Koetter Excited About Defense, Oregon Game

In his weekly press conference, the ASU head coach talked about the thrilling victory over Oregon State, and previewed ASU's first Pac-10 road trip this season.

No game balls were given on offense, but on defense the honors went to Josh Amobi, who also won the Pac-10 honor, Jimmy Verdon, and Jason Shivers. Jamar Williams won the game ball on special teams. As far as scout team honors go, wide receiver Terry Richardson received both offensive and special teams player of the week, and defensive end Ricky Parker won the scout team honors on defense.

It may have been a gut wrenching 13-9 win, but Koetter couldn't have been happier. "We're very excited with our team being able to find a way to win another exciting game. We couldn't be any happier with the way our defense played. They won the game for us and played well the entire night, especially in the last drive." There was some tempered criticism towards the offense: "For the first time since Andrew (Walter) came in as our quarterback a few weeks ago, we just weren't able to make any of those big plays in this game. That certainly doesn't mean we're not going to keep trying to do it. On offense, all the things looked better on the film than they did in the game. We were close on some stuff and we just need to clean up a few issues. We'll start working on that tomorrow (Tuesday)." He did notice a similar trend of play in the Pac-10 on both sides of the ball. "The way defensive teams are playing in the Pac-10 and around the country, every defense is going to try to stop the run, force you into must-pass situations, and then put their nickel team in and force you into combination coverages…everybody is doing the same thing on offense. On run downs, you have got to take your shots and try to make big plays."

When previewing the Oregon Ducks he said: "This is a great opportunity to go up to Oregon and compete for the lead in the Pac-10. It is a very difficult place to play against the sixth ranked team in the country. I'm excited for our players to get an opportunity to go up there. We're not playing perfect by any means, but our guys are competing and believing that guys around them are going to make plays. They're believing in each other and that's the start of a good thing. That's one of the first things you have to change to get your program heading in the right direction."

On the injury front Koetter said it was possible that Riccardo Stewart could be back, but Damien Niko will still be out. Even with Niko out, the ASU coach was pleased that the team played seven offensive linemen. "I think our depth in the offensive line is the best it has been all season." Speaking of the offensive line, sophomore offensive tackle Ricardo Carlos, who had back surgery on Friday, was out of the hospital and in the locker room at the game on Saturday.

Much has been said about Autzen stadium in Eugene being the toughest venue to play in the Pac-10. That fact cannot be overstated according to Koetter. "I can assure you that the stories are not overblown. In my travels, I've been at 90 different stadiums for college football games, the two loudest places I've ever been to are Autzen Stadium and at Syracuse in the (Carrier) Dome. It is extremely loud. I don't know if the construction has changed that to buffer the sound differently or let the sound out, but if you ask any coach that has played a game in Autzen Stadium, they'll tell you that it is one of the loudest places that they've ever played in." The implications of that noise are numerous and quite detrimental, says the ASU skipper: "It affects all your communication, player to player, coach to player, and it is difficult at times for the coaches when our offense is out there to hear the coaches from the press box through our headphones. Their fans do a great job of knowing when to be loud and when not to be loud. They are loudest when the opposing offense is out there. So we have to focus on doing a good job with our signals and making sure that everything can be communicated through hand signals, or that we don't need to say anything at all because, we're not going to be able to hear."

With all the obstacles this game presents, the mental readiness of the Sun Devils is detrimental. Currently, Koetter doesn't know what to expect from his squad on that subject. "It is very hard to talk about how prepared our team is mentally at twelve o'clock (on Monday) because we tried to put the Oregon State game to bed. We last saw them yesterday at six o'clock and they have today off, so I won't really know how prepared they are until we get up there, but as the media asks them questions, I can tell from the way the answer them that they believe in each other. The players have a much greater belief not only in our schemes on offense and defense, but also that we are going to find a way to win when it gets close. I think we're headed in the right direction as far as (mental preparedness) goes. "

Another aspect that ASU needs to prepare for is stopping Ducks' signal caller Jason Fife, who has quickly emerged in his first year as a starter as one of the conference's best. The similarities between both team's style of play should help in containing the skill players. "Oregon and Arizona State play very similar styles of defense. Oregon doesn't call it the 4-2-5, they call it a 4-3 and they call one of their guys a rover and one of them an outside linebacker, but in essence, we are playing our defense and they are playing their defense…what that means is that you are going to see one more guy in the box that can block. You are going to see blitzes coming from everywhere. Both teams know how to attack the other because they play against each other in practice every day, they play against our defense and we play against theirs. This week, there is a lot of correlation between the two, Are both teams going to have new wrinkles on offense and defense? You bet they are, but it is going to be very difficult for us to trick Oregon because they play against a similar defense every day."

Two offensive areas of concern for Dirk Koetter are the running game and the red zone production. The second year Sun Devils coach addressed both: "We have a very inexperienced offensive line and we have guys that haven't played a lot. We are starting a true freshman at offensive tackle and that's not to put blame anywhere, but we are going to become a better running team as our O-line gets more experience. It seemed that we had an individual breakdown on almost every running play. Again, most teams that we've played are doing a good job of stacking the line of scrimmage with eight or nine man fronts against our run formations… We just have to put those guys in position to make some positive yards earlier. Oregon State just kind of knocked our offense back on our heels in the first part of that game and we never really recovered from it. We do that on offense, which leads to frustration in our passing again, but again, these things are all correctable and we know that we need to run the ball better, but you can only do what you can do." On the red zone struggles Koetter said: "There is concern because we have been fifty percent in the last two weeks and that is not going to get it done. There are totally different reasons, the two times we didn't score this week, Mike (Barth) missed a chip shot field goal. The other thing is that you do not go into the game planning on fumbling from the one-yard line. We called the plays, we practiced on the goal line, and we had excellent opportunities when we were inside of the five to score, but our problems were in execution. Do I know we need to do better? Sure. Are we going to change our approach? No."

With everything at stake this week, no one would blame Koetter calling this game the biggest one in his ASU tenure. However, the ASU coach is quick to dismiss that notion. "It's the biggest game since last Saturday. You may think that I am making it up, but they are all big, every week is bigger than the next as you roll along. I've been in big plays, but on Saturday, Andrew Walter is going to make a lot more big plays than I am going to make. So are Cornell Canidate and Josh Amobi and all of our other players. We prepare our guys in the same way and they're going to be playing in a difficult place. But that's why you play college football, so we are looking forward to it."

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