Koetter Breaks Down Washington State Loss

While the ASU coach knows the better team won, he realizes that many of his key players did not play as well as we all have been accustomed to this season.

"We had 8-9 of our top guys who had their worst game of the year." says Koetter, "We're gonna ask ourselves why that happened, and correct it so it doesn't repeat itself. On a positive note we had players that played well. Daryl Lightfoot, Skyler Fulton, Shane Jones, Solomon Bates, Mason Unck. But as a group we just had too many players who played below the standard they're capable of." Koetter said that he won't speculate too much on what happened in Pullman, but rather listen to his players' perspective. "I want to hear it from the players – was I too easy on them? Too tight? I don't have all the answers, that's why I need to hear it from them."

Koetter singled out the players of the week as: Daryl Lightfoot on offense, Shane Jones and Solomon Bates on defense. No one on special teams was singled out. Scout players of the week are Terry Richardson on offense, Ali Likio on defense, and Randy Hill on special teams. Team captains for the Cal game are Andrew Walter, Riccardo Stewart, and Terrell Suggs. The ASU skipper announced that season captains will be determined prior to the last game of the season against Arizona.

Danny Masaiani has dismissed from the team for "violation of team rules." Justin Taplin will be back from his one-week suspension. Adrian Ayala is out this week with a severe ankle strain. "As the week goes on we'll know the severity, but the injury did look very nasty. There's a chance for surgery." Otherwise, Josh Amobi is day to day. The teams hopes to have Matt Fawley back, and it all depends on the level of contact he will be allowed to have at practice."

Koetter was very complimentary to the Cougars. "They have a very good team, and they played well. They have excellent players on defense, and obviously a good quarterback in Gesser." He also pointed out some of the shortcoming of his team. "We weren't playing, as we're capable of playing. We had three missed tackles against Washington, and 17 against Washington State. Offensively, the plays you have to make to be in a game like this we didn't make. We lost some individual battles in the game. But as bad as we played we were able to stay in the game in the first half. With a minute and a half left we were driving, and we had a chance to make it a one-touchdown game. That was a huge turnover we had before the half, and they (Washington State) scored."

Playing in their most meaningful game of the season could have been a factor according to the ASU coach. "It could be the pressure of he game. That's a possibility. I used to think that I could figure out by how a team warmed up or how they are in the locker room and how they would play. But I've seen that turn a million different ways. For the most part, I thought our players handled all the media pressure (leading up the game) very well. We got into a horrendous start. Everything that could possibly go wrong did. But the mood on the sidelines we'll get back into it." One factor for the loss has been ruled out. Despite their defensive success, the Cougars didn't surprise the Sun Devil with any of their alignments. "They didn't surprise us with their defense. We knew when they would go with their five (defensive) lineman, and we had plays to go against it. We got what we expected, we just didn't make the plays." Speaking of alignments, Koetter was greatly impressed with the audible calls Walter executed in the game. "We hardly check plays at the line of scrimmage, and yesterday we checked more than I ever can remember in the last five years. Every check Andrew made was the correct one."

At this points of the season ASU has already played 10 games, in what has been is essence a 12-week season. When asked if he think the team could be mentally and/or physically exhausted from the rigors of the long season, Koetter replied: "I asked myself that same question. The fact that we got to 7-2 as quick as we did, and the fact that no player on this team ever won seven games in a season…I don't see us as mentally exhausted – we have a lot to play for. We're gonna get to the bottom of it (last game's performance) in our meetings today. We want to see what the players have to say, because what the coaches say could be speculation…we've backed down on practice his year more than we ever had. If you look around at the other teams, we're probably one of the healthiest teams out there. We feel bad that we got beat, but Washington State has a good team. We have a decent team too. All the so-called experts that picked us ninth in the conference are now picking us 25th in the nation. There's a little turnaround for you. We didn't do what we had to do, but there's a lot of ball left. The only thing we lost yesterday was controlling on our destiny. The last three games will determine where we finish."

Sluggishness is an adjective that seems to characterize ASU all too often this season. It has been well documented that many of the Sun Devil wins have come in a form of a comeback win. Against Washington State, not only did the team put itself in an early hole, but it also appeared lethargic in the process. Koetter for the most part agrees with that observation. "We didn't play fast. We did look like a slow Football team at times. Washington State did have the most speed on defense as we've seen all year. Talking to our defensive coaches, they told us that this was the best offensive team we've seen all year. Maybe we looked slow because they were so fast (smile)." On the slow start against the Cougars he says: "When you break it down - on the first series Andrew missed some throws he would make in his sleep. Then we had the two fumbles. So maybe it goes back to being in a game of this magnitude, and never been there before." There's also the issue of lack of total team play. "Earlier in the year if the first guy wasn't making the play, the second and third guy was picking up the slack. Yesterday, those second and third guys weren't there."

It was a bittersweet performance for Mike Pinkard, who score ASU's only two touchdowns. "Mike Pinkard has improved a lot the last two years. He's playing harder than he ever has before, and he probably made the best single play (his first touchdown) that he has ever made at ASU. Pinkard is a frustrating player, because he has improved a lot but he's a very talented guy who doesn't always get the most out of his talent. When he does, he's fun to watch. But there was a play where the ball went right through his hands, and another ball (the second Walter interception) where Andrew probably put a little too much mustard on it, but Pinkard has to make that play. I wish we had him for a couple more years because he hasn't been a tight end all his life, and he's getting better and better. Because of his physical attributes, he will get a look from somebody. If he lands with the right team, he could have a very nice career. It's just one of those things that you don't know how many times you should go to him because of exactly what you saw yesterday."

The Devils' running game was actually a somewhat pleasant surprise on Saturday. However, trailing the whole game forced Dirk Koetter's team to stay away from it for the most of the afternoon. "If we don't give them the short field and be behind, we have a chance to stay with the running game. Then, the first few running plays we fumble. I did think we had some good holes in our running game, and Cornell ran alright. That's the best he has run the ball in three weeks. I don't say that with any criticism at all, he gives excellent effort, runs hard, pass blocks well, and he didn't try to make too many cuts." The offensive line did do an admirable job creating the running lanes. The injury to Ayala does open the door for Grayling Love and Chaz White to assume the right tackle spot. "Grayling has played himself into the #6 offensive lineman spot. He can spell any guy upfront. Chaz White started to play left tackle too. The right tackle spot is open, and whoever doesn't play there will be the sixth man. Most teams don't rotate much on the offensive line because they want cohesiveness. We try to do that too"

It would be easy to blame the loss on the fact that the Sun Devils played on the road in one of the conference's toughest venues. Defensive Coordinator Brent Guy was quoted as saying that he doesn't believe that his defense plays as well on the road. Koetter offers his perspective. "They're a lot of teams that say that they don't play well on the road. We do have to remember that we do have two road wins, and Washington State's only loss is to the 5th ranked team in the nation. I guess we'll have to worry about that (poor play on the road) when we play USC (in the road in two weeks)." If ASU was intimidated by their surrounding, the conservative play was hardly a staple of the Sun Devils' performance, which Koetter is happy about. "One thing I told the players all week, is that we can't be afraid to play wide open. That's what got us here. We play to win, and we can't freeze up in the big games. That's why went for it on 4th and 1. That's what we did in other games, and that's what got us to 4-1 in the Pac-10. In the Oregon game, every time we took a calculated risk – we got it. Every time we did against Washington State – we didn't." And that may be the story of the game right there…

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