Against the three FBS teams the Sun Devils have faced, they have had the ball in the opponents territory 23 times and only seven of those 23 trips have ended in a touchdown. In their three trips inside the red zone last week, they had an interception, settled for a field goal (because of a fumbled snap on the one), and scored a touchdown that was made possible by a defensive pass interference on third down.
The Sun Devils are five games into the season and despite focusing specifically on improving their red zone offense more and more each week, it seems to be regressing. If something doesn’t change it is likely that the same offensive ineptitude will continue.
I am a big fan of Steven Threet. He makes some incredible throws that only a hand full of college QB’s can make (see the 28 yard touchdown pass to Kerry Taylor against Oregon). He has a great pocket presence, makes quick reads, and seems to be a good leader, but the interceptions he has thrown in the opponents’ territory are awful (see the pick he threw in the red zone on second down against Oregon State). They are bad decisions, poorly thrown, and detrimental to the team.
Earlier this week, Erickson announced that Vontaze Burfict will not be starting against Washington. He said he chose to bench Burfict because Burfict’s poor decisions are detrimental to the team.
Threet’s poor decisions have proven more costly to the team than any poor decision Burfict has made (other than Burfict deciding to try to tackle ‘Quizz with one arm). So shouldn’t Threet be held to the same standard Burfict is?
While I don’t think Threet’s starting duties should be revoked, I strongly believe Samson Szakacsy should be given some reps at quarterback in the red zone. Erickson said back in fall camp that they would create red zone packages for Samson Szakacsy once it was clear Szakacsy wouldn’t be able to win the starting job because he missed too much time.
Brock Osweiler is ASU’s second string quarterback, but his skill set is very similar to Threet’s. Szakacsy has some wheels and is a legitimate running threat, in addition to being an accurate passer. He is also fully healthy for the first time since he’s been at ASU.
A running threat at quarterback might cure the Devils’ woes in the red zone and the ideal candidate to test it against is Washington. The Huskies were torched by the only spread offense with a running quarterback that they faced this year (although every team is being torched by Taylor Martinez).
Southern California ran all over the Huskies as well, but one key difference between Washington’s game against Nebraska and their game against USC was defensive efficiency inside of field goal range. Both the Huskers and the Trojans had the ball in field goal range five times against UW. The Huskers scored a touchdown each time and the Trojans scored only three touchdowns inside of field goal range.
Is Szakacsy on the same level as Martinez? No (not yet at least). Are the Devils guaranteed the same result Nebraska had if they use Szakacsy in the red zone? No, but what they’ve been doing in the red zone hasn’t been working anyway.
The Sun Devils need to change something, and if they don’t, there is no reason to expect the outcomes will change either.
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