Defense stifles offense in Spring Game

In the final spring tune-up before fall practice starts in August, the defense dominated the offense in all areas, and in doing so showed how ready they are for the season and just how much improvement the offense still needs to make.

The offense's struggles were apparent today as they score only one touchdown to while committing five turnovers (all interceptions), but Coach Erickson felt the tempo was a positive, something that new Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone has been working on. Therefore, Erickson doesn't seem too worried about the offense at this point.

"I thought our tempo was good," Coach Erickson said. "We ran 65 plays in the first half, I just thought our execution wasn't very good. We dropped too many balls, threw too many interceptions, too many sacks, you name it and we did it so obviously we need to clean that stuff up.

"I think that happens every spring. I've never seen the offense win in the spring very many places I've been and when that happened we really got our rear-ends beat. We're playing good on defense, the thing that we have defensively is that we have about 30 guys who can play, so we're able to put in 22 different guys, eight different linebackers, eight different down-guys and our secondary and corners are starting to play better, so it's like I'd hoped it'd be, we should be a really good defense we just need to step it up on offense. I'm not discouraged; it wasn't good today, but we've made a lot of progress and when we get all the parts put in offensively we'll be a lot better."

The spring game, attended by 6,000 Sun Devil fans, presented a big opportunity for both Steven Threet and Brock Osweiler to pull ahead of the other in the quarterback competition going into fall, though neither stood out as Osweiler finished with 151 yards with one touchdown and one interception, while Threet completed only 33% of his passes to go with three interceptions.

"I don't think offensively we executed like we need to," Erickson mentioned, "we can't turn the ball over and throw interceptions like we did. I mean, our quarterbacks have to play better than they played today. It was an opportunity for one of them to emerge and neither one of them emerged, so we'll carry it into fall camp, but defensively I thought it was an awesome day."

As for the quarterbacks themselves, they know they need to play better, but it's all about making progress, and ultimately whoever makes the most will be the starter next fall.

"I think as a whole, there were some flashes where we did well but ultimately its too many mistakes," quarterback Steven Threet admitted. "If I pinpoint myself when I'm in there, three turnovers is just too many. If we want the offense to be successful we can't have that.

"We have one of the best defenses in the country, obviously and I think they showed that today. Throughout the spring we were able to move the ball around and get the ball into the end zone but today they really stepped up and put a hold on us."

Though the focus has been on the quarterback competition all spring, the real story has been the emergence of several players on the defensive side of the ball, and while only 11 guys can start a game, there is no question that the depth is there for the Sun Devils, should injuries occur.

"If you look on defense we're going to play eight guys up front, and I thought Bo Moos had a heck of a spring," Erickson pointed out. "He's a guy that's played pretty little, but he's stepped up, he's a junior and been around. I thought Jamaar Jarrett stepped up, not that he earned his way into it, but he was playing behind Brooks for a while, and some of our linebackers, Munnsy (Gerald Munns) had a great spring there's no question about that, but we've had some others.

"Colin Parker stepped up and he's gonna end up playing quite a bit for us and at corner Osahan (Irabor) played good as well, and LaQuan (Lewis) had a good spring until he got hurt. Then at safety, Shane McCullem had a nice spring and that's a guy that will help us on special teams. You have to take a lot of those guys and put them on special teams, and when you have depth like we're starting to get now you become better on special teams as far as coverage and all that is concerned."

One position group that has been decimated by injuries in the recent past for the Sun Devils is the offensive line, which had their hands full going against one of the best defensive fronts in the Pac-10.

"We're playing guys in different spots, but you've got to finish it somehow and that's what we did," Erickson acknowledged. "When we get it all together and we get some guys healthy we'll be fine, but again, our quarterbacks they've got to learn from what's going on."

Still, it's hard to learn while lying in the grass, but it appears that the offense as a whole is heading in the right direction and with the defense in place; a "decent" offense may be enough for the Sun Devils to go bowling next winter.

"I'd say our offensive line has done a tremendous job," quarterback Brock Osweiler commented. "They've really come a long way the past couple years and they did a great job this spring, everybody did. Everybody worked really hard this offseason to put our team in a position to win a lot of games in the future and go to some bowl games."

Spring Football Game Final Statistics?

Passing

Brock Osweiler 17-33-151-1TD, 1 INT

Steven Threet 9-27-117-3 INT

Cole Rarrick 1-3-2 INT

Rushing

James Morrison 6-26

Cameron Marshall 7-5

Marcus Washington 3-3

Jamal Miles 12-28

Steven Threet 5- minus 17

Brock Osweiler 5 minus 20

Aaron Pflugrad 1 minus 2

Randy Robinson 3-6

Receiving

Aaron Pflugrad 4-26

Gerell Robinson 3-43

Kerry Taylor 4-79

George Bell 3-28-1TD

Chris Coyle 3-43

James Morrison 2-2

J.J. Holliday 5-72

Cameron Marshall 2-14

Max Smith 1-7

Randy Robinson 1-0

Placekicking

Thomas Weber 1-1 extra point, 3-3 field goals (41, 47, 45)

Defense

Vontaze Burfict PBU

Ronald Kennedy, Jr. INT (18)

Greg Smith PBU

Mike Callaghan, INT (15)

Jamaar Robinson Sack (-6)

Toa Tuitea TFL (-1), Sack (-6)

William Sutton TFL (-3), Sack (-5)

Osahon Irabor PBU

Eddie Elder PBU, INT (0)

Jamaar Jarrett TFL (-2)

Lawrence Guy Sack (-8)

Bo Moos Sack (-5)

Anthony Jones INT (13)

Clint Floyd PBU, INT (39)

Maggie Walsh contributed to this article


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