Quotes From Football Coach Dirk Koetter's Monday Press Conference
Oct. 13, 2003
TEMPE, Ariz. -- 'Obviously, it's a much brighter Monday than the last three Mondays. After looking at the tape, we probably played as well in all phases as we have since I have been here. What a tremendous start by the defense, when you run one offensive play and you are up 14-0, that's a great way to start.
'When you finish in the second half with six straight scoring drives, seven for seven on third down conversions in the fourth quarter, all the things we say it takes to win football games, win the turnover battle, win the third down battle, win the fourth quarter; we were able to do all three. I'm very pleased.
'We played about as well as we could have played. We had very few injuries. Tony Aguilar sprained his MCL. They call it a second-degree MCL sprain. They are saying that will put him out one to two weeks. It's very similar to the injury Tony had last year, if you recall Tony missed the North Carolina game last year with a similar injury and only missed one game. Tony probably will not make the trip this week. He was actually moving around pretty well yesterday, better than what I expected. When I saw him get hurt in the game, it was scary. I thought it might be a real serious injury. Right now we will set our sights on the UCLA game for Tony.
'Mike Williams is having surgery on his hand today. He hasn't had a chance to see the hand specialist. Our orthopedic doctor was able to confirm that we'll get Randy [Hill] back this week.
'Scout players of the week were Julius Orieukwu, a freshman offensive lineman who is redshirting this year, on defense, it was Mike Meritet a linebacker who is redshirting this year, and Jermaine McKinney on special teams.
'Game balls were given to Andrew Walter and Mike Karney on offense. Andrew obviously had a great week. I think it was his best game he has probably had in his career where the number one receiver wasn't necessarily open and he had to move on to number two or number three and make plays in a scrambling situation. Throwing in a scrambling situation has never been Andrew's strong suit and he did a great job of that on Saturday. Mike Karney never gets the credit he deserves for doing the dirty work, but he was at his best.
'On defense, Riccardo Stewart. As I mentioned, after the game if you could have seen how sick Riccardo was before the game and then for him to play as well as he did, make the hits that he did; that guy is a remarkable player. Bryan Montesanto also got a game ball. We were down to just seven healthy defensive lineman so Bryan had to play the whole game, which is solid on the inside.
'Special teams game ball went to Skyler Fulton. Skyler's on our punt, punt return, and kickoff return teams. He had a key block on Daryl Lightfoot's long kickoff return, which was one of the biggest plays of the game. Extra captains for North Carolina, besides Andrew Walter and Riccardo Stewart are Shane Jones, and Grayling Love.
'As far as North Carolina is concerned, they are just a really athletic team. They have extremely good athletes, good speed. Their quarterback, as we saw last year, is not only their leading passer, which you would expect, but also their leading rusher, which you would not expect. He makes a lot of plays in scramble situations. Defensively, their marquee player is their safety, number 24, and if I'm not mistaken, he led the nation in tackles last year. He is a big hitter, he played well against us last year.
'We have total respect for North Carolina. To make a trip like this is unique for us. To make a cross-country trip, a four-hour flight covering three time zones, is different, that is why we are leaving on Thursday. We won't get to our hotel until about midnight eastern time on Thursday night. Friday, hopefully we will get our body clocks settled down a little bit. It will be a 10:30 a.m. kickoff time Pacific.'
Do you have any extra motivation for this game?
'Sure. Extra motivation because of last year number one, because of this year number two. We haven't won any games on the road and we talked about, before we could get anything going this year, we had to get one win. We were able to do that, before we can do anything else, we need to get a road win. That will be our message this week, I don't think the players will have any problem buying into that, I think they are already headed down that path.'
Is it good or bad to have an out of conference game in the middle of the season?
'I've been asked that a couple times. From where I see it, it's neither, it is what it is. USC is jumping out and playing Notre Dame. Ideally, you don't want to play a non-conference game your seventh game of the season. But what people have to realize is everybody wants us to play these intersectional games. When you schedule them ten years out, you don't know how good North Carolina is going to be, or Iowa. We just scheduled one in the future here with Wisconsin. When you are going to schedule a home-and-home with major players, you take them when you can get them. It's probably not ideal, but that's just the way it is. We can't worry about it, we just got to go.'
How big of a threat is UNC Cornerback Michael Waddell?
'Waddell hasn't been playing a ton of corner. Where he is scary is as a return guy. He hit that return for a touchdown against Wisconsin. I think last week might have been his first start at corner.'
What difference do you see in UNC's defense?
'Schematically they are the same. North Carolina does a lot of different things. Their defensive staff obviously spent time in the NFL, they know a lot of schemes. They give you a lot of different things you need to work on. They have played some young players, and have given up a lot of yards, a lot of rushing yards. When you are looking at the tape it doesn't just jump out at you, you don't get the feeling that somebody is just running the ball down their throats. I'm not all the way through the tape yet, so I don't know where some of that yardage is coming. Their athleticism, on both sides of the ball, just like last year, is what really jumps out at you.'
How has your offensive line come together lately?
'I think our o-line has played solidly all season. I've said that before and I don't think our o-line has been an issue this year. Every week one of the things I do is watch the game from last year against the team we're playing. Yesterday afternoon, one of the first things I did after we finished the Oregon tapes is I watched the tape from the North Carolina game. For about the fourth week in a row, one of the first things that has jumped out at me is how much better our o-line is than at any point last year.
'Getting Regis Crawford back at his normal position at guard and Grayling Love being able to solidify things at right tackle is great. We continue to rotate Chaz White and Andrew Carnahan at left tackle and Tony Aguilar and Tim Fa'aita at left guard. Those guys have played solidly. They are consistent in the run game and doing a good job in the passing game. I think Andrew Walter has helped that and I think we are tied for third for the fewest sacks allowed in the Pac-10. I think that o-line's performance is a big part and they are playing consistently. As our receivers have played better and our tailbacks have emerged, our offense has played better.'
Are there any concerns with your defensive line depth?
'There are always concerns, but there is not much you can do about it. We don't have a lot of guys. For one reason or another we're down to the ironmen and they have to continue to be ironmen for the rest of the season, there is no way around that one. I think Ted Monachino (defensive line coach) is doing a really nice job rotating those guys. The starting four and then the next three are getting a lot of snaps and they've been playing pretty consistently.'
How dangerous is North Carolina's quarterback, especially on the run?
'You sort of hold your breath when he scrambles around. He's making 40-, 50-, 60-yard runs; he makes runs when it's a pass play called. That's a huge headache for your defense to have to know you are covering perfectly on a pass and the play can still be a big gainer because he can run. In the open field he's tough to tackle.'
'What always impresses me with the mobile quarterbacks is the shots they can take. I think he's only thrown four interceptions on the season. Usually when guys take shots it affects their passing, but is hasn't seemed to for him, it's impressive.'
Was Saturday's game the first time you've had fun coaching this year?
'No, absolutely not. I had a lot of fun in the games with NAU, Utah State, the first half of USC. I don't always jump up and down and do my cheerleading routine, but coaching football is fun.'
How confident are you in the special teams unit, especially after last year's game?'I never go into a game thinking that we're not going to get it done on special teams. I know we prepare the right way, Coach Osborne and the rest of the coaching staff are on top of it. Again, UNC's athleticism gives everybody problems. The opened that Wisconsin game with a 100-yard kickoff return, they've got some guys, but I think we've got some guys too. Tim Parker continues to punt, Jesse Ainsworth had his best game of the year against Oregon, we had a great return by Daryl Lightfoot. I don't spend any more time worrying about our special teams because of what happened last year.'
Did Andrew's scrambling surprise you?
'I don't if surprised is the word I would use. It pleased me a lot. He did a really nice job. He's had a tendency in the past to, when he scrambles, throw the ball a little bit too hard or a little bit too late. I thought his timing and his touch were great. That one he threw up the sideline to Daryl Lightfoot, if he would have been a second later, it would have been picked.
'I think the best one was the very first third-down conversion of the game. Andrew stepped up in the pocket and he threw the ball to Matt Miller. Matt was running straight at him and it was only about a 15-yard pass and that's a ball that Andrew usually slings, but he threw it with great touch so Matt could catch it. He had a couple times when he was moving to his left on resets that he threw to Derek Hagan in a perfect spot; either Derek was going to catch it or it was going to be incomplete. Coach Helfrich (quarterbacks coach) and myself are always talking about throwing a ball to a safe spot. Get the ball where only something good can happen and Andrew had his best game ever doing that. And Derek made a couple of really nice catches on third downs.'
Are there any personnel changes in UNC's offense from last year? What about the defense?
'Other than the Wisconsin game, I have not watched any of their offense. I have my hands full watching their defense right now. I think they have five or six guys on their defensive two-deep that played against us last year, but all of those guys are not playing right now. On Mondays, we look at scheme more than personnel. As the week goes on we look at personnel more, so I'm not prepared to answer that question very well.'
What has been the biggest factor that has made your offense click in the past few weeks?
'Three things. Since the Oregon State game we've run the ball better. The emergence of Hakim Hill and Loren Wade is taking pressure off of everything else.
'Number two is the wide receivers, they've played better, especially Derek Hagan who has had two back-to-back 100-yard games. Terry Richardson and Matt Miller are doing well and their roles are complementing Skyler Fulton and Daryl Lightfoot.
'Third is that Andrew has come to grips with who we are. We're a different personality than what we were. Andrew has come to grips with the fact that we're not going to be able to throw 68-yard touchdowns to Shaun McDonald every play. Andrew has adjusted his thinking a little bit and I think he's done a nice job growing with the new receivers. I think that in the first two games and the last two games he has played very well. It's a sign of what kind of guy Andrew Walter is in that he can learn and move forward and change some things in his own game to make us play better as a team. Through all of that the o-line has been very steady.'