"SC is a good football team, and Cal showed a good blueprint on what to do," said the ASU skipper. "Cal came out right at them, and everybody that thought that SC was invincible – all you have to do is look at that tape…We run the same offense as Cal, so I hope we do as well as they did. No one has been able to run the ball at SC like they did. Their running back was the first 100-yard rusher (against SC) in a long time."
While Koetter acknowledges the fact that USC has "outstanding receivers" such as Mike Williams and Keary Colbert, it's the Trojans' defense that really seems to have his full attention and admiration. "Their secondary is certainly solid," he said. "But what makes that defense go is their front four. Somewhat like Iowa – they can get pressure with a four-man rush where not many teams can. But they have better speed."
According to the ASU coach, the defensive schemes employed by the Trojans are far more sophisticated than any team they have seen thus far or will see down the road.
"SC is a bigger zone blitz team," claimed Koetter when comparing the Trojans to ASU's last two opponents. "Iowa blitzed on two snaps, and were in their base defense the rest of the night. Oregon State blitzed us a fair amount, and played aggressive with their corners. Whether they were playing zone or man, they pressed us on the outside every play. SC is a team that mixes it up more than any team we've played."
"They play deep zone at times, and aren't afraid to play cover-two on any down," continued Koetter. "But they have a gigantic zone blitz package. They'll blitz you from the field and the boundary. Where most teams will only blitz you from the wide field. Corner blitzes, safety blitzes…that's the NFL side of what Coach Carroll does with the defense. They disguise it well. It's very difficult to say if they're in man or zone. But when Cal was able to run the football, and stay out of obvious pass situations, and get them in play action situations…that definitely helped Cal."
When preparing for an opponent such a USC, it seems that one is always pressured to complete the work on hand. However, Koetter said that the team's schedule was delayed ever since the squad returned from the Oregon State road trip. "It seems like there's not enough time," stated Koetter. "But I feel like we got it all done. You sleep a lot better if you have it done by Tuesday. But as a coaching staff, I don't think we came up for air until late yesterday (Wednesday). Portions of our game plan…we like to have finished by Tuesday – we didn't get finish installing until yesterday, which is a day late. Part of that is due to our schedule on Sunday getting back so late (close to 5AM). But every team in the Pac-10 has a week or two like that, when you have a long road trip coming back. That's just part of the deal."
On the injury front, Koetter re-affirmed that in all probability Chris McKenzie will start for the injured, and likely sidelined, R.J. Oliver. "It looks like R.J. is not gonna be available," exclaimed Koetter. "He just can't quite get over the hump with that thing (quad injury). He's gonna try to go again today (Thursday), but wasn't able to do much yesterday. It just feels like he can't quite open it all the way up. It's frustrating for everybody involved." The Sun Devil skipper said that decisions as to whether a player is physically ready are made between the player, trainers, and doctors. Thus, coaches aren't involved. He added that Emmanuel Franklin will start along side McKenzie. Competition for playing time has been heated between primary backups Josh Golden and Mike Davis.
Pressured preparation or not Koetter and his team are eager for the showdown at Sun Devil stadium. "We look at this as a tremendous opportunity for us. There's a lot of football left to be played. We know we haven't played as we're capable of, and when we do – whoever catches us that day will be in for a dog fight." He added that the 60,000 or so in attendance on Saturday can truly help lift a struggling ASU team. "Absolutely. Some of our most loyal fans reminded me all week of the 1978 game (a 20-7 victory), and what a huge role the crowd played."
Cal's Victory Over USC Will Serve as a "Blueprint"
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