Quotes From ASU Football Coach Dirk Koetter's Monday Press Conference
Sept. 22, 2003
TEMPE, Ariz. -- 'I don't want to disappoint anybody but I'm not going to sit up here and paint a doom and gloom picture for the Sun Devils today. We, as the coaching staff and as a team need to move toward Oregon State. The loss at Iowa, of course, was very disappointing. It's always disappointing when you don't play up to your capabilities and trust me we feel bad about that from a player and a coaching standpoint. But with that all done all we can do is learn from it and move on. I will gladly answer all the questions you may have but I am not going to let the gloom and doom get me down today.
'Our scout players of the week on offense is Mike Pollak, freshman offensive lineman. On defense, Rudy Sanchez, safety from St. Mary's high school and special teams linebacker Mike Meritet. We don't give out game balls when we lose, but we do recognize players of the week for a job well done. On offense we had nobody. On defense, Jason Shivers set a career high in tackles with 17, and also had the interception. Jason coming back off the injury the week before really played hard and did a real nice job as a leader on the sideline. Jason was very upbeat throughout the game, played well on special teams as well, and our special teams player of the game was Jamar Williams.
'For those of you who do not know, Jamar, on the third or fourth play of the game, broke his nose and when I saw Jamar on the sideline it looked like he got hit in the teeth with a baseball bat. He looked horrible with blood all over him, his face was all swollen up, the trainers didn't think he'd be able to go back in the game. Two plays later he was back in the game and played most of the game. He is going to see a specialist today to sort out what we have to do to get him better but what a great effort by Jamar Williams. Our captains for Oregon State besides Andrew Walter and Riccardo Stewart are Jason Shivers and Mike Karney.
'Going back to the game, we played an excellent football team that's now won 14 in a row regular season games. They're a very well coached team. We couldn't have gotten off to a better start with the field position our defense put us in and for most of the first quarter we did a good job. All of a sudden we get down to the 11-yard line and we threw the interception which was certainly not a highlight in Andrew Walter's career and big turning point in the game when we could have gotten up by two scores and came away with nothing.
'Another time there was an 8-minute stretch at the end of the second quarter when they scored their first touchdown and the crowd really got back into the game there the last eight minutes of the second quarter. Our offense couldn't move it a lick. We went three straight three-and-outs at that point and they scored two touchdowns and we were down 14-2 at halftime and they come out and score in the first and the third quarter. We still had a couple chances in the second half, but offensively I had never been in a game like that where we just couldn't put anything together and I take the responsibility for that. That's my baby, and we didn't get it done. We'll make the necessary corrections and adjustments and we'll move forward from there.'
The fact that OSU played Boise State this past weekend, where you last coached, what can you take from how OSU played against Boise State?
'I'm not sure that there's any advantage. We do run a similar system to Boise State in all phases so you see how you think Oregon State is going to try to play against some of the same scheme. There are no guarantees with that and I counted that about 18 starters of the players of Boise State are still playing when I was there at Boise State so I have a pretty good feeling of what type of players those guys are versus the Oregon State players and also how we would stack up. I wouldn't put a whole lot of credence in us getting a huge advantage off of that.'
Have you arrived at a point where you can make personnel decisions on your running game?
'It would help out our team if we settled into one guy who knew he was going to get a majority of the carries and we went ahead and did that. Unfortunately, it's not quite as easy as it seems. Mike Williams was held out of one game, missed one game completely. Loren Wade had a chance to establish himself as that guy and Loren, coming out of the NAU game, banged his shoulder and did not practice the week before the Utah State game and he played like that in the Utah State game. His shoulder is still a little sore and I don't think he's back to the point that he was during fall camp and even in spring football.
'Hakim played pretty well at Iowa for the chances that he got. He did make a couple errors in the passing game but now Hakim comes out of the Iowa game with a shoulder injury as well that makes his status somewhat uncertain going into tomorrow's practice. We would like to settle on something at tailback, but there are some other factors underneath the surface that make that a little harder than saying 'this is the guy'.'
How do you think the offensive line performed against Iowa?
'Overall, I think our performance was okay, considering that might be the best front four, or one of the two best lines that we'll see all year. Our offensive line, our experience is in the inside three, the center and the two guards. Our tackles were going against some great football players, and I think it's the most those two have ever been challenged, those two are in their third starts each, and considering who they were playing against, I think they did okay. The O-line was not the main cause of our offensive woes. The offensive line and Mike Karney at fullback, played all right.'
Will Andrew Walter draw from his experiences from playing against OSU last year? Do they run the same defense?
'There is a different defensive coaching staff, I think only one was held over, but Oregon State is playing a little different style of defense than they did last year. They are still a really solid defensive team, and I'm a lot more worried about what Andrew draws from the Iowa game than what he drew from last year's Oregon State game. I think with Andrew a lot of it just comes back to his frame of mind and getting his confidence back, and knowing that he can do everything right, and not try to make every play a great one. So I don't think last year's Oregon State game is going to be a huge factor, more of it is how he's playing right now.'
Are there offensive differences between OSU last year and OSU this year?
'There are some, but they are still primarily a single back team. I think they're doing a good job of feeding Steven Jackson the ball and letting him work, they're getting him the ball and letting him pound it. They are going to give Jackson the ball and try to get you to commit to that and they're going to throw it out to Newson, who's an excellent receiver, their tight end also returns. Their other receiver is a good player as well.
'The big thing against them is their quarterback threw for over 400 yards against Boise. Boise wasn't able to get pressure on him. If you look at the game they lost against Fresno, Fresno was able to get pressure on him early and he ended up throwing five or six interceptions. It's sort of the same M.O. he had last year in that in games where people didn't get to him he played pretty well, and in games where they were able to pressure him, he didn't do as well. He's certainly a talented quarterback, and so you can draw your own conclusions from what we need to do there.'
What did you say to Andrew after the Iowa game?
'The pressure a guy like that is under and the way he handles himself is first-class all the way. Andrew takes 100% responsibility when he should, and a lot of times even when he shouldn't. I don't have a good explanation for why things happened the way they did in the game, but I guess that's why he's not playing in the NFL right now, he's playing college football. Turn on the TV any Sunday and you'll see the same thing from guys in the NFL right now. I'm disappointed about what happened in Iowa, but when you're coaching college football all you do is move on. You have to get better and move on, it's all we can do. For me to say I'm mad at Andrew Walter would be a big joke, because Andrew wants to win as bad as anybody.'
How is Daryl Lightfoot? Is he the guy who can step up and replace Shaun McDonald?
'We were hoping Daryl could come in and be that guy, and I think that's one thing that's plaguing us, that's one of the tangible things that we can put our finger on and say, `In spring football Daryl was very consistent and played very well in spring practice.' He showed the ability to make big plays and stay healthy.
'Unfortunately we've gotten to the season now and he's missed two out of the three games, and these injuries that Daryl has are not significant injuries, they're minor. He actually got hurt on the very last play he was in against Utah State, and they thought it was just a hamstring cramp, but it turned out to be more of a pull than a cramp. We thought he'd be able to go, he went a little bit on Thursday in practice, it felt pretty good, so we took him on the trip.
'I watched him in warm-ups and could tell he wasn't right, and he said he could tell he wasn't a 100%. So I thought it was better to hold him out than risk hurting him more for conference play. He ran with the team yesterday, and hopefully he'll be back. I think not having that big play go-to guy is affecting us a little bit right now. Between Derek Hagan, Terry Richardson, and Matt Miller, we're still sort of trying to find our roles here.'
Were you at Oregon when Mike Riley was initially at OSU? Does that help you out at all heading into this game?
'That was the case, but I don't think it helps out. He has a lot of different assistants now. That was so many years ago with different assistants, different players, different strengths and weaknesses. Mike Riley is an excellent football coach. They won't be looking at that and we won't be either.'
Could you talk a little bit more about OSU running back Steven Jackson?
'Well, he's a great mixture of size, speed and power. It's surprising that in all the yardage he has this year, his longest run is of 16 or 18 yards, he hasn't really broke off any long ones. He does have that capability. The one thing that is noticeable in their offense this year is that they are throwing the ball more to him out of the backfield and in their screen game. That gives him a lot of touches and he's one of those back who can take the punishment and come back next week and be ready for more.'
How much of a concern is it that your running game is ranked 91st in the country? Can you be an effective offense without running the ball better than that?
'It's a big concern, but how big of a concern is it that we were 3 of 16 on third downs, how big of a concern is it that we are pathetic in the red zone? We have a lot of concerns and we have to score some points. Whether we run or pass, we have to get on the scoreboard. Our defense getting a safety for us isn't going to win too many games.'
Steven Jackson hit his stride after playing ASU last year, is he running any differently?
'No, that guy is a really good player. I don't think they gave him the ball enough in the early season last year and they're giving him the ball a lot right now.'
Who are the Oregon State playmakers on defense?
' Well it starts with their middle linebacker, Seigler, that guy is a stud. I think he's got 11 or 12 tackles for loss already. Then Swancutt, the one defensive end No. 90, that guy is a good pass rusher, real solid player. Their defensive tackle, Dwan Edwards, is a load inside, he's about 306 lbs, plays with power, has some pass rush moves. Their weak outside linebacker, Jonathan Pollard No. 40 is a good player. The safety that was hurt against us last year No. 5, the big free safety Mitch Meeuwsen is a good player. They're playing a true freshmen at one corner. The guy is 6-4, and they play a lot of bump and run defense. For a true freshmen at 6-4 to be out there playing bump and run as well as they are, that's impressive.'
How are your cornerbacks playing?
'R.J. Oliver had the most expensive school-record interception return, and that one 100-yard interception return has now cost R.J. two games. He's got a quad pull and tried to go at the end of last week and just couldn't do it, so we didn't take him on the trip. R.J.'s an excellent competitor, he did run with the team yesterday and we're hopeful he'll be back this week.
'So with his absence, we started with Josh Golden and Emmanuel Franklin and I thought we played fine until they threw the one deep pass on Manny. I think Manny started to doubt himself a little after that. Golden pulled himself out at halftime, he thought he was going to cramp again. He's our only athlete with cramping issues, we've had to do blood work to try to find out why and he's going to see another specialist today, but he continues to have issues and he's the only player that's in that boat right now.
'The guy that has come in each week and gotten better and better is Chris McKenzie. And I think now Chris is really starting to adjust to the difference in speed between junior college football and Division I football, I think he's trusting himself a lot more. He showed up early in the season on kick coverage and you could see his speed, but I think he was playing a little tentatively at corner, but he had a nice pass breakup on third-down against Iowa.
'We're going to have to improve our corner play. One thing that Oregon State did a nice job of against Boise was when Boise tried to pressure the quarterback, they threw some jump balls up to Newson and he just went up over their corners and he had two-hundred some-odd yards receiving and we're going to have to play well. In Pac-10 play we're going to see really good receivers every week.'
Is Jessie Ainsworth still going to be your placekicker? Is that permanent?
'Yes, but I don't know what is permanent in that position yet.'
OSU's O-line is supposed to be the best in the conference, what are your thoughts on that?
'I haven't watched their O-line that much on film, so I can't really answer that question yet.'