October 2, 2004
EUGENE, Ore. - Tonight’s game won’t be the usual Arizona State vs. Oregon matchup.
There’s much at stake for both teams, and recent results have intensified the competition.
The 21st-ranked Sun Devils (4-0, 1-0 Pac-10) need a victory to set up a showdown in two weeks against top-ranked and preseason Pac-10 favorite Southern California.
The Ducks (1-2), playing their first Pac-10 game of the season, can legitimately think about the Rose Bowl because of one fact: They don’t play USC this season.
Oregon is also steamed about last year’s game when ASU came within a point of scoring 60.
"(Oregon coach) Mike (Bellotti) will have those guys foaming at the mouth," ASU coach Dirk Koetter said.
The Devils will try to defeat the Ducks for a third straight time without leading rusher Loren Wade, who was indefinitely suspended by athletic director Gene Smith while the university investigates a possible violation of NCAA rules concerning him and a former employee.
The Wade situation has shared headlines with the football team’s success this week.
"No, it’s not a distraction at all," senior safety Riccardo Stewart said. "It’s just another hurdle we have to jump over to go where we’re going.
"It’s like the weather. You don’t know if it’s going to snow, or if it’s going to thunder or not. You just have to fight through it. "
Added guard Grayling Love, "That’s just part of the theme of fighting through adversity. It’s something we have to move on from."
Recent games with the Ducks have been wild affairs.
"They’ve been shootouts," Koetter acknowledged.
In 2000, the Sun Devils snatched defeat from victory by blowing a late two - touchdown advantage and falling 55-54 in double overtime.
In 2001, Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington riddled the ASU secondary with six TD tosses in a 42-24 victory.
Two years ago ASU rallied from a 21-0 second-period deficit to upset the sixth-ranked Ducks, 45-42.
Last year, Oregon left Tempe battered, beaten and seething after ASU scored a touchdown with 26 seconds left to push the margin of the victory to 59-14.
"Last year everything just went our way," Koetter said. "Our defense basically scored two touchdowns right off the bat."
Oregon players have said they are seeking retribution today.
Koetter has used the same "revenge" factor for Iowa and Oregon State.
"Any coach is going to do what he can to get his guys (motivated)," Koetter said. "What gets printed in the paper . . . they use revenge, we expected that.
"But we’ve got our own stuff. We could come back and say every media poll had them picked ahead of us. We have plenty to play for, too."
Bellotti said he would not have scored the last touchdown in last year’s game. Still, what bothered him more was his own team’s shoddy performance.
"It’s not that any coach would choose to do that," Bellotti said. "It’s more that you allow it to happen."
Koetter was Bellotti’s offensive coordinator for two seasons in 1990s.
"Mike is one of my mentors," said Koetter, who is 2-1 against his former boss. "The fact that I worked with Mike, I consider Mike a friend. But this is business right here. He knows that. I know that."
Oregon has been saving plays for ASU while the Ducks’ defense, according to Koetter, used schemes against Idaho just to force ASU to spend time preparing for them.
"When they got ahead of Idaho last week, they played every defense ever invented in the fourth quarter. That gave us plenty to work on.
"They’ve got a lot of schemes. They’ve got a bunch of stuff, and we have to work on it. They’re probably up there laughing right now because they know we have to work on all of it."
ASU quarterback Andrew Walter has passed for 852 yards and seven touchdowns the last two games.
Walter said not having Wade and injured running back Randy Hill "hurts because of the quality of players."
But Hakim Hill and anyone else the staff uses at running back shouldn’t feel too much pressure "because there are no expectations," Walter said. "So you can go out and have fun. Save a few hits on the quarterback."
Oregon is playing more with a free safety camped in the middle of the field to take away the post pattern.
The Devils also have to overcome the crowd noise at Autzen Stadium.
"My opinion, Autzen is the toughest place to go to," Koetter said.