"We are trying to do things this year that we think are best for this team." Said Koetter, "They're not the same things we did last year and it may not be the same things we do next year." Nevertheless, the second year ASU coach said that some of the planning this week wouldn't be any different than any other week this season. "I think I would agree with [Arizona] Coach Mackovic from a preparation and organizational standpoint, we are pretty much the same. Since you have two weeks to prepare for this game you are always going to have a much more fine-tuned game plan in all phases (offense, defense, and special teams) then you would normally have when you have just three days. I think the big question on a game like this is the subtle differences and how you prepare your team emotionally. Right now we're just trying to focus on the things we can control and the things that we feel that we need to do to be successful."
Koetter was very pleased with his team's practice on Sunday, as well as the overall health of his players. "The players were off Friday and Saturday which did exactly what we hoped it would. It got our legs back under us. Brett Hudson, Mason Unck, Daryl Lightfoot, Cornell Canidate and Matt Miller are all much better and they all practiced yesterday. All five are fully cleared to play against Arizona. That's not to say that everyone on our team is 100 percent because when you play 12 games there's just no way that's going to happen. But we are as healthy as we've been in a long, long time."
There's much riding on the line for this game according to the Sun Devils' skipper, even though the goals of a winning season and a bowl game have been accomplished. "If we win this game we have an excellent chance to finish third in the Pac-10. I want to point out that at one point this year, four teams in the Pac-10 have been ranked in the top 10 in the nation and two still are. At one point or another this season eight teams in the Pac-10 have been in the top 16 in the nation with us being one of them… We've accomplished a lot this season and we really have to fight off the tendency to feel bad about where we're at right now because we've lost three in a row. We've had a heck of a season and we want to finish it out on a high note." Koetter realizes that the different directions that both teams are heading this season have changed the dynamics of this rivalry game quite a bit from last year. "Last year neither team had a successful season. Neither team was going to a bowl game or had a winning season. I think that, more than anything else, explained the empty seats in the stadium. This year it is a little bit different situation. We already have a winning season and a bowl game guaranteed and we're extremely happy about that. We are excited about the future. At the same time, we've lost three in a row and want to get back on the right track and get that taste of a win. Right now we have two programs this season that are in different spots. It has been well documented what has happened in Arizona the last couple weeks and I have no intention of getting involved in that and I don't know anything about it. I'm worried about what's going on with our program and we want to finish this thing off right. "
The lackadaisical attitude displayed by the Sun Devils last year, has led some skeptics to believe that Koetter and his staff haven't understood the magnitude of this rivalry. The ASU Head Coach not only dismisses that attitude, but also says that rivalries is what makes the world of College Football go round. "I have tremendous respect for the rivalry. I have tremendous respect for all rivalries in college football. If we didn't have rivalries in college football we wouldn't all be sitting in this room today. Rivalries make this game great. This is as heated a rivalry, as fierce a rivalry as there is. It is a lot of fun and is something to look forward to. It is important and we are certainly looking forward to it. I probably have more of an understanding of the distaste for each other than many people in both communities have." Speaking of attitudes, much has been said of the extra motivation that will fuel the Wildcats, who are likely to treat the game on Friday as their bowl game. How does Koetter react to that? "If this is their bowl game, then, to me, that's disappointing because this is a great game in and of itself. It's not a bowl game; it's a rivalry game. I think that even though this game is the most important game on our regular season schedule, it's not a bowl game; we are going to play in one. One of our goals this season was to have a winning record and play in a bowl game and that goal is accomplished. Also, right up there on the ladder of goals in to beat Arizona. For us it's totally different than a bowl game and as far as what it means for them, it's up to them."
One reporter thought that the cure for ASU's ills in the red zone would be a physical presence at wide receiver. Koetter was amused that one of the best receivers in the nation was getting somewhat disrespected by that question. "That would help us. But there's only one (receiver) that's in the final three for the Biletnikoff award and he's 5'9", 175 lbs. and plays for the Sun Devils (Shaun McDonald). I wouldn't trade Shaun McDonald for too many guys. I think Derek Hagan has a great chance to be one of those guys you're talking about. He's really close to breaking John Jefferson's mark for receptions as a freshman at ASU. Terry Richardson, he's not a giant, but he's a physical guy who can play, and he's tearing up our scout team. We are on the lookout for the 6'3"-6'5" receivers, but so is everybody else so it's tough to get one."
Dirk Koetter has talked many times about the importance of a senior quarterback in the Pac-10. In Tucson, he will face yet another upperclassmen signal caller – Arizona's Jason Johnson. "I'm a big Jason Johnson fan. I think what he's done this year is outstanding. I believe their running game is ranked 111th in the nation, and his O-line has been kind of beat up and a couple of freshmen have been playing there. I think if you took him and inserted him into USC's or WSU's offense, I think he'd do great. He takes a lot of hits and his courage is well-respected by me."
On a somber note, Coach Koetter mentioned the passing of Bill Quinn, a former Sun Devil assistant coach. " Bill, along with Dick Allen and coach [Bill] Kajikawa, has been out and usually comes out to practice on Tuesdays and has been out there maybe the last three Tuesdays. It is another loss to the Sun Devil football family." It has been announced that the visitation will take place at the Carr-Tenney Mortuary in Tempe on Alameda and Rural on Tuesday November 26 between 6-9 P.M., with a rosary starting at 8:00. The funeral will be held at Mr. Carmel Catholic Church in Tempe on Rural and Broadway on Wednesday November 27 at 9:30 A.M. Following the service, there will be a reception at the Stadium Club in the ICA building. Donations can be made in Bill Quinn's name to the ASU Sun Angel Foundation/Wrestling.
Koetter Promises Different Pre-Game Preparation
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