Friday, October 10, 2003
Ducks, Devils share system, disappointment
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter had no
trouble teaching his team what to expect against Oregon.
"This game is like us playing ourselves, in a lot of different
areas," Koetter said, "special teams, offensively, defensively.
It's like we're playing a mirror image of ourselves."
The teams also share a recent history of disappointment when
much bigger things were expected of them.
Arizona State (0-2 Pac-10, 2-3 overall) began the season ranked
16th in the country but has lost consecutive games to Iowa 21-2,
Oregon State 45-17 and USC 37-17. Oregon (1-1, 4-2) was unranked in
the preseason, but climbed to 10th after an upset of Michigan. Then
came a 55-16 blowout loss at home to Washington State, followed by
last week's 17-13 loss at Utah.
"We're both coming off losing streaks so we want to right the
ship, obviously," Arizona State quarterback Andrew Walter said.
"It's not exactly where we wanted to be up to this point -- both
teams -- so now we've just got to go take care of business."
The Ducks crowd the line to stop the run, leaving defenders in a
man-on-man challenge against the receivers. The system makes it
tough to pass shorter routes.
"They pretty much challenge you to throw it deep," Koetter
And that has been a problem for ASU, even though Walter has one
of the strongest, and most accurate, arms in college football. The
Sun Devils lack speed at wide receiver, and sorely miss Shaun
McDonald, who left after last season to go to the NFL.
Koetter, offensive coordinator at Oregon in 1996-97, got his
biggest win as Sun Devils' coach a year ago when ASU beat the Ducks
45-42 in Eugene, with Walter throwing for a Pac-10 record 559
yards. The Ducks were ranked sixth nationally going into the game.
The game triggered a slide that saw Oregon lose six of its last
"I'm sure we'll talk about last year's game," Oregon coach
Mike Bellotti said, "watch it on film and try to learn from it as
we did last year. But I think we're more concerned with this year's
Duck team and this year's ASU team. You really can't change the
past. Hopefully, you learn from it, but you focus on the present."
Oregon leads the Pac-10 passing offense with its two-quarterback
system. With Kellen Clemens starting and Jason Fife coming on in
relief, the Ducks average 290.3 yards per game.
Samie Parker, an NCAA finalist in the 100-meter dash and one of
the fastest receivers in college football, has had to deal with the
death of his stepfather last week. The funeral was Wednesday, but
Parker expects to play.
"He's going through a tough time," Bellotti said. "I think
he'll be healthy. I think that'll be good, but obviously the mental
part of it is important. It was his choice to join the team before
the Utah game, and I appreciate that and look forward to getting
him back full-time with peace of mind."
ASU, on the other hand, is only sixth in passing (252) and
seventh in total offense (348). Walter, though, has seen signs of
improvement. Injuries have hurt the Ducks, especially on the
Cornerback R.J. Oliver plans to play for the first time since he
pulled his quadriceps during a 100-yard interception return against
Northern Arizona in the season opener. Oliver has special incentive
for this one.
"The past two years I haven't played too well against Oregon,"
he said. "I've only been scored on six times in my career, and
four of them have come against Oregon."
The frustrating season has left the Sun Devils in a foul mood.
"Our players have a good attitude. These guys are working hard.
There's a little bit of a surly attitude, too," Koetter said.
"But that's by everybody. Everyone's got a little frustration
inside of them, players and coaches -- a lot of things boiling under
the surface that a big fat `W' would cure."