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

Sept. 29, 2003

TEMPE, Ariz. -- 'During that Oregon State game, we did some good things, the score didn't turn out the way we would have liked it to, but we did some good things. Our defense, for the second week in a row against a good team, continues to get off to a fast start and turn the ball over to us. That puts us in position to get the early lead, which we haven't done with the offense, but I'm happy with what our defense has done.

'We had the fewest amount of missed tackles on the season, and also had the best big play to big play given up ratio. Our defense made 20 big plays while giving up 7, which is too many, but again our defense is making progress and playing very hard and we had some excellent individual play in there. I think in the fourth quarter it got away from us a little bit, but that was due more to how the game was going than anything that happened on defense.

'Offensively, the overall play of the offensive line has gotten better every week, those guys did a good job not only protection-wise but they are proving they can do a solid job in the run game with the addition of Hakim, getting him in there and going. He played an outstanding game not only running the ball, but blocking and he also did a nice job in the screen game as well. When you go back and look at it, it's just like I told you, it comes down to turnovers and penalties and the next thing down from that is third down. We aren't getting it done on third down on offense right now and we cant turn it over in the Pac-10 on our side of the field and expect to win on a week to week basis.

'Our players of the week on the scout teams this week: our offensive and also the special teams scout player of the week was Tyrice Thompson, he's a freshman wide receiver from South Mountain, he's red-shirting this year, and defensively Rudy Sanchez again for the third week in a row. Offensively in the game, Hakim Hill was our player of the week, on defense Ishmael Thrower, on special teams Jason Shivers. I'd say Ishmael is doing a nice job at defensive end, he had two sacks in the game and had moved ahead of Nick Johnson at that spot. The captains for SC in addition to Andrew Walter and Riccardo Stewart will be Ishmael Thrower and Drew Hodgdon.

'That's the wrap up on Oregon State, now looking forward to SC, obviously they're an excellent team who ran into a team in Cal who got off to a quick start, got up on them 21-7 and had a couple other chances in the first half to extend that lead and kind of held on at the end to go into overtime.

'When you look at USC you have to start with those two wide receivers, that one-two punch we will see all year in Mike Williams and Keary Colbert. Williams gets a ton of press like he deserves, but I've really liked Colbert all three years, I think he makes them go. The two offensive tackles in [Jacob] Rogers and [Winston] Justice are probably the two best tackles in the country. I know one of them is a little banged up.

'The tailbacks are explosive, although their rushing numbers aren't great, but they are explosive and they both can go the distance. Their front four is exceptional on defense that's the strength of that defense, they really put a lot of pressure on you. They are one of the only teams that can get to you in a four-man rush, they do a good job and they are a blitzing team.

'With Coach Carroll's background in the NFL, they give you more zone blitz looks than we play all year. They are the most complicated defense we will have played to date. They not only do a good job of getting after you, but they try to confuse you. Then there is Tom Malone their punter, who is five yards out in front of everyone in the Pac-10 and leading the nation in punting right now. We have a chance to see two of the best punters in the Pac-10 in Malone and Tim Parker.

Given the fact that USC's defense is so strong, does that make it more difficult to decide who plays at tailback?
'No it doesn't make it more difficult. All of our tailbacks will be responsible for knowing who to pick up. Hakim has now established himself as the first-team tailback, he played his way in there. Hakim's blocking was very solid against Oregon State, and we're very happy with his blocking.'

Can you comment about Andrew Walter's mechanics a little bit. Is he as comfortable with his new receivers?
'When quarterbacks have a lot of expectations put on them, sometimes they may have a tendency to do more things than they have to do and some of the basics can get away. Confidence in the receivers might play some role in that as well. I'm very confident that the things Andrew needs to fix he can get it done and do it quickly because I've seen him do it before.'

How is play-calling on third-down broken down?
'We break our third-downs into three categories and your percentage goes down the further out you get. We were zero-for-eight in third-and-10+ yards. Those are hard to get, the teams that are doing the best get about two of those, but that's still two more times than we moved the chains the other night. We're studying ourselves over the first four games to make sure we're giving our guys the best chance to make plays on third-and-medium, third-and-long and third-and-extra long situations. We have to look at the scheme and try to get our guys in the best spots to make a play. We're sitting at something like 23% or 24% on third-downs and usually the team that leads the Pac-10 at the end of the year is going to be at about 43%. We have to get that number up.'

How is USC's tailback situation compared to yours?
'I'm not familiar with what's going on at USC behind the scenes. I've never seen a guy come out of high school like USC's freshman tailback Reggie Bush. He is fantastic, and Hershel Dennis is pretty much the same way. We said last week that we wanted to establish a guy at tailback and it ended up being Hakim Hill, he answered the bell. I think Loren Wade is also right there, but he's not quite 100%. I think Loren with Hakim will give us a nice 1-2 punch at tailback.'

When you have an established No. 1 guy at tailback, do you call plays based on his strengths?
'Absolutely. Any running back is going to do better if he's in there and gets into a rhythm, whether he gains one-yard or 10. You try to build it around what he does best and what has the best chance to work against their defense.'

How effective was California's running game versus USC?
'As coach Carroll said, Cal's running back ran hard. They ran quick-hitting downhill plays, straight-ahead. He was able to run through some tackles. Throughout the game, Cal's running game was able to hold down USC's pass defense and keep them off-balance.'

What is affecting the team's play in the red zone?
'Over the last ten years, we've averaged about 80% efficiency in the red zone and right now we're sitting at about 50%. That 30% we're missing out on is killing us. Until you get inside the three-yard line, between the four-yard line and the 12-yard line, defenses have a specific style of defense they play. There is a specific style from the 13 to the 25. The last two teams have been an excellent example of that. We've had problems with what we call our 'touchdown plays', plays that we think will have a chance to score a touchdown. We haven't been able to get those things inside the end zone. Twice we've been inside the three and haven't been able to punch it in. Our red zone problems are hurting us for sure and that's indicative of what we're going through right now.'

Are part of your offensive struggles due to other teams changing their defensive strategy?
'No. Last week everyone was convinced that Iowa had the blueprint to shut us down with soft zone. Oregon State hardly played any soft zone. They played aggressive man-to-man, bump-and-run. Most defenses that we play are not going to change their defense to try and stop our offense. They stick with their defense because it is their bread-and-butter, just like we're not going to change our defense, we're going to play how we're going to play. The last two weeks we've seen opposite extremes and we've seen the same result so I think it's more what we're doing than what our opponent is doing.'

How does USC's front four compare to Iowa's?
'They are very similar. USC is probably faster and probably are not quite the technicians. Iowa's guys use moves and counter-moves and separate well whereas USC's are probably little quicker, a little bit more athletic and a little bit faster. They may not have to counter-move because their first move works pretty much every time. They are very, very skilled up front.'

Who are your main contributors on offense?
'Every year you have to make your offense fit your personnel. Shaun McDonald solved a lot of problems for us last year because of his consistent ability to get behind the secondary. Right now I think that we have three young players who are going to be a key to how we end things up. Derek Hagan, Terry Richardson and Matt Miller, we're still searching for how their role fits within our offense, we haven't been able to put that together yet. Derek Hagan had a great week of practice last week and made a fantastic touchdown catch in the game. Terry Richardson made a great catch on the sideline and is getting better each week and Matt Miller had his best game against Iowa. We haven't been able to plug those guys in around Skyler Fulton and Daryl Lightfoot and fit them in with Andrew. Our rhythm is not there. It's not a personality issue. We're trying to get those guys in a position where they fit in best.'

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