Dirk Koetter Press Conference

In his weekly Monday press conference, Coach Koetter addresses the media regarding ASU's final regular season contest against the Wildcats.

On the Arizona, ASU rivalry game:


"The winner is going to be guaranteed a bowl game.  The loser could be left out, depending on what happens with the USC, UCLA game.  The Pac-10 Conference could have as many as eight teams with six wins and there are only six guaranteed bowls.  There are some other scenarios out there, but those will be played down the road.  For our bowl season, it's pretty simple.  Either we win or we aren't guaranteed.  I think this game has a lot to do with defining ASU's season every year." 


On Arizona leading the Pac-10 in turnover margin:


"The number one stat in winning games is turnover margin and they are plus nine in the last three games.  They have skyrocketed to plus seven on the season which leads the Pac-10.  Those nine take always have lead to a lot of points and that is clearly the defining thing about the run they are on now. "


On Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama:


"I'm a big fan of Willie Tuitama.  He has had some tough breaks with injuries this year.  Willie is a guy who gives them a real threat at quarterback.  He is a pure passer.  I've always liked him."


On preparing for Arizona without the usual bye week:


"Game plan wise, we have to speed our preparation up.  Our players are used to a three-day work week.  Monday, we have off, and we'll have a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday practice routine.  So that is not different. But the game plan part for the coaches has to be extremely accelerated.  In the past five seasons we have had two weeks to do a game plan for Arizona.  When you are sitting there with 11 game films, you had a lot more time to look over them.  You can be very thorough and pick your spots as far as putting in special plays.  Now we are limited by time.  You have got to let some of that game film go.  There aren't enough hours to watch it all." 


On struggles against UCLA compared to Washington State:


"UCLA plays a much different style of defense than Washington State.  UCLA is much more aggressive with their secondary where as Washington State was a lot more of a more zone team.  UCLA plays much more man to man and match up zone.  They are really on top of your receivers and make it more difficult for your receivers to find those holes.  UCLA has two of the best defensive ends in the country.  That really stresses your tackles and puts a lot of pressure on them and puts a lot of pressure on the edge of the pocket for the quarterback.  He can't sit back there and hold the ball forever.  We had some chances to make some plays in the passing game but they didn't work out.  Those young receivers are getting a baptism by fire, so to speak." 


On ASU tight end Zach Miller and the NFL:


"We are just totally focused of what is going on this season and that is how Zach has been.  Zach has said all along, after the Arizona game, he is going to turn his paper work into the NFL.  That will be just a few days to turn that around, a couple weeks at the most.  Then the NFL advisory panel will give him an idea of where he stands.  He and his family will sit down and make a decision." 


On ASU quarterback Rudy Carpenter's growth through out the season:


"Rudy has gotten a lot of different types of experiences than he did last year.  He came in and played with a lot of skilled playmakers around him last year where Rudy just had to "drive the car".  This year, because of graduation, injuries and other factors, Rudy has been counted on to be the center playmaker, rather than the guy who just distributes the ball.  We are just a different style of offense this year.  We are a run first, pass second style of offense.  That has forced Rudy to try to do a little more than he should.  He has had some ups and downs.  I still wouldn't trade Rudy for any other quarterback.  He is a heck of a quarterback.  He is a great competitor, an excellent leader.  He is a tough guy.  He cares a lot about what is going on in our program.  For a guy in his second year in our program he is doing an excellent job.  Rudy is very hard on himself, often times too much so.  I often think that's Rudy's style.  It has worked for him through his high school career, through out his life.  That is who is he is.  He is not pretending.  That is Rudy Carpenter."


On rivalry games:


"All rivalry games are huge for the programs involved.  I would say that this particular rivalry seems to be a little more intense than most.  I think that has to do with the demographics of the state we live in and how things are spread out.  The alums are mixed together.  That definitely spills over into the players.  It starts with the fans and the water cooler talk through out the year and it spills over to the people involved in the game."


On playing Arizona without the usual bye week:


"The two-week build-up definitely adds to the (intensity) of the rivalry.  The players already know how to prepare for a game.  They've been doing it for two months. The two weeks of fan build up and media coverage to add fuel to the fire.  When you have 11 game films and you are trying to through in a week, it adds more stress to your game plan.  In the age of 12 game seasons, it is here to stay." 


On the troubles in the red zone against UCLA:


"This season we haven't gotten to the red zone enough times and we have gotten to the red zone we have been a good touch down scoring team, and we preach that.  Last week against UCLA we were not good.  We had to settle for four field goals.  Of course, great job by (ASU kicker) Jesse Ainsworth to knock those four in.  All four of those drives in the red zone, we had opportunities to score touchdowns but we just didn't capitalize and make the plays.  Defenses have different strategies, some defenses go all-out blitz in the red zone.  Some defenses play tight zone coverages because they don't have much field to defend.  The way you attack in the red zone is some what predicated on the style of defense you play."


On the team's mentality:


"Our team was very disappointed after the game on Saturday.  We felt that was a winnable game for us.  Our guys played very hard.  They put it on the line and there was a lot of disappointment in the locker room.  The day after the game on Sunday, since it was a late game, our guys were tired.  By the time we left last night after our work out, I thought our guys were up beat.  That's why we take Monday off so the guys get a chance to separate for 24 hours and get ready to get back at it on Tuesday."


On team injuries:


"(Wide receiver/cornerback) Rudy Burgess continues to be bothered by the dreaded high ankle sprain.  I wish there was more to it than that.  These high ankle sprains are hard to shake.  He is day to day.  Rudy is trying different things. Different braces, different tape jobs; different everything.  It is just been slow going.  (Defensive end) Tranell Morant is doubtful with a knee injury in the game the other night.  It doesn't look like it is going to require surgery but we are going to keep him out of this game.  (Wide receiver) Terry Richardson last week returned to practice.  He practiced Tuesday, his knee bothered him Wednesday so he didn't practice.  He came back on Thursday.  We thought he was going to be able to play, but then he came down with the flu on Friday and Saturday.  Although he dressed for the game he wasn't able to play.  I would anticipate Terry will be back."


On the play of the special teams, and Justin Tryon as a kick returner:


"I thought our special teams overall, (kicker) Jesse Ainsworth, (punter) Jonathan Johnson, (safety and special teams "gunner") Josh Barrett and (cornerback and kick returner) Justin Tryon all did a great job.  Tryon as a return man had been progressing all year.  This guy is getting better and better and better.  He did a great job at bursting at the hole and bursting at the right time.  UCLA, I don't believe, has given up any kickoffs past the 25-yard line in nearly 60 attempts and he took two past that point.  Some of the credit needs to go to (special teams) Coach (Tom) Osborne on the scheme and the other guys blocking up front.  We are excited about "JT" as a return guy and there is a possibility you will see him back there." 


On the progression of the team through out the year:


"Our defense has improved.  Our defensive numbers are way better than they were last year.  We've moved up in the range of fifty spots.  If you look at the numbers, we are right with Arizona's defense.  Our defensive scoring average would be a lot less if our offense hadn't put our defense in some bad positions in some game.  The biggest difference from our team in September, we had (offensive tackle) Andrew Carnahan, (offensive lineman) Stephen Berg, (wide receiver/returns specialist) Terry Richardson, (wide receiver) Jamaal Lewis and (wide receiver/cornerback) Rudy Burgess.  That's five pretty good offensive players that aren't with us right now.  That's over half our offense.  Approximately half our offensive line, and three of our offensive play makers.


On defensive end Kyle Caldwell:


"Kyle has really come on the second half of the season.  These last four games have really been the best four game stretch of Kyle's career.  He has been healthy for the first time.  He is playing with a lot of enthusiasm.  The fact that we can rotate two-deep on the defensive line has really helped all of our defensive line.  He played with a ton of passion and emotion last week.  He had two tipped passes that he got his hands on.  He is tremendous bull-rusher.  He is powerful.  It is a shame that we've been missing a player as talented as Kyle for the last two years due to injury.  He is playing the best football of his career right now."



Quarterback Rudy Carpenter


 On the offensive approach to Arizona's defense:


"I think their defense has always been pretty good.  Over the past few weeks they've done a pretty good of forcing turnovers and capitalizing from those turnovers.  I don't necessarily believe we are going to change our offense or what we are going to do.  It is just going to put a bigger emphasis on protecting the ball in practice.  I think a lot that is going to come from me making the right decision."


Looking back on the 2006 regular season:


"I think this was a real talented team at the beginning of the season.  But who are our most talented guys?  They haven't been playing.  They've been hurt or they've had things happen.  I'm not making excuses but that is the truth.  This week is a big game for us.  It is U of A and I think it will define the season.  I haven't made up my mind on what the season is already like.  I'm just trying to prepare every week and get ready and try to win.  I don't want to go into the off season knowing that we lost to U of A.  That is terrible.  On top of that we are fighting for a bowl berth.  We can still finish this season off with eight wins."


On the difference between the Washington State and the UCLA games:


"I think against Washington State, we took a lot more chances getting the ball down the field.  We opened it up a little bit.  I also think Washington State allowed us to do that because I don't think their pass rush was as strong as UCLA's.  They didn't blitz as much as UCLA.  So it allowed us to be protected and take shots down the field.  This week we could stay protected long enough to take those chances.  We were certainly getting those coverages that we'd like to do that.  Every game is different and it didn't work out."


On speculation regarding Head Coach Dirk Koetter's future at ASU:


"I ignore it because I think it is completely ridiculous that Coach Koetter's job would even be in question.  I think Coach is a great coach.  He prepares us every week to be ready to play.  I think if the blame falls anywhere on this team it falls on me or our offense right now.  We haven't been executing like we should be.  All coach can do is get us ready to play and put us in the best situations and if we don't take advantage of that, that our fault."


On the abilities of wide receiver Kyle Williams:


"I thought that (55-yard pass to Williams against UCLA) was a big play in the game and I thought we were going to get it going after that.  That route should have never been over with that coverage but Kyle ran such a good route.  He ran hard and right passed the guy which allowed me to throw it to him.  I think Kyle has a chance to be a big playmaker and he showed bits and pieces over the course of the season.  I'm excited about Kyle.  Hopefully I will get a chance to work with him a lot in the off season." 


On the rivalry against Arizona:


"We have a lot to play for this game.  It is against U of A.  To be honest to you, I didn't know what the rivalry was like until I got a chance to play last year.  I really understood what it was about.  This is the biggest game of the year.  I don't care what anyone else says.  We don't like them and they don't like us.  That is just the way it is.  I think it is a good rivalry.  I am excited for this game.  I think the guys on the team are excited for this game and I think we are playing for a lot.  The fans in Tucson are pretty good fans and they get into it."


On Arizona's big wins:


"It shows how far they've come.  Those are three huge wins.  Two of those three teams we got beat pretty badly by.  We better be ready to play this team.  We better be prepared or it's possible to have the same thing happen to us.  Because of this rivalry and the guys we have on our team, I don't think we've quit this year.  We'll play that much harder because it is U of A."


On the pressures surrounding being ASU's starting quarterback:


"It is just part of the position I play.  Last week I sat in here and the mood was different.  Everyone seemed to ask good questions about me.  I'm going to answer those questions  and feel good about it.  When things don't go the best way, I'm going to have to do the same thing.  It is just part of the position.  I don't have a problem doing it.  I think more than anything it just takes the pressure off the guys on our team.  I feel like I've been able to handle it and move on.  I think it is just part of being the quarterback." 


On playing in the rivalry game:


"Last year I was really sick.  I was trying to get through and trying to get a win.  The game is more intense and a lot more physical.  It just seems like no matter what the team's record is, everything is on the line.  I asked the offense one thing, if we can just say we played as hard as we could and left everything out on the line and that's all we can do.  And I'm happy with that.  It is going to start in practice this week."

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