Whether your first game of a season is a given win or not, Koetter said that his team's mission was to get the type of victory that would give a true sense of satisfaction. "We talked to our guys about the feeling in the locker room and what kind of feeling we wanted to have as a tempo setter," he said. "Two years ago against NAU, even though we won, nobody there (in the locker room) was very happy. Last year against UTEP, we were happier."
"I think tonight the final score was more of what you expected in this kind of game. I think our guys played hard. We had too many penalties, too many turnovers, but I'm pleased with the effort. We also played a ton of guys. Temple left their starters in there a long time. We had all our starters out by the end of the third quarter."
One player that didn't start, but made a good case (albeit after one game), to possibly get the nod in the future, was running back Keegan Herring. The true freshman rushed for 134 yards on 12 carries, which set an ASU record for a rushing performance in a first career game.
"Keegan got off to a good start and he ran today like he did at a Camp T," Koetter remarked. "I'm real pleased with all five running backs. You also have to give credit to the O-Line and the tight ends for the job they did. One of those big runs by Keegan was a check by Sam (Keller). They (Temple) gave us a Bear defense, and we were trying to get them in Bear and have a certain check. You have to pass around the credit where it's due, but you sure have to be happy with Keegan's start."
Quarterback Sam Keller was starting in only his second game, and Koetter had mixed opinions concerning his signal caller. ‘It's a double-edged sword (smile)," Koetter explained. "I've been listening to you guys (the media) saying Sam only made one start in his career, so for making his second start I guess I would say – pretty good. But for the expectations that we have for Sam and he has for himself, Sam could play a lot better."
"I'm disappointed in a couple of things. I'm disappointed in our receivers - they didn't do a very good job coming back to the ball. Our timing in our passing game wasn't as sharp as we would have liked. We probably ran the ball better than people thought we would. Our passing game has to be a lot crisper than that when we play in the Pac-10. I thought Sam made a couple great throws. The last touchdown to Derek Hagan was a great throw and he made a great check on one of Keegan's (Herring) long runs to set that up. The short touchdown to Zach Miller was a real nice throw."
On the other hand, Koetter had nothing but rave reviews concerning instant replay which will be instituted in the Pac-10 for the first this year. ASU's two reviewed plays against Temple were not reversed by instant replay instances, which prompted the Sun Devil skipper to exclaim: "Two for two – I love instant replay!"
In a one-sided game such as this, reserves get to play extended periods of time. While this offers a mixed bag of goods, Koetter believes that the positives will always outweigh the negatives. "It helps you develop your depth, keeps the morale high, and builds your confidence," he stated. "There's only good things that come out of playing your guys. The flip side is that play looks a little ragged at times, when we're playing our third team against their first team. But trust me, that raggedness will payoff a thousands times over down the road."
Another debut on Thursday night was ASU defensive coordinator Bill Miller and the changed scheme he brought to the Sun Devil defenders. "I thought our defense did a great job, and might have had a shutout if we didn't screw it up on offense," said Koetter. "We gave them a safety and another turnover that lead to a touchdown. I thought for a first game Bill threw a lot at them and they handled it very well. There were some rough spots that we have to work out."
"I love the fact that when we turned it over way down there, Bill brought the blitzes and kept them out of the end zone. We got plenty of room to get better, but those guys played hard. We need to generate a better pass rush with a four-man rush. There some good hitting out there and I thought tackling was pretty good."
Quarterback Sam Keller, who's always been his toughest critic, echoed a lot his coach's sentiments. "I thought I played okay, not great, but good enough to get the job done," he said. "I get nervous before every game, but I settled down and got things rolling. I made a lot of good throws, but a couple were not there. There were a few balls that shouldn't have been thrown. Balls were overthrown or behind them (the receivers). One pick was a toss-up and the other one was just forced. We showed how just playing OK will get your four (passing) touchdowns. "
In regards to the overall assessment of the squad following its season opener, Keller was very encouraged, yet acknowledged that improvement was needed. "The first game of the season is the time when you can gauge where you are at as a football team and I think we are a very explosive team with many weapons," he remarked. "We have a few things to work on and improve to get better and take things to the next level. We came out with a bang. It was better than the last two years I think. It shows where we're at and I'm very pleased. We just have to go to the drawing board and fix some things, and then we'll be set."
Naturally Keller was full of praise for Herring and the remarkable performance he turned in. "I expected him to be a baler – but I didn't expect him to be that," Keller admitted. "The minute I would give him the ball and turn around, he was like ‘swoosh' and gone. He's impressive. But you know what? Our O-Line was great tonight."
Speaking of that unit, the Temple game was the first time Keller worked with center Grayling Love. "Grayling and I are the bosses out there and we run the offense. We have a great line, great receivers…we have a great whole core of guys. Grayling running the show and being under a center like him is a big boost for me."
Wide receiver Derek Hagan had a relatively quiet game with three catches and 53 yards, but two of his catches were Keller passes that went for touchdowns. Overall, he likes the statement the team has made. "We came out the first series a little flat," he said. "We were restless practicing so much. I think after that we settled down and executed the rest of the game. We have so many players that can make plays. We have playmakers on both offense and defense. Tonight we all showed what we can do. We need to continue to work hard and get ready for the big trip south. They (LSU) are a top-ranked team and we are looking forward to playing them."
Hagan was also content with his personal performance on Thursday night. "I think I played great," he commented. Temple was throwing different coverages at me. Sometimes I was the decoy so others can make plays. All the wideouts did a good job blocking for the running game." He did have some anxious moments when his touchdown was reviewed over the fact whether he had one foot inbounds or not when catching the ball. "I wasn't so sure that my foot was in. I was hoping I got one foot down. When I saw the instant replay I was so happy."
The senior had a great connection with former QB Andrew Walter, but in Keller's brief ASU career, it's becoming evident that Hagan's production won't suffer because of the change under center. "Sam played a great game and showed why he is going to have a great season," Hagan remarked. "I love running that post-corner route and it gets me excited in when I hear that play called in the huddle. Sam puts the ball right there."
Running back Keegan Herring has been turning heads ever since fall practices began, and he does see the Temple game as an extension of camp T. "I was nervous for this game, but Rudy (Burgess) just told me to relax and play like it's a high school game," he said. "I have to give credit to the offensive line because they gave me some big holes to run through tonight. I couldn't have set the record if it wasn't for those guys."
Herring's nervousness wasn't only over what happened on the field, but also off the field and the post-game media coverage. "Yeah, everyone is in my face, I'm a little nervous," he admitted. "It wasn't like this at Peoria (smile). I have to thank the lineman again, they created lanes for me to run through. I've just been trying my best and practicing hard. I have to thank the lineman again, they did a great job tonight."
The running back realizes that his performance doesn't only carry an immediate satisfaction feeling, but can also have long-tern positive effects. "This game gave me a lot of confidence," he stated. "It was a great opportunity to get a feel for game speed. We just have to take it one day at a time. Rudy (Burgess) has been such a great running back to learn from. His advice really helped tonight."
Linebacker Dale Robinson picked up where he left off last year, and lead the defense with eight tackles against Temple. "I felt good about the game tonight," he said. "We played with a lot of aggressiveness in the first half and attacked the ball. The defense did what we had to do tonight. There was a lot of movement with substitutions of players in and out. As a whole the defense is in real good shape. With the personnel movements on their side of the ball we made a lot of mental mistakes. But we will work on those in
Being that this was the first game for the defense under Bill Miller, Robinson didn't feel that there was a sharp adjustment needed in order to be successful against Temple. "There were no surprises. Bill Miller had us prepared for everything, even the option," he remarked. "It was strange when they ran the option and I was a little shocked but I went on the outside and got the quarterback in the backfield. We wanted the shut-out but we still got the win and everyone got some experience."
Now the linebacker and the team can turn their attention to the much anticipated game against LSU. Then, again thinking about that contest didn't exactly start only after the Temple game concluded. "It was in the back of everyone's mind no matter what they tell you," he admitted. "It's good to get this game out of the way, but we had to play Temple first before thinking about LSU. We are all just excited to play the game next week."
Despite wristband-gate, the student section was packed to the rim and even had some representation in the upper level. A lot of them left in the third quarter, but that's because they had class on Friday. Yeah, that's why…minutes before the team took the field a new highlight video was shown, depicting great moments in ASU football history. This video featured several memorable moments such as the 1987 Rose Bowl, "The Catch", the shutout win against Nebraska, and many others. It surely made every fan watching in the stands swell with pride…Paul Justin, the former Sun Devil QB who's interning as a strength coach, was an honorary captain and accompanied the team captains to mid-field prior to kickoff…not only was Jesse Ainsworth turning virtually every kickoff into a touchback, but following the Temple safety, he kicked from the 20-yard mark and put the ball on the goal line…ASU won its first two instant replay decisions of the year. During the first decision, the referee communicated with the officials booth while being surrounded by the beautiful Sun Devil dancers. Staring at an official with earphones on has never been more entertaining... prior to the game, a moment of silence was observed for victims of the hurricane Katrina, Arizona high school football historian Barry Sollenberger, and former ASU football player Brandon Falkner.
Post-Game Quotes and Notes
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