Quotes From Football Coach Dirk Koetter's Monday Press Conference

Nov. 25, 2002

Opening Statement:

'I'm going to start off on a sad note. I want to acknowledge from the ASU family the passing of Bill Quinn, a former Sun Devil assistant coach. It puts everything right back in perspective. Bill, along with Dick Allen and coach [Bill] Kajikawa, has been out and usually comes out to practice on Tuesdays and has been out there maybe the last three Tuesdays. It is another loss to the Sun Devil football family. We don't know the exact time yet, but the funeral will be on Wednesday and there will be some form of a get together afterwards at the Carson Center.

'We practiced yesterday and had an excellent practice. The players were off Friday and Saturday which did exactly what we hoped it would. It got our legs back under us. Brett Hudson, Mason Unck, Daryl Lightfoot, Cornell Canidate and Matt Miller are all much better and they all practiced yesterday. All five are fully cleared to play against Arizona. That's not to say that everyone on our team is 100 percent because when you play 12 games there's just no way that's going to happen. But we are as healthy as we've been in a long, long time.

'We aren't going to practice today but the players are going to have meetings. We're going to try and get a little extra film session. Tomorrow and Wednesday we will treat like a normal Wednesday and Thursday. On Thanksgiving day we are going to have a quick walk-through in the morning. A little dress rehearsal on the field for about 45-50 minutes and then the players will have Thanksgiving spread out with their families or the coaches' families. At 6:00 we leave for Tucson Thursday night. Right now we're just trying to focus on the things we can control and the things that we feel that we need to do to be successful.'

How is your perspective of the rivalry now that you've been in it for one year?

'I have tremendous respect for the rivalry. I have tremendous respect for all rivalries in college football. If we didn't have rivalries in college football we wouldn't all be sitting in this room today. I wouldn't have a job and if you were a reporter you wouldn't be covering college football. Rivalries make this game great. This is as heated a rivalry, as fierce a rivalry as there is. It is a lot of fun and is something to look forward to. It is important and we are certainly looking forward to it. I probably have more of an understanding of the distaste for each other than many people in both communities have.'

Do you prepare any differently this week than you do any other week?

'I think I would agree with [Arizona] Coach Mackovic from a preparation and organizational standpoint, we are pretty much the same. Since you have two weeks to prepare for this game you are always going to have a much more fine-tuned game plan in all phases (offense, defense, and special teams) then you would normally have when you have just three days. I think the big question on a game like this is the subtle differences and how you prepare your team emotionally.

'We came out extremely flat for this game last year. It is pretty well proven that you can't be sky high for 13 games in a season. Some games the coach has to do very little and they players take care of it. Some teams that are mature come out and basically take care of business every week. One of the hardest things a coaching staff has to do is judge where their team is at emotionally and what it will take for that particular team to be prepared for that particular game. I know people who don't do anything differently in rivalry games and I know people who do everything differently. They play the opponent's fight song, paint the field, all kinds of stuff. We are trying to do things this year that we think are best for this team. They're not the same things we did last year and it may not be the same things we do next year.'

How have the dynamics for this game changed between last year and this year?

'Last year neither team had a successful season. Neither team was going to a bowl game or had a winning season. I think that, more than anything else, explained the empty seats in the stadium. You had two teams that weren't winning. This year it is a little bit different situation. We already have a winning season and a bowl game guaranteed and we're extremely happy about that. We are excited about the future. At the same time, we've lost three in a row and want to get back on the right track and get that taste of a win. Right now we have two programs this season that are in different spots. It has been well documented what has happened in Arizona the last couple weeks and I have no intention of getting involved in that and I don't know anything about it. I'm worried about what's going on with our program and we want to finish this thing off right.

'If we win this game we have an excellent chance to finish third in the Pac-10. I want to point out that at one point this year, four teams in the Pac-10 have been ranked in the top 10 in the nation and two still are. At one point or another this season eight teams in the Pac-10 have been in the top 16 in the nation with us being one of them. I think that and the Washington-Washington State game says a lot about how strong our league is and how important it is to keep your quarterback healthy. We've accomplished a lot this season and we really have to fight off the tendency to feel bad about where we're at right now because we've lost three in a row. We've had a heck of a season and we want to finish it out on a high note.

'For us, rivalry game aside, we're playing to be the number three team in the Pac-10, which in this particular season, says a lot. When you have an off week like we did and you're at home on your couch watching college football, when you watch USC play on T.V. and you're not standing on the sideline, all of a sudden, when we played USC we don't look like quite as bad of a football team. We were right there in the second half but we made plenty of mistakes and we didn't do the things it takes to win a game. USC is probably playing as good as any team in the country right now. I'm not embarrassed by the way we played USC at all. I'm disappointed in some the things we did in that game but I'm not at all disappointed in how we went up against one of the best teams in the country.'

This seems to me like a 'bowl game' for Arizona since it's a big game and their last of the year, could you comment on that?

'If this is their bowl game, then, to me, that's disappointing because this is a great game in and of itself. It's not a bowl game, it's a rivalry game. I think that even though this game is the most important game on our regular season schedule, it's not a bowl game, we are going to play in one. One of our goals this season was to have a winning record and play in a bowl game and that goal is accomplished. Also, right up there on the ladder of goals in to beat Arizona. For us it's totally different than a bowl game and as far as what it means for them, it's up to them.'

Talk about your experiences in the Pac-10 so far after two years and what you have learned.

'Anybody that is not learning is going backwards, and I'm learning all the time. The main thing I am learning is that this is an excellent football league. I think I've learned the strength of the league and that we're all competing for, basically, the same players in recruiting. Getting one or two key guys at a certain position makes a big difference. It's all competitive.'

How would a big physical receiver help you in the red zone?

'That would help us. But, you get into those receiver comparisons and there are some great receivers in the Pac-10, but there's only one that's in the final three for the Biletnikoff award and he's 5'9', 175 lbs. and plays for the Sun Devils (Shaun McDonald). I wouldn't trade Shaun McDonald for too many guys. I think Derek Hagan has a great chance to be one of those guys you're talking about. He's really close to breaking John Jefferson's mark for receptions as a freshman at ASU. Terry Richardson, he's not a giant, but he's a physical guy who can play, and he's tearing up our scout team. We are on the lookout for the 6'3'-6'5' receivers, but so is everybody else so it's tough to get one.'

Have sensed anything about the passion of the ASU-UA rivalry in your two years here?

'Sure. I think Phoenix is like Kansas City where it's half Missouri and half Kansas people. Here in Phoenix there are a lot of people on both sides of the coin. The inter-office rivalries in people's businesses have fans from both schools and you can sense that everywhere you go. The empty seats at last year's rivalry game maybe is because both programs have struggled the past few years but I don't think that will continue.'

Compare Jason Johnson to the other senior quarterbacks you have faced this year.

'I'm a big Jason Johnson fan. I think what he's done this year is outstanding. I believe their running game is ranked 111th in the nation, and his O-line has been kind of beat up and a couple of freshmen have been playing there. I think if you took him and inserted him into USC's or WSU's offense, I think he'd do great. He takes a lot of hits and his courage is well-respected by me.'

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