Quotes From Head Football Coach Dirk Koetter's Monday Press Conference

Oct. 14, 2002

Opening Statement:

'We're very excited with our team being able to find a way to win another exciting game. We couldn't be any happier with the way our defense played. They won the game for us and played well the entire night, especially in the last drive.

'Our offensive scout player of the week was Terry Richardson. Richardson was also our special teams scout player of the week. Rickey Parker, our freshman defensive end, was our defensive scout player of the week.

'Jamar Williams earned a game ball on special teams. He did a great job covering kickoffs and punts. The match-up of our special teams with Oregon State's was very close. Those were two of the best coverage units in the Pac-10. Our punt and kickoff teams had eight coverage plays where we pinned them inside the 20-yard line. Jamar Williams was a big part of that. We didn't give any game balls on offense this week.

'We gave three game balls on defense. Josh Amobi, Pac-10 defensive player of the week, earned a game ball. Jimmy Verdon, who probably played his best game since becoming a Sun Devil, earned a game ball. Verdon was all over the place. He played both tackle and end in the game. Jason Shivers also earned a game ball.

'We played 4-3 defense about a third of the plays of the game. We played Solomon Bates, Josh Amobi, and Mason Unck when they had two tight ends. When we were in 4-3 we played Brett Hudson at cornerback. But when we went back to 4-2-5 for the other two thirds of the game Hudson moved back to safety and Mike Davis came in at cornerback. Throughout the game we had only one missed tackle from our three safeties, and as a group they played outstanding. Al Williams had a huge sack in the end of the game that helped solidify the win.

'It looks as though we could possibly get Riccardo Stewart back for this week. We will still be without Damien Niko this week, which will affect the depth of our offensive line. Adrian Ayala got about 40-45 snaps in the game along with Grayling Love. We played seven offensive linemen and I think our depth in the offensive line is the best it has been all season.

'On a side note, our sophomore offensive tackle Ricardo Carlos, had back surgery on Friday. He was out of the hospital and in the locker room at the game on Saturday and he looked great. We wish him well in his recovery.

'As far as Oregon goes, this is a great opportunity to go up to Oregon and compete for the lead in the Pac-10. It is a very difficult place to play against the sixth ranked team in the country. I'm excited for our players to get an opportunity to go up there. We're not playing perfect by any means, but our guys are competing and believing that guys around them are going to make plays. They're believing in each other and that's the start of a good thing. That's one of the first things you have to change to get your program heading in the right direction.

'I read an interesting quote from Nick Aliotti, the defensive coordinator at Oregon. He was commenting on UCLA's big plays. UCLA ended the game with Oregon with 477 yards of offense and lost. They had four or five big plays and Aliotti said that if you take away UCLA's four big scoring plays the Bruins only had 252 yards of total offense. Well, that's about what we had the other night against Oregon State, about 240 yards of total offense because we didn't make any big plays. So, the way defensive teams are playing in the Pac-10 and around the country, every defensive coach-Frank Guy, Nick Aliotti, Craig Gray- and every defense is going to try to stop the run, force you into must-pass situations, and then put their nickel team in and force you into combination coverages.

'Everybody is doing the same thing on offense. On run downs, you have got to take your shots and try to make big plays. For the first time since Andrew [Walter] came in as our quarterback a few weeks ago, we just weren't able to make any of those big plays in this game [against Oregon State]. That certainly doesn't mean we're not going to keep trying to do it. On offense, all the things looked better on the film than they did in the game. We were close on some stuff and we just need to clean up a few issues. We'll start working on that tomorrow.'

Can you talk about playing at Autzen Stadium and how it affects your coaching?

'I have not been to Autzen Statdium since their expansion. Now they can fit seven or eight thousand more in there, but I can assure you that the stories are not overblown. In my travels, I've been at 90 different stadiums for college football games, the two loudest places I've ever been to are Autzen Stadium and at Syracuse in the [Carrier] Dome. It is extremely loud. I don't know if the construction has changed that to buffer the sound differently or let the sound out, but if you ask any coach that has played a game in Autzen Stadium, they'll tell you that it is one of the loudest places that they've ever played in.

'It affects all your communication, player to player, coach to player, and it is difficult at times for the coaches when our offense is out there to hear the coaches from the press box through our headphones. Their fans do a great job of knowing when to be loud and when not to be loud. They are loudest when the opposing offense is out there. So we have to focus on doing a good job with our signals and making sure that everything can be communicated through hand signals, or that we don't need to say anything at all because, we're not going to be able to hear.'

Talk about the time you spent at the University of Oregon.

'I was actually at Oregon for two years. I was very fortunate that when I left Boston College, I wanted to get back in the west. Mike Bellotti took a chance, without knowing me, to bring me out to Oregon and I learned a lot. You are influenced by every coach you ever work with and certainly the things that Mike Bellotti, Neal Zoumboukos, Gary Campbell, and Tom Osborne, who was on that staff with us, taught me and the things I learned are a big part of what we do here on offense today. I have a lot of respect for that coaching staff and the program they built at Oregon.'

Talk about your recent troubles with the running game.

'A few things on that. Number one, we have a very inexperienced offensive line and we have guys that haven't played a lot. We are starting a true freshman at offensive tackle and that's not to put blame anywhere, but we are going to become a better running team as our O-line gets more experience. For instance, Regis Crawford, as an individual, had his best game in the running game, but as a group of 11, we didn't do so well. It seemed that we had an individual breakdown on almost every running play. Again, most teams that we've played are doing a good job of stacking the line of scrimmage with eight or nine man fronts against our run formations.

'The other thing is that Cornell was banged up last week and, individually, did not get off to a great start. We just have to put those guys in position to make some positive yards earlier. Oregon State just kind of knocked our offense back on our heels in the first part of that game and we never really recovered from it. That is unfortunately what happens sometimes when you have a young football team. We do that on offense, which leads to frustration in our passing again, but again, these things are all correctable and we know that we need to run the ball better, but you can only do what you can do.'

Talk about the team's mental preparedness for this game.

'It is very hard to talk about how prepared our team is mentally at twelve o'clock because we tried to put the Oregon State game to bed. We last saw them yesterday at six o'clock and they have today off, so I won't really know how prepared they are until we get up there, but as the media asks them questions, I can tell from the way the answer them that they believe in each other. The players have a much greater belief not only in our schemes on offense and defense, but also that we are going to find a way to win when it gets close. We've now come from behind three times this year to win games in the second half, very nearly a fourth against North Carolina.

'With the balance of talent in the Pac-10 this year, I told you last week that I could easily see every game going down to the fourth quarter. Last week in the Pac-10, four out of five games were decided by four points or less. Every game except for the Stanford-WSU game was decided on the last drive of the game. I think we're headed in the right direction as far as [mental preparedness] goes. '

Is this the biggest game of your coaching career?

'It's the biggest game since last Saturday. They are all big. Last week, you wanted me to say that if we didn't beat Oregon State, we were out of the race, and the truth is that they are all big. You may think that I am making it up, but they are all big, every week is bigger than the next as you roll along. I've been in big plays, but on Saturday, Andrew Walter is going to make a lot more big plays than I am going to make. So is Cornell Canidate and Josh Amobi and all of our other players. We prepare our guys in the same way and they're going to be playing in a difficult place. But that's why you play college football, so we are looking forward to it.'

Are you going to do anything defensively to put pressure on Jason Fife?

'Without mentioning our game plan, which we are still working on today, I mentioned last year when we played Oregon that Oregon and Arizona State play very similar styles of defense. Oregon doesn't call it the 4-2-5, they call it a 4-3 and they call one of their guys a rover and one of them an outside linebacker, but in essence, we are playing our defense and they are playing their defense.

'What that means is that you are going to see one more guy in the box that can block. You are going to see blitzes coming from everywhere. Both teams know how to attack the other because they play against each other in practice every day, they play against our defense and we play against theirs. This week, there is a lot of correlation between the two, Are both teams going to have new wrinkles on offense and defense? You bet they are, but it is going to be very difficult for us to trick Oregon because they play against a similar defense every day.'

How reassuring is it to know that you have a go-to-guy as a sophomore in Andrew Walter?

'It's very reassuring and I think Andrew will learn a lot of lessons from what happened to us on Saturday night. I think he has learned that it is not always a bed of roses out there. Defenses can dictate the tempo, and Oregon State did that to us on Saturday. We didn't respond as well as we are going to need to in the future. That's the first time since Andrew has been playing this year when things haven't just gone perfect for us on offense. I am excited about Andrew and his future. He was very eager to look at tape yesterday and learn what he can do better in the future. We are going to do the best we can to improve on that, starting tomorrow.'

Is there a concern relative to production in the red zone?

'There is concern because we have been fifty percent in the last two weeks and that is not going to get it done. There are totally different reasons, the two times we didn't score this week, again Mike [Barth] missed a chip shot field goal, although Mike made two nice long field goals that in essence put us over the top. The other thing is that you do not go into the game planning on fumbling from the one-yard line. We called the plays, we practiced on the goal line, we had excellent opportunities when we were inside of the five to score, but our problems were in execution. Do I know we need to do better? Sure. Are we going to change our approach? No.'

Is it reassuring that Andrew Walter played the second half at Autzen Stadium last year?

'I really hadn't thought about it in that realm. I was looking at that tape this morning. The fact that he has been there and knows how loud it is going to be, I am sure that it can do nothing but help us.

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