player. He was never bad against the run, but he is kind of like Tyler. For his senior year he is playing his best football as a defensive end. There really is no weakness. He plays the run, he plays the pass. On Saturday he was making outstanding moves on that offensive tackle. We turned him loose two or three times on the inside moves. That goes back to Scalley’s group structuring things for him to have some more freedom.”