Quotes From Head Football Coach Dirk Koetter's Monday Press Conference.
Oct. 21, 2002
'What a great day for our program on Saturday (at Oregon). Autzen Stadium is a tough place to play. When Tom Osborne and I were assistant coaches at Oregon, all the teams that came into Autzen Stadium came out saying that it was the toughest place they've had to play. To go in there with our team and to win the game is one thing, but to come from 21 points down and win it like we did when we had a lot of chances to quit, we couldn't be prouder of our guys. They hung in there and made plays when they had to make them.
'It was quite a second half. We're trying to come down from cloud nine. It is great to be ranked in the top 25 and it is a nice byproduct of the hard work our players have done. As I said yesterday, our goal is to be ranked in the top 20 at the end of the year, not in the middle. We do not have the type of team that can sit back on what we did last week and think that's going to carry us through because I told you after the North Carolina game that every game is going to be like that from here on out. North Carolina was like that, Oregon State was like that and Oregon was like that. I'm sure Washington, Washington State, and whomever we play after that will be like that. We have to enjoy today. The players and coaches are already hard at work on Washington. Then, tomorrow at 7:00 a.m. weightlifting starts and at 2:15 p.m. position players' meetings start. We have to grind it on University of Washington because that is going to be a tough one.
'Our scout players of the week were Randy Hill, our freshman tailback and Ali Likio on defense. Skyler Fulton was our special teams scout player of the week. When Fulton isn't starting on our special teams he goes over and plays on the scout team. That says a lot about him.
'Andrew Walter and Shaun McDonald earned game balls on offense, nobody on defense, and Mike Barth earned a game ball on special teams. We did give game balls to the entire 60-man travel squad because I want those guys to remember what that feels like. I want those guys to set that thing up on their bed stand and to remember that feeling. I told them on Friday night that there was no better feeling than to go in a stadium like Autzen and in the end of the game to be singing your fight song to the crowd. It is a pretty awesome feeling and I want those guys to remember that. Our captains this week are going to be Mike Karney, Tony Aguilar, and Brian Montesanto.
Talk about Andrew Walter's evolution from spring ball to now.
'I have to give Andrew all the credit. He was told that he didn't win the job in spring, but he hung in there, he improved on the things he needed to get better at as a number two quarterback. It's a great lesson to all of our number two players who don't get a job that they think they should get. It's real easy these days to transfer to another school, or to just quit. Andrew didn't do those things, he hung in there, and he did all the things we asked him to improve on. Now all the things that people may have seen in him earlier, that I may not have seen are all coming true. I give him credit for that.
'He is running our offense really well. His demeanor on the sideline is superb. He has been able to overcome getting rattled, as he seemed to be at the beginning of the Oregon game. He is, for the most part, throwing the ball where he should throw it, when he should throw it there. He made a few mistakes the other day against Oregon, but when Andrew is playing well like he has been the last three or four weeks, you expect everything to be perfect.'
Could you describe Andrew's personality as it relates to you?
'Andrew is a guy that can say what he thinks. I admire that. I admire anybody that can look you in the eye, and tell you what he thinks and doesn't worry if it hurts your feelings. I like that in a player, and I like that in anybody. He is pretty good at communicating what he thinks. I ask all our quarterbacks what they think, because I want to know. I don't always agree with what they tell me, but I always want to know. The way Andrew is with the other players is a calm, quiet way of showing leadership, and it's been very impressive.'
Where does the team get the mental toughness?
'We started working with our 'leadership' group of players. It's 25 players that represent all five classes, and every position group on our team. Andrew Walter has played himself into a leadership role, as well as R.J. Oliver, and Terrell Suggs on the defensive side of the ball. Terrell, every Friday night, talks to the team, and I usually talk to the team after the players. After Terrell, I don't want to talk to the team, because he really knocks them out. I think we have a lot better leadership on our team than before. Any time there is a change in your life, people will go along with you as long as what you're telling them works. They need validation, if you're getting your brains beat in every week, that validation doesn't last. When we come from behind in four games, people start to believe, 'Hey, we can do it.''
Talk about the other wide receivers stepping up against Oregon.
'I think that was one of the things that had the biggest impact on the game. In practice several of our other receivers had been playing real well, and I said to myself, 'We need to figure out how to get these guys in the game.' When Shaun and Daryl are playing like they are, as a coach, you have a tendency to keep playing them.
'In this game, (Oregon) Shaun played something like 62 plays. For Shaun that's like running 62 60-yard dashes. He just blows down the field every time. Daryl sprained his ankle, and Derek Hagan came in as his backup and played outstanding. If you noticed in the game, we had a whole series where Taplin, and Miller were bunched up on one side and there were three runs and two passes in that block of plays. When they got their chances at their passes, they made the plays. Andrew put the ball right in there. Matt Miller made a great catch, the ball was under-thrown from Walter and Miller turned his body and came back to the ball. Skyler Fulton, who was our third guy to go to on offense, didn't get the ball thrown at him, but his role in the game was very important and he executed it well. He cleared defensive players out, and was a blocker for the whole game. Our guys are playing very well.'
What was it about Andrew's play early this season that didn't allow him to start? Also could you explain your face-to-face play calling instead of using signals.
'There were a series of things that led to Andrew not being starting quarterback but it's old news and a long story and I'd rather not get into it right now. As far as having the quarterback come over to the sidelines, I like to take the middleman out. I don't like relying on a signaler. I like to tell the quarterback myself, I like to talk to the guy. I like to tell him, 'Take a good set,' 'Be ready for the sight.'' It's the way I want to do it. Andrew likes to get the signals because he likes to be over by the huddle and I told him to come to the sideline at Autzen Stadium and he came to the sidelines about 90% of the time. It gives me a comfort level.'
Was there anything said when you were down 21-0 to rally the team or were there certain individuals that were more vocal?
'There were people talking on the sideline. The people I noticed on the sideline the most as far as being positive were probably Tom Osborne, Mike Pinkard and Justin Taplin. From where I was on the field, those guys were the biggest cheerleaders when we were down 21-0. I do agree that after we scored the first touchdown and then converted the fake punt right before half and got within 11 points before halftime, I think our players were relieved. We fought through the crowd barrage that hit us when it was 21-0 and Oregon was making big plays. I liked our guys at halftime in the locker room, they seemed confident about what we needed to do. I can't think of any one moment that sticks out as far as rallying the team though.'
How gratifying is it to know that you have the program headed in the right direction?
'We're not where we want to be yet, we're dong okay right now. It's gratifying if you do your job well but we have a long way to go and you're only as good as what happened last week and we have to move on. It was a fun couple days and when the year is over we'll probably think about it a little more, but we have a big one this week and I hope that we have a huge crowd.'
How is your situation at running back and the health there and were there any underlying reasons for not running the ball much last Saturday?
'Mike Williams got hurt early and had to come out of the game but he did re-enter the game late. Cornell played about 60 snaps and had to really raise his game as a pass protector this game and he did so. We usually take Cornell out on third down and put Mike Williams in, but we couldn't because [Mike] was out. Cornell really did a nice job with his protection and Mike Karney always does a nice job in his protection. Our running backs are a little banged up, but as a team we are as healthy as we've been all season. We are so close to being at full strength that it is scary. Knock on wood I hope this continues this week at practice.
'Oregon is totally committed to stopping the run. They had nine guys in the box against a two-back set and what are you going to do? Throw it up.'
Are you going to continue working in shells in practice?
'What we did last week was full pads on Tuesday, and we went shells on Wednesday and Thursday. We have our staff meeting where we talk about that at 4:00 p.m. today and it will be my recommendation to the staff that we do that, but they don't always listen to me and I sometimes get outvoted.'
Talk about the responsibilities of the quarterback in your system versus other systems.
'I don't think it differs that much. If you're a passing offense, the quarterback is going to have a lot of responsibility, there is just no way around that. If you run our style of offense, the quarterback has to be good and he has to know what he's doing.'
Do you think Washington's susceptibility to the pass will make them try to stop the run?
'They have been doing that by trying to get their safeties up there (toward the line of scrimmage). They are a team that is really tough against the run. They've had some injuries and their fine corner Roc Alexander had shoulder surgery last week, so they're playing two young corners. They are mixing in some two-deep zone and I would expect that we would see some more of that. I think we may see some double teams as they did against Arizona and Bobby Wade.'
Talk about how Cody Pickett differs from all the other quarterbacks you have seen thus far.
'The thing about Cody Pickett is that he has a very strong arm and he is a scrambler like Jason Gesser. The guy is a way better scrambler than he is given credit for and he has the ability to run like [former Washington quarterback Marques] Tuiasosopo but throw like any of the great throwers. The other thing that is unbelievable from a statistical standpoint is that Washington leads the Pac-10 in converting 52% of their third downs. In a normal season, the leading team is around 43, 44, 45 percent. 45 percent is excellent. They are far and away the highest in the Pac-10 (in that category). And they complete 66% of their passes. Our defensive coaches are telling me that Pickett does a great job. Last year, he single-handedly took it to us in the last drive [to win the game]. Those are the type of quarterbacks that give any defense problems.'
Do you see Seattle as a model for attendance since it is a similar market?
'Washington has finished in the top three in the Pac-10 conference something like 20 of the last 22 years. If we can get back to that kind of record from a winning standpoint, the crowds will get back to that type. It's been like that before here and there is no reason why we can't do it again. Certainly I'd like to see it start in six days but I don't have total control over that. I think we're in the right direction and we're playing exciting football. Our players are playing hard, they're playing with passion, they're playing with character. That's the first brick that we can lay. This is a fun team to watch.'
How would you grade defense against Oregon compared to the Oregon State game?
'Our defense didn't play as well as we did against Oregon State. I thought that, on both sides of the ball, we were not as physical early in the game as we needed to be for a game of that magnitude. One of the things our defense has been doing a great job of is coming out and hitting people and Onterrio Smith made us miss a few times and I think that made us a little tentative in our tackling. I didn't think we tackled as well, I don't think we played the ball as well.
'We probably had three opportunities before Brett [Hudson's] interception to intercept balls and we didn't make the play. We didn't seem to have quite the same intensity on defense. Oregon did a nice job with their gameplan and almost always doubled Terrell [Suggs] the whole game. We just weren't able to make plays until the second half. When we needed to make the plays [in the second half], all of a sudden we stopped them. The fact that we're doing well as a team and don't need to necessarily rely on one side or the other all the time is probably a good thing in the long run.'
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