Penalties and Turnovers Will Be Costly vs. Iowa

ASU head coach Dirk Koetter realizes that a repeat of his team's miscues the last two weeks will spell doom and gloom when his team embarks on their first road game of the year.

"One thing about Iowa," said Koetter. "They're a good football team that doesn't beat themselves. The first two teams we faced were making the same mistakes we have. Penalties, turnovers, and foolish plays are beating ourselves. We're gonna work on cutting that down this week. We'll do our best to prepare for a great Iowa team, which won 14 straight regular season games at home."

A theory was brought up by the ASU broadcasting team that perhaps this road game is what ASU needs in order to improve. The Sun Devil coach isn't quite sure, but also isn't quick to dismiss that notion. "I can see that point. I haven't thought about it that way until they said it. I don't know…there might be something to that. We're not winning pretty right now but we're winning. We're gonna have to play better. We're going the road, and we'll have the crowd, and the humidity, which we haven't faced. We're just going to try to make the best of it."

Koetter announced that game balls were given to Skyler Fulton, Riccardo Stewart, and Jimmy Verdon who had four tackles on special teams, along with a career best three sacks in one game. Fulton and Verdon were named the co-captains for the Iowa game. Scout players of the week are Brandon Rodd on offense, Nick Baker on defense, and Tyrone Bowers on special teams.

The team's defensive ratio was 15:4 – meaning that it gave up four big plays but made 15 of its own. 15 tackles were missed this week, compared to 14 last week. On average each missed tackle is costing the team just under five yards. "A win is still a win even if it's an ugly win," exclaimed Koetter. "We lost the turnover battle, we lost the 3rd down battle, and we lost the 4th quarter. But we still won the game, and I don't think we were ever in too much danger of losing it."

The ASU skipper was very pleased with the fact that the team was set to improve its four-man rush, and the seven sacks are a resounding testament to achieving that feat. " Another encouraging aspect was the success of the running game. "We only had four negative yards of rushing," said Koetter. "Don't get me wrong. They are some things we could have done better. But I can't remember as a coach a game that in 74 plays 37 passes no sacks, 37 runs only four negative yards." Koetter also mentioned that the score could have been 56-13 if four plays in that game materialized in a different way. "We dropped a touchdown pass, we're down to the 1-yard line twice and can't punch it in, and we have a punt return called back. Is the fact that we didn't score on those four opportunities concerning? Definitely. It was just assignments errors, and we didn't get it done."

As expected, the team was very basic on defense against Utah State. Out of 85 snaps played, 65 were with a straight four man rush. Koetter doesn't believe that scaling down the playbook was causing the various turnovers in the game. "We've had a fumbled snap right at the 50-yard line in both games. We sometimes have a fumbled snap between our third center and out third quarterback. But Drew and Andrew never fumble. On this particular snap, Drew was just late on the count; you can see that on film. The whole offense was off, and Andrew was just late on it." On the Derek Hagan fumble, Koetter said the receiver had the ball away from his body, and the defender just took the ball away from him. Koetter continued and said: "The first interception by Andrew this year - he was on the right read, throwing to the right guy, but it was tipped at the line of scrimmage."

The Utah State game featured a dozen of penalties by the Sun Devils. Nevertheless, some are definitely of the head scratching variety "We're in no huddle offense right before the half," said Koetter. "And they call us for illegal substitution - breaking the huddle with 12 players. How can you break the huddle with 12 when you don't huddle? It never got explained to me." The ASU coach admitted that the team did some things that hurt them in the return game. Six of seven punts were covered very well, and the lone breakdown resulted in a 22-yard return.

While Tim Parker had his best night ever punting, he missed an extra point for the second game in a row. On the other hand, Jesse Ainsworth did attempt and make his first extra point of the season. Will we see Ainsworth kicking more PAT's from now on? "I don't know yet," said Koetter. "I've been wanting to get him in there, and decided we better not wait too long or we won't see him. We'll see how he does in practice. In hindsight, I should have put him in the NAU game. But we didn't score enough points."

The NAU game had several players leaving the field with cramps. Various adjustments were employed to combat this issue, but the team was only partially successful. Golden and Hudson suffered cramping for the second straight week, and Koetter stated that the team will analyze their blood work and see if a cause can be determined through that analysis. Franklin and Stewart didn't cramp this week, but did last week. Nick Johnson cramped for the first time this week. Lightfoot didn't play last week and had a hamstring cramp this week.

At left tackle Carnahan's play was described by Koetter as "steady" and he seems to still hold the edge over Chaz White who played just 27 snaps compared to Carnahan's 51. Tony Aguilar played 48 snaps at left guard while Fa'aita's participated in 30 snaps. In comparison, this position battle is much closer. Speaking of tight battles, the tailback one continues to be a heated one. "I'm very happy with the way they ran for the most part," exclaimed the ASU skipper. "We had Loren (Wade) in the orange jersey all week. We didn't let them hit him because he was all banged up. You can really see how this guy is a redshirt freshman, because last night he ran hard but he didn't run smart all the time." Koetter said that if Wade had lowered his shoulders on two plays, it could possibly result in a pair of scores.

According to Koetter, running back Randy Hill was the best pass blocker among the ball carriers, and runs hard even though he does so in an unorthodox style. "Hakim Hill ran extremely hard," stated Koetter. "But he missed some cuts that could have helped him." Koetter mentioned that all tailbacks made it hard on the defense to tackle them; and all three had one run that was one step away from being a significant run.

The dropped passes epidemic reared its ugly head again, and this has Koetter concerned. "In two instances the guys tried to catch with their body, instead of coming closer to the quarterback and catching with their hands. We had one or two instances on deeper passes where the guy just extended a little too soon, instead of running through the ball. These are all things that the guys have done a thousand times. I don't think we have to push the panic button, but on the same token we can't keep on doing it." He added that barring any further injuries, receiver Rudy Burgess will redshirt.

The players in the locker room were happier after the USU win, compared to the NAU one. Nevertheless, the Sunday practice was business like. "Players are always the most resilient. Our job is to make corrections and move on. When we watched the film, they were a lot of things which were fine." Koetter noted that not only were four starters out, but reserves such as Matt Fawley played 93 plays, and that's not including special teams' snaps.

In noting the season's pleasant surprises thus far, Koetter singled out the play of Moey Mutz, giving up one sack in two games after leading the conference last season in that category, and doing a solid job in the punting and return game departments. Dropped passes and coverage units on special teams are behind than expected, and the team's ability at field goals is yet to be seen. Another surprise is that the interior blocking, despite the vast experience among the linemen there, is lagging behind the interior blocking.

Starting this week practices will run earlier at 3:45. One reason is to offset the humidity factor that the team will face this week. Secondly, Koetter didn't want to make the first week switch during Pac-10 play.

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