ASU's Offense: Reason for Concern?

Although the Sun Devils faced a clearly over matched opponent in their season opener, many ASU fans were wondering if the offense had the capability to truly turn last Saturday's night contest into a laugher. Mission accomplished in that regard. The offense certainly revealed some blemishes, but does it deserve the level of harsh criticism levied by some maroon and gold followers after a 50-3 win?

Look, the post-game declarations such as "the offense has to play better against Georgia and the rest of the Pac-10 or else…" are as much a revelation as stating that water is wet and the sun rises in the east.

Arizona State could have scored two, three more touchdowns (as it probably should have) and those assertions would have still been flooding the media outlets as they are right now. That comes with the territory in following a proverbial lose-lose game, such as the contest versus Idaho State.

We won't even try to pretend that the ASU offense showcased itself as a well oiled machine, despite scoring 43 points. However, very few fans thought that this unit had what it took to score more than 30-40 points. The question marks were everywhere.

There was much anticipation over the debut of Danny Sullivan at starting quarterback, and he did fairly well kicking off the 2009 campaign. His numbers,13-25 for 165 yards were skewed by roughly a handful of dropped passes, two of them that would have been scores. So any criticism about his accuracy can easily be negated by that fact.

Sullivan made good decisions in the game, was sacked once despite receiving a good deal of pressure from the Bengal defensive line, and showed some mobility rushing for 17 yards on one play. Any cries to replace him or assertions that he will tank this year based on this one game, is with all due respect to his detractors – nonsense.

His backup Brock Osweiler had a stat line that looked impressive, 4-5 for 43 yards and a touchdown. But not to take anything away from the true freshman's performance, his receivers naturally did a better hauling in the pigskin, and Osweiler seemed to face less defensive pressure than the signal caller he is backing up.

Anyone who attended preseason practices knows that the Sun Devil wide receivers are an extremely talented, if not explosive, group. Players such as Kyle Williams and Gerell Robinson have the knack to complete big plays or record tough catches, but unfortunately did very little of either on Saturday. Having only two passes caught by the Sun Devil wideouts for over 20 yards, as was the case against Idaho State, is a feat that should be seldom repeated for the lion share of this season.

The old football cliché of "running back by committee" was alive and well among the maroon and gold in their season opener. Five tailbacks participated, with four of them averaging 3.9 yards or better per rushing attempt. We saw big plays from Ryan Bass (a 38-yard touchdown) and Shaun DeWitty (averaged 6.5 yards a carry), as well tough between the tackle running by Dimitri Nance. With what should be a potent passing game during the year, this group will only have more running lanes to exploit in 2009 and could erase last year's memory of a paltry ground game.

Overall, it was a very balanced offensive effort for ASU who had 208 passing (an average of 12.2 yards per completion) and net rushing yards of 199 (and average of 5.1 yards per rushing attempt). Again, numbers that may not scare future opponents, but nonetheless show efficiency – a trait that this offense would love to be defined as throughout the season.

There's appears to be little concern whether the Sun Devil defense and its special teams can sustain a good level of play throughout the season. We feel that the offense is closer to achieving that status than some may think. As we said before, the burden of proof lies on this side of the ball to prove its doubters wrong, and the season opener while not quieting those fears in a resounding way, is if nothing else a solid step in the right direction.


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