Dirk Koetter's Weekly Football Press Conference

Nov. 22, 2004

Opening Statement...
'On behalf of everybody associated with ASU football, I'd like to wish our best towards Bob Moran (beat writer for the East Valley Tribune). As most of you know, Bob is in the hospital right now and our thoughts and prayers are with Bob and his family as he tries to recuperate. I just want to touch a little bit on our schedule. We did have two days off and we returned to practice last night. We had an excellent practice, maybe our best practice of the year. You could really tell the difference on how fresh our guys' legs were and we really had a bounce in our step last night. I did close practice this week. I closed practice last night and it will be closed again tomorrow and on Wednesday. We've been getting so many people out at practice and I usually know everyone that's at practice. But since there have been so many people there that I don't know, we felt like we needed to close it. As soon as we get back into bowl practice we'll open it back up again.'

On the rivalry...
'I wouldn't say that they've (Arizona) changed. I think every coach in America knows whom his rival game is with and knows how important that game is. I continue to be impressed by how important this game is to the followers of both teams. There's not a day that goes by that I don't get reminded about it. I was at the grocery store the other morning getting coffee and a guy walked right up to me and told me that he could not live if we couldn't go down there and beat UA. That's a lot of passion right there. The only thing that has changed is that we've changed a little bit in the way we approach this game.'

On whether the underdog is more excited to play in a rivalry game...
'I think that when you go into a rivalry game where one team has a better record than the other, it gives that team more incentive because you can always fall back and say, `This can make our season.' On the other side of the coin are some misnomers about a rivalry game. Everyone always tells the team on top that the rivalry game has to be close. It doesn't have to be close. There's no rule in the book that says just because you're rivals you have to play it close. If you're four touchdowns better, you can play four touchdowns better.'

On players' emotions...
'We get to see the guys for four hours a day whether it be in meetings or in practice. Our players constantly get asked about the polls and about the rivalry. This week, we (coaching staff) need to reinforce what our message is. We can't control everything that the players hear. You just have to constantly reinforce what you want the message to be. You have to hope that your main guys get the message and that trickles down into the leadership of your team.'

On the coach's message to the players...
'Our message is that number one, we've got to play our game. We have to play this game the same way that we have to play the other games. The emotion will be there. Arizona is not the only team that has something to play for. Just because we're 8-2 and they're 2-8 doesn't mean that we don't have anything to play for. We'd still like to be a 10-win football team and to be a 10-win team you've got to be a nine-win team. This game has plenty of implications for us. I feel like when it's all said and done, eventually we could rise in the polls. Three teams ahead of us lost last week and we didn't move ahead of them but we might if we just keep hanging in there.'

On having a winning season...
'At the end of every season, you look back as a coach and say, `Did this team overachieve or underachieve?' I've been the first to say that last year's team underachieved. When I say that, that includes me. I don't like that after my name. We did a lot of work on that in the off-season. I think our players bought into that and when this season is over, we'll look back and this team will be remembered as a team that overachieved. I think that is all you can ask for from any team.'

On concerns of fighting...
'It's always a concern because we've seen how easy it can happen. I don't think in any of these situations that happened recently any of the coaches went in the locker room before the game and said let's go out and have an incident like that. In the aftermath of what's happened a coach said something that I really agree with. In the day and age that we live in and these things happen they are shown over and over. We can't help but know that that's in the back of everyone's mind somewhere. You have to constantly reinforce your message and the smallest of things can ignite something like that. Hopefully that won't happen. I know Coach Stoops doesn't teach his guys to play that way and we don't teach our guys to play that way. My first year, there was a very ugly incident here that we're not proud of and we accept our part of the responsibility for that. I think you just have to continue to preach that it's not acceptable. I have no hatred for the University of Arizona.'

On the first 10 minutes of the game...
'I think that in games like this, the team that's favored has to overcome the initial frenzy of the underdog, especially on their home field. I think that as the game goes on, every team, good or bad, returns to their true colors. I think the first 10 minutes of every game are important because crazy stuff can happen. There's always an initial frenzy for the underdog in a rivalry game and we have to survive that. In fact, we actually have to take the attack mentality.'

On the Arizona Wildcats...
'I see a team that plays extremely hard on defense. They are a good tackling defense. They really try to get after you and they try to bring it from every angle. When I say that with this particular team, it's usually in the realm of the zone blitz. They've got every zone blitz known to man, more than we've seen all year. They'll bring them at you on any down and distance on any spot on the field. Their defense has done a really nice job of creating turnovers, especially in the last couple games. They've got some things on special teams that are unique and we haven't seen before this year. They're a sound football team. There's no way to disguise the fact that they're struggling on offense. But they do have a homerun threat at tailback and all they have to do is turn around and hand it to him.'

On the rivalry game's influence on recruits...
'I think that would vary by every individual recruit. We've been very successful in the state of Arizona. In the past few years, we haven't really gone head-to-head with Arizona for recruits because we've been primarily an Arizona and California recruiting base and they've been primarily a Texas base. Under Stoops, they've put a lot more emphasis on Arizona and we're in some battles with them for top in-state guys.'

On the improvements UA has made...
'First off, they're really young in the secondary. I think the secondary is the strength of that defense. They have seen some of the excellent wide receivers and some of the excellent passing attacks that are out there. I think their secondary has gotten better every week.'

On Andrew Walter...
'I think Andrew (Walter) has had an exceptional year. Sure, there are a couple of games we'd like to have back. But there are plenty games that because of what he did is a reason we are where we are. Andrew is getting everyone involved. We've had a lot of success throwing the ball inside the five-yard line. You have to trust your quarterback in those situations because there's a chance you get overloaded on the protections. In the middle of the year, teams did a good job of taking the deep ball away from us. At the start of the season and in the last couple of weeks teams have given us some shots to throw the deep ball. That shows you why Andrew is such a threat. When he gets a chance to throw the ball over the top there aren't many guys better than him. He's done a great job this year and there's no question in my mind that he has dramatically increased his stock. I think that will show up in April when the draft comes around. He still has a lot of room to grow as a quarterback and he's going to be a great pro.'

On the changes made on offense and defense...
'The switch from a fullback offense to a two tight end offense was a no brainer. I think it's pretty safe to say that Zach Miller lived up to the hype and we had to get him involved. We had a pretty good idea that he was going to be able to contribute as a freshman and he's done that. The changes on defense were much more significant because we totally changed our alignment. We got a little bit lucky in Dale Robinson. We didn't know he was going to make the transition as fast as he did. I think that's where our biggest improvement has come with switching to the 4-3 defense and, combine that with Mark Carrier coming in, our corners are playing with so much more confidence. With the press coverage, we've been able to take away the easy passing game. That's been a huge part of the defense.'

On playing on a Friday...
'It's a little different, but since we had that week off, it helps both teams to get their legs back and heal up. With the bye week in front, it doesn't make it that difficult. This rivalry gets a ton of national publicity because there aren't that many games on Friday. We get the main stage. It's a pretty fair trade off.'

On Andrew Walter off the field...
'Andrew is a mature guy. You don't have to sugarcoat things for Andrew. You can always tell Andrew straight up. He doesn't always agree with everything I say to him, but Andrew is a sharp guy. I like guys like that where they can tell you what they think and you can tell them what you think so you can start hammering it out and get it done.'

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