Our guest this week for the scouting-the-opponent entry is Doug Haller, who covers Arizona State for the Arizona Republic newspaper.
1, Can you give us an overview of what the ASU offfense has looked like to date: “Actually, despite the red-zone issues, ASU’s offense has been somewhat of a surprise. Most of this stems from last year’s offense, which was predictable and stale. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone brought a no-huddle quick-strike approach and the Sun Devils have taken to it fairly well. They’ve moved the ball in every game. They’ve run the ball well, made plays in space. Problem is: They haven’t taken advantage. ASU ranks near the bottom nationally in red-zone issues, turnovers and penalties. In one key possession during last week’s loss at Oregon State, the Sun Devils had six plays inside the 5 and couldn’t punch it in. Against Oregon, Steven Threet threw an interception near the end zone. Over their last three games, they’ve turned 13 red-zone chances into just four touchdowns. Hard to win games that way.”
2, How about the defense?: “Major disappointment. Throughout spring practice, many players said their goal was to be the best defense in the nation. Coach Dennis Erickson (pictured at right after a 2007 win against Cal) went along with it, too, saying this defense ranked among the better defenses he’s coached. Hasn’t turned out that way. Through five games, ASU has five sacks, last in the Pac-10. The Sun Devils give up too many big plays. In their last three games, they’ve allowed nine pass plays of 20 yards or more and 12 rushes of 10 yards or more. Perhaps worst of all: ASU has recovered just one fumble all season — and it came on special teams.”
3, Seems like ASU has been competitive but can’t win close games. What has been the major reason or two for the inability to pull those games out? “Attention to detail. This team is talented. Vontaze Burfict is among the best linebackers in the country. Freshman Deantre Lewis has rushed for 100 yards in three consecutive games. Even quarterback, Steven Threet, despite his 10 interceptions, has the coaching staff excited. They just can’t overcome their mistakes. Everything from dropped touchdown passes to blocked extra points have contributed to ASU’s three-game losing streak. After losing to Wisconsin and Oregon, much of this was attributed to the team’s youth. For most of the season, ASU has started just one senior on each offense and defense. But after Saturday’s loss at Oregon State, the issue seems to go deeper.”
4, Dennis Erickson is coming off two straight losing seasons and is now 2-3 — is his seat starting to get a little hotter? “I’ve said all along that, unless this team completely bottoms out, Erickson gets one more season even if ASU misses out on a bowl for the third consecutive year. The reason: Everything always has pointed toward next season, especially now. ASU has just 13 seniors, fewest in the Pac-10. Plus, next year’s team will have experience with Mazzone’s fast-paced offense. Problem is, the fan base is getting frustrated with the team’s sloppiness. The Sun Devils led the nation in penalty yards per game last season, and there hasn’t been much improvement on that front. Nothing infuriates fans more than a football team not reaching its potential because of a lack of focus and discipline. They expect more.”
5, Are there a couple things that have happened that have stalled the progress under Erickson?: “Injuries along the offensive line hurt last season. So did quarterback performance. ASU seems to have ironed out both this year, and the offense is much better because of it. The major hurdle entering Saturday’s game is overcoming their mistakes. You can’t have a 19-play drive end with a field goal (which happened at Oregon State.) You can’t give up a 10-point lead in the final minutes of the first half (which happened against Oregon.) You can’t have a game-tying extra-point blocked in the final minutes (which happened at Wisconsin.) To date, this team hasn’t shown it knows how to win. Worse: It suffers from the the same problems week after week.”
And I promise I’ll get a couple of question-and-answer entries up soon.
October 6, 2010 at 9:25 AM
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