LSU Game Offers More Than the Obvious Challenge

The aftermath of hurricane Katrina has caused much debate on whether ASU should play its road game at LSU in Baton Rouge, which has received many of the hurricane's evacuees. However, in pure football terms, the Tigers offer a whole different set of challenges for the Sun Devils.

The normal game preparation task of watching the opponent's game film will be demanding chore, and mainly because this week's game will be LSU's first of the year. "We have to study a conglomeration of three things," said Head Coach Dirk Koetter. "You've got Les Miles, the head coach, who came from Oklahoma State and the things he has done at Oklahoma State. He retained LSU's offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, so we think they would run some of the same things they ran last year. He hired Bo Pelini to coach the defense, which is like Bill Miller coming into our place - of course he's gonna let Bo do his thing. Then they have a guy that does special teams, and he hasn't done that in 15 years. So, film study will be interesting this week."

Naturally, the biggest challenge concerning the contest on Saturday is playing in a city which has doubled in size with victims of hurricane Katrina, with many of those folks, especially the less healthy ones, being housed not too far from Tiger stadium. Koetter had advised his squad to expect change. "We have to recognize that our perspective of what we see there is what's on TV in New Orleans," Koetter remarked. "Our mindset is how are we supposed to play a football game there? People are telling me, our Athletic Director, our President, that life is more normal in Baton Rouge – I don't know what that means. Sure, there's some doubt. We're a week away. Think about all the changes in that part of the country in the last week."

Some answers, at least from an ASU perspective, can come Sunday or Monday. "ASU will send a group by private plane tomorrow (Sunday) to check the logistics of the game from our standpoint, and we'll know more then," Koetter explained. "I think the game will be played, I just don't know where." The individuals comprising this delegation are Tom Collins, ASU's associate AD, Tom Kleinlein Director of Football Operations and John Pickens a campus DPS representative.

"We have to put some trust in our government leaders that they make and the right call, and call it safe for everybody," Koetter commented. "They're things more important down there than football. This is sure gonna be a fun game and important game for both teams, but the logistics are up in the air."

Will tempering the team's emotions, in light of the environment surrounding Baton Rouge, will be a theme in the team's preparation?. "Definitely, that's gonna be a part of that after we see where it's at," Koetter replied. "I have a former college teammate of mine who's a coach in one of the inner city schools in New Orleans. He called me yesterday and he's safe, but he lost everything. He doesn't know where some of his players and coaches are. It just makes you think. It's difficult to see what's going on there. It's gonna be a unique week coming up, and we have two very good football teams playing at the back end of it. Hopefully both football teams have a fair chance to compete without other things on their mind."

Koetter said that he had some parents call expressing concern for their sons, and the fact that many of them won't be able to go, is another aspect to take in mind regarding this game. "We sold 5,000 tickets for this game, and that's another unique thing about this deal – what about our parents? Our fans? We'll just have to see."

Following the Temple contest, game balls were given to Jesse Ainsworth on special teams, Maurice London on defense and Keegan Herring on offense. Josh Barrett did receive recognition for his special teams work. Koetter remarked that none of his players had injuries that would keep them out of the lineup for the LSU game. Koetter was impressed by defensive end Kyle Caldwell, who's health status was up in the air up until a few days ago. "I was pleased with the way, not so much how Kyle's knee has responded, but how Kyle responded," Koetter remarked. "Kyle played longer and harder than I thought he would be able to. I pleased that the doctors were able to isolate what was bothering him and get the right treatment. Now he'll have to play his way into shape." Koetter added that R.J. Oliver looked better but is still not at full speed.

In regards to the Temple win, the Sun Devil skipper said that he was pleased with what he saw a day later on game film. "We played hard overall," Koetter said. "We tackled well - we only missed five tackles on the whole night. We ran the ball, we stopped the run. We did put it on the ground too much on offense. Defensively we had three turnovers – if we can get three every game we will be happy with that. We got 71 guys in the game, 27 of them playing for the first time at this level. Most of the mistakes we made are mental mistakes or game execution mistakes that are the easiest things to correct."

The Defense didn't show much on Thursday, in terms of the depth of their playbook. However, that doesn't negate the fact that this unit does pack a lot of punch as far as its flexibility and the various looks it can give offenses. "I judge anything by how hard it is on our offense (in practice)," said Koetter, "and it made our offense a lot more prepared because it forces you to do things you're not comfortable with. We got Temple in some situations, where they were outnumbered on a side or just didn't block us…it's hard to hit a moving target and those guys are moving around."

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