Koetter Highly Impressed With Team's Defense

Not even the last eight minutes of the game can negate what the ASU coach calls "An awesome display." by the Sun Devil defense. The second year coach talks about the win over the Huskies, and how the offense dealt with the challenges Washington posed.

Koetter was proud that the defense was able to hold Washington's Cody Pickett, who averages well over 300 yards a game, to 70 yards at the end of the third quarter. It was the physical nature, and the dominance of his defensive end that set the tone all night. "The tackling and the hitting on defense is the best ever since we've been here. I've been coaching College Football for a while now, and I've never seen a single defensive player have that much impact on a game like Terrell (Suggs) did." Suggs along with Jimmy Verdon, Riccardo Stewart, and Brett Hudson all received game balls. The Offensive game ball went to Tim Fa'aita who graded the highest on the offensive line. Special teams game ball went to Skyler Fulton, who the ASU skipper calls: "The epitome of the unsung hero." Fulton, Solomon Bates, and Regis Crawford are the team captains the for Washington State game.

On the not so bright side, Josh Amobi will be out this week with a sprained MCL. "We hope to have him back for the Cal game." Says Koetter. Mason Unck has a bruised Achilles and he's "Day-to-day. We won't know until the middle of the week…if anybody can make it without practice it's Mason." Justin Taplin has been suspended for the Washington State game for "violating team rules." He'll practice with the scout team this week, and will be eligible to play against Cal.

"I don't think that the game was as close as the score." Says the ASU coach about the 27-16 win. "We subbed with eight minutes to go on defense, and the last eight minutes can't detract from what was otherwise an excellent performance by the defense." Koetter acknowledges the sloppy play that resulted in several unnecessary penalties. "Most of them were good calls – so that's on us. There's a fine line between your team playing aggressive, which we want, and having your team make mistakes. Some of the pass interface (penalties) we shouldn't be doing that because it's gonna be a four yard gain. But we weren't trying to be dirty. Just play hard. The officials called a good game."

For weeks Koetter knew to expect one of his upcoming opponents to employ a defense that would take away the long ball, and sure enough Washington played the role. "Offensively we knew sooner or later that we're find a team to play a cover-two (defense). It wasn't our best work, but it wasn't terrible. I called it relatively conservative in the second half because our defense played so good. Our running game – the film made it look much better than last night. We were close on a lot of things; we just need to keep working on it. We have individual breakdowns as far as the ball carrier or the blocker. Little things we can improve on." College Football has always been measured by win and losses, and that's the approach the ASU coach takes concerning this win. "I told the players that a mark of a good team is that we can find whatever way to win. We haven't played our best game as a team yet. If we can put it all together, we have a chance to really do something."

Washington's defensive game plan is good preparation for what Washington State may be planning for this week. "We scored on our first drive of the game and our first drive of the second half, allowed us to play with a lead and play relatively conservatively on offense…in the evolution of Andrew Walter we needed a game like that." Koetter said that he would love to rack up more running yards than the team did, but it's not something that can be "Scrimmaged every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to get better at it." On run downs (shorter yardages on first and second down), the run plays outnumbered the pass plays 22-9, even though the goal is to be 50-50. That was partly because the team had the lead. Furthermore there's much more that the Devils didn't show offensively, just because they didn't have to. "We have some other stuff that we have in our cover-two package that we just didn't get to. I feel much more comfortable where we are attacking cover-two from a passing game stand point, compared to how we are running the Football in general." Attacking the cover-two calls for more passes to the backs, and thus Mike Karney and Cornell Canidate were move involved in the passing game. "If you have an explosive passing game, you're gonna see teams go away from their normal defense and try to disrupt you…It didn't hurt Washington. I thought that's how that were gonna play, and I was very nervous how we were gonna play against that." Koetter said that you have to work on what the team presents on film from a defensive standpoint, but try to "Squeeze in some other scenarios."

The ASU coach gave Washington credit for not giving it up after falling down 27-3. Then again, he feels that he allowed the visitors to mount a comeback "I take full responsibility. We relaxed too much, and I was thinking about injuries, and what lies ahead of us. It left a bad taste in my mouth. But you go back and look at the tape, you can't think that way…we beat a team that has been a powerhouse in the conference for the last 20 years, and beat them convincingly."

Nobody within the team ever believed in the gloomy Pac-10 media pre-season prediction of ninth place in the conference. Nevertheless, is the ASU coach taken back by how well his team has done so far? "When you think about your team, as a coach, you think in terms of ‘if everything is perfect. If everyone stays healthy…' I thought we have a better team than ninth in the conference, and hopefully we still can. But let's faced it – I didn't have Andrew Walter in the lineup. A lot has changed with the emergence of Andrew Walter. Did I think we'd play better on defense and special teams? Yes I did. But it doesn't always work out…" Koetter also cited the increased commitment of the players, the team unity, and the "Validation that helped the players keep believing."

The fact that so many first year players are vital contributors on this Sun Devil team, can only further excite Koetter on what his team is able to accomplish not only this year, but in the foreseeable future. "I'd be lying if I didn't say that's it's gratifying to know that we have a lot of guys coming back that are good Football players. Like I tell the players all the time, you never know how many chances you get so don't worry about next year. It's nice to have in the back of you mind that you have so many young players, but they're past the point of being young anymore."

Keeping a level head amid all this success can be difficult for the players. "I was nervous when the players get more media attention than the coach. Those guys have to play on Saturday. To see the increased national media attention, and a lot of media that hasn't paid a lot of attention to us before…the increased attention on a few players spills over to other players. Suddenly the assistant coaches have more media commitments. All that stuff chips away at your day. You can only watch so many film during the day. When everybody says you're great, it rubs off on you. But our guys handled it well." A 7-2 record won't suddenly have Koetter wearing maroon and gold glasses. He's acknowledges the work that still needs to be done. "We have our share of problems out there. We're not playing anywhere close to perfect Football. There are a lot of things that we have to do better and will do better." Nevertheless, his candidness will never be confused with apprehension in facing the other conference's unbeaten team – Washington State. "It's awesome to be the ABC game and playing for the conference lead. That's why you're in the business as a player or a coach. I think we have to prepare like we do for every single game. We're do our normal routine. We don't play the game Tuesday, so we won't be jumping out of shoes on Tuesday, we'll do so at kickoff on Saturday. We're jacked – are you kidding me?"

Sun Devil Source Top Stories