Quotes From Coach Dirk Koetter's September 13th Press Conference
Sept. 13, 2004
Opening Remarks: 'The awards from the coaching staff were: scout players of the week on offense, Nate Kimbrough, a freshman wide receiver; defense, Littrele Jones, a corner that's also been playing some special teams. He did a really nice job on some punt returns. I don't know if he was noticed, but he was one of those guys out there double teaming their gunners and getting Rudy Burgess free on those punt returns. Special teams scout player of the week was Brett Nenaber. Gameballs on offense was Loren Wade, special teams Jesse Ainsworth. Jesse kicked three out of seven kickoffs out of the endzone and he also has six field goals on the year. Defense, Dale Robinson, who is also Pac-10 Player of the Week, gets the gameball. The captains are Andrew Walter, Riccardo Stewart, Jimmy Verdon, and Loren Wade for this week.
Looking back at the Northwestern game, we went on the road and beat a solid team, a team that was in a bowl game last year. There weren't a whole lot of mistakes made in that game from a turnover standpoint. Neither team turned the ball over until right at the end, where Riccardo made the big hit. I thought we were in control of the game for the most part, but when we were up 24-7 we did not do a good job of knocking them out. We had a couple chances to do that and didn't. They came back and scored, got the onside kick and the momentum back. I think we showed good character by hanging in there and doing what we had to do in the end.
As far as this week with Iowa, they are a top 15 team, very, very solid team, and very well coached team that doesn't beat themselves. I was really impressed with their quarterback, Drew Tate, I'm sure most haven't heard of Drew, but we know him from recruiting. He's out of the Houston area and is the all-time leading high school passer in the state of Texas. He played for his father and plays like a coach's son. I was hoping he wouldn't be as good on film as he is. He's a little guy, but he's got great command of what their doing. He can run and throw and he's exciting to watch. They lost a lot of their offensive players so they have a lot of new guys. They are relatively conservative on offense compared to what we played the last two weeks, but they also have a chance to overpower you.
Defensively, they are outstanding, eight starters returned, as good a front seven as we'll play all year. They have two great linebackers, an exceptional D-line, three returning starters in the secondary, two corners, and a safety. A solid team in all phases of the game, they are one of those teams that when you watch them they don't wow you with any razzle-dazzle, they just line up and beat people. It'll be a great test for us. It'll be a huge crowd. For those that were there last year, we were ahead 2-0, they scored to make it 7-2 and their crowd got into the game and that really changed the momentum. Hopefully our fans will do the same thing and get involved in the game and help us out on Saturday.
How do you feel about Dale Robinson's play?
Dale's a good football player. He's still making plenty of mistakes, but he is a playmaker, he can run and hit. Our whole defense is doing a good job of running and hitting right now. Even though we're making mistakes, when we're hustling to the ball and hitting people, that can cover up for some other things.
What do you think of Riccardo Stewarts play?
I thought Riccardo was solid. He had several big hits. Riccardo is a linebacker trapped in a 5'10, 210 body. He's Dale Robinson's smaller version. I think the only question on him is if he's going to stay healthy, because of the way he plays. I made a big hit tape for the guys and as I was making it there was a lot of number seven on there. He shows up and hits people.
You have a reputation as a 'passing guru', yet in the key last minutes of the game, you ran the ball. Why?
We ran a four-minute offense, where you're at the end of the game and trying to take time off of the clock, you need to make first downs. We got the ball back on that last drive with seven minutes and twenty seconds to go. We ran the ball on first down. We wanted to keep the clock going. We had two second and tens that we converted on passing plays, one on a great catch by Terry Richardson. Loren was a little bit worn down at that point so we went with Randy Hill, we did a nice job of getting Randy into the secondary. He made two or three really nice runs, took six and a half minutes off the clock. The only negative about that drive that was when we got it down inside the four yard line and took three cracks at it and couldn't get it in the endzone. That would have been a little more emphatic way to end it. But we took six and a half minutes off the clock and basically had to kick an extra point to win it, that is still a good sign. Outside of that, I would like to mention Stephen Berg in his first career start. Your man from Tucson played very well in his first start. And also the improvement of Zach Miller, Zach did finally get his first catch, though he hasn't had many balls thrown at him. But his blocking has really improved from high school game to the college game level.
How do you feel about this year's Iowa team compared to last year's team?
I don't think they've changed that much. Iowa is a very similar team. Nathan Chandler, their quarterback a year ago, was a first year starter. He's 6-7 and Tate is about 5-7. They're still doing the bootleg stuff, the sprint stuff, Fred Russell was an outstanding tailback and the backs still run hard. They don't have Robert Gallery, which is the most glaring change on their offensive line. That guy was as good of a lineman that I have ever seen. Defensively they are exactly the same. They don't have that great kicker they have a different kicker. It's hard to imagine they could have a better kicker than they had last year in Keating.
Do you think you will be able to stop the rush against the Iowa defense?
We're going to find out on Saturday, if we can pound the rock. They're a hard team to run the ball on. I think they were in the top ten in a bunch of defensive categories. I've watched every one of their games from last year and nobody is running up and down the field against Iowa's defense as far as running the ball. Sure, we're going to need to run the ball and our guys have confidence in what we are doing. We are going to have to do everything, run and throw the ball. It sure helps when you run it, it gets your play action game going. The other side of that is, we have two big-play receivers in Derek [Hagan] and Terry [Richardson] and they're going to have to stop those guys too. We also have an exceptional quarterback. I still think now we're going to get into some teams that are going to play more zone defense. You're going to see Zach Miller get more involved in the passing game as well.
What's your impression of Andrew Walter after the first two games?
I've said many times, Andrew has extremely high expectations for himself. I have very high expectations for Andrew. I don't think Andrew has played his best, but he has thrown for six touchdowns and no interceptions. He had a couple of balls dropped that could have changed the Northwestern game early. That first one that Terry [Richardson] dropped: Terry came back and made of beautiful catches. That first one was a flat-out touchdown to start the game. Andrew couldn't have thrown it any better. Andrew has not played as sharp as far a purely throwing the ball. We're asking Andrew to check a lot more, his checks have been awesome and he has gotten us in the right play. He's around 95% on his checks and we are doing a lot more of that. Andrew hasn't had to win a game for us yet, that time is going to come. When we need Andrew to win the game for us, I'm confident that when that time comes he will be ready to do it.
Can one game define the season? Could Iowa be that game?
I probably would have to say I don't believe in that coup, because there are a lot of games in the season. My philosophies are big and every week is the Super Bowl. I'm not trying to downgrade this game this is the biggest game we have this week. The PAC-10 opener is a week away and there's that game we play at the end of the season, it's a pretty big one. There are a lot of big one's out there and this is the biggest game this week, by far.
What do you do to get the team ready to go?
If I knew the answer to that, we'd do it every week. We would come out on fire every week. I wouldn't drop a 60-yard touchdown pass if I had to do it all over again.
How much freedom have you given Andrew Walter out on the field?
We've given Andrew a lot more freedom, because he knows it. As a matter of fact, one of the most critical plays in the [Northwestern] game, the first play of the fourth quarter, was a fourth and three when we threw the screen to Hakim [Hill], there was, of course, a TV timeout, and we have never packaged that play as a check before, ever, not even in practice. In the sixty-second break we said, if we get this defense we're going to run the screen, if we get this defense we're going to check out of it and I would never do that without a quarterback like Andrew. I wouldn't even consider it. There we are doing it on the most important play of the game.
What have you noticed about the mood of the team?
These guys take coaching well and they want to get better and they're not satisfied with being OK. In the Sunday film sessions, the day after the game, the last two weeks, we have shown them plays that they have made, they're good, but we have also shown them plays that we going to have to make better if we are going to beat the best teams on our schedule. We've talked a lot about fighting adversity and everything is good during spring ball and you don't ever fight adversity until the season. Now you get some things like losing R.J. Oliver for the season, somebody has to step up, that's fighting adversity. Losing Brandon Rodd for the season, somebody has to step up. Stephen Berg did a nice job of that last week. They [Northwestern] come back and change momentum and we had a fight a little adversity there in the second half. What was a very comfortable lead evaporated in a hurry. I think there were some chances for us in that game to kind of rollover and go the other way. I was proud of the guys that they didn't. I think they are believing in each other, but there is more adversity to be faced. I'm real pleased where we are at, but we have a couple of days to enjoy it, but then it's back to reality, the Iowa Hawkeye's.
Are you looking to have fan support help the team this week?
It would be great if the crowd would get involved and help us out. You ask any one of our players when they [Iowa] scored to go ahead 7-2 in that game last year that crowd jumped all over us. It was impossible to hear. Just looking at the tape again last night our offensive lineman were having to hold hands we jumped offsides about three times because we couldn't hear the count. I've heard our crowd get loud when it's only in the 50's. I think it's going to be in the 70's this week. I know there's going to be some Iowa fans here. It sure couldn't hurt if the crowd got involved. That 3,000 people at Northwestern did a real nice job in Chicago. That was awesome.
What else do the fans (crowd) do for the team overall?
Adrenaline. There's a little adrenaline pumped there. It especially helps your defense and it helps your special teams in that whole attitude of run and hit. Speed to the ball that our coaches are preaching to the guys. That lets them turn it loose and play. On our offensive side, we have been checking a lot more and most of the time we prefer to not play into that but we practice in crowd noise all the time and we have signals for everything. That's the whole big game atmosphere. You go to college to play college football and play in big games in front of big crowds. That's fun for the players.
How much did you recruit Tate [Iowa quarterback]?
We didn't recruit him too much because we were in good shape at quarterback, but I saw him at the Nike combine at Texas A&M a couple of years ago. When I first saw him I was taken back by how short he is, and this guy is short, but he is all-time leading passer in high school history in the state of Texas