"We wanted to get a win and we got a win," said Dirk Koetter following the game. "You can't have it exactly how you want it. We had a great chance to get off to a super start. We throw an interception in the red zone on the first drive, and then we get four chances inside the 5-yard line and can't punch it in on the second drive. We got no one to blame but ourselves offensively on that."
Koetter's remarks on the other side of the ball were more flattering in nature, as the ASU defense held the visitors from Flagstaff to 76 yards in the second half. "I thought the defense did a pretty darn good job, other than giving up two big plays," he stated. "On one of them their quarterback was scrambling around and threw it up for grabs and our DB just fell down - that can't happen but it did. On the second one they got us on one of the oldest tricks in the book - we were trying to sub a nickel package and they snapped the ball quick and caught us in between. That was smart by them."
"You take those two plays out and the one long third down pass in the second half, and our defense did OK other than that," Koetter continued. "They had nine sacks which is a lot. We're off to a great start from that low amount we had last year. We hit Murietta hard all night. I think you have to give him a little credit for the way he scrambled out of trouble - we had him sacked a couple more times. The story in this game was they turned it over once, we turned it over twice including once going it on the end zone and offensively we just couldn't get into a rhythm. They run a confusing scheme and they changed it even more than we prepared for, but that's football. I give them credit, and now we know the things we need to work on and we'll be back ready to get after it next week."
The undisputed defensive player of the game was linebacker Derron Ware, who paced the Sun Devils with eight tackles and three sacks. The ASU skipper wasn't surprised. "Derron has had a tremendous camp," commented Koetter. "I told his mom before the game that Derron shouldn't be worried because when you have a good camp you should play well in the game. I think you guys could see that Derron has the speed off the corner. He's a converted safety…he's a big guy but he has some burst to him. Derron can hit you – he has cover skills and got rushing skills. He's our best rusher and that showed up tonight, as did Kyle Caldwell – Kyle was in the backfield all night."
The Sun Devils only had 41 yards rushing through the first three quarters, but exploded for 113 yards in the last period. "I was disappointed but it's not the end of the world," remarked Koetter on the rushing performance. "We'll be back to fight another day." Four running backs played on Thursday night, and all of them had a touchdown. "They all did some good things, but yet I think our running game didn't have any consistency at all," said Koetter. "Whether it be at the point of attack, blocking…we didn't hit the holes as consistently hard as I've seen us do in practice. I think the fans got a glimpse of why Dimitri Nance was a 3,000-yard rusher (in his Texas high school) - that's how he is every day. Keegan made a spectacular run on that broken play. That's not how that play was designed, but great individual effort. Dewitty and Torain made some nice plays on screens…we've been pretty successful on offense here the last five years and that wasn't us tonight and ultimately that falls on me and we'll get it fixed."
Koetter didn't know if NAU's fake punt in their first possession was a blown play or not (the Lumberjacks' coach did claim it was unplanned), and was more concerned about what transpired after that. "We sure didn't capitalize on it which was bad by us," he explained. "At the time when it's 4th and 16 backed up in your own end, I didn't know if that was them making a gutsy call that didn't work, but it doesn't really matter because we didn't make them pay for it."
The ASU head coach claimed that the second half offensive success, mainly in the fourth quarter where the teams scored 21 points, was a result of simple offensive plays. "They (NAU) were doing a good job of confusing us with their multiple blitz looks," said Koetter. "They did the same type of defense we prepared for, but they did a lot better job of disguising coverages. They had me and in turn Rudy off-guard in the passing game, and we didn't have the consistency we needed at the run game, until we wore them down in the fourth." Koetter added that he probably should have attempted more rushes before the last period, but due to the tight score a change of tempo was needed. "We went no huddle at the end of the second quarter, and most of the third quarter. But when we went no huddle it was one step forward, two steps back."
Koetter admitted that he was very tempted to play true freshman and back up signal caller Danny Sullivan. "When Dimitri ran that ball down to the 30-yard line and NAU had a player down, I almost put Danny in there," recalled Koetter. "But I felt that it was important that we finish that drive off. I did want to get Danny in, and we'll get him next week." ASU's first string signal caller Rudy Carpenter struggled, and Koetter was quick to take responsibility. "Rudy can play a lot better than that and I need to coach him better than that."
Aside from Burgess, only one other receiver (Terry Richardson) caught a pass. Then again, two of ASU's scores were screen passes that ended up in the end zone by the Sun Devil tailbacks. "The running backs - those were designed screens," explained Koetter. "As I said, NAU did a real nice job…they fooled us a lot tonight with their disguise. They fooled us more than we've been fooled in a long time. My hat is off to their defensive coaches and defensive players. We don't get fooled like that often and I take that on me."
Koetter stated that no ASU players were injured or carted off, but he did expect to have some bruised players on Friday
Coach Dirk Koetter's Post-Game Quotes
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