"I don't want to disappoint anybody but I'm not going to sit up here and paint a doom and gloom picture for the Sun Devils today," said Koetter in his opening statement. "We as the coaching staff and as a team need to move towards Oregon State. The loss at Iowa, of course, was very disappointing. It's always disappointing when you don't play up to your capabilities and trust me we feel bad about that from a player and a coaching standpoint, but with that all done all we can do is learn from it and move on."
Koetter acknowledges the fact that his squad played "an excellent football team." That being said, he did point out the golden offensive opportunities missed in the first quarter, as well as the fine defensive play that created those chances. Through out all of it, the Sun Devil skipper took full responsibility for the ineptitude on offense. "Our offense couldn't move it a lick," exclaimed Koetter. "We went three straight three-and-outs at that point and they scored two touchdowns and we were down 14-2 at halftime and they come out and score in the first and the third quarter. We still had a couple chances in the second half, but offensively I had never been in a game like that where we just couldn't put anything together and I take the responsibility for that. That's my baby, and we didn't get it done."
Up next for the Devils is a trip to Corvallis, where last Saturday the Oregon State Beavers edged Koetter's team from three years ago, the Boise State Broncos, 26-24. Does Koetter believe that he may hold some kind of advantage by watching a team with similar style to ASU play Oregon State just a few days ago? "I'm not sure that there's any advantage," stated Koetter. "We do run a similar system to Boise State in all phases so you see how you think Oregon State is going to try to play against some of the same scheme. There are no guarantees with that and I counted that about 18 starters of the players of Boise State are still playing when I was there at Boise State so I have a pretty good feeling of what type of players those guys are versus the Oregon State players and also how we would stack up. I wouldn't put a whole lot of credence in us getting a huge advantage off of that."
The rotation at running back continues to be a hot topic, and the ASU head coach said that injuries are frustrating the decision process on whom to play. "It would help out our team if we settled into one guy who knew he was going to get a majority of the carries and we went ahead and did that," said the Sun Devil skipper. "Unfortunately, it's not quite as easy as it seems. Mike Williams was held out of one game, missed one game completely. Loren Wade had a chance to establish himself as that guy and Loren, coming out of the NAU game, banged his shoulder and did not practice the week before the Utah State game and he played like that in the Utah State game. His shoulder is still a little sore and I don't think he's back to the point that he was during fall camp and even in spring football... We would like to settle on something at tailback, but there are some other factors underneath the surface that make that a little harder than saying 'this is the guy'."
Koetter added that running back Hakim Hill, who carried the ball well but made a couple errors in the passing game, has also a banged up shoulder and his status is somewhat uncertain going into tomorrow's practice.
The Sun Devil coach was pleased with the performance on the offensive line, and he singled out the younger players, as well as the most experienced player as solid contributors on Saturday. "Overall, I think our performance was ok," said Koetter. "Considering that might be the best front four, or one of the two best lines that we'll see all year. Regis Crawford played his best game this season. Our tackles were going against some great football players, and I think it's the most those two have ever been challenged, those two are in their third starts each, and considering who they were playing against, I think they did okay. The O-line was not the main cause of our offensive woes. The offensive line and Mike Karney at fullback, played all right."
Andrew Walter's performance against Oregon State last year was his second worst as a starter. Koetter was asked what his signal caller could draw from his experiences of playing the Beavers last year last year. "There is a different defensive coaching staff," replied Koetter. "I think only one (assistant coach) was held over, but Oregon State is playing a little different style of defense than they did last year. They are still a really solid defensive team, and I'm a lot more worried about what Andrew draws from the Iowa game than what he drew from last year's Oregon State game. I think with Andrew a lot of it just comes back to his frame of mind and getting his confidence back, and knowing that he can do everything right, and not try to make every play a great one."
Offensively, Koetter exclaimed that the differences between last year's Beavers team and this year are much more subtle. "They are still primarily a single back team. I think they're doing a good job of feeding Steven Jackson the ball and letting him work, they're getting him the ball and letting him pound it. They are going to give Jackson the ball and try to get you to commit to that and they're going to throw it out to Newson, who's an excellent receiver,"
"The big thing against them is their quarterback threw for over 400 yards against Boise State," continued Koetter. "Boise State wasn't able to get pressure on him. If you look at the game they lost against Fresno State, Fresno State was able to get pressure on him early and he ended up throwing five or six interceptions. It's sort of the same M.O. he had last year in that in games where people didn't get to him he played pretty well, and in games where they were able to pressure him, he didn't do as well. He's certainly a talented quarterback, and so you can draw your own conclusions from what we need to do there."
Koetter was very complimentary of Andrew Walter, and the manner in which he handles himself when adversity hits. "The pressure a guy like that is under and the way he handles himself is first-class all the way," said the ASU coach. "Andrew takes 100 percent responsibility when he should, and a lot of times even when he shouldn't. I don't have a good explanation for why things happened the way they did in the game, but I guess that's why he's not playing in the NFL right now; he's playing college football. You have to get better and move on, it's all we can do. For me to say I'm mad at Andrew Walter would be a big joke, because Andrew wants to win as bad as anybody."
This season, wide receiver Daryl Lightfoot was supposed to be the speedster who was going to stretch defenses a la Shaun McDonald last year. The fact that the junior was very consistent and played very well in spring practice, makes his absence from the lineup even more frustrating. "Unfortunately we've gotten to the season now and he's missed two out of the three games," exclaimed Koetter. "And these injuries that Daryl has are not significant injuries, they're minor. I watched him in warm-ups and could tell he wasn't right, and he said he could tell he wasn't 100 percent. So I thought it was better to hold him out than risk hurting him more for conference play. He ran with the team yesterday, and hopefully he'll be back."
Another player who is now banged up is Linebacker Jamar Williams who showed a lot of grit in the Iowa game. "Jamar, on the third or fourth play of the game, broke his nose and when I saw Jamar on the sideline, it looked like he got hit in the teeth with a baseball bat. He looked horrible with blood all over him, his face was all swollen up, the trainers didn't think he'd be able to go back in the game. Two plays later he was back in the game and played most of the game. He is going to see a specialist today to sort out what we have to do to get him better, but what a great effort by Jamar Williams."
The number one concern for the ASU defense this Saturday will be stopping Oregon State standout running back Steven Jackson. Koetter discussed the virtues that make him such an offensive threat. "Well, he's a great mixture of size, speed and power. It's surprising that in all the yardage he has this year, his longest run is of 16 or 18 yards, he hasn't really broke off any long ones. The one thing that is noticeable in their offense this year is that they are throwing the ball more to him out of the backfield and in their screen game. That gives him a lot of touches and he's one of those backs who can take the punishment and come back next week and be ready for more."
On the other hand, ASU's running game is cause for concern, but Koetter does not list it as the main apprehension on offense. "It's (the running game) a big concern, but how big of a concern is it that we were 3 of 16 on third downs? How big of a concern is it that we are pathetic in the red zone? We have a lot of concerns and we have to score some points. Whether we run or pass, we have to get on the scoreboard. Our defense getting a safety for us isn't going to win too many games."
Koetter's Press Conference Recap
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