Devils Focused Amid Tragic Events, Forced Bye Wee

The ASU-UCLA game was one of the first sporting events to be canceled in light of Tuesday's terrorist attacks. The quick resolve by the Pac-10 did force the Sun Devils to quickly shift their focus to Stanford, a team that according to ASU's coaches isn't necessarily preferable to playing over UCLA. Head Coach Dirk Koetter and Special Teams Coach Tom Osborne talked about the effects of the forced bye week.

Q: How hard has it been to focus on Football since Tuesday?

Dirk Koetter: I have been really pleased with the focus of the players, and the crisp manner that the practices had. I have been impressed and pleased how hard our guys have come out and practiced. Tuesday and Wednesday were personally very hard days for me to concentrate, but when I knew what our schedule was going to be and what's ahead of us, I needed to prepare for Stanford.

Tom Osborne: Tuesday was tough and that's why we canceled practice, but as soon as everybody got on the field on Wednesday the attention and focus in practice have been very well. The shift in schedule has been hard. For 2 and half days, for sixteen hours a day you're planning for UCLA, and then we drop everything and game plan for Stanford. In the fist day of game planning, I was a little confused between both game plans, but I got over it pretty fast. This change in game planning in the middle of the week was very different and unusual, and in all my years of coaching I never encountered it. But you know what? We have it extremely easy compared to the folks that were affected by the terrorist attacks.

Q: The tragic events have put Stanford as your next opponent rather than UCLA. What advantages do you see in playing Stanford next?

DK: I don't look at us playing a lesser opponent than UCLA. Plenty of people did pick Stanford to finish ahead of UCLA. I certainly don't look at them as being the weaker opponent; they're just a different team we're facing. They are all good in the Pac-10.

TO: They are advantages playing Stanford. Just like us, they played one game, so it's not like we're playing a UCLA, which has already had two games under their belt. It does make it harder to game plan since you have very little film, but they have the same problem with us. I do downplay the fact that it's better for us to first play Stanford rather than UCLA. Some may say it's a weaker team, but you never know who's good until you play them. I know this is the worst cliché in Football: but on any given week any team can beat another. Stanford is a good team, and we feel that we have to improve to beat them. It should be a good game.

Q: Looking at the ASU schedule before the season started, the perception was that it would be a tall order to play the first two conference games on the road and do so very early in the season. Now, playing only one Pac-10 road game instead of two consecutive ones, is that an advantage?

DK: That's maybe the only positive that came out of this whole situation. But we really don't look at these factors as positives or negatives. That's just the way it is, and we have to go.

TO: We knew it was going to be tough to start Pac-10 play with two games on the road, so it's a positive that we have only one road game, but we wish that horrible circumstances (i.e. the terrorist attack) didn't dictate that. We haven't played a Pac-10 game yet, so we need to find out if we can win in the Pac-10. Especially on the road.

Q: How about the perception that all the positive momentum that we gained after the San Diego State win, may have been lost now that we're playing two weeks later?

DK: Not at all. People that say that you lose momentum are just looking for excuses. You make your own momentum. You can make it in one week or three weeks. I just don't buy into that stuff.

TO: I don't know. Maybe offense and defense feel like they won that game (San Diego State) by 30, but on special teams we feel like we lost that game by 30, so we (special teams) never came out of that game with momentum. But overall, it does kill your momentum because we're all competitors who want to play. On the other hand, it does make you hungrier to play. As far as special teams, it's important for us to play games. You can't simulate the speed of the game in practice. You also don't want to beat up your guys in practice before you play a game. From a special teams standpoint, we have to play games.

Overall, it does look like playing Stanford has its pluses, but a poor performance in Palo Alto can quickly erase those perceived benefits. Keeping attentive and paying attention to detail, can always aid in game preparation. Those virtues seemed to be imbedded in this Football team, despite the trying times our nation is going through these days. And with proper perpetration and attitude, the Devils are giving themselves a chance to prevail in their first road game and Pac-10 game of the season.

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