Q: The Touchdowns by Keegan Herring on the pitch play and the winning TD catch by Brent Miller were plays that were put especially last week in practice for the Washington game. Is that a sign of having more confidence in the offense now compared to earlier in the season?
"We were doing a lot on offense the first three weeks. We were just going full speed ahead. Then we really hit a road block at California from a turnover stand point, and Oregon was a total meltdown. I think we have more confidence in our offense now than we did in that stretch. When you are putting your game plan together you just looking for things that will work against different certain defenses at certain times. You do temper that a little bit with your personnel. I think our offense is really playing a lot more efficiently right now, especially Rudy [Carpenter]."
Q: What are you seeing now in Rudy Carpenter's that has led to his improvement?
"I just think Rudy has done a nice job just getting back to taking what the defense gives him. The Washington game was a great example of how many times he checked the ball down to the running backs. [Tailbacks] Keegan [Herring] and Ryan [Torain] delivered by getting 10, 15-yard runs. I think Rudy now realizes you don't have to make everything a big play. Big plays will come. The deep pass that he tried to [wide receiver] Brandon Smith, we were expecting a totally different coverage than that. He [Carpenter] read the coverage correctly. That is a byproduct of when you are taking what's there and not guessing. Rudy is really reading the coverage well and taking what the defense gives him even when it's the check down. It has really allowed him not to hold it so long, which has cut our sacks down. He has raised his completion percentage, which I think is about 80 percent in the last two weeks. His efficiency is back up where it should be. He is being very productive without turning it over. That is how he was playing all of last year. I just think we went through a two or three week stretch where he tried to do too much."
Q: Is his confidence also a byproduct of the wide receiver group improving and stepping up their game?
"I think that's part of it. In all phases…the receivers, the protection and Rudy – all three of things combined. The biggest part of Rudy (improving) is Rudy."
Q: What are your thoughts Oregon State's win over USC?
"It was impressive. I think they've done a nice job. I just got watching it on film for the second time, and they played very well. USC moved the ball, but had a lot of turnovers. Oregon State just didn't beat themselves, and took advantage of the situations that came up and held on there the end. USC has been in three previous games before that, where Washington, Washington State and we have all played them close. I think everybody thought it was bound to happen and Oregon State was the team that got it done."
Q: Can you talk about playing an Oregon State team that has won three straight and having a lot of confidence right no?.
"They are hot right now. They played Boise State five weeks ago and just got trounced, 42 to 14. Now they've come back five weeks later and beat USC. They look like a different team right now; they're just playing with so much more confidence. Their tailback, Yvenson Bernard is one of the best backs in the league, although he didn't help last week. That punt returner Sammie Stroughter is leading the nation in punt returns. Their defense gave up over 300 yards rushing against Boise State and probably hasn't given up 300 total (rushing yards) since. They are second in the Pac-10 in rush defense, people are having a hard time rushing the ball against them."
Q: Is there anything specific you can point to as to why Oregon State's rush defense is doing so well?
"I haven't watched their earlier games. I have just watched their most recent games. So when I watch them on film, the last couple games I've watched, no one is running the ball on them. They look real solid on defense. Before the week is over, I'll look at what was going on earlier in the year. I usually work my way back from the most recent games."
Q: Can you talk about safety Josh Barrett and how he has elevated his game?
"We go over all the players every week, and I think it has been for the last five weeks in a row that Dan Fidler, the safeties coach, has said, ‘Josh has had his best game this week,' and then the next week, ‘He has played his best game this week.' I think Josh has played in [safety] Zach Catanese's shadow last year. Both those guys are playing well. Josh is such a great athlete with his speed and power. He's breaking on balls…he is playing well on special teams, and has really developed not only into an excellent player, but is doing a great job as a leader as well. He and Zach Catanese are among the top five leaders on our team right now."
Q: Is offensive lineman Stephen Berg out for the season?
"Yes he is. He's got some more follow up tests and doctors appointments today. They're relatively sure he has a torn ACL. It was non-hit injury. It was a screen play and there was a screen on both sides of the field. He was in front of the screen and he just planted his knee when he was going to make a block on a defensive back and it just gave out on him. It is too bad for Steve. He was playing well and was also doing a great job as a leader. What a terrible way for him to end his year. He has been a three and a half year starter and he has moved and changed positions to help our team. It is a tough way for Steve to end it. Hopefully, we can get [offensive lineman] Brandon Rodd in full speed this weekend. If Brandon Rodd can come back at left tackle we can have either Julius [Orieukwu] or Richard Tuitu'u fill in at right tackle. Julius has experience on both sides so he will be the swing guy."
Q: With all the adversity the team has gone through, have you seen them mature during the Washington game?
"When we were down 21 to nothing against USC in the first quarter, I think that's the point where our team made a turn for the better. They were talking a good game the week of the USC game, but when we got down 21 to nothing, that was a very dangerous part of the season. It was a good opportunity to cave in, and they didn't. We came back and we carried that over to Stanford, although we didn't have much adversity in the Stanford game, and then we definitely carried it over into the Washington game. We got off to such a good start against Washington. We played well, especially on defense, early. When they came back and tied it, anyone who was there, the crowd really got into that game in the fourth quarter - it was a totally different stadium. We were backed up and we had to punt from our own 15-yard line. I think that was another good opportunity for us to cave in. I think our defense really came out energized in overtime. [ASU defensive coordinator] Bill [Miller] made some nice calls and our guys executed. They made some hits on the quarterback on second and third down. Obviously, our offense was able to punch it in. I think this team has learned to stick together and just to hang in there. For the most part, other than a few little things, I think we are playing good team football right now. We're not beating ourselves, except for some bad decision making in penalties. As far as turnovers, both creating and preventing, we're doing a good job. Our defense is playing well on third down and not giving up big plays."
Q: What is the atmosphere like at Oregon State?
"It definitely has a lot more big time flavor now that they've put the finishing touches on the stadium. Last year was my first time there [since Reser Stadium has been completed], and that stadium is very impressive. Our players like their turf; it is a lot more spongy than the Washington turf. That's a very hard field and our guys were feeling it in their joints yesterday after playing on that hard surface. Oregon State is now a big time college football atmosphere and their fans are really into it. The crowd is really loud there; I think it bothered USC at times. They had four or five false start penalties due to crowd noise. In Corvallis, they support the Beavers hard. It will be really similar to last week, only their stadium doesn't hold as many people as [University of Washington's] Husky Stadium does."
Q: Are brothers Jeremy Payton of ASU and Bryan Payton of Oregon State similar in their play?
"They really are. Bryan has really gotten big. He is listed at 215 pounds. It is funny when you see flashes of him on TV and they look identical. We tried to recruit Bryan here. I was very surprised they didn't go to the same school. I thought they would both come here or both go to Oregon State. I was surprised they split and went their separate ways. Bryan has had a long road. Where Jeremy played as a true freshman, Bryan has had his ups and downs as far as making it to this point. As Coach [Mike] Riley said he started playing him in just nickel situations and now they are playing their safeties like we do, left and right. He and [Sabby] Piscitelli make a nice tandem for them at safety. He is a similar player [to Jeremy Payton] in that his specialty is coverage. He is a good cover guy like Jeremy is. They ask their safeties to do a lot in the run game as well, and he is like their fifth leading tackler."
Coach Koetter's Monday Press Conference
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