Koetter Proud of Team's Resiliency

There were many anxious moments for the maroon and gold in Pullman last Saturday. The Sun Devils had to weather two field goals which were ultimately missed, and hold the home team on fourth and one situation to secure a gritty 27-24 win over Washington State. Head Coach Dirk Koetter was obviously pleased with the character his squad displayed in that victory.

"Several times we were right on the verge of breaking the game wide open," said Koetter. "Our guys really pulled through. Our defense made a great stand right before the half. I was really proud of them when they hung in during the fourth quarter. From nine minutes left in the third quarter until six minutes to go in the fourth quarter, momentum totally shifted and Washington State dominated the game. In the last six minutes we made the plays we needed to make in all three phases. To play like that on the road when the chips are down…I'm very pleased with our guys."

The Sun Devil skipper stated that game balls were awarded to Zach Miller on offense, whom Koetter called one of the best blocking tight ends in the conference. Jordan Hill received a game ball on Defense, and Koetter highlighted the play of fellow defensive lineman Kyle Caldwell. Linebacker Chad Lindsey received a game ball for his special teams work. Scout team players of the week were center Thomas Altieri, defensive end Tranell Morant, and safety Angelo Fobbs-Valentino on special teams.

The team arrived after a flight delay at 3:30 AM on Sunday, but that hasn't tempered their enthusiasm about their upcoming match. "Looking forward to UCLA, this is another huge game for us," Koetter remarked. "We know what's on the line for us. We have a lot of California players, and they're excited to play in the Rose Bowl against UCLA."

Koetter mentioned that a handful of players weren't able to finish the game on Saturday, but players such as Quency Darley and Jamaal Lewis will be back in the lineup, with the hopes that Grayling Love and Stephen Berg will return as well. The injured Moey Mutz played sparingly in Pullman and should be ready this week as well. Previous reports have made Zach Miller doubtful for the UCLA game, while Josh Golden, Kyle Caldwell, Matt Miller, and Mike Talbot are classified day-to-day.

UCLA will be the proverbial wounded animal, after their big loss to Arizona 52-14. "U of A ran the ball great," Koetter commented. "Their backs ran hard. They flat beat them and I think UCLA would agree. They've (UCLA) been on a unbelievable streak of comeback wins. UCLA is very explosive on offense, two explosive tailbacks, one of the best tight ends in the conference, and a good senior quarterback. They struggle to stop the run, but they lead the conference is pass defense."

Foe the second week in a row, the maroon and gold will face one of the best tailbacks in the Pac-10, in the Bruins' Maurice Drew. "He is a terrific all around player," said Koetter. "He's way up there in the stats for all purpose yardage. He has had huge rushing games. He can break tackles, he has speed...they do a good job using him on screens. He is a talented player that every one in the country tried to recruit." Drew is an excellent punt returner, and Koetter looked forward to the match-up with ASU's returner Terry Richardson, who's having a solid year in this department as well. "They both will be a factor in the game."

Resiliency has also been the staple of UCLA, who have won four come-from-behind games, and have outscored their opponents 78-20 in the fourth quarter. Koetter said that UCLA's quarterback Drew Olson has had a big hand in those thrilling victories. "When he is playing hot there is no stopping him," Koetter stated. "He's been a little streaky this year. When he's on he's been lights out, but when he's off he plays kind of average. Sometimes when a quarterback gets to the end and has nothing to lose, he cuts everything loose."

Eight of the Sun Devils' seniors are from the Golden State, and would love nothing to notch their first victory in their home state. Many of those players will have droves of family and friends at the game, as well as before and after the contest. Thus, one can wonder how much of a distraction this will be for those players?

"Maybe a little bit," Koetter explained. "They won't be distracted during the week. With the way our schedule works before the game, there isn't a lot of time to be distracted. We get to L.A. at 5 at night. We have a team dinner at six, we get out of meetings at 8:30, and curfew is at ten. There's a little bit of family time on Friday night, maybe Saturday morning, and then mostly after the game. I think our players are excited because they need more tickets, and they'll have a lot of family and friends watching them. I think that's a positive."

One of those players who'll be playing in his back yard this weekend, and chose ASU over UCLA during his recruitment, is quarterback Rudy Carpenter. It was another solid outing by the redshirt freshman, who also has improved on his decision making. "For a redshirt freshman and the two and half games he played, overall Rudy has played outstanding," said Koetter. "Rudy at times shows plays that are way above his experience level. He is good at throwing the ball away when the play is not there. When you have a quarterback that shows he can do that, you want him to do that all the time. On his interception down at the 5-yard line, that ball should not have gone where it went. But that's one pass out 119 he has thrown so far. Rudy is doing some things great, but there is definitely room for improvement. He has been running around a little bit more in this game. I'm very pleased with Rudy, and when he gets it all down he can be very good." Koetter added that Carpenter's decision making when making an audible is fine and his demeanor hasn't changed one way or another.

It's no secret the maroon and gold defense has come under much scrutiny the last few weeks, and Koetter pointed out their outing last weekend and how they contributed to the win. "People tend to focus on what we're not doing a great job on," he said. "But they're forcing turnovers. I think we are still plus seven on the year on turnovers. Normally when we force turnovers we're able to convert them into points. Our team is second in red-zone defense. If your defense can get a stop or two and force field goals…in all these games that are close, that's the difference. We got two sacks during the game, and both of them knocked them (Washington State) out of field goal range. We didn't do a good job stopping their run game, but when it was 4th and 1 on the six (yard line) we got the stop we needed."

The ASU head coach added that he rotated the defensive lineman more, and reserves like David Smith and Kellen Mills took advantage of their playing time and stepped up. Furthermore, a starter like Jordan Hill played 51 snaps compared to 80 the week before, which increased his productivity.

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