The press conference started by the fresh of the presses announcement that running back Hakim Hill was voted Pac-10 special teams player of the week. While Koetter was happy for Hill, he wondered out loud: "What does Suggs have to do?" alluding to the great game by the Sun Devil defensive end that went unrecognized by the conference.
The second year coach not only stressed the importance of beating Central Florida, but also the manner in which it was done. "It was certainly a big win for our program. It was good because of the way it happened. We had to come from behind and we had to overcome some adversities. We not only had to overcome the way we were playing on offense, but we had to overcome the weather adversities." He also mentioned the large number of players played (65), which not only adds valuable experience but also contributes to team morale.
Winning the turnover battle was one key goal for ASU when the season started. So far the team's turnover margin is even, but according to the ASU coach his team has benefited much more than its opponents when the takeaways occurred. "Our six turnovers have resulted in 13 points; the six turnovers we've gotten have resulted in 35 points for us. That just points out a fact that most of us already know, turnovers help you a lot." Koetter was also pleased with his team's third down conversion success. ASU has converted 43%, while opponents are converting at a 23% rate. The fact that Central Florida went 0-11 in converting aided to that stat tremendously. The success in both turnovers and prevention of third down conversions is mainly attributed to the outstanding defensive play. ASU's defense is currently ranked 20th in the nation, and against Central Florida it averaged a three and out for the game.
Scout team honors went to offensive tackle Andrew Carnahan, linebacker Jordan Hill who will be counted on heavily next year, and on special teams tight end Lee Burghgraef and running back Randy Hill who's also excelling at running back in practice. Game balls were awarded to Shaun McDonald on offense, Terrell Suggs, R.J. Oliver, Riccardo Stewart and Brian Montesanto on defense. Koetter credited Montesanto as a big contributor to the team speed in its defensive front six. Game ball for special teams was awarded to Jamar Williams. The captains for the San Diego State game will be Brian Montesanto, R.J. Oliver, and Regis Crawford.
While this week's matchup may be perceived as another easy non-conference tune up, Dirk Koetter sees it quite differently. "This is a very big week for us. We can clinch a winning record in our non-conference games. We need a road win in the worst way and we're well aware of that. To go where we'd like to go, we have to win on the road. It would be great to have a win and have three wins in a row going into our bye week." San Diego State's 0-2 record hardly fazes the ASU skipper. "They lost on the last play of the game against Fresno State on a blocked field goal. The score against Colorado was not indicative at all of how close that game was. Their defense really only gave up 14 points…San Diego State's quarterback is leading the nation in completions with 29 or 30 completions a game and those two receivers can play. Defensively is where they are playing extremely well. They have improved their speed on defense and have made some moves. San Diego State is a big zone blitz team. Both Fresno State and Colorado struggle against San Diego State's defense."
ASU's signal caller Andy Goodenough played under SDSU's Tom Craft at Palomar JC last season. Thus, he will try and help the defensive staff in game planning according to Koetter. "I think Andy will be spending some time with the defensive coaches and I know they've started to talk to him about that. One of the things that Coach Craft is known for is his no huddle offense; they do calls from the sidelines. You can see on the TV copy of the [SDSU vs.] Fresno State game it showed him a lot, giving different signals and everything and I think our defensive coaches will quiz Andy a lot and see how good his memory is."
The apparent quarterback controversy was naturally a hot topic of discussion. The ASU coach re-emphasized that he won't name a starter quite yet, but he does know who it will be. "I think we know who will start but I'm not going to say anything until I talk to the players, and I will talk to them this afternoon. I don't think it's going to be anything earth shattering, but both guys are going to help us and we have to do what we have to do." Koetter would like to have a clear-cut starter, but realizes that the situation at this position may dictate otherwise. "Well, everyone would always tell you they'd like to have one quarterback and we're certainly not an exception to that. Chad and Andrew have two completely different styles: Chad is more mobile; Andrew has a much stronger arm that is apparent to everybody. There are more factors involved in the decision than who throws the best and who runs the best. Ultimately, we need to get into the end zone more, we're just not scoring enough points… Regardless of which way it goes, I'd love for a guy to just get up there and pound on his chest and say 'I'm going to be the guy that's going to put us in the Rose Bowl' but if it doesn't happen that way and we have to shuffle them every play, then we shuffle them every play. There is no easy answer and there is no correct way no matter what anybody tells you. Most people would like to play one quarterback and so would we, but we'll just have to see."
The second year ASU coach said it's not always who the signal caller is, but also his supporting cast that can cast a quarterback is a positive or unflattering light. "I grew up learning the BYU offense and if you watched all those great BYU quarterbacks it was always amazing to me how the guys around those quarterbacks always made them look great. Those quarterbacks threw it anywhere close and the receivers seemed to make the play. Right now, for whatever reason, we're not making very many plays around Chad. The plays that are being made are being made by Chad, outside of the running game. That is just something that is hard to factor. The other thing is, we watch those guys in practice everyday and we watch tape everyday and at some point you have to also take game results as well as practice results into consideration."
When asked about the status of Daryl Lightfoot, who took a leave of absence from the team, Koetter replied: "Well, there's really no change on Daryl. Daryl Lightfoot was at practice yesterday and he practiced very well. He's got some things he's dealing with off the field and he has some things that have to be taken care of. He's working on those things. There's also a suspension involved and it may be a couple weeks before we know what the status of Daryl will be for the rest of the season." The ASU coach acknowledged that he's worried about teams doubling up on McDonald because of Lightfoot's absence. However, there's one player that is taking advantage of it. "I think the guy that is already emerging is Derek Hagan…he's shown it in game situations so far."
The running game was a major area of displeasure for Koetter. "I'm disappointed in our execution of the running game because I really thought we had a chance to run the ball going into the UCF game and we just did not run very successfully in the first half. We really didn't have much success running the ball until the fourth quarter and that was primarily with Cornell [Canidate] in there…What we had was some kind of an individual breakdown on almost every play. On two of those plays in the first half the breakdown was a fumble. There were other breakdowns in the second half, they caught us on a couple of blitzes, we missed a couple blocks here or there, maybe the back missed a cut he should have made, stuff like that." The blocking, or lack of, by his running backs was a big culprit in the five sacks the ASU offense has suffered. "I think that one and a half of those sacks were Hakim not blocking his guy. It was Chad that got sacked both times and Chad had no chance on those plays. Cornell and Hakim both need to constantly be improving on those, I think Cornell is a little ahead of Hakim in that issue right now, but it's something that we work on…Cornell had a sprained wrist last week which doesn't help you as a pass blocker because you have to be able to punch and Cornell was playing with a closed fist all week in practice. In one of the cases Saturday night, Hakim tried to cut the guy and cut-blocking has a tendency not to work very often. It works sometimes, and we teach cuts in certain situations, but cut-blocks that miss don't work too well." Koetter said that match-ups sometimes don't work in favor of the running game, and that the offensive line is doing a pretty good job helping the running game.
Lastly coach Koetter was full of compliments towards the defensive unit of the Aztecs, which could pose a viable challenge for the Sun Devils. "I think that's a strength of their football team. Their defense is keeping them in games. That Fresno State game had a lot of chances to get away from them but their defense, kind of like our defense is doing, is rallying them and saving them. They've got good team speed and as Coach Craft said, the linebackers are the strength of their team. Those three linebackers can really run, they do a great job with their zone blitzes. Most teams out of a zone blitz only have one or two things they do out of it, San Diego State has several. Their two corners are returning starters so they have some experience with their cover guys. They've played two pretty good offensive teams in Fresno State and Colorado and have not given up too much. Were going to have our hands full with that defense and we have to find some ways to score some more points to help our defense out."
Koetter Not Fooled by SDSU's 0-2 Record
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