Quotes From Football Head Coach Dirk Koetter's Press Conference
Sept. 9, 2002
'That (UCF) game was certainly a big win for our program. It was good because of the way it happened. We had to come from behind and we had to overcome some adversities. We not only had to overcome the way we were playing on offense, but we had to overcome the weather adversities (rain). The rain was really fun for our players and I think they really enjoyed that. Again, for the second week in a row we played somewhere around 65 players in the game which is huge not only from a morale standpoint, but for experience.
'We were plus two (+2) on turnovers, which makes us even on the year. We have had six turnovers and we have received six turnovers this year. Our six turnovers have resulted in 13 points; the six turnovers we've gotten have resulted in 35 points for us. That just points out a fact that most of us already know, turnovers help you a lot.
'Another thing we've been working real hard on is third down conversions. Right now we've converted 43%, which is a good number. We'll take anything in the 40 percent range. Our defense has only allowed 23% third down conversions, which is an unbelievable stat, including 0-11 against UCF. Obviously a huge part of that game was the 29 points in six minutes of the third quarter.
I'm very pleased with where our defense is at right now. We did crack the national rankings defensively and are 20th in total defense. Joe Kenn, our strength coach, keeps stats on everything and ties it in his conditioning in the off-season. One of the things he always charts is how many plays an average drive lasts, how long the defense is on the field, how long the offense is on the field, and he told me yesterday UCF had 17 drives and 51 plays. So our defense averaged three and out for the game, which is impressive.
Our scout player of the week on offense is offensive tackle Andrew Carnahan. He is going to be a really good player for us and will redshirt this year. For the third week in a row our defensive scout player of the week is Jordan Hill, our freshman linebacker. Again, I've said this before, you can see what Jamar Williams is doing on the field, when we get Barton Hammit back, and adding Jordan Hill will give us three really solid linebackers for the future. Our special teams scout players of the week are Lee Burghgraef and Randy Hill. Randy Hill is another guy we're going to try to redshirt. He's doing a really good job in practice, both as a tailback and on special teams.
One of our game balls go to Shaun McDonald on offense, which was a no-brainer, he had three touchdowns and two great plays on screens. Also, the catch in the back of the end zone was an awesome catch. He really did a great job of shielding the defender with his body.
Our game ball for special teams went to Jamar Williams. He did a great job on his blocking. He's on all of the special teams and is a real solid player.
We gave out four game balls to the defense. Terrell Suggs earned a game ball on defense. R.J. Oliver, minus one play, really did a super job on Gabriel. He pretty much matched him man for man all night. Riccardo Stewart continues to play extremely well and earned a game ball. The unsung man in the trench is Brian Montesanto. He added a lot to our defense. The opposing coaches have talked about how we have decent speed on defense and he is one of the reasons for that. Brian started at defensive end and we moved him inside to defensive tackle. When they get in passing situations our other end Jimmy Verdon goes down to tackle and Nick Johnson comes off the other end with Terrell Suggs it gives us good speed with that front six.
Our captains for the San Diego State game will be Brian Montesanto, R.J. Oliver, and Regis Crawford. This is a very big week for us. We can clinch a winning record in our non-conference games. We need a road win in the worst way and we're well aware of that. To go where we'd like to go, we have to win on the road. It would be great to have a win and have three wins in a row going into our bye week. Our coaches will be out recruiting during the bye week and we have two weeks to prepare for Stanford.
San Diego State lost on the last play of the game against Fresno State on a blocked field goal. The score against Colorado was not indicative at all of how close that game was. Their defense really only gave up 14 points. There were three easy touchdowns scored in that game. One was on the last play of the game when Colorado was just running the clock out, one on a special teams miscue, and one on a pass where San Diego State had a coverage breakdown and the guy was wide open. San Diego State's quarterback is leading the nation in completions with 29 or 30 completions a game and those two receivers can play. Defensively is where they are playing extremely well. They have improved their speed on defense and have made some moves. San Diego State is a big zone blitz team. Both Fresno State and Colorado struggle against San Diego State's defense.
With Andy Goodenough having played for SDSU coach Tom Craft when they were both at Palomar JC last season, how much of a role will Andy play in developing a game plan?
'I think Andy will be spending some time with the defensive coaches and I know they've started to talk to him about that. One of the things that Coach Craft is known for is his no huddle offense, they do calls from the sidelines. You can see on the TV copy of the [SDSU vs.] Fresno State game it showed him a lot, giving different signals and everything and I think our defensive coaches will quiz Andy a lot and see how good his memory is.'
Could you comment on the quarterback situation and do you know who will start on Saturday?
'I think we know who will start but, I'm not going to say anything until I talk to the players, and I will talk to them this afternoon. I don't think it's going to be anything earth shattering, but both guys are going to help us and we have to do what we have to do. We don't practice today, we don't practice until tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m., and we're not trying to trick anybody but tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m., one guy is going to get 60% of the reps and one guys is going to get 40% and we're going to be ready to go.'
Could you explain how you are looking at the quarterback position this year and what kind of system you want to run?
'Well, everyone would always tell you they'd like to have one quarterback and we're certainly not an exception to that. Chad and Andrew have two completely different styles: Chad is more mobile, Andrew has a much stronger arm, that is apparent to everybody. There are more factors involved in the decision than who throws the best and who runs the best. Ultimately, we need to get into the end zone more, we're just not scoring enough points. In the first half [against UCF] we were horrible on offense, but, for the most part, Chad was fine. We had two drives stopped on fumbles on wide open running plays which was probably due more to weather than anything else. We had three passes in the first half that we just flat out dropped and all three would have been 15 to 20 yard gains. We had another pass that was complete that went from a nine-yard gain to a 15-yard loss because of the penalty, so all together that's about 80 yards of offense that we lost that Chad had nothing to do with.
'I grew up learning the BYU offense and if you watched all those great BYU quarterbacks it was always amazing to me how the guys around those quarterbacks always made them look great. Those quarterbacks threw it anywhere close and the receivers seemed to make the play. Right now, for whatever reason, we're not making very many plays around Chad. The plays that are being made are being made by Chad, outside of the running game. That is just something that is hard to factor. The other thing is, we watch those guys in practice everyday and we watch tape everyday and at some point you have to also take game results as well as practice results into consideration.
'Regardless of which way it goes, I'd love for a guy to just get up there and pound on his chest and say 'I'm going to be the guy that's going to put us in the Rose Bowl' but if it doesn't happen that way and we have to shuffle them every play, then we shuffle them every play. There is no easy answer and there is no correct way no matter what anybody tells you. Most people would like to play one quarterback and so would we, but we'll just have to see. Let's also not forget that the first two games San Diego State has played, they've ended up playing against the backup quarterback. Fresno State's quarterback was hurt and they knocked Colorado's quarterback out.'
Are there any updates with Darly Lightfoot's situation and also are you worried about Shaun McDonald getting extra attention from defenses?
'Well, there's really no change on Daryl. Daryl Lightfoot was at practice yesterday and he practiced very well. He's got some things he's dealing with off the field and he has some things that have to be taken care of. He's working on those things. There's also a suspension involved and it may be a couple weeks before we know what the status of Daryl will be for the rest of the season. In response to your second question, are we worried about people loading up on Shaun? Sure we're worried about that although, we haven't seen a team do that yet. I was really surprised about how loose Nebraska played off Shaun and we probably should have thrown him every ball because they didn't cover him. The last two weeks we've played teams that have played a lot of double zone. San Diego State has not really shown much double zone in their first two games.
'I think the guy that is already emerging in a [receiving] role is Derek Hagan, and also between Justin Taplin, Skyler Fulton and Matt Miller. The guy that's shown it in game situations so far, that's had the chance to and has followed through is Derek Hagan.'
Could you comment on the running game?
'I'm disappointed in our execution of the running game because I really thought we had a chance to run the ball going into the UCF game and we just did not run very successfully in the first half. We really didn't have much success running the ball until the fourth quarter and that was primarily with Cornell [Canidate] in there. It seemed like, when we watched the tape, from a scheme standpoint, what we thought was going to be there for the most part was there. What we had was some kind of an individual breakdown on almost every play. On two of those plays in the first half the breakdown was a fumble. There were other breakdowns in the second half, they caught us on a couple of blitzes, we missed a couple blocks here or there, maybe the back missed a cut he should have made, stuff like that.
'I think we're going to be a pretty good running team and the combination of Mike [Williams] and Hakim [Hill] and Cornell [Canidate], I really like all those guys. Hakim has really now emerged as our main return guy and I think everybody can see the talent he has. Cornell is probably the most patient of the runners and Mike continues to be the most complete all-around player. Mike had a really good run in the first half nullified by a penalty on a counter play that took one of his best runs away. Those are three good football players and we have to figure out a way to use them.'
Could you talk about the blocking of your tailbacks?
'All young backs, that's the thing that holds them back from getting more playing time. When you're a star running back in high school, you're usually not a star pass blocker. To be the feature back in what is, in essence, a single-back offense with a fullback as a pure blocker-where Mike Karney played outstandingly the other night-you're single back has to be able to block. I think we were sacked five times and one and a half of those sacks were Hakim not blocking his guy. It was Chad that got sacked both times and Chad had no chance on those plays. Cornell and Hakim both need to constantly be improving on those, I think Cornell is a little ahead of Hakim in that issue right now, but it's something that we work on.
'Cornell had a sprained wrist last week which doesn't help you as a pass blocker because you have to be able to punch and Cornell was playing with a closed fist all week in practice. That didn't help him much but he sure ran the ball well on Saturday. In one of the cases Saturday night, Hakim tried to cut the guy and cut-blocking has a tendency not to work very often. It works sometimes, and we teach cuts in certain situations, but cut-blocks that miss don't work too well.
'Our guys know who to block, assignment wise those guys are nails on assignments. It depends on what protection you're in, we have a lot of different match-ups and sometimes the match-ups don't work in their favor.'
Could you talk about the play of your offensive line this past weekend?
'Against UCF we played a very good front that was closer to Nebraska's than it was to Eastern Washington's. Especially those two ends. I thought we totally dominated [UCF's] tackles in the running game. Their ends did get loose on us a couple of times and their ends will get loose on a lot of people. In the run game our offensive line graded out pretty well. Again, most of our problems in the run game did not revolve around the offensive line. I think we're continuing to see improvement there but we're going to have to continue to get better there as we are at pretty much every position of offense.'
Could you talk about San Diego State's defense?
'I think that's a strength of their football team. Their quarterback and receivers can really play, but their defense is keeping them in games. That Fresno State game had a lot of chances to get away from them but their defense, kind of like our defense is doing, is rallying them and saving them. They've got good team speed and as [SDSU] Coach Craft said, the linebackers are the strength of their team. Those three linebackers can really run, they do a great job with their zone blitzes. Most teams out of a zone blitz only have one or two things they do out of it, San Diego State has several. Their two corners are returning starters so they have some experience with their cover guys. They've played two pretty good offensive teams in Fresno State and Colorado and have not given up too much. Were going to have our hands full with that defense and we have to find some ways to score some more points to help our defense out.'