Koetter Still Sees The Fight in His Players

Even in the midst of a three game losing streak, the ASU head coach is encouraged by the competitiveness his players are displaying on the field.

"This isn't a fun time for the players or the coaches," exclaimed Koetter. "We're going through a tough stretch here. When you're struggling all you can do is try to get better. It's just like everyday life. You get knocked down, you gotta get back up. You keep on fighting and scratching that's all you can do. We have good guys on this team, and I would expect nothing else from them but that."

Unlike the Cal game, the ASU skipper saw a squad that was battling and did improve as the game went on. "We played much harder yesterday," he said. "And we did a good job of hanging in there and fighting until the very end. That's a positive first step. When you're down you gotta keep fighting. If you don't keep on fighting you can't do anything."

Koetter stated that the team dug itself too deep of a hole falling behind 21-0 in the beginning of the second quarter. He cited mental errors, missed assignment, dropped passes, and missed tackles among the factors that plagued the team at that time. "If you take away the start, which you can't do," Koetter said. "We played a pretty even game after that. We're just not explosive enough on either side to get off to that kind of start, and play up hill the rest of the game."

"We turned it over twice," continued Koetter. "Two of those three touchdowns directly resulted from us turning over - on the interception and the fumble. That's exactly what Stanford did to UCLA. They get ahead and milk it down. It's simple – Stanford didn't beat themselves and we did." He added that one of the reasons for having so many missed tackles is a result of the defense being on its heels for the most of the game. "The plays we're not making now are plays we're capable of making, and plays we made before."

The ASU coach mentioned that the running game, which wasn't used as often as he would hope to, was superior to the team's passing game. "We ran the ball fine," stated Koetter. "Although they weren't long runs. We talk about being efficient, and ten of our first our first fifteen runs were efficient. We gained four or more (yards) on first down... That's two weeks in a row where we were taken out of it so early, that we couldn't be in a mixture mode (run and pass)."

"Passing game wise – too many dropped passes," Koetter continued. "We had other chances to do things, we made a lot more plays in the second half, but we still had a lot of dropped balls. The protection and the run blocking were solid. We had one sack in fifty one (pass) attempts, and on that one sack they brought more guys than we could handle." Koetter acknowledged the struggles on defense stopping Stanford on third down, as well as losing the turnover battle 3 to 1.

No player was given a game ball, but Jason Shivers was recognized as special teams player of the week. The junior played 86 snaps on defense, in addition to being on all four special teams. "Because of injuries we asked him to play some positions he never played before," said Koetter. "Normally, he's a safety on punt return. We asked him to be a corner on punt return, and he also had to return some punts. Jason is a iron man and did a good job on all phases."

For the second game in a row, Andrew Walter was playing with a hobbled ankle. Overall, Koetter was pleased with how well he adapted to his ailment, as well as to the field conditions. "Last night we had two different phases working," claimed Koetter. "Number one, his ankle. Number two the conditions. It got wetter and wetter as the game went on. No doubt, he has had to change his footwork on some of the actions to get set up quick enough. He threw some of the difficult passes right on the money last night."

"It has to be a situation where he changes his footwork," Koetter continued. "Because his plant foot is injured. He has adapted to that pretty well…his numbers were much better in the second half. By our count we had eight passes dropped (five in the second half), and we don't drop very many balls. We thought that they were eight balls that there should be a play on. We did have chances to make that game a little bit tighter." According to the ASU coach, the lone interception in the game was a result of a rare mental mistake by Walter.

In the fourth quarter Walter got hit and his injured ankle got twisted. He was slow to get up, but he did finish the game. The quarterback said that he was better today than he was at this point in any of the previous weeks. "Our trainers said that because the pain is now less, that Andrew will start more of a strengthing phase on that ankle, and he started doing that tonight."

The game was riddled with other injuries. Josh Golden and Terry Richardson both were banged up during the game. Richardson missed the rest of the game after his injury, and Golden was in and out of the lineup. Richardson didn't run today with the team, and was regulated to the stationary bike. Nevertheless, the ASU coach does expect him to practice on Tuesday.

The plan going into this game, was to have Terry Richardson and Matt Miller be the two feature receivers on some plays, giving Skyler Fulton and Derek Hagan a much-needed breather. Because of the injury to Richardson, only Miller was able to see significant time, and had a career game (six catches for 111 yards) as a result.

"Matt made some really nice catches," stated Koetter. "He had three very difficult catches. That's a role Matt sees himself playing, and we need Matt to play for us. He showed the ability to go up and fight for the ball in the air. The more you do that, the more you get confidence in throwing to him."

Running back Loren Wade suffered a concussion during the game. He'll be able to practice, but won't be able to have contact until he passes a daily concussion test. Koetter said that the insertion of backup running back Randy Hill into the lineup, didn't force the coaches to change their game plan. However, the flow of the game did. "We didn't change it so much because Loren got hurt," exclaimed Koetter. "We had to change it because we got behind. Randy knows the game plan fine, and I thought he went in there and did an admirable job. He ran hard."

"In the first half we called 14 run plays," continued Koetter. "Ten of those 14 were efficient. 12 of the 14 the unblocked player, the guy we can't account for, made the play. So upfront the linemen, the tight end, the fullback…we were doing a good job. Their secondary was making the tackles." Speaking of running backs, Koetter added that he was unsure if Hakim Hill will be healthy to play at Washington State. He said Hill ran fine on Sunday in a straight line, but didn't attempt to run changing directions.

One of the team's newcomers that had an outstanding effort was Mark Washington. The linebacker tallied five tackles, including his first ever sack as an ASU player. He may be the beneficiary of the fact that team is playing only four linebackers, but the ASU coach is very pleased with his performance as it is. "He's been getting better in practice," exclaimed Koetter. "We used his redshirt year, so we need to let him play some. He gets a big hit on the sack…he made a couple of freshman mistakes, but he's making some nice plays too. With the experience he's getting now, it will do nothing but help him in the future. He's also getting more reps on special teams."

Other players Koetter pointed out were safety Matt Fawley, and cornerback Mike Davis. Fawley, who started in place of a banged up Riccardo Stewart, had his best game of the year with 12 tackles. Davis saw the most action he ever had in his short ASU career, as he was on 73 plays. While he did give up one of Stanford's touchdowns, Koetter was satisfied with his play against Stanford, and noted the improvement and consistency he's been exhibiting.

Defensive tackle Ali Likio was also singled out for having his best game of the season. Keeping in mind that he had some family tragedies in the last couple of years, his improvement and performance is even more remarkable. Recently, Ali's first child was born so ill that it had to spend several weeks in an infant ICU in a Phoenix hospital. As a result, Likio hasn't been participating in all of the team's weekly practices. While the younger Likio may not be out of the woods yet, it had improved enough to be transferred to a Mesa hospital and be closer to its parents.

No concrete plans have been made as to what kind of practice format will be employed this week, but Koetter tended to think that they would keep the same structure as last week and practice in full pads all three days. "We definitely played harder in this game because we prepared harder," he claimed. "When you're not executing fundamental things, you better work hard on them in practice. Some of things can't be worked on unless you're in pads." Koetter added that on Sunday the team had a good weight session, and ran hard in their conditioning drills.

When asked if he had any message to the ASU fans at this time, he replied: "I'd say thanks to those fans who braved last night. They sat there and endured the conditions. I know our fans are disappointed with our record, and I understand that. We're all disappointed with our record – players, coaches…"

"We have a lot of good Sun Devils on this team," he continued. "And I would hope our fans would hang with them and support them through these last two games. I think we have players that will compete hard. We have several seniors, but we have nine seniors who are playing a lot, and will be saying goodbye in two weeks. I'd ask the fans to stay behind these guys the last two games."

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