No looking ahead to Wisconsin

The maroon and gold got their season off to a solid start this weekend, defeating the Portland State Vikings 54-9 but as a new week has begun, so has preparation for Saturday's matchup against Northern Arizona.

Head Coach Dennis Erickson anticipates a different atmosphere when the Lumberjacks arrive in Tempe on Saturday. Unlike the mystery around Portland State, NAU and Arizona State are no strangers on the football field.

"I've got great respect for Jerome and what he has done there," Erickson said. He has been there a long time and it's a well-coached football team. It's going to be different than playing Portland State. They know us better; it's a big game for them. You watch how they played U of A last year, they gave them everything that they wanted and we expect the same thing. It's going to be a challenge for us.

"The biggest thing we have to do is worry about improving because they were a lot of mistakes we made in that football against Portland State and we just have to work on ourselves and try to correct ourselves, that's the biggest thing that we're focusing on every week, but particularly this week."

Although the Sun Devils defeated Portland State with little difficulty, the squad has much improvement to do as they move forward through their schedule. The maroon and gold accumulated nearly a dozen penalties throughout the contest, including three personal fouls. On the plus side, there were a few notable things Erickson found while reviewing Saturday's game film, the biggest being the collective effort throughout is team.

"We have a lot of improvement still to do," Erickson admitted. "There were some good things, probably effort, number one. I thought that our effort in all areas, both offensively and defensively was at the level we wanted it to be, there weren't hardly any loafs out there at all. There is a couple plays for example of the run of Deantre Lewis on the pass for the touchdown, there were about five guys down the field blocking for them and that is kind of how the game went.

"It was how they played on both sides of the football, guys getting to the ball on defense. That was the biggest thing that we saw but we did make a lot of mistakes, a lot of mistakes technique wise, some assignment mistakes on both sides of the football.

"Those are things that we have to continue to improve obviously, the penalties have to be addressed, having 12 at halftime is ridiculous and three personal fouls is something we just cant have. We've talked about it and we'll continue to talk about it. You're going to have your hustle penalties like that where you're hustling to get someplace and you might hit somebody late but the dumb penalties, like hitting somebody when you shouldn't be, to me its just selfish. It doesn't have anything to do help us win so that's something that we've got to continue to focus on. But the effort was there and if there is effort like there has been in practice and two-a-days and camp, we'll continue to get better because we have to get better each week as we go through this schedule. We have to get better against Northern Arizona and on to Wisconsin, Oregon and so on because as you know it's a very difficult schedule for us and we've got to be way better than we were against Portland State to compete."

The Sun Devil offense had their first opportunity to showcase the new offensive scheme implemented by new offensive coordinator, Noel Mazzone. Although not fully developed, the maroon and gold were able to execute their fast-paced, no huddle offense to score 54-points against the Vikings.

"It was good to see it in action against an opponent," Erickson said. "You don't learn until that starts happening and then you start growing as an offensive football team and as we know in that offense, people are going to do things that are going to take away some of the simple things we got the other night so we're going to be forced to go to other phases of our offense which we're prepared to do that.

"You just never know, really what we do is fairly simple but we do it out of so many different formations and different motions and different things that we can change what appears to be our game plan every week when we really haven't changed very much other than motions and formations and different things like that. That's what's great about it, we're doing the same thing but in a different way so you're practicing the same thing all the time."

The debut of the new offensive scheme also accompanied the debut of new starting quarterback, Steven Threet. Threet took the field for the first time as a Sun Devil, completing 14 of 21 passes for 239 yards, more than another other Arizona State quarterback during their first career start.

"I thought Steven did some really good things in the football game," Erickson commented. "I thought he had a great presence about him out there, it looked like he had been there before, which he has so I guess there's no substitution for having played when you get right out there. Again as we move on in our schedule, he'll continue to improve, I thought he made a lot of good throws, a lot of good decisions. He threw one interception, which I'm sure he would like to have back but that's how it goes sometimes.

"I just like his command of what he is doing, seeing things at the line of scrimmage, understanding what we're trying to teach and what Noel has taught him. He got rid of the ball real quick which is huge in our offense and like I said, probably more than anything he had great command of the game."

Sophomore, Brock Osweiler competed with Threet throughout spring and fall for the staring job, and ultimately fell short. Osweiler entered Saturday's game during the third-quarter to finish out the contest, but his participation throughout the rest of the season is still uncertain.

"Its always going to depend on the game," Erickson commented. "Steven is our number one quarterback and you play it like that and just see what happens."

Some would describe the new offense scheme as a pass oriented one, but the fact of the matter is that with the diversity and plethora of options that it offers, both the success of both the running and passing game are critical in its success.

"Again, its down to the basis of how many people they're going to use to stop the run. How many people are they going to use to stop what you do in the passing game, or how are they going to deal with your motions and how are they going to deal with different things and you try to take advantage of whatever the defense is doing to do you to give you the best advantage.

"So if they're keeping so many guys in the box and it gives us the opportunity to run it, we're going to run it. I mean, there are a lot of option things before the ball is even snapped as far as what we're going to do. There's a lot on the quarterback in this offense, there's no question about it and he can see by what happens whether he should run it or whether it feels like he can throw it, and its something he has to see and its not easy. That's the difficult part, you have to be very good at seeing things and understanding what is going on at that position."

With their first game under their belts, Erickson and his staff can now begin to evaluate the progress of the offense since spring camp. Competing against an opponent is the first step to knowing where improving is needed and Mazzone tend to agree that it is widespread.

"We feel like we're where we want to be right now," Erickson said. "A lot of our offense isn't in yet. There are things that we can do and like I said it will change every week. There are things that we will add, but it kind of depends on what we play, we like to add something each week, something new for the opponent to see. When it gets right down to it, we're doing the same thing.

"He likes where we're at. Again, he's like me, he knows we have a lot of improvement to make but the biggest thing that jumps out and we'll continue to see from now on is the effort that we've had outside with our receivers blocking. That's a total difference from a year ago and we're asking them to do it obviously."

The addition of offensive lineman, Aderious Simmons came about two weeks before kickoff and despite his short time at Arizona State, Simmons has already proven to be not only a quick learner, but also a valuable asset to this team.

"He played good," Erickson commented. "He pass protected extremely well. He's just natural at pass protection. The run game, he is getting better at, understanding what he's doing, he'll get better all the time. For the first time and only being here about 2 weeks, I thought it was extremely good."

Unlike last season, this years quarterbacks will, at times, be required to run the ball. Although it won't be relied on heavily, Erickson notes the mobility of his quarterbacks, especially Threet, as something that will be greatly beneficial to the offense.

"In what we do, we're going to have to run it some," Erickson noted. "We're not going to make a living doing it because that's now what its built for but there are going to be times when they are going to force our quarterback to run but when they do that, we're going to get about 7 or 8-yards every time. Its not ever going to be in a situation where they've got to keep it and somebody is going to be in their face right away, that's just how the offense is built.

"I think Steve had 24-yards or something like that any maybe 6 or 7-yards a carry and you do that on first down, that's pretty good. He doesn't have to break tackles, actually he's a little bit better runner than people think."

On a positive not, the maroon and gold were able to end up relatively injury free. Although some players are still healing from fall camp, Erickson had no new injuries to report.

"I met the trainers yesterday, and I'll meet with the doctors this afternoon," Erickson said. "Toa (Tuitea) and Corey Adams are, from what I understand, will probably not play this week. Gerell Robinson was a lot better yesterday; he's got a chance to play.

"In the game, Lawrence (Guy) got nicked a little bit but he's fine. Saia (Falahola) is a lot better than he was, he had an elbow problem and he'll be close to full speed. Other than the guys that were hurt during camp, we should be okay."

Coach Erickson is prepared for Saturday's matchup to be on that requires the Sun Devils focus and determination, as they face an opponent that has proven their will to win against other Arizona schools and has the talent to do so.

They've got an outstanding quarterback transfer from Mississippi, (Michael) Herrick. I'll tell you what, I just watched them on offense this morning and watched them on defense last night, in their first football game. They're very talented. They've got the (Zach) Bauman kid from Hamilton High School at running back had a heck of a game and we had him in camp and he's an extremely good running back.

"The quarterback is really impressive he gets rid of the football. They do some of the things that we do. They have a receiver at Chapman that is really good and made a lot of plays during that game."

They know what they're doing, they take advantage of their personnel group, and their offensive front plays hard. They catch the football; they're a good team. We've got to come out because they're obviously going to be different than what we had this week. And defensively they fly around; they've got some good guys in the secondary. Their front and linebackers run pretty good. They gave us everything they wanted a couple years ago and they gave Arizona everything they wanted last year too.

"It's a real big game for those guys up there. To come back down here, a lot of those guys are from this area so they're going to come and give it everything they've got so we've got to be ready to play because if we're not, you saw what happened in Mississippi last week so we better be ready to play."

In two weeks the Sun Devils will travel to Madison, Wisconsin to take on the Wisconsin Badgers. During their first away game, the maroon and gold will not face an easy opponent but Coach Erickson and his staff do not want his team looking ahead, but focusing on preparing for and defeating the Lumberjacks.

"Well, they shouldn't," Erickson commented. "Like I said earlier, our focus is for us to get better every week. They understand, they've seen all the games over the years where that happens and they understand that. Its up to us to have a plan and get them ready to go. What I like about this group is that they really enjoy playing on Saturday and if you enjoy playing on Saturdays and you come out and just fly around and play then you wont have as many ups and downs as you could have."

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