"Obviously, it's a much brighter Monday than the last three Mondays," Koetter said with a smile in his opening statement. "After looking at the tape, we probably played as well in all phases as we have since I have been here. What a tremendous start by the defense, when you run one offensive play and you are up 14-0, that's a great way to start."
Koetter made a point to mention some key stats that aided the team in victory. The most obvious one was having six consecutive scoring drives in the second half. Koetter stated other crucial battles won in the Oregon game: "Seven for seven on third down conversions in the fourth quarter, win the turnover battle, win the third down battle, win the fourth quarter; all the things we say it takes to win football games. I'm very pleased."
The only damper on the weekend was the injury to Tony Aguilar who sprained his MCL. "They call it a second-degree MCL sprain," stated Koetter. "They are saying that will put him out one to two weeks. It's very similar to the injury Tony had last year, if you recall Tony missed the North Carolina game last year with a similar injury and only missed one game. Tony probably will not make the trip this week." Koetter added that he hopes to have his offensive lineman back for the UCLA game in two weeks.
Other hobbled players are running back Mike Williams, who is having surgery on his broken hand today. His status will be come clearer following that procedure. On a brighter note, Koetter also said that ASU's orthopedic doctor confirmed that running back Randy Hill will be able to suit up for the road trip.
Game balls were given to Andrew Walter and Mike Karney on offense. Koetter explained: "Andrew obviously had a great week. I think it was his best game he has probably had in his career where the number one receiver wasn't necessarily open and he had to move on to number two or number three and make plays in a scrambling situation. Throwing in a scrambling situation has never been Andrew's strong suit and he did a great job of that on Saturday…Mike Karney never gets the credit he deserves for doing the dirty work, but he was at his best."
Defensively, Riccardo Stewart and Brian Montesanto, who did not sit out a snap on Saturday, were awarded game balls on well. Skyler Fulton received the same honor for his special teams work. The extra captains for this week's game are Shane Jones and Grayling Love. Scout players of the week were offensive lineman Julius Orieukwu, linebacker Mike Meritet, and running back Jermaine McKinney on special teams.
When discussing North Carolina, the Sun Devils skipper exclaimed that their athleticism and speed is undeniable. "Their quarterback, as we saw last year, is not only their leading passer, which you would expect, but also their leading rusher, which you would not expect. He makes a lot of plays in scramble situations." Koetter added that on defense, safety Dexter Reid is a ferocious hitter, who was one of the leaders nationally in tackles.
Overall on defense, the ASU head coach doesn't see much difference than the team the Devils played last year. "North Carolina does a lot of different things," he said. "Their defensive staff obviously spent time in the NFL, they know a lot of schemes. They give you a lot of different things you need to work on. They have played some young players, and have given up a lot of yards, a lot of rushing yards. When you are looking at the tape you don't get the feeling that somebody is just running the ball down their throats. Their athleticism, on both sides of the ball, just like last year, is what really jumps out at you."
Having a non-conference game midway through the season is obviously less than ideal. What makes this road trip even more challenging is the cross-country flight of four hours, as well as a kickoff time of 10:30 a.m. on Saturday. "We are leaving on Thursday. We won't get to our hotel until about midnight Eastern Time on Thursday night. Friday, hopefully we will get our body clocks settled down a little bit… It's probably not ideal, but that's just the way it is. We can't worry about it, we just got to go."
Inconvenient road trip or not, there's sure to be extra motivation for the Sun Devils in this game. The loss last year, according to Koetter, is only one reason. "We haven't won any games on the road (this year) and we talked about, before we could get anything going this year, we had to get one win. We were able to do that, before we can do anything else, we need to get a road win. That will be our message this week, I don't think the players will have any problem buying into that, I think they are already headed down that path."
All season Koetter has been satisfied with his offensive line, and following the Oregon game he didn't change his tune. "I think our o-line has played solidly all season," exclaimed the ASU coach. "I've said that before and I don't think our o-line has been an issue this year. For about the fourth week in a row, one of the first things that has jumped out at me is how much better our o-line is than at any point last year."
"They are consistent in the run game and doing a good job in the passing game," Koetter continued. "I think Andrew Walter has helped that and I think we are tied for third for the fewest sacks allowed in the Pac-10. I think that o-line's performance is a big part and they are playing consistently. As our receivers have played better and our tailbacks have emerged, our offense has played better."
ASU's defensive linemen group has been battling thru depth issues. This is why their play has impressed Koetter even more than usual. " For one reason or another," he said, "We're down to the iron men and they have to continue to be iron men for the rest of the season. But there is not much you can do about it. There is no way around that one. I think (defensive line coach) Ted Monachino is doing a really nice job rotating those guys. They've been playing pretty consistently."
The after mentioned group, as well as the defense as a whole, will have his hands full Saturday with Tar Heels' quarterback Darian Durant. "You sort of hold your breath when he scrambles around," claimed Koetter. "He's making 40-, 50-, 60-yard runs; he makes runs when it's a pass play called. That's a huge headache for your defense to have to know you are covering perfectly on a pass and the play can still be a big gainer because he can run. In the open field he's tough to tackle." Koetter added that despite the many shots this signal caller takes, his accuracy has barely suffered.
Speaking of quarterbacks, Andrew Walter has shown some impressive scrambling skills against Oregon. Some may be surprised by this display, but Koetter isn't one of them. "It pleased me a lot. He did a really nice job. He's had a tendency in the past to, when he scrambles, throw the ball a little bit too hard or a little bit too late. I thought his timing and his touch were great. That one he threw up the sideline to Daryl Lightfoot, if he would have been a second later, it would have been picked."
"I think the best one was the very first third-down conversion of the game," Koetter Continued. "Andrew stepped up in the pocket and he threw the ball to Matt Miller. Matt was running straight at him and it was only about a 15-yard pass and that's a ball that Andrew usually slings, but he threw it with great touch so Matt could catch it. He had a couple times when he was moving to his left on resets that he threw to Derek Hagan in a perfect spot; either Derek was going to catch it or it was going to be incomplete. Coach Helfrich (quarterbacks coach) and myself are always talking about throwing a ball to a safe spot. Get the ball where only something good can happen and Andrew had his best game ever doing that. And Derek made a couple of really nice catches on third downs."
The Sun Devil coach singles out the improved running game, and overall play by the wide receivers, as major contributors the reversal of fortunes the offense is experiencing as of late. Naturally, the play of Andrew Walter is a major factor as well. Not only has the junior elevated his game, but he also made the necessary adjustments. "Andrew has come to grips with who we are," said Koetter. "We're a different personality than what we were…we're not going to be able to throw 68-yard touchdowns to Shaun McDonald every play. Andrew has adjusted his thinking a little bit and I think he's done a nice job growing with the new receivers. I think that in the first two games and the last two games he has played very well. It's a sign of what kind of guy Andrew Walter is in that he can learn and move forward and change some things in his own game to make us play better as a team."
Coach Koetter's Press Conference Notes
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