As the hype built following Arizona State’s 2010 football campaign, a few key dates were circled on the calendar to judge progress. The spring game was a big one for Sun Devil enthusiasts.
On a gorgeous Saturday in the valley of the sun, Maroon and Gold fans learned more about their “beautiful mysterious” Sun Devil football team.
The offense put up points, as expected in the annual entertainment-driven glorified practice. Look no further than the first play of the day, a 44-yard double-pass from wide receiver Jamal Miles to Aaron Pflugrad.
From that moment on, if this was an ordinary game at Sun Devil Stadium, fireworks would have serenaded the opponents into the night.
However, the 92 points by Dennis Erickson’s offensive unit is an impressive plateau that Arizona State’s basketball program rarely exceeds.
Obviously, the likelihood of ASU scoring a similar total this fall is pretty slim, but the man who will lead the Sun Devils continued his growth as a passer.
Brock Osweiler, who is relatively inexperienced (two career starts), showed the confidence of an elite starting quarterback.
When his day concluded, Osweiler tossed five touchdowns and no interceptions, while passing for over 200 yards.
As the distributor of Noel Mazzone’s no-huddle offensive attack, the key is decision-making. Last season, ASU’s pitfall was turnovers.
During limited action, Osweiler protected the football while conceding zero turnovers in two victories.
After two previous spring scrimmages that showed inconsistencies of a 6-6 football team, a scoring showcase exactly like this will build confidence for post spring and summer workouts.
Although when one side of the ball scores 92 points, the story on defense can’t be all roses.
After ASU lost Omar Bolden to a potentially season-threatening ACL injury earlier this spring, the Sun Devils shutdown cornerback has been missed dearly.
Saturday was no different as ASU’s quarterbacks continued to find holes in the secondary.
In all honestly, every single team in the country would feel the loss of a unanimous All-Conference performer, but Bolden’s contributions stretched further than one position on defense.
Bolden’s leadership and motivational skills, both in the locker room and on the field could prove costly moving forward.
Depth at cornerback was already thin, before Bolden’s injury. As for the team, every senior leader has a helping hand in progressing from a 6-6 group to a “Rose Bowl team.”
For now, Sun Devil fans are content with the ruthless Vontaze Burfict leading the charge on defense, filling Bolden’s role.
And contrary to popular belief stemming from his much-maligned personal foul penalties, Burfict is leading by example on the field, in film sessions and in the weight room.
Although, the defense did not replicate their conference leading form of last season in the last hurrah of spring, albeit, during the scrimmage no blitzing schemes were utilized.
A true test of how the Sun Devils will perform will not arrive until September.
Perhaps by that point, ASU’s offense will be prepared to rewrite school records, and a lockdown defense will not be mandatory.
A wise man once said, “Defense wins championships, offense provides the opportunity.”
Countless examples point to this saying as truth, but the only exact method to conquering your opponent each outing is winning the battle of the scoreboard.
How that is accomplished is always the never-ending question on the gridiron.
If ASU has the power to score 50 points each game, coupled with a stingy defense, aspirations of reaching a BCS bowl shouldn’t be written off just yet.
But at some point throughout the season, a key stop, or two, will be needed.
With Burfict staring across the line of scrimmage, Erickson and Sun Devil fans will exude confidence.
The confidence of being in that situation before, and coming out victorious has been the defense's staple since Burfict arrived in Tempe.
Since Osweiler has held the reigns of Erickson’s offense, the Sun Devils have finished strong in all aspects, including spring practice.
The spring game was another catalyst for the ASU wave of momentum.
Now, finishing strong will include summer workouts, fall camp, and most importantly, focusing on the 12 regular season games on the 2011 schedule.