Offense sputters against Lumberjacks

Arizona State got off to a slow start in Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday night then they took on the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. The maroon and gold offense struggled throughout the contest to find any rhythm but were ultimately able to leas the Sun Devils past NAU in a 41-20 game.

Similar to last week's showing against Portland State, the Sun Devil offense was ineffective in their first series of the game. Quarterback Steven Threet and his offense had a disappointing first drive which featured three penalties and two incomplete passes forcing the unit to go three and out.

"I don't know," Threet said while explaining that trend. "Poor throws by me, we had a couple penalties that first drive, poor execution, poor execution by the offense in general. A lot of it I attribute to myself, I just wasn't completing easy passes in the first half."

Last week, the offense was able to capitalize on the success on their run game but against NAU, the tables were turned. The Sun Devils accumulated 394 passing yards with Threet attempting 49 passes, while the tailbacks were able to post just 56 net rushing yards.

"I'm not sure that was necessarily the plan coming in," Threet said of the excessive passing. "We got off to a slow start in the first half and we were able to move up and down the field a little bit to get some points.

"NAU, they did a great job, they played amazingly hard. They came in and gave us everything they had and a lot of it is that we have to complete those easy passes to the outside and that will really help open the run game up. Like I said, I think it's some of the easy passes out to the receivers to spread the defense out and make them respect that. Get guys out of the box and give our line and the backs a better opportunity."

At halftime, the maroon and gold went down to the locker room leading by only 7 points. Expecting a much greater showing against the Lumberjacks, the Sun Devils had to regroup and focus on playing effectively as a whole. The host did outscore NAU 24-10 shutting out the visitors in the fourth quarter.

"We've got to play better, plain and simple," Threet said of the halftime message by the ASU coaches. "We have to execute the plays that were there, we made a couple adjustments in the run game to try to get it going. But we just have to execute better."

Junior college transfer, Mike Willie, was a bright spot in the Sun Devil offense during tonight's game. With his first ever Division I game is under his belt, the wide receiver was able to relax and shine on the field in game two of the 2010 season.

"Yeah it slowed down a lot," Willie admitted. "At first it was kind of fast because, first game, Pac-10, you know, it was kind of everywhere so I had to focus. I wasn't really nervous, I was just thinking too much and when you're thinking you're not really playing good so I got to where I could not think and just play so that's what made it better for me.

"It was just a night where I didn't really have to worry about it being my first game so I was comfortable. I got to go to work and didn't have to worry about too many people, just worked on my routes and catching the ball. Steven (Threet) threw the ball and I just caught it. So, it was good."

Willie, had a team-high 114 yards and caught a 6-yard touchdown pass, his first ever while donning the maroon and gold from Threet in the fourth quarter.

"Mike did a great job," Threet commented on his wide receiver. "He had the catch on fourth down, that was huge for us, he got the chains moved. He had the diving catch in the end zone also. He's done a great job, he's worked hard in the summer when he got here and then in fall camp and he really came and helped me out a lot today." Another Sun Devil who had a standout performance was running back Jamal Miles. The sophomore has been one of the more consistent players of the offensive unit and tonight's showing was no different. Miles scored two touchdowns for this team, ran for 15 yards and accumulated 19 receiving yards.

"I think the offense came out a little slow but towards the end we started to pick it up," Miles commented. "I thank the offensive line for my big plays today."

"They did an amazing job," Threet stated of his offensive line. "We threw the ball a lot and protection wise they did a good job of communicating and picking up. We saw a little bit more blitzing than we did the first game so they did a good job with that."

While punt returning in the fourth quarter, Miles was caught twice being tackled by the NAU punter, Andy Wilder. "Everybody is talking about it," Miles admitted. "When it's a one on one I can't let one person bring me down, so I've got to work on that."

In an offense that depends on the success of its quarterback, the maroon and gold must be able to rely on their signal caller. Threet and his receivers struggled to connect and after multiple missed opportunities and two interceptions, the quarterback was naturally less than pleased with his performance.

"The offense is quarterback driven," Threet said. "I just have to be more successful the first half. If I complete easy passes, we move the chains more and we get rolling a little bit quicker."

In the end, the Sun Devils were able to secure the win. The numerous penalties, turnovers and missed plays are all things that will desperately need to be corrected as the season continues.

"There is definitely some improvement, but way too many mistakes," Threet said of the offense. "Poor throws, we had a couple penalties, we have to take care of that, we have to be hitting on all cylinders during these next ten games."

Next week the maroon and gold will travel to Madison, Wisconsin to take on the no. 11 team in the nation - the Wisconsin Badgers. Despite a less than impressive performance against NAU the Sun Devils hope to come back to Tempe a week from Saturday with a win.

"We've got the speed and we've got the talent so we just have to bring it," Willie said. "We work week by week and we just have to bring it and everybody has to play good. Its up to us how we approach it but we're ready for Wisconsin. We just have to strap down and get ready for the big teams.

"Our test is Wisconsin."

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