"Iowa is a very similar team, he said. They're still doing the bootleg stuff, the sprint stuff…Fred Russell was an outstanding tailback and the backs still run hard. They don't have Robert Gallery, which is the most glaring change on their offensive line. They are a very, very solid team, and a very well coached team that doesn't beat themselves. I was really impressed with their quarterback, Drew Tate. He played for his father and plays like a coach's son. He's a little guy, but he's got great command of what their doing. He can run and throw and he's exciting to watch. They lost a lot of their offensive players so they have a lot of new guys. They are relatively conservative on offense compared to what we played the last two weeks, but they also have a chance to overpower you."
As good as they may be on offense, the Sun Devil skipper believes that Iowa's defense is probably the stronger unit out of the two. "They are outstanding," Koetter commented. "Eight starters returned, as good a front seven as we'll play all year. They have two great linebackers, an exceptional D-line, three returning starters in the secondary, two corners, and a safety. A solid team in all phases of the game, they are one of those teams that when you watch them they don't wow you with any razzle-dazzle, they just line up and beat people."
"They're a hard team to run the ball on," Koetter continued. "I've watched every one of their games from last year and nobody is running up and down the field against Iowa's defense. Sure, we're going to need to run the ball and our guys have confidence in what we are doing. We are going to have to do everything, run and throw the ball. It sure helps when you run it, it gets your play action game going. The other side of that is, we have two big-play receivers in Derek [Hagan] and Terry [Richardson] and they're going to have to stop those guys too. We also have an exceptional quarterback. I still think now we're going to get into some teams that are going to play more zone defense. You're going to see Zach Miller get more involved in the passing game as well."
When reviewing the Northwestern game, Koetter pointed out the control and composure of his squad. "We went on the road and beat a solid team," he said. "A team that was in a bowl game last year. There weren't a whole lot of mistakes made in that game from a turnover standpoint. Neither team turned the ball over until right at the end, where Riccardo made the big hit. I thought we were in control of the game for the most part, but when we were up 24-7 we did not do a good job of knocking them out. We had a couple chances to do that and didn't. They came back and scored, got the onside kick and the momentum back. I think we showed good character by hanging in there and doing what we had to do in the end."
The last several minutes of the game were a departure from the ‘Air Koetter' offense fans have been accustomed to, as the Sun Devils mostly pounded the Wildcats with their ground game. "We ran a four-minute offense," Koetter explained, "where you're at the end of the game and trying to take time off of the clock, you need to make first downs. We got the ball back on that last drive with seven minutes and twenty seconds to go. We ran the ball on first down. We had two second and tens that we converted on passing plays, one on a great catch by Terry Richardson. Loren was a little bit worn down at that point so we went with Randy Hill. We did a nice job of getting Randy into the secondary. He made two or three really nice runs, took six and a half minutes off the clock. The only negative about that drive that was when we got it down inside the four- yard line and took three cracks at it and couldn't get it in the end zone. That would have been a little more emphatic way to end it. But we took six and a half minutes off the clock and basically had to kick an extra point to win it, that is still a good sign." Koetter did point out the fine play by Stephen Berg who registered his first career start, as well as the improvement of Zach Miller. "Zach did finally get his first catch, though he hasn't had many balls thrown at him. But his blocking has really improved from high school game to the college game level."
Koetter listed the various award winners from last week. Scout players of the week were on offense, wide receiver Nate Kimbrough; on defense, cornerback Littrele Jones, who has also been playing some special teams. Jones was mentioned as one who helped get Rudy Burgess free on his punt returns. The special teams scout player of the week was Brett Nenaber.
Game balls were awarded on offense to Loren Wade, on special teams to Jesse Ainsworth, and on defense to Dale Robinson, who was also named defensive Pac-10 Player of the Week. The captains for the Iowa game are Jimmy Verdon, and Loren Wade, in addition to season long captains Andrew Walter and Riccardo Stewart.
Thus far Koetter has been extremely pleased with the defense as a whole, as well as with Robinson and Stewart in particular. "Our whole defense is doing a good job of running and hitting right now," he stated. "Even though we're making mistakes, when we're hustling to the ball and hitting people, that can cover up for some other things. Dale's a good football player. He's still making plenty of mistakes, but he is a playmaker, he can run and hit. I thought Riccardo was solid. He had several big hits. Riccardo is a linebacker trapped in a 5'10, 210 body. He's Dale Robinson's smaller version. I think the only question on him is if he's going to stay healthy, because of the way he plays. I made a big hit tape for the guys and as I was making it there was a lot of number seven (Riccardo's number) on there. He shows up and hits people."
Despite 533 yards passing, six touchdowns, no interceptions, and an efficiency rating of 139.14, Walter has implied after the season's first two games that he's capable of playing much better. His head coach does agree to some extent. "I've said many times, Andrew has extremely high expectations for himself," Koetter said. "I have very high expectations for Andrew. I don't think Andrew has played his best, but he has thrown for six touchdowns and no interceptions. He had a couple of balls dropped that could have changed the Northwestern game early. Andrew has not played as sharp as far a purely throwing the ball. We're asking Andrew to check a lot more, his checks have been awesome and he has gotten us in the right play. He's around 95% on his checks and we are doing a lot more of that. Andrew hasn't had to win a game for us yet, that time is going to come. When we need Andrew to win the game for us, I'm confident that when that time comes he will be ready to do it."
In regards to the team's current psyche, Koetter has witnessed a relentlessness hunger by his team to improve. "These guys take coaching well and they want to get better and they're not satisfied with being OK," he said." In the Sunday film sessions, the day after the game, the last two weeks, we have shown them plays that they have made, they're good, but we have also shown them plays that we going to have to make better if we are going to beat the best teams on our schedule. We've talked a lot about fighting adversity and everything is good during spring ball and you don't ever fight adversity until the season."
"Now you get some things like losing R.J. Oliver for the season," Koetter continued, " somebody has to step up, that's fighting adversity. Losing Brandon Rodd for the season, somebody has to step up. Stephen Berg did a nice job of that last week. They [Northwestern] come back and change momentum and we had a fight a little adversity there in the second half. What was a very comfortable lead evaporated in a hurry. I think there were some chances for us in that game to kind of rollover and go the other way. I was proud of the guys that they didn't. I think they are believing in each other, but there is more adversity to be faced. I'm real pleased where we are at, but we have a couple of days to enjoy it, but then it's back to reality, the Iowa Hawkeyes."
When asked if the Iowa game could define the whole season, he quipped "There are a lot of big one's out there and this is the biggest game this week, by far." He added that he didn't believe that one contest could carry that much weight on the overall season. "There are a lot of games in the season. My philosophies are big and every week is the Super Bowl. I'm not trying to downgrade this game this is the biggest game we have this week. The PAC-10 opener is a week away and there's that game we play at the end of the season (U of A), it's a pretty big one."
With 8,000 tickets left for Saturday's game, crowd support will naturally be a strong factor in the Iowa game. Koetter discussed that aspect and its implications on the game. "It would be great if the crowd would get involved and help us out," he said. "You ask any one of our players when they [Iowa] scored to go ahead 7-2 in that game last year that crowd jumped all over us. It was impossible to hear. I've heard our crowd get loud (at home) when it's only in the 50's. I think it's going to be in the 70's this week. I know there's going to be some Iowa fans here. It sure couldn't hurt if the crowd got involved. That 3,000 people at Northwestern did a real nice job in Chicago. That was awesome."
Koetter mentioned the obvious adrenaline rush his players feel when they get a strong backing from those in attendance. "It especially helps your defense and it helps your special teams in that whole attitude of run and hit," he explained. "Speed to the ball that our coaches are preaching to the guys - that lets them turn it loose and play. On our offensive side, we have been checking a lot more and most of the time we prefer to not play into that but we practice in crowd noise all the time and we have signals for everything. That's the whole big game atmosphere. You go to college to play college football and play in big games in front of big crowds. That's fun for the players."
Koetter Does Not See Much Change in Iowa
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