Inside ASU Football

Oct. 10, 2002

This week we get back to Pac-10 play. We need all of our fans to be out in force for Oregon State. You will never realize how important a loud crowd is to help create home-field advantage. An enthusiastic crowd is worth much more than any Knute Rockne speech given by a coach, because it lasts well into the game and is a constant reminder that each play is important.

As far as the North Carolina game goes, it was a heartbreaker, and one we could have won. Give UNC some credit as well. They are an athletic and well-coached team. We, however, cannot go 5 for 10 in the Red Zone, miss four field goals, and give up two long touchdown drives in the last seven minutes.

  • Red Zone: We were 19 for 21 going into UNC. Getting to the red zone 10 times is something to be happy about, but we potentially gave away 35 points. We only needed four. Quite a contrast to the Stanford game.

  • Field Goals: I have a lot of confidence in Mike Barth. I have never seen him miss four field goals in an entire week. Even Tiger Woods is off his game at times.

  • Finishing the defense: On both of the last two drives, we had opportunities to sack the QB but didn't get it done. It's easy to place the blame on our corner position opposite RJ Oliver, but truth be told, if we had wrapped up the QB, it wouldn't have mattered. Also, on one of the other second-half touchdowns, we had a safety blow a coverage and turn his man completely loose. Every team has injuries and positions where they are thin or inexperienced. Losing Manny Franklin after spring ball and Lamar Baker this fall have made us less experienced at corner. Adrian Thomas is another player that has played some corner for us, but he too has been slowed by various leg injuries this fall. That leaves us with redshirt freshman Josh Golden, and true freshman Mike Davis. Both of these guys are in their first year of college football and will continue to improve and be excellent Pac-10 corners. They are just young. Brett Hudson is another talented player that has now seen time at both safety and corner. Brett is a versatile player, but is also adjusting to the speed of the game at this level. I like all of these guys. Let's not forget how far RJ Oliver has come in one year. He is now considered among the top cover guys around.

    Any time you lose a close game, the second-guessing begins. Every player and every coach would do something different in one situation or another if we could go back and do it again. Unfortunately, there are no 'do-overs.' I have said that I would have continued to run the football at the nine-minute mark of the 4th quarter if we could do it again. There is, however, no proof that the results would have been any different. It's human nature to second-guess. Fans saying what the players or coaches should have done is one of the reasons the game is so popular. Trust me, when I say that it's not quite as easy as it looks when you have less than 30 seconds as a coach to make a decision, and only a split-second as a player to make a read. I offer this only for perspective. To me, the strategy part of the game is at the top of the list of what makes college football coaching fun.

    There is another point regarding offensive strategy that needs to be cleared up. We might take 40-50 different pass routes into a normal game. Some NFL teams carry over 100. Each play has a read and a progression for the QB to follow. The defense being played then determines who the QB looks at first, second, third, etc. Several of our routes feature receivers on different levels. These routes are referred to as 'layered' routes or sometimes as 'vertical stretch' routes. Other route types would include 'triangle' reads, 'horizontal' reads, and 'mismatch' reads vs. man-to-man teams. With all that said, we usually have several options for the QB based on what the defense is doing. So, on 3rd and 10, when the QB throws it too deep or too short for a fan's particular taste, it is probably because that is what the defense is forcing him to do. Sometimes a QB will 'force' the ball into some place he shouldn't, and sometimes the QB, the receiver, or the defender just make a good or bad play. If all 3rd and 10 plays were designed to go exactly 10 yards, wouldn't that make the job of the defenders much easier? They could just drop all of their defenders into zone coverage at 10 yards deep and keep the ball in front of them. It just doesn't work that way. Try it out on your home video game and see if you go undefeated!

    We always try to have a few 'trick' or 'shot' plays ready each week. These plays are fun for the players and can have a big impact if they are called at the right time and executed properly. Our philosophy is to use these plays early in the game, and when the right situation comes up. For example, we might want to run a certain 'shot' play between the +40 and the -40, but only on the left hash. (Maybe the play is a halfback pass and your tailback can only throw while running to his right.) You might play an entire game without getting in the right spot. I have found that when you practice a 'trick' play, feel good about it, and can execute it in practice, it will usually work in the game unless you get an unusual defense, or if you don't stick to your plan of only calling it in the proper spot.

    That's it for this week. We hope you will join us at Sun Devil Stadium this Saturday for a great Pac-10 game with Oregon State.


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