ASU coach Dirk Kotter
|(On Oregon State) "Oregon State was flying high but they lost the last two weeks to UCLA and USC. Oregon State has some of the best individual players [in the Pac-10]. Eric Manning is the best defensive lineman in the Pac-10. They're two linebackers, Nick Barnett and Richard Seigler, are outstanding players. Dennis Weathersby is one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Steven Jackson is one of the best running backs in the league. Oregon State is very talented. They are in the same boat as we are and they'll come out clawing for everything they can get on Saturday night and we expect to have a great game."|
(How does Oregon State's offense this year look different from last year?) "I don't think they've changed their style at all. I've known Coach Erickson since I was a player at Idaho State and he was a head coach at Idaho. He has run the same offense. He is the pioneer of spread offense, which a lot of teams now have put into the shotgun and run it every down. Coach Erickson is one of the guys that has stayed with his offense through University of Idaho, Wyoming, Washington State, Miami, the NFL, and now Oregon State. A lot of people change as they go along and he has not. He has stayed with the same basic plays that they ran in 1976, he still runs them today although they have dressed some of them up.
"I think that at the end of last year, Steven Jackson was better than [Ken] Simonton. When we were watching the tape from last year, we were more nervous about Jackson and I know a lot of other coaches in the Pac-10 felt the same way.
"I don't think that their style has changed. I think that they are exactly the same. As Coach Erickson mentioned, they've been inconsistent the last couple weeks, but I think that is due to having to completely juggle their offensive line and losing two starters."
(How important is setting the tone in this game for the rest of conference play?) "It's very important to us. It is important because it's our game this week. We are still one of four teams undefeated in the Pac-10, so we're not going to concede anything to anybody. Even though I'm still down now, Monday at 12 o'clock, come Tuesday at four, when we practice, I'm going to be telling our team that we are going to the Rose Bowl. We have got to back that up on Saturday. Oregon State is now 0-2 in the Pac-10 and they know that if they want to go anywhere, they know what they have to do: they have to come down here and beat us.
"It's important, but I think you're going to be able to ask me that same question every week. From here on out, it's all conference teams. All these Pac-10 teams have nice records right now and we are going to start knocking each other off."
(Sum up how the secondary has done this year so far.) "Oregon State is having problems with their offensive line depth, right now our problems are in the secondary. I'm proud of how those guys are competing and giving effort. We can't get down on them because, even with what happened on Saturday night at the corner spot, we still had plenty of chances to get it done. We overcame it and we have got to get it done in other areas.
"We don't play very much two deep zone, where the corner rolls up and the safety rolls over the top. We play very little of it. Somebody asked a question to Coach Erickson, 'Why do we have all these guys throwing for 400 yards?' Because every defensive coordinator in the Pac-10 says we need to stop the run and they put eight or nine guys in the tackle box and, guess what, your corners are covering one-on-one. Every team has at least one really good receiver, it's Newsome for Oregon State, some teams have more than one. With Daryl Lightfoot coming back, we have a couple. Washington has got a great one, Arizona has got a great one, Washington State has got a great one, USC has got a great one. If teams want to start playing cover two and double up on the wide outs, then you'll start seeing teams rush for 200 yards."
(How good is the OSU secondary, and how are they getting all their interceptions?) "First off, they lost one of their safeties last week, and they are good enough right now that the guy that replaced him was the starter last year. That's how good the secondary is. They have two really good shutdown corners. They are a zone team, a quarters team, which enables them to drop their safeties down and help, but, unlike a lot of these quarters teams, they pressure you almost every down. They are going to line Weathersby up square on the nose of the receiver, and they play bump-and-run almost the whole game, challenging you to throw fade routes. Not very many people have hit fade routes, UCLA hit one. People may get one a game, but they are not getting five or six a game.
"Their linebackers have some of those interceptions. Their middle linebacker, Siegler, plays the ball really well, he's got great speed for a middle linebacker and he has some of those [interceptions]. They are a quarters team, but they play a lot of man within their zone."
(How do you see their defense matching up with your offensive guys?) "We are watching the film and studying the tape right now, like we do every week. We have a procedure that we go through for our offensive coaching staff in how we try to determine our game plan. They give you problems. They are one of those teams, and Coach Erickson was exactly like this at Miami, where they don't do a lot. They play 4-3 and quarters. When he was in Miami, he had Ray Lewis as his middle linebacker. Coach Erickson's style has always been to play basic defense, but to play it with good players. They play it really well. They don't have a lot of adjustments and for the most part, they know what they are going to do. They do zone blitz a little bit, they don't man blitz a whole lot, but they are just really solid. They have good speed on defense and all those linebackers run well. The guy that is overlooked is [Nick] Barnett, the strong-side linebacker. That guy is a stud and a really good football player."
(UCLA went to the tight end a lot. Was that something they saw in the Oregon State defense?) "Actually, we talked to UCLA's coaches this morning. UCLA's tight end, Sideman, is one of the best players at his position in the league. He is size-wise a tight end but speed-wise more like a wide receiver. I think that's just part of UCLA's structure. They try to get the ball to Sideman, especially the last two games, and they've had a lot of success doing it. He's had over a hundred yards each of the last two weeks, so we are watching that film, and we'll try to learn something from it.
"They did some nice things, using their tight end, and I think the things they did with him, Mike Pinkard is certainly capable of doing. We only attempted two passes towards Pinkard last week and I want to say that Pinkard probably played the hardest he's played all year in the game. Mike did a nice job of blocking and, because Riccardo Stewart was banged up a little bit, he had to go in and play the wing position on our punt team. He did an excellent job and I am pleased with his progress right now. Everyone wants to judge him by how many catches he had, but there are plenty of tight ends out there that are playing at the next level and don't catch a lot of balls. They are not the featured guy in their offense, but they are still very valuable and Mike is getting better."
OSU Head Coach Dennis Erickson
|(On Arizona State) "They're a football team that's obviously very impressive, especially the last couple-three weeks, offensively. They made a quarterback change about halftime of the San Diego State game and brought in Andrew Walter, who, since then, has lit it up. He's thrown for over 400 yards against Stanford and North Carolina last week; he's a talented guy who can really throw it. Shaun McDonald may be the best receiver in our league, or one of the best ones - we've got a lot of good receivers in this league. The thing that he does is, he's so explosive and he makes so many darn things happen. He's got great speed and he's caught the deep ball for them; I think he's caught 30-some balls and the next guy has probably caught 13. He's just a real talented guy.|
"They've got great skill. Daryl Lightfoot is a guy who's a very quality player. You don't move the football and score that many points and get that many points unless you're pretty talented, so they're very talented. Their offensive front gets better all the time; they were new when they started but they're playing a lot better.
"Defensively, they're a team that's going to pressure you. They blitz quite a bit, they've played a lot of man coverage. Terrell Suggs is probably the best at his position in the country at defensive end, a great pass rusher who creates a lot of problems. I think he's got 10 or 11 sacks, something like that. We've got to make sure we understand where he is. Our schemes have to be such that we don't put a tight end or a tackle on an island trying to block him by themselves all the time; they're going to have to at times, just because of what we do, but we want to try to get them off that island as much as we can.
"They're playing better as a football team. They've got no losses in the league. They lost a heartbreaker last week; I know the feeling. Their kicker missed four field goals or something like that; he's a big-time kicker and I guess that happens to all of us, and I know exactly what he's going through."
(Is there an aspect of Arizona State's team that concerns you most?) "There's a couple. (Defensive end Terrell) Suggs is one, blocking him. But they're very explosive. Last year, when you watch the game, we gave up the big play against them - a long pass, a couple long runs for touchdowns. That's what they've been doing this year; they're very explosive. I'm not saying we're going to stop them from getting a big play, but we've got to slow that big play down. We can't let them get the big play all the time. If we can force them to earn it, then we've got a chance."
(On OSU not having beaten Arizona State in Tempe since 1967) "I don't know - I've only played down there once; twice with the Fiesta Bowl, but once against Arizona State. That's a great stadium, it's a great setting, a great field. It depends on when you play; obviously, if you get down there in August or September, it might be a little hot. But I kind of like it down there, myself. I think it's a good place to play. And playing on the road, obviously, is a little tougher. But I'd have to go back through the history to see what happened in those games."