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August 21, 2010

Sun Devils keep it simple in balanced scrimmage

With a game plan designed to keep things simple, the Arizona State football team made some strides in its second scrimmage of the fall, with opening kickoff now just two weeks away.

"We purposely came out and kept it to plain, vanilla stuff, just to see if we could run our core runs and our core passes," offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. "We had a couple foolish penalties and a dropped ball here and there, but for the most part I thought guys were in the right spots. The quarterbacks were getting the ball out quick. We still have a long way to go, but I was happy with what they did today."

Sophomore Brock Osweiler and Steven Threet each ran with the first-team unit -- Threet getting the first series of the day -- though neither quarterback in the heated competition for the starting job significantly outplayed the other.

"I don't know, I have to look at the tape," coach Dennis Erickson said when asked to evaluate the play of his quarterbacks. "I thought they both did some really good things today. We were going to go a little longer but our defensive front, going no huddle for so many plays, we got a little worn out which tells you no huddle is not a bad deal.

"I thought all four of [the quarterbacks] had their moments. Steven had that first drive as you all know and Brock came in and [finished strong on the last drive]. The biggest thing I can say is the improvement with all of them from spring football to camp to now is unbelievable. They've made that kind of improvement. I think that's what competition does."

Threet led the offense to a touchdown, one of just two in the scrimmage, during the first series of the session. The junior was 5-of-7 for 45 yards on the drive, which ended in a 1-yard touchdown run on a zone-read by Threet, who unofficially finished 9-of-13 for 92 yards.

Osweiler threw the only touchdown pass of the scrimmage during his second series, a 19-yard strike to junior Kerry Taylor in the back corner of the endzone.

Osweiler finished 9-of-14 for 78 yards, completing all five of the passes he attempted during the touchdown drive.

Junior Samson Szakacsy, running the second-team offense, completed 6-of-9 passes for 53 yards.

The mental mistakes by the quarterbacks were noticeably fewer than in the first scrimmage, the majority of incompletions coming on balls that were thrown away in the face of an oncoming rush.

The majority of the passing game in the scrimmage came on short, quick hit routes and featured a longer look at the stable of backs than the Sun Devils' previous scrimmage.

That group -- consisting of sophomores Cameron Marshall and Jamal Miles, freshman Deantre Lewis and junior James Morrison -- was named by Mazzone as the most improved unit he's seen in camp in recent days.

"I'm really happy with the backs and the way they ran the ball today," the offensive coordinator said. "That was kind of our emphasis, and I told them we were going to run the football. That's not like me. Usually there's going to be about 15 deep throws. Purposely I didn't do that. I wanted our backs to run it and I wanted our receivers to get our quick game going today."

The running backs were shuffled in and out routinely, the carries being fairly evenly split among the four. Like a week ago, numerous receivers were involved in the passing game, as 16 different players recorded a reception.

As a whole, Mazzone is pleased with the progress of his offense, though he pointed out there is plenty of room for improvement.

"We've really made strides in just the last few days," he said. "The lights are starting to come on a little bit. So instead of it being black, it's kind of dim."

The defense was led by junior linebacker Brandon Magee, who was seemingly involved in every play.

Senior defensive tackle Saia Falahola also stood out by getting consistent penetration and wreaking havoc on the run game.

With junior standout Lawrence Guy often drawing double teams, Falahola, who a number of offensive lineman on the team have tabbed as being the most difficult to block, has flourished with the first team.



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