Offensive Consistency Plagued Team in Loss

It would be easy to target the ASU defense, which gave up 35 points to USC in the second half, as the main catalyst in the outcome of last Saturday's game. However, Dirk Koetter feels that the story of the game was his team's lack of consistency on offense.

"We've been much more consistent than we were against USC," said the Arizona State Head Coach. "We can't do that in games like that and expect to win. I'm very pleased with the defense in the first half. We just had them out there too much, and that's not their fault – it's just the fault of our offense not being consistent. About 50 plays in the first half, not counting penalties, is way too long for your defense to be on the field. The turnovers were a huge factor in the game. We were minus four for the game."

Koetter was very pleased with those fans who attended the game. "The crowd was awesome," he remarked. "The student section did a tremendous job. The crowd got into the game and helped us create a real home field advantage. Hopefully we can keep that going."

Koetter mentioned that the scout team players of the week were Jeff Gray, on both offense and special teams, and Tashaka Merriweather on defense. Players of the game were Andrew Carnahan on offense, Josh Golden on defense and Terry Richardson on special teams. The extra captain for the Oregon game is Moey Mutz. One aspect of the game was very pleasing to Coach Koetter. "We played very well on special teams," he commented. "Our coverage teams did a nice job. Our kickers did well. Our return game, with Terry Richardson and the guys blocking for him, were outstanding."

In previewing the Sun Devils' next opponent, Koetter stated that Oregon will play an offensive style that his team has seen just a few weeks ago. "They are a spread offense," he said. "They are very similar to Northwestern but they are a much better passing team. Kellen Clemons, their quarterback, is an excellent player. Those receivers he's throwing to are very explosive players. They have a bunch of good tailbacks. Defensively, it's been their philosophy to load the box, they'll put eight nine guys down there and basically try to take the run game by numbers and force you to throw the ball on the outside and over the top."

The Sun Devils skipper has asserted in the past that he greatly admired the play of Northwestern's signal caller Brett Basanez. On that note, how does he compare him to the Ducks' quarterback Clemons? "This is our first time seeing Clemons in a spread offense," said Koetter. "I do think he is an excellent spread quarterback. I think he's their second leading rusher, even though they have four outstanding tailbacks. If you think back to our game last year, we got to him a lot but he had a tendency to shake a tackler and run for yardage – he hurt us several times on that. He has a very strong arm and I think he's only thrown one interception this year. Very seldom does he turn the ball over by interception. I'd have to say, even though I'm a huge fan of Basanez, I think Kellen Clemons is probably a better quarterback."

Speaking of quarterbacks, the Sun Devil skipper was confident that Sam Keller can successfully bounce back from his five-interception game against USC. "He'll be fine," Koetter claimed. "Sam is a great competitor. Sam has a lot of ball ahead of him. I'm sure he'll be fine. Sam tried to do too a little bit too much on a few occasions. There is not a quarterback out there who hasn't done that."

"Quarterbacks learn their most valuable lessons when they screw up," Koetter continued. "When quarterbacks have a lot of success they think they got an ‘S' on their chest and they can throw the ball anywhere. Sometime you have to cut your losses. Even the best laid plans are sometimes foiled by a great defense, and we certainly played a great defense."

Koetter believes that not only Keller, but his whole squad will be able to put the USC loss behind them as they prepare for Oregon. "Our team yesterday (Sunday) was hurting," Koetter admitted. "We were all disappointed, frustrated, sore, tired, all the things you expect a team to be after a game like that. But we don't play Oregon on Sunday, we don't play them today – we play them on Saturday. I'm very confident in the leaders and captains of our team. Our guys know what's at stake. We have a chance to still have a great season. But we shouldn't talk about it in terms of season or what bowl game we'll go to. We'll talk about it in terms of what we need to do this week"

ASU has had great success the last few years putting points on Oregon's defense, which in some part is due to their scheme. "Oregon in the past, on who ever they play, they have the philosophy to make you a one-dimensional offense," Koetter explained. "By Oregon's choice, they try to make you one dimensional that you have to throw the ball, and that plays to our strength. Last year they came out and played us a little different than they did in the past, and our numbers were not nearly as good last year. This year they're still stacking the box. If they do this against us, it's not a big secret of what we are going to do. If they play us different – we need to run the ball better."

There seems to be perception that Terry Richardson hasn't been significantly involved in the passing game, but Koetter explained why this observation can be misleading. "People in the stands think that Sam drops back and looks for his best buddy, and that's not how it works," he explained. "Everything in the passing game is dictated by coverage. Coverages tells Sam where to start his progression. We do start off with Derek (Hagan) a lot – that's no big secret. With the emergence of Jamaal Lewis, Zach Miller hasn't been involved a lot. Rudy (Burgess) is getting his touches, Keegan (Herring) is getting his touches. Terry, Moey (Mutz), and Matt Miller – I would love to get all of them more touches."

Senior tight end Lee Burghgraef, who's much more known for his stout blocking than his pass catching skills, finally found the end zone. His touchdown against USC gave his team the lead with five minutes remaining in the game. "We've been saving that particular play on the goal line," Koetter revealed. "We've had it ready since the Temple game. We've never really had to use it. Sam has four options on that play and Lee is the first one. We knew when we finally did use it, that it had a chance to be a touchdown. We almost used it against Temple, but we had a big lead and didn't use it. When we were doing a goal line walk-thru last Wednesday. I told him (Burghgraef) that we were gonna use it against USC and is was going to be the game winner. When we scored with about six minutes to go, I thought we had a chance."

"Talk about doing the dirty work, Lee Burghgraef is the epitome of the guy that does the dirty work," Koetter continued. "Being a team captain you can tell what kind of respect our players have for him. He is as tough as nails. If it were a different situation in the game, and it wasn't against USC and it was rout, you'd probably see our whole bench out there and getting a 15-yard penalty. You can tell by the guys on the field how happy they were for him. Maybe we can get a few more (touchdowns for Burghgraef)."

Safety Zach Catanese, is by far the best newcomer on defense and much of that is due to his consistency. "Zach is really playing well," said Koetter. "I'd say Zach is right there among our steadiest players on defense. He had some minor injuries and got to play only 57 plays. There was a big difference in the second half in the run support when Zach was not in there. Zach is one of our best all around special teams players. I think Zach is one of the best safeties in our league. He is a big hitter and he takes football seriously. He has learned a lot of different positions. He can play nickel or dime."

"The single best thing our football team is doing right now is playing hard," said Koetter. "You can take all the X's and O's and throw it out of the window – if you're gonna play hard you are going to be in every game. We played very very hard against USC and LSU and we lost. We also played very hard against the other three teams and we won. If we just keep playing hard, we got enough playmakers on both sides of the ball; I think we are going to be fine. This is a huge week. Oregon is a good football team. If we can play as we are capable of against Oregon, all of our and bangs we have, we'll have a chance to heal those up over two weeks leading up to Stanford."

Sun Devil Source Top Stories