Koetter Relishes in Win, Realizes Work Ahead

The ASU Head Coach realizes the magnitude of the win over Oregon, but knows that playing Washington isn't going to be an easy task. Furthermore, he believes there is much to improve on after watching last week's game tape.

Dirk Koetter sensed that his players, just like himself, were very business like following this improbable victory. "The players seemed subdued and relaxed today. They worked hard in the weight room, and had a good day of conditioning. I try not to interpret (the players' mood) too much. I told them that yesterday was a great day for Sun Devil Football, and to enjoy it for the next couple of days. But you're only judged by what you have done lately. Going back to the North Carolina game, we told them that every game from here on out could come down to the last play of the game, and the last two weeks it has. We feel good about that, but we have a long way to go." Even the fact that the Sun Devils were ranked didn't change much in his approach: "It's one of our goals to be ranked at the end of the season. It's nice, but we have a lot of work to do. To be ranked after seven or eight weeks isn't our goal. We'd like to be ranked at the end of the year." He mentioned that the players know they're ranked, but it was just one of many things talked in the team meeting. The overall theme for the rest of the season is focus: "We're gonna focus on staying within ourselves and what we can control, and not get caught up on the outside and what we can't control. We're not in a position to worry about anything else."

Koetter and his staff took a unique approach to giving out game balls for the Oregon victory. "We're gonna give game balls to all of the 60-man traveling squad. This is a type of win in the program where you want to have something to remember it by. I want guys like Mason Unck to go back and remember that because he never beaten Oregon, and I want somebody like Derek Hagan to remember that this was a big win on the road." The ASU skipper mentioned that the coaches on defense didn't give out unofficial game balls. "We didn't play particularly well on defense. But we played well when we needed too." On offense unofficial game balls were given to Andrew Walter and Shaun McDonald. Special teams recognition was given to kicker Mike Barth. Koetter was extremely happy with Barth making all three of his field goal attempts, and displaying overall confidence in one of the toughest venues in the conference. Scout team players of the week were: Randy Hill on offense, Ali Likio on defense, and Skyler Fulton on scout teams.

One can argue that Koetter's highflying offense is very conducive to comeback victories. Koetter takes a different approach. "Your offense is already built around your players. We happen to have skill players that can do the things I like to do. In Boston College we were all about pounding the ball, and we still beat good teams like Notre Dame. We're doing right now what I like to do. You need to have a quarterback that can do anything you want him to do based on down and distance. That's fun for me, and that's some of the fun things being your own offensive coordinator. I go for it and the players love it. But you can't do it if you don't trust your guys." So how did the second year Sun Devil coach view the play of his offense, and for that mater his defense on Saturday? "As a team we were on our heels on both sides of the ball. We didn't come out physically and attack on defense like we have been doing, and Oregon took it to us. But our defense made the plays when we needed them. Offensively, we had some things early, and we just missed (on executing them). On offense we continually found ourselves in the first half in third and long, and we made a decision to go with a six-man protection and a four receivers. We counted on bracket coverage in the secondary (leaving two wideouts single covered), but we didn't count on them getting pressure up front. In the second half we stayed out of third and long, and we were able to go with a seven- man protection, and Andrew was bale to set his feet better. When you're in rhythm it's a tough to stop. We got stronger as they came went on."

In the Oregon State game it seemed that the offense wasn't clicking to say the least, and last Saturday it looked like a whole different team. Koetter explains: "Last week I had feeling that we weren't getting all that (game plan's offensive verbiage), and I take part of the blame. This week I was more aggressive on focusing on it, and I made sure everyone got it." Koetter pointed out several of the wide receivers that had a good game. For example, Skyler Fulton who was on 29 plays. "He doesn't get any balls thrown to him, but he played a significant role in blocking and clearing out guys." The injury to Daryl Lightfoot forced some players hungry for action to grab the spotlight, and seize the moment. "After D-Light got hurt, Miller, Hagan, and Taplin played bigger roles. All those guys contributed in a big way. I know those guys were frustrated, because Shaun, Daryl, and Skyler are playing so well. We have a tendency to leave Shaun in the game all the time, and we have to force ourselves to take him out. All those guys have some things that they do well. We made a commitment to get them the ball more this week, and they can sure look at us and say I told you so."(smile)

When asked about his team's ground attack and its performance up in Eugene, he was pragmatic in his approach. "I don't worry about the running game that much. I accept the fact that when they have more guys then we do (on the line of scrimmage), it makes it hard (to run). Some teams that have a great running back are willing to put a hat on a hat, and let the running back make guys miss. Onterio Smith did that. When you have a quarterback that can throw down the field, you have receivers that can run down the field, and you have a defense that challenges you to go down the field, it's no secret where we're going. We ran the ball OK when we needed first downs, especially in the last drive. We're gonna need to run the ball better in the future. They'll be a team sooner or later, that's gonna say that if you want to beat us you'll have to run the ball. I know we're gonna see that in the next five weeks, and then we'll see if we're good enough to run the ball." On the injury front Koetter said "We are healthy as can be this time of the season." In specific, he said that Lightfoot and Mike Williams should play, and safety Matt Fawley was cleared to practice this week on a limited basis. His status for the game would be determined as the week goes by.

With all of the Sun Devils' recent success, and the lack of TV coverage for the Washington game, does Koetter expect a spike in attendance this Saturday? "I think our players deserve it. I don't say this with any malice, but there's no reason not to. The Diamondbacks are done, and everybody said they wanted to see an exciting team, that has a chance to do something. Why can't we develop here the same home filed advantage that Oregon has over there? Oregon counts on that home field advantage. Our 40,000 fans can make a lot of noise. What will happen when we sell out this place? I've never been in this stadium when it was full. I hope to some day."

Overall, there really wasn't much celebration among the head coach and his staff. However, there were many well-wishers offering their support. "We had a little get together as a staff, and watched the highlights on ESPN. For a game that was supposedly not on TV, I got a lot of calls from the east coast from people who saw the highlights. I had calls from Jake Plummer, friends in the NFL, coaches at Boise State. It's gratifying, but you don't have a lot of time to think about it. On the flight back home I started watching some tape on Washington. The first couple days when you watch any team (you're about to play) you're sitting there thinking we can't move the ball on these guys." Nevertheless, the ASU coach is very happy not only with the playoff his squad, but also with their character. "This was huge win for our program, and I don't want to down play that. It's been documented how hard it is to win there. I'm elated for my guys not to quit, and believed they would find a way. When a team starts believing, they're dangerous."

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