Mazzone pleased with offensive progress

When you talk about the inexperience of the Sun Devils, no group manifests that notion greater than the ASU offense. Nonetheless, the improvement of this ASU group has been noticeable to team's offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. Devils Digest talked to Mazzone about the team's first league win, the offense's confidence and the state of the Sun Devil offense at the midpoint of the 2010 season.

DevilsDigest: How would you rate the offensive performance in the 24-14 win over Washington?

Noel Mazzone: "I think they did a good job. We moved the ball well and the offensive line really started to come together. This is the second game that this group has really played together…the receivers did a nice job. We did have a couple of drops because of the weather conditions and you obviously expected that. Could have it been a better performance? Sure, it can be better every week. But they got the win and did the things they needed to do as far as protect the football and execute well in the red zone. They were almost 50 percent in 3rd down conversions. So as far as situational football the kids did a nice job. "

DD: Can you put your finger on why the offense was more sound and efficient last Saturday than the last few weeks prior?

NM: "We haven't had a problem all year moving the football. But I don't care if you're the Arizona State Sun Devils or the New York Jets it always comes down to situational football. There's no secret here. Turnovers are the great equalizer in football. When you have three or four of those in a game it's hard to win. If you don't have success in the red zone it's hard to win football games.

"The five teams that were leading the country in turnover ratio last week had a combined record of something like 22-5. It wasn't because they were the leading passing or rushing team in the country, or had the best total defense. "

DD: When you look back at the Washington game what in your opinion was the difference between the first half where you scored 21 points and the second half where you scored just three points?

NM: "I don't know if we struggled in the second half because we punt three times the entire game. We had one tipped ball for an interception. We had one possession in the third quarter so Washington did a good job keeping us off the field in the second half. We had the bad snap on the 16-yard line in that quarter and we missed a field goal.

"We had three possessions in the fourth quarter. We made one field goal and missed one. In the third possession we kind of just sat on the football. But the way our defense was playing in the second half and with the weather conditions I personally felt that we should play a little more conservatively. Let's just get out of here with the win."

DD: With the struggles that Thomas Weber has been having kicking field goals this year do you feel that you may be re-assessing your options on fourth down for the rest of the season?

NM: "Thomas Weber gets only four plays a game to be judged by and Steven Threet makes 40 throws a game so he can have a couple of bad throws but if he throws a touchdown pass everybody says that he does a great job. Thomas is a great kicker and I have all the confidence in the world in him."

DD: It seemed that early in the Washington game the bubble screen/lateral pass which is such a big staple of this offense gave way to more passes down the field to Mike Willie, Gerell Robinson and Kerry Taylor. Was this part of the game plan or more a function of what the Huskies' defense dictated?

NM: "It's a fluid offense, but you're exactly right. You come out every game poke and prod the defense and see what you can run. Like any good defense Washington was trying to take away certain things we make a living of so we had to find answers to that."

DD: I mentioned those three wide receivers and it appears that this nucleus for the first time this season are all playing well at the same time which obviously is making the passing game run smoother…

NM: "No doubt. What I like about the wide receivers group is that their improvement from the spring until now is unbelievable. And we can't forget that out of that group there were only about 48 receptions by players who came back from last year. It's a young group. Willie and (George) Bell are new. T.J. (Simpson) was injured most of the season.

"This is an offense that I thought should really improve more and more as the season went on just because they are so young and don't have a lot of experience. It's not like we had a 1,000 yards of production (running or receiving) coming back."

DD: As you mentioned this offense has been moving the ball all season but I have to think that the overall confidence of this group will be much higher in what it does after the first Pac-10 win of the year and the improvement should be even greater from here on out…

NM: "Like any football team in the country you want to keep on getting better and better every week. Like they say: ‘they remember what you did in November.' We obviously went through some growing pains the first six games and they gained valuable experience. It's a process for these kids to get better every week but you're exactly right – there is nothing like a win. It's like they have been digging a ditch for six weeks and now they finally get to see what they were digging for and get the fruits of their labor. I was really happy for the players and they were excited after the game. To me it was a great team effort on both sides which is what you want to see.

"Coach Erickson was saying during the week of the (Washington) game that we shouldn't worry about the yards but just keep on fighting for every inch and that's what the kids did."

DD: As we sit here at the midpoint of the season how would you rate Steven Threet's performance at quarterback through the first six games?

NM: "Just like the other players on offense, he doesn't have a lot of experience. He hasn't played in a couple of years and there is no greater coaching in the world than experience. You can coach your players as much as you want but experience is what they need more than anything. I think he's getting more comfortable and learning situational football and I would be shocked if he didn't keep on progressing the way he has for the rest of the year."

DD: As you enter the second half of this season what is on your to-do list for the offense?

NM: "Cal is probably one of the better defensive teams we are going to face the rest of the season. This (bye) week we just worry about ourselves and keep on working on the things that we do. We'll look a little at Cal but not much. We really worry about ourselves and trying to get better every day."

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