Koetter was complimentary towards the Cougars, who beat ASU 44-22 this past Saturday. "They have a good football team. They played better than we did. That team won ten games a year ago and has a lot of players back. We're known as a team that has pretty good team speed, but Washington State had better team speed than we did, across the board. They are the best football team we've played this year." Nevertheless, the ASU skipper did point out that his team was still very much in the game in the first half. "We still had plenty of opportunities to make that a very competitive football game. We got off to a horrendous start, but despite that, with 1:30 to go in the first half, I was 100% sure we were going to go into half being down only a touchdown. We tried to throw a slant route, Shaun (McDonald) tipped it and it was intercepted. The next play, they threw a jump-ball touchdown. That was a big 14-point turnaround right before the half…Every time we needed to make a play, we didn't make any of them. That's the big mystery. Why do we get beat in all three phases? Why do eight to 10 players play their worst game of the year on the same day? Those are issues that we will work through."
In some respects, the team's performance was indicative of its preparation leading up to the game." We did not have a good week of practice last week and the team knows that. I think our team is embarrassed by the way we played and I think you'll see a team that is hungry and anxious to compete against Cal in our final home game of the season. We hope our crowd will come out and support this team that has had an excellent year." This bitter defeat needs to be out aside, because there's a lot more to play for, says Koetter. "For our guys to hang our heads and think the season is over, I think that's ridiculous. We've done a lot of good things and there is a big difference between finishing the season 10-3 or 7-6. The only thing we lost control of last Saturday was controlling our destiny for the Rose Bowl. All we need to do is worry about what we need to do."
Koetter singled out Daryl Lightfoot, Skyler Fulton, Solomon Bates, and Shane Jones for their performance in Pullman. "Daryl made some fantastic catches and made a great play when he downed that ball on the one-yard line. He competed hard. Skyler continues to play well. On defense, Solomon Bates was so physically ill in the 48 hours prior to the game that for him to get on the field and compete like he did was an awesome effort. Shane Jones probably had his best game. He has continued to get better and better as the season has progressed."
In previewing his next opponent, the ASU second year coach says that playing Cal won't be an easy task. "The fact that they start 14 seniors jumps out at you and Kyle Boller is one of them who was probably the most highly recruited quarterback in the country when he came out of high school. Jeff Tedford [Cal's coach] has them playing very, very hard. They have a tremendous special teams unit and they have unbelievable turnover ratio. That will be one of our focuses, to take care of the football." While the Golden Bears' defense may be ranked in the Pac-10's cellar, Koetter hasn't seen anything to convince him of that lowly honor. "In the film I've watched, when I saw that stat, I was surprised. It doesn't look that way to me. Their rush defense stats are low as far as the conference goes but the fact that their defensive stats are low doesn't show up in game film. USC had a good game against them and WSU had a good game against them, but WSU's offense is so different from ours that it's tough to take anything from that." Speaking of stats, one category that Cal excels in is their turnover margin – plus 15, which leads all conference teams. "That's a very valid stat. Every time we've been minus for turnovers for the game we've lost and every time we've been plus or even we've won. We try to make that an emphasis every week. Cal's offense does a great job of protecting the ball but their defense really gets after the ball. They strip it and their defensive backs do a great job of playing the ball in the air. Their special teams do a good job as well."
The Pac-10 has been blessed this season with a stellar crop of signal callers, and Cal's quarterback Kyle Boller is definitely a member of that esteemed category. "Kyle Boller is playing the best he's played in his career. Jeff (Tedford, Cal's coach) has him playing very well and he's making good decisions. He's not as mobile as (WSU quarterback Jason) Gesser and doesn't have as quick of a release. He's having an excellent year and he's right in there as one of the best quarterbacks in the league and he can definitely beat you." Cal's running back Joe Igber also presents a challenge to the Sun Devils. "He is very quick and what I've noticed is that he sometimes makes an unblocked defender miss. He has very quick change of directions and I think he's a little quicker than he is fast. He's another one of those guys who is kind of small but extremely quick and he can make you look silly."
Another peculiar stat associated with the Bears is red-zone offense efficiency. At a mediocre 5-4 overall record, they rank in the upper echelon nationally in the red-zone category. "They're something like 95% (efficiency). I've always believed that in a tight conference race, a team with the best red-zone percentage on offense is usually the team that finished up there in the conference rankings. But, to show you what I know, Washington State is last in the conference in red-zone efficiency." One possible reason to the offensive success of Cal is their first-year coach, Jeff Tedford, who Koetter knows fairly well. "Jeff and I became friends when I left Oregon to go to Boise State and he replaced me. I think Jeff is an excellent football coach and I think the fans will be able to see the similarities in our offensive styles. I think Jeff is similar philosophically to what we are. When you see him get all his people in place over the next few years you'll see that our offenses look a lot alike. In the Pac-10, we exchange game film every week and I always like watching Cal's offense. I get some good ideas watching how Cal impacts some other people."
Koetter's Press Conference Notes
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