Quotes From Football Coach Dirk Koetter's Press Conference
Tempe, Ariz. -- Aug. 26, 2002
'I appreciate everyone coming. Just recapping Nebraska, obviously the score got away from us in the second half. Nobody likes to get beat at all and nobody likes to get beat 48-10. I thought the first half we played all right, we played very hard the whole game. We go into halftime down 10-3. We made mistakes in the first half. We certainly could have had that game closer if not been ahead, but all things considered we weren't in too bad a position.
To start the third quarter we didn't have too much go right. Starting with the opening kickoff Hakim (Hill) made a very bad decision trying to bring that ball out. Followed up by a couple bad quarterback decisions, we took a couple losses we shouldn't have taken. Obviously it led to one blocked punt and a shanked punt, it went bad in a hurry on us. One thing is, with all the mistakes we made, both the physical mistakes in punt protection and a couple mental mistakes as far as the returners and the quarterbacks, those are all things that can be corrected easy enough. Those are just mistakes we made and we're not glad we made them, but we made them and we will learn from them and move on.
The positives, we played 51 players not including kickers, 43 of those 51 were underclassmen. It got a lot of guys great experience. I know people were worried how we'd come out health-wise and we practiced yesterday and we didn't pick up one injury from that game that we didn't already have going into that game. Now, with that said, we're going to be without Al Williams for the next few weeks. Hopefully we'll have Al Williams back for the Stanford game. Williams, as you know, had a hand injury. He had a plate put in his hand from a family reunion accident this summer. At Camp Tontozona he had a crack in wrist on the other side and we didn't know it was cracked until we got back down the hill. They put a cast on it, said he could play with it. They were going to x-ray it every week and maybe he would go the whole season and maybe he wouldn't, but he did go ahead and break that through. Williams will have that wrist operated on tomorrow. They're going to put a screw in it and they may fix the hand again at the same time. That will move Brett Hudson up into the starting lineup.
While we're on the safeties, Jason Shivers had 16 tackles in the game and he picked up right where he left off last year. But our player of the week on defense was our other safety, Ricardo Stewart. Stewart had 10 tackles and was just all over the field both on defense and on special teams. Other than that, we were healthy. Everybody else worked out yesterday, everybody else ran, lifted, did all the things they needed to do. We're relatively healthy. We're going to get back Adrian Thomas at corner and also Conner Banks at defensive end. Both of those guys should be back at full speed this week to sure up our depth a little bit.
Also, we received some good news on Friday. Barton Hammit went in for what we thought was reconstructive knee surgery. When they got in there with the scope it was not torn, it was just stretched out pretty good and he had some bone chips floating around in there which were causing his knee to swell up. They cleaned up his knee and that is going to make Barton Hammit's recovery much quicker. He probably could get back and play this year, although I don't see that happening with the three senior linebackers plus Jamar Williams already committed to play I think we're just better off just redshirting Hammit at this time.
Our players of the week, I already mentioned Ricardo Stewart, on special teams it was Mason Unck. Unck starts on all four of our big four special teams. The offensive player of the week was Drew Hodgon. Hodgon graded out in the mid 90 percents and really played well. Hodgon competed the whole game and did a nice job. I thought our offensive line in general, even though we made some mistakes, may not play a better front all year. Kelsay, the end that played over our right tackle is a very good football player. I personally don't think he's as good as Terrell Suggs, but he's an excellent player and he'll get a lot of postseason awards. All four of those guys that started on Nebraska's defensive line had started at one time in their career and you know what kind of depth Nebraska has winning the third series of the game both on offense and defense when they had their second group in there. There wasn't a big drop off from their first to their second.
Our scout players of the week, Terry Richardson who played quarterback last week was our offensive scout player of the week. Jordan Hill, our freshman linebacker who is back from a mission and will probably redshirt this year was our defensive scout player of the week. Jordan Hill, along with Jamar Williams and Barton Hammit give us three really good, young linebackers that will all have at least three or four years of eligibility left. Moey Mutz was our special teams scout player of the week. Drew Hodgon, Ricardo Stewart, and Mason Unck will also be our captains for this week.
For Eastern Washington, you just heard Paul Wolf speak. I've known Wolf for a long time. Before Wolf became a head coach for Eastern Washington he played for Washington State. He was the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator at Eastern Washington. Eastern Washington is known for their offensive linemen. They've got several former players in the NFL. What they do is they get these big kids out of Washington and redshirt them and keep them around for five years. They've had a lot of success with their offensive linemen over the years. With Tim Rosenbach running their offense they now have a guy that has a great playing experience running their offense.
Defensively, they're just a real solid team. They play a bend but don't break style and usually don't beat themselves. They're a solid I-AA team, they're in the mix of the Big Sky Conference every year. Although, we know that this week is a lot more about what we do and a lot less about what they do. We have plenty of things to get corrected. The attitude of players was great yesterday, both in the locker room after the game and yesterday. We're anxious to get back out there. We're anxious to play at home and get this thing going the other way.'
Coach, can you explain what happened with the punt coverage? Were there missed blocks or was the punter taking an extra step?
'Sure. First of all we had to punt three times inside our own 10-yard line. Normally the snapper to punter depth is 14 yards so anytime you're back inside your 10-yard line, especially inside the five yard line, you're going to have to cut that down. Now, Jay Breckinridge did a nice job with his snaps and coverage all night. Tim Parker's get off was fine. I think the one time Parker shanked it off the side of his foot he just lifted his head up. If you remember, the people that were at the game, the crowd was into it. There was a lot of pressure and it was Tim Parker's first game too. He redshirted last year after being a junior college transfer. He lifted his head up and shanked it, that's the bottom line.
On the other one, the first one that got blocked, they ran a twist inside and tried to pick our center Jay Breckinridge and Ricardo Stewart did a good job and passed it off. Unfortunately at the tackle spot our freshman linebacker Jamar Williams just got beat. He got beat inside. He turned his hips too much. It was a tough mistake, a tough way to learn for a freshman, but I have a feeling he won't make that mistake again. On the last one in the fourth quarter, Nebraska's favorite thing to do is rush their end rusher off our right wing and duck him back under. We worked on that about 10 billion times in practice this month. We'd been rotating Al Williams and Mike Williams at that spot. Al Williams had both his hands hurt so Mike Williams had been playing that spot. If you remember on third down Mike Williams was in at tailback and his shoe came off. He came out of the game, Al Williams was on him, the guy ducked inside made a nice effort and blocked it.'
Could you comment on Chad Christensen including what his demeanor was like before and during the game?
'Well, Chad's demeanor was awesome before the game and we said several times last week that probably no player on our team had any idea what they were walking into except for Chad. Chad had been in that stadium before. When we were practicing in that stadium on Friday when there was nobody there, that stadium looks like nothing special. But when you walk into that stadium on Saturday and there are thousands of people wearing red shirts and they're in there two hours before game time, we had some guys with some big eyes; Chad was not one of them. I thought Chad really handled himself well to start the game.
'Right at the end of the first half I decided to take Chad out and run the two-minute drill. Nebraska really didn't do anything to stop our outside passing game the whole night, but we didn't do a very good job of executing it. We had Shaun [McDonald] open on one play and Chad held the ball way too long. I put Andrew in there and he hit the same play right in front of our bench for a 20-yard gain. Then when we came back with Chad in the second half, we got a horrible start from a field position standpoint, they jumped on us with the shanked punt, and Chad made a couple of bad decisions on holding the ball.
'In the first half, when Chad was scrambling, he threw the ball away a couple of times and I really thought that Chad went from having total control of what he was doing to a very common mistake for a young quarterback; he was worried way too much about the rush and not the timing of the receivers. I've seen that many times and when that happens it's time for the change. I know I've been criticized that we'd be better off if Chad was in there getting the experience, but let me tell you, the experience we were getting at that time was not a good one. So I stand by that part and I'm never going to second guess doing that because I know more about it than the people who are criticizing me.'
Nebraska only threw the ball 13 times, could you comment on your pass defense?
'We weren't tested in the passing game. Our challenge was to stop the run. We did have one blown coverage when they had a guy wide open for the touchdown, which Nebraska will do to you sometimes, but that was just totally blown coverage. The teams we are going to play from here on out, especially Central Florida in two weeks, - Eastern Washington will try to balance it out a little more - are passing teams. I think that with the experience our defense gets everyday in practice against our offense, I feel more comfortable with our defense against a pass-oriented team rather that a run-oriented team because that's what we play against the most.
'Our defensive staff has expanded their package and added more to it this year, more to their zone blitz package, and I really like the things we're doing on defense. Were we tested against Nebraska? Absolutely not in the passing game. I think that R.J. Oliver has improved a ton, you know R.J. goes against Shaun everyday in practice, and I think that between Josh Golden, Lamar Baker, Adrian Thomas, and our safeties I think we'll be fine. I think we'll be able to put pressure on the passer more and I think that will help our pass defense, but we didn't expect to be tested in the passing game [against Nebraska].'
You went from being a big underdog against Nebraska to a big favorite this week, does this provide any motivational challenge to the kids?
'I don't think a motivational challenge. We need to take care of what we have to do and not worry about anything else. If we just go out and play, we should be fine. Now, we do have a young team and are certainly in no position to look over anybody, but we have so much to concentrate on ourselves that it doesn't matter who is favored and who is not. I don't think that after a 48-10 loss that I would have any reason to believe that we'd be flat.'
Can you comment about playing a I-AA school, the differences between I-A and I-AA and what it was like coaching in I-AA?
'Well it's been a long time since I've coached in I-AA, I mean really I was just a GA as a coach [in I-AA], and I did play I-AA. The main difference is scholarships. Eastern Washington is probably working with approximately 60 scholarships whereas we're working with approximately 80. They play in a good league, very competitive, but it's been 21 years since I've been involved in I-AA so to be honest with you I don't know what it's like.'
Will Eastern Washington's offense or defense prepare you for future games in the Pac-10?
'Well, Eastern Washington runs an offense that will be similar to what we see in some Pac-10 games. They run a one-back offense that mixes runs and passes with typical one-back runs; zone, counter, stretch and then they're going to try and throw the ball and they do a good job with their protection schemes. Defensively they're a little different, they play old-school two-deep zone, not very many schools play that any more. Most are into zone-blitz, man, and quarters coverage but these guys are old school, they keep two safeties back and they are a bend but don't break [style]. They don't give up too many big plays and if you want to score on them you will have to drive the ball.
'Now, we don't see too many teams that play like that and we're more of a try to draw teams up and strike on them, so this will be a challenge for us in that fact that you have to earn your yardage. Unless they change their character, I don't they'll come out and blitz us a lot because, as [E. Washington coach] Paul [Wulff] mentioned, I think we have better speed than they do. But who knows, it's their first game so maybe they have revamped their defense.'
Considering Chad's second-half performance, was he a more confident player this Sunday [at practice] than he was last Sunday?
'That's a good question, you probably need to ask him that. Chad viewed some film with Mark Helfrich yesterday, and I visited with Chad after his film session and talked him through. We had all the quarterbacks grade themselves. I think it's a good thing for the quarterbacks to see on film what we see so they can verify what we're telling them. I told Chad that there is no reason for him to be down and I think that for any young player the biggest challenge is can they tune out the negativity of people on the outside telling them that the coach is an idiot or that we shouldn't switch quarterbacks, we should do this we should do that. I mean that film doesn't lie too often and it pretty much tells the story. Chad is a very realistic person with a level head on his shoulders and every mistake we made out there can be corrected and I don't think there's any reason for our fans to be less optimistic. I'm very optimistic about the future of our team with Chad as a leader, but we need to do everything we can to win football games right now. So whatever that takes, whether we have to shuffle QBs every play, that's what we'll do'
Is Chad still the clear-cut number one quarterback? Could you comment on your running game going into this week?
'Yes, Chad is still the clear-cut number one. We ran 72 plays, 41 passes and 31 runs in the game. Now, some of that is dictated by the score. I always make notes on my sheet to myself before every game, I've got everything color-coded by our personnel groups and I always write little reminders. One of my main reminders to myself going into that game was number one to stay patient with the running game. I thought we ran the ball okay, not great by any means and I wish we would have run the counter play more because we didn't run it at all in the first half and when we ran it in the second half we had good results. After the game Nebraska's coaches told our coaches that was one thing they were nervous about was the counter play but we just didn't get to it.
'We have seven months to game plan for somebody, you think you're a smart coach, you have all these plays that you like and it's hard to get to it all in the first half, especially when you have a freshman quarterback. We had some plays that were two-yard gains that were pretty close to twenty-yard gains, we were just off a little bit on one thing or another. I wished we could have gotten more touches for all three tailbacks because I think all three of those guys will get better if they have a chance to run the ball 10-15 times but that just wasn't the game for it to happen. When you have a running quarterback you have what we'll call two or three quarterback draws there in the first half which gave Chad a chance to carry it too. Mike [Williams] did have a couple of real nice runs on counter. Cornell and Hakim really never got a chance to get on track and that's one thing as an offense we'd like to establish this week and hopefully that can happen.'
Could you talk about Eastern Washington transfer quarterback Josh Blankenship and maybe the circumstances surrounding his transfer?
'That's kind of an interesting story. Blankenship had some big numbers at [University of] Tulsa in the first half of the season and I don't know what exactly happened but he got kind of cross-wise there with his coach and they benched him about the time they were going to play Boise State. And since I still follow Boise State I happened to follow that and his coach didn't say very many nice things about him there. I don't know what the deal on that was so it wasn't a big surprise at the end of the year that he announced he was transferring. When he decided to transfer he ended up at Eastern Washington. They say he's the son of a very successful high school coach in the Tulsa area so I'm sure this kid is very sharp and knows what he's doing. The things Paul said about him, that he's accurate and has a strong arm, do show up on film. Maybe he just needed a change of scenery, I don't really know, but he's a talented guy.'
In the game against Nebraska you were 1-2 in the red zone and Nebraska was 3-3, could you comment on how important the red zone is going to be for your team?
'Very important, we need to get there more than two times. If we get there more than two times we'll be a lot better off.'