Koetter Says USC Game Was Team's Best Performance

In his weekly press conference, the ASU head coach stated that the loss to the Trojans was his squad's best display in the 2003 season. Nevertheless, he was disappointed in his team's letdown in the later stages of the contest.

"I thought we played hard for three quarters against USC," said the Sun Devil skipper. "Not necessarily great, but we played the best all year against by far the best team we have played all year. We did not play well at all in the fourth quarter. When we got down 10 points that we sort of got that 'here we go again' mentality that you have when you are on a team that is on a losing streak. This is not acceptable."

Koetter said that the players of the game were Derek Hagan on offense and Riccardo Stewart on defense. "I thought the hard work Derek has put in at practice paid off well in the game. Derek had a couple things he could have done better on the blocking side and also had the fumble, but he competed, caught the ball well on the inside, and ran well after the catch. I'm very happy for him." Koetter also announced that Jason Shivers was player of the game on special teams. The two co-captains for the Oregon game are Skyler Fulton and Jimmy Verdon. Scout players of the week were Mike Pollak on offense, Chad Green on defense, and Tyrice Thompson on special teams.

Giving up big plays and not creating ones in the team's favor were a glaring deficiency against USC. "It was our worst ratio of the year giving up big plays," exclaimed Koetter. "As we gave up eight big plays and only created seven negative plays on defense. Then again we were playing the best offensive team we have played all year. But, I thought that our ability after we gave up the big play was lacking in that we didn't come back very fast. After we give up the big play, we need to come back in sync."

When previewing ASU's next opponent, Koetter said that the Oregon wide receivers, much like the USC ones, are a major concern for the Sun Devils' defense. "I think the strength of their offense is their wide receivers. Demetrius Williams has really come on, leading the Pac 10 in average yards per catch. Demetrius is having an excellent year…then there is Samie Parker, who might be the fastest guy in the Pac-10, and there are a lot of fast guys in the Pac-10. They have two really good deep threats as they are throwing the ball down field and leading the Pac-10 in yards per catch."

On defense, the Ducks may not be the same caliber as the Trojans, but there are far from being a pushover as well. "Their front four is really solid," stated the ASU coach. "Those guys are big strong guys, I know they have had some injuries, but they are still very formidable." Koetter pointed out two players in specific: inside linebacker Kevin Mitchell and free safety Keith Lewis. He added the Oregon corners are: "Quick and fast. But much like our defense, they put a lot of pressure on those guys."

ASU's early success in running the ball against USC could, according to Koetter, have Oregon walking up their safeties often to the line of scrimmage. "Oregon walks up their safeties against everybody. Michigan was averaging 307 yards per game rushing, and they rushed for negative yardage against Oregon. That's a big change. Nick Aliotti (Oregon's defensive coordinator) has always said, ‘If you're going to beat me, you're going to beat me throwing the ball down the field,' and that's worked well for him."

Koetter was pleased with the feedback he got from the 14 players who took a recruiting visit to Tempe this past weekend. "We are very happy with how that went," he said. "We have never experienced anything like that where we had more than one or two visit during the season. I think that is the wave of the future in recruiting and I think that all the guys had a real nice experience here. Next weekend we are going to have six to eight more visits for the 12:30 game."

Cornerback R.J. Oliver missed his second game of the season, and Koetter said that his status for the Oregon game is unknown at this time. "R.J. worked out hard Saturday right before the game with the trainers and the strength coaches. He ran hard with the team yesterday, the best I've seen him run. Today (Monday) he won't run, he will just rehab and get treatment and give it a go. I know R.J. wants to get out there very badly. I know it's hurting him to not be out there and helping out the team. Until he can do it for several plays in a row at full speed, we won't know."

Last year's road victory at Oregon was a turning point in the season. Koetter commented on what the game against the Ducks meant then, and now. "That was a huge win for us. They were undefeated and ranked sixth in the nation at the time. At that time, no one was able to go into Eugene and win. I believe they had lost one out of their last fifty games at Autzen Stadium. We went in there and had a great day, the kind of game you are in the business for. It's a game you will always remember. "

"But that was then and this is now," continued Koetter. "I've looked at the tapes and Mike (Belotti) said he was going to look at the tapes. It's a chess match, what parts get taken out of that and stuck in here. There are totally different guys playing now. There were guys missing who were big factors in that game and some new guys on the scene."

This season Oregon has been playing the two quarterback system. While some think this factor makes it harder to prepare for, Koetter begs to differ. "I think that's way overblown," he exclaimed. "I've watched tape, Oregon runs the same offense. We know some of the things they are going to do. I don't think they do that much differently. I think Fife tries to run a bit more, as he is a better runner. You prepare for their schemes more so than their individual quarterbacks. When they get in trouble, we know they are going to use their sprint protection, which we use a lot too. I think both teams know each other pretty well, but both teams will have surprises for each other."

In regards to his own offense, the Sun Devil coach said that some are telling him that his team's offense has become predictable. Koetter said that the analysis he conducts every week on this matter suggests otherwise. "We do a self-scout every week. We do a self-scout based on down and distance, based on personnel we have in the game and based on formation. I look at those numbers every week and try to gauge whether we are too predictable or not… I don't think we are predictable but I think we are still finding our way. It's really easy to say after a play is over, what you would've, or should've done. It's a lot different when you are the guy with the headset on." He added that for the first three quarters against USC the offense was very much to his liking. On the other hand, the offense against Iowa was far from satisfactory. "I don't even know where that offense came from. I don't know that offense, I've never seen that offense in practice."

Koetter thought that his offensive line played adequately, especially keeping in mind the caliber of personnel that they were up against. "They didn't play great, but our offensive line was playing against a great defensive line," said Koetter. "We gave up the most sacks that we have had, but three of those five sacks came after the game was decided. As I said, we didn't do a good job in any phase in that fourth quarter. We just got beat individually a couple times. That's the best front we have played against, maybe the best we will play against all year. I think our offensive line is doing fine."

On the other hand, the ASU coach was delighted with the play of Derek Hagan who had eight catches for 170 yards – both career highs. "Derek has been practicing well and it showed up in the game," he said. "Andrew wasn't just looking for Derek, and he was very consistent in his plays. I thought that Derek did a nice job with his routes, he was physical, and he ran with the ball after he caught it. He's been practicing just like that." Koetter added that wide receiver Terry Richardson is another player that has progressed quite a bit as of late, and as a result Andrew Walter has been developing some confidence in Richardson as well.

Speaking of Walter, his play has come under heavy scrutiny during ASU's three losses. Koetter admitted that overall his signal caller has fallen short of the expectations. However, just like the squad as a whole – he did play his best game last Saturday. " Myself and (Quarterbacks Coach) Mark Helfrich have much higher expectations for Andrew than anyone else. Andrew played much, much better against USC. He was back to his old self. He threw the ball on time, he had much better footwork, he had better rhythm in his drops and he was trusting the receivers to be where they were so supposed to be.

"When I say that he hasn't met expectations," continued Koetter. "I mean that because I have very high expectations, not because I am disappointed in Andrew. No one wants to win more than Andrew Walter. He's working as hard as he can. As I look around, I'm not seeing any quarterbacks I'd trade him for, I like that guy on my team."

Sun Devil Source Top Stories