"It is always a rough day whether you lose by one, or by 40," coach Koetter said. "We got beat in all phases, and it was not how we wanted it to go down. We didn't rise to the occasion. I think USC elevated and played their best game of the year. We certainly did not do that. We can't let SC beat us more than once. They already beat us once. We have to move on from that, learn our lesson and move forward and look at UCLA." He added that he was hopeful a large crowd would come and see the Sun Devils on Saturday.
Bouncing back from a resounding defeat will require the team leaders to take the reins and keep the squad forced on UCLA. Koetter emphasized to his squad following the game that no one but those in the inside will lift up the team's spirits.
"What happened was we were riding high, and everybody was on the bandwagon, and now everyone will jump off just as fast," Koetter commented. "That is the nature of the beast. I told the team, `Nobody was on our bandwagon to start the season, nobody thought we were going to be where we are, so we just have to pick ourselves up from within our own ranks and get back to doing the things that put us at 5-0 in the first place.' We really didn't do any of those things on Saturday, unfortunately. I think we need, not just our seniors, but our leaders across the board."
"It has to start with the staff," Koetter continued. "That's our job. In any phase of coaching you can say anything you want, as much as you want. If you don't have buy-in from the players, it doesn't matter what you say. There's no doubt in my mind that the coaches and players are on the same page about how we have to comeback. We had a whole team meeting about it yesterday and I think the players left here last night understanding exactly what has to happen."
When it comes to evaluating his next opponent, the UCLA Bruins, the Sun Devil skipper is full of admiration as to what this weekend's visitors have accomplished thus far.
"UCLA is a team that is playing hard right now," he remarked. "They are very dangerous on offense, because they have almost everybody back from last year. They have a real steady quarterback in Drew Olson, their wide receivers are a little bit banged-up, but I believe both of their two big-name guys are supposed to return for our game. Marcedes Lewis is one of the best tight ends in the league. They're scoring a lot of points, they're moving the ball, and they're not giving up any sacks. UCLA is sitting at 4-2 and their two losses are to Oklahoma State and Cal, which are pretty good football teams."
The Bruins are led by quarterback Drew Olson and running back Maurice Drew. The ASU coach offered his thoughts on both. "I think he (Olson) is playing very well. I think he's an excellent quarterback and I think he's just getting better and better as his confidence improves. They're doing a great job in protecting him right now, too." Drew scorched the Sun Devils for an 86-yard touchdown last year, and Koetter said this exemplifies the great importance on defense to finish their tackles and wrap up. "We did a pretty good job on Drew, and then he broke off an 86-yard run," Koetter recalled. "The guy can go the distance. You have to finish him, you have to get bodies to him, and get him on the ground. We learned it last year, and then all you have to do is take a look at that Washington film. He was spectacular in that game. The last two games for us, Oregon and USC, we haven't tackled as well as we did early in the season, so that will be a huge point of emphasis for us this week." Koetter added that UCLA is very efficient in their offensive balance between passing and rushing the ball.
On defense UCLA may be less intimating, especially with a young and inexperienced front four. "It's not a secret. I'm sure they'll tell you the same thing. They lost seven senior defensive linemen last year. Five of them are in the NFL right now," said Koetter. "They only have one guy back who was 2-deep last year. They're rotating ten guys through those four spots…[Justin] London, their middle linebacker just returned last week for the Cal game. He missed some games and their other linebacker, [Spencer] Havner, is leading the league in tackles. And their two safeties are second and third on the team in tackles. The first game of the season, Oklahoma State, was not a passing team and really ran the ball hard on them. Now, everyone gets that tape and they sort of got exposed and everybody else had tried to do the same thing with various degrees of success."
ASU's quarterback Andrew Walter put the USC loss in perspective when he said:
"It's just one game. It's almost easier to get blown out than to lose by a point in the fourth quarter. Just because you lose this one doesn't mean you have to lose two because of it. We're not trying to let it affect us in that way and hopefully in won't be that way at all. After a loss like last weekend, I think it's easier to move on because there's not a lot of good in dwelling on it."
While the senior admitted that the mood in Sunday's practice was subdued, he doesn't see it having lingering effects for this weekend. "In talking to some of the older guys on the team, I think we'll be fine," he claimed. "After we ran on Sunday, Drew [Hodgdon] and I got everybody together and said, `It was a loss, but so what. It's over, it's yesterday. Now we have to worry about today and the future, that's all that matters'. If we had said that we would have been 5-1 after six weeks of the season, that's cool. It doesn't matter how we got the loss, it's still just one loss, not two. Our goals are still the same; we don't have to change them at all. There's a lot to be had and because of the seniors and upper classmen and leadership on this team, I don't think we have to worry about that."
Walter said that he doesn't attribute the loss to USC's trickery or plays that may have threw ASU off balance. "They didn't do anything a whole lot different," he explained. "That was just the way the game went. We had to get out of our running game because we got down early and that really affected us with a lot of things. Mental errors and things like that really killed us. All day we were just really hurting ourselves. SC wasn't going to give us an inch and they didn't." Walter also acknowledged the fact that perhaps some his teammates had stage fright because the magnitude and atmosphere of the game, which could have lead to mental errors.
One of the lone bright spots on offense was true freshman tight end Zach Miller, and Walter was naturally complimentary towards the team's best receiver last Saturday. "He does a great job," said the Sun Devil signal caller. "Everybody has something to work on and get better at. I know Zach doesn't think he has nothing to work on by any means and he's going to continue to get better. As a true freshman, but more so than that, as a football player, he's played great for our team. He plays as our outlet when we need him and as our first option as well."
With UCLA's after mentioned difficulties running the ball, Walter does expect for this offensive aspect to get plenty of looks on Saturday. "There will be plenty of emphasis," he stated. "I think there was for this last week. The way the course of that game went, however, that part of the game plan went right out the window. This week for sure, we'll stress that and hopefully Hakim [Hill] will be feeling better and everybody else will step up. That will be a crucial in running the football. It is every week, but the way games go, you have to get away with it." Walter added that he liked what he saw from Rudy Burgess at running back, and wouldn't mind seeing him for more plays in the backfield.
The ASU quarterback is happy to be home for the next three out of four games, and thinks that the home field advantage will pay dividends as the team races to the season's finish line. But that fact, along with breaking Jake Plummer's school passing record, mean very little right now. "That's cool," he said of the record, "but UCLA is all that matters. As a senior upper classmen leader, we're going to have to make sure that guys tighten down. We have to make sure we do all the little things that got us to this point and to not be lackadaisical in any way at all. In terms of preparation that way, for sure we'll have to be more focused for the whole week."
Koetter, Walter Focus on UCLA Game
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