"However they put this little name ‘The Pistol', it's a shout gun offense with the quarterback out four yards (from the line of scrimmage) and the tailback behind him," said Dirk Koetter. "The name pistol means nothing. They're not getting yardage by calling it ‘The Pistol'. They have a good coach in Coach (Chris) Ault and really good players. We tried to recruit their quarterback (Jeff Rowe). Coach Ault is an excellent offense coach." Koetter added that Ault would be the equivalent of what legendary coach Frank Kush is to the ASU program.
Looking back at the season opener against NAU, the Sun Devil skipper was generally pleased with his defense, despite the couple of big plays they gave up last week.
"You don't get nine sacks if you're not doing a little bit of swarming," he commented. "The fact that we should probably have 13 or 14 sacks, instead of nine, against NAU... we ran hard to the ball, and for the most part we tackled real well."
"NAU had about 325 yards in total offense," continued Koetter. "NAU had 180 yards on three plays. They had the 80-yard pass, which is a total abomination on our part. Our safety falls down and our other safety should have picked him (the NAU QB). They catch us substituting and they threw that bubble screen for sixty yards which is bad on our coaching part, trying to sub while they got their offense out there. And then they threw that other alley-hoop pass in the third quarter…you take those three plays away; they have like 150 yards of offense."
Koetter admires NAU quarterback Jason Murietta and the offense he runs. On the other hand, he's aware that Jeff Rowe and the Wolfpack offense will present much more of a test to the ASU defense. "We are just going to see a so much better offense this week," he stated. "We are going to see two really good running backs who can run the ball down hill. They have a lot better plan of running the football. Our defense, we really didn't know we were going to blitz NAU as much as we did but since they couldn't stop our blitz, Bill (Miller, ASU's defensive coordinator) kept calling it. Sometimes we sacked him (the NAU QB), sometimes we missed him. Any team in the country, not just Arizona State, I wouldn't draw too many conclusions about them after one week of play."
One reason for the early struggles that the Sun Devils encouterd against the Lumberjacks was the element of surprise. Schematically speaking, many of their plays last week didn't show up on any previous film ASU had on the team. This week, not only do the Devils have footage of Nevada and their 2006 season opener, but that game film is one of an important conference game for against Fresno State. Thus, this was a contest in which they probably didn't hold back the playbook like other teams tend to do in non-conference contests. "You can compare the game this year to a game last year and see if it is the same or not the same," explained Koetter. "Every team is going to make some subtle changes in the off-season, us included. Hopefully that should help a lot. Every team is going tweak their game plan from week to week, as we are."
"Showing how much of your playbook is an overused term," continued Koetter. "That was a conference game, and they played to win. They played an excellent second half. I thought they were going to win. That was a nice comeback against a really good Fresno State team."
ASU's safeties Josh Barrett and Zach Catanese combined for only two tackles against NAU. Koetter expects that duo to increase their production and involvement, due to the nature of the Wolfpack's offense.
"Nevada is going to try the run the ball on you," he said. "They want to run the ball at you with the counter, the zone, the stretch play... they do a great job with their use of formations. They have a little unbalanced formation that gives you some problems. They cover up one of their wide outs and have a tight end wing out on the side. It's not so much a vertical (offense), it's more of a run game and lots of nakeds (bootleg plays) off of it. Josh and Zach are going to have to get involved. They are no defenses that are going to stop the run without their safeties. No one has a defense like that, unless you have the greatest front seven in America."
In personnel news, Koetter announced that Jamaal Lewis will continue on indefinite suspension, due to his traffic violation that is still being investigated. "As you can imagine with the holiday weekend it has been difficult for us to get the details," explained Koetter. "We are pursuing the details in that case, but it has been difficult to get the information we need to move forward as fast as we can. In the meantime, Jamaal will continue to be suspended. He will not play in this game, and will be practicing on the scout team play until we can get further information that will help us."
The Sun Devil skipper mentioned that Tranell Morant has practiced on Saturday and Monday, and moved around pretty well. "I would be optimistic to say that Tranell might have a chance to play this week," he said. Conversely, the availability of fellow defensive end Loren Howard is much murkier. "Loren Howard got an MRI on his quadricep last week," Koetter commented. "Based on what the doctors are saying right now, he is going to have one full week of inactivity. He is not going to rehab or do anything. They are going to get that thing scar down a little bit more. We'll take it week by week. Based on how well he does, I could see him in the rotation and getting him some time. It depends if does well in practice and if that injury continues to bother him." The ASU head coach added that Howard could play, as he did many times in the past, with a small amount of practice, but he will have to be pain-free in practice, a state that he hasn't been in for quite a while.
The Devils' running game was off to a slow start against NAU, but did get better as the game progressed. Naturally, Koetter was extremely disappointed about not being able to punch in the pigskin from NAU's two-yard line on three tries. "We were first-and-goal on the four yard line and we gained two yards on the play," he recalled. "On second-and-goal an offensive lineman missed his block. It should have been a walk-in touch down. On third down I think the running back had his eyes closed because it should have been a walk-in touch down. He ran right into the tackle and all he had to do is bounce it six inches and he goes in untouched. On fourth down we had another offensive lineman miss his assignment. It is just inexcusable for us to do that in four chances inside the one (yard line)."
Koetter said that signal caller Rudy Carpenter was wondering why a play action wasn't being called during that series. "I wasn't going to call it," explained Koetter. "I'm not afraid to throw it on the goal like. We should be able to run the ball in from first and goal on the four against NAU. Plain and simple. As the game wore on we ran the ball better and better. We used four tailbacks - I purposely tried to spread the carries out. I could have had one guy carry it 28 times for 150 yards but those running backs take a pounding. We are going to need all four of those backs over the course of the season. We spread it out. I thought they all did some good things and some not so good things. Like everybody else, they'll get better."
Following the NAU contest, no game ball was given on offense. Derron Ware got one on defense and on special teams punter Jonathan Johnson earned the honors with a 49.2 yard average per punt. Koetter was pleased with all aspects of Johnson's game, aside from the distance factor.
"We are a directional punting team, and he had three out of his four punts placed perfectly," said Koetter. "According to Oz (special teams coach Tom Osborne) his hang time was at 5.0 (seconds) on one of the punts, which is unheard of. I think all of them were is the 4.6-4.7 range on the hang time. He did kick the ball further than he did in practice. His get-off times were all under two (seconds). We'll take that any day of the week, even if it is a 40-yard punt instead of a 49-yarder. That's why he's here. He is one of those guys who was kicking really well in practice. Just like Derron Ware who has been playing well in practice on defense. You expect guys who are playing well in practice to carry it over to the game. Jonathan did that."
Koetter Respects Nevada Offense, Not Nickname
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