ASU coach plans to readjust attitude

Updated: October 6, 2003, 9:46 PM ET

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Forget the physical matchups for a while. Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter is planning to make an attitude adjustment.

He said Monday the Sun Devils (2-3, 0-2 Pac-10) played their best game of the year in a 37-17 home loss to Southern California -- for three quarters.

Unfortunately, it wasn't hockey.

"The fourth quarter was not good at all," Koetter said. "I thought when we got down by 10 points, we sort of let go of the rope (and) had that 'here-we-go-again' mentality that you have when you're on a losing streak, which is not acceptable. We've got to get that changed, or we're not going to get anything done."

He said no shakeups were in the works before playing Oregon this weekend in Sun Devil Stadium and made it clear he hasn't lost faith in quarterback Andrew Walter despite the team's offensive struggles.

The Sun Devils have lost three straight and face the daunting challenge of needing to win five of their last seven games -- all but one in the increasingly unpredictable conference -- to finish above .500.

The pluses that Koetter took out of the game against the Trojans, who rose to No. 9 this week, included the play of first-time starter Chris McKenzie at cornerback, the potential return of cornerback R.J. Oliver, the career day of wide receiver Derek Hagan and the way the offense clicked most of the game against one of the nation's best defenses.

Arizona State took a 17-10 lead on its first drive of the second half, but then gave up several big plays as the Trojans drove to two touchdowns, scoring the go-ahead TD on a 33-yard pass-run by fullback Brandon Hancock with 1:30 left in the third.

It was one of eight big plays by USC that Koetter charted, compared with seven big plays by his defense -- the only game this year the Sun Devils have been outdone in that category.

"We didn't come back very fast," Koetter said. "After we give up the big play, we need to come back in sync."

Oliver has had cramping problems since tying a school record with a 100-yard interception return in the opener against Northern Arizona on Sept. 6, but ran wind sprints with the team Sunday in what Koetter called the best practice since then by the team's best cornerback.

Koetter said Hagan seems to be the go-to threat that Walter has been missing since Shaun McDonald opted to leave school early for the NFL.

Hagan had eight catches for 170 yards, making big plays in both ASU scoring drives.

"Andrew wasn't just looking for Derek either," Koetter said. "And he was very consistent in his plays. I thought Derek did a nice job with his routes, he was physical, he ran with the ball after he caught it."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index