Mazzone expects more from ASU's offense

Through the first two games of this young season the Sun Devils are in the top-five in nearly every offensive category in the Pac-10, which includes being second only to Oregon in total offense and points per game. Other than the new players on this side of the ball, much of that success should be credited to new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and spread scheme he has implemented.

After struggling mightily on offense last year, this Sun Devil unit is visibly improved. Yet, two wins against FCS opponents has many not yet convinced this group is ready for the challenges ahead. One reason for that is the 56 yards rushing posted against Northern Arizona last weekend.

"They were getting a little bit of push on our offensive line," Coach Mazzone noted regarding that output. "They were also putting extra guys in the box and daring us to throw the ball, so that's kind of what we did. I kind of got away from the run game a little bit more than I usually did but we were having success throwing the football so I hung with that a little while."

Still, over 1100 yards of total offense in two games has to be encouraging, right?

"We're coaches, are we ever happy?" Coach Mazzone said with a laugh. "I thought we did some good things, and we had a couple more dropped balls which always concerns you. You get this thing about well you throw for 400 and you only run for 50 so your running game sucks, now if you run for 400 and only pass for 50 your passing game sucks.

"So a lot of this offense is based on if they put a lot of guys in the box; if that's what's going to happen we're going to throw the football. Could we have done better at the line of scrimmage and some things in the run game? Without a doubt."

Like many Big-10 teams, Wisconsin will be physical up front, and not being able to run the ball successfully against NAU certainly doesn't breed confidence for this weekend. However, a good offense learns to adjust, something the Sun Devils did well when no holes were open in the run game.

"We never really got in a groove or a rhythm with the running game," coach Mazzone pointed out, "but I thought Steve (Threet) did a nice job with the exception of the two missed reads on the interceptions. If he would've just stayed with his progressions he would've been fine with those two reads, but I thought the receivers did a much better job in the passing game than the week before."

The receivers will be heavily relied on should Wisconsin stack the box, and they naturally will have to be ready to catch the ball when called upon. Therefore, the dropped passes that have plagued the offense in the first two games of the season have to be a thing of the past.

Why did that deficiency occur in that tandem of contests?

"If we had the answer to that, you and I would make a lot of money;" coach Mazzone joked, "what causes dropped passes? The first game I just gave it up as the first game, everyone is excited, they can't wait to go run and score touchdowns and those things. The first game we had seven drops, this last game we had two, so I don't that was a big issue this last game."

Through two games, quarterback Steven Threet is already in the process of setting career highs in several passing categories. He does bring a little bit of experience to this offense with playing under a similar scheme at Michigan. Nonetheless, his experience much like collective experience of the skill players is vast.

"The only career highs we're interested in are wins," coach Mazzone declared. "I think sometimes we forget there's not a lot of experience on this offense. They haven't played a lot of football games, and after two games, and I understand we didn't play Wisconsin and some of those guys, which is why I think this week will be a good test for Steven.

"I'm hoping he's learned from his mistakes the first two weeks. Some of the things he did really well the first game; he didn't do the second game. There were some things he didn't do real well the first game that he did better the second game, so what we need from him is just a little more consistency."

Mazzone hits the nail on the head concerning stability, and the offense, as a whole needs to be steady, and continually fast against a defense that wants to come out and establish a physical presence starting in the first series of the game.

"They're a Big-10 defense, they big, they're very well coached, they're big physical kids," coach Mazzone noted. "The line of scrimmage is going to be an issue. We're going to have to try to control somewhat the line of scrimmage because they are big tough kids and they're very well coached. This will be a great test to see where we really are offensively."

Sun Devil Source Top Stories