ASU Football: How can the Sun Devils turn their offense around?


Coming off of their third loss of the season, the Arizona State Sun Devils were forced to let go of any distant dreams of a Pac-12 title and potential shot at the NCAA Playoff, which may have been a pipe dream to begin with. But as they approach this final stretch run of the season and attempt to finish strong, their focus is likely going to be on how to fix what has been a largely broken offense for much of the year.

Despite having some individual talents throughout the offense, their group has been stagnant for most of the year, unable to discover consistency in any phase. While the defense and the special teams were exceptional against Utah, to the point where they were able to get the team a lead into the fourth quarter, the inability on the part of the offense to move the ball at all really hampered their shot at an upset on the road.

It’s not as if this is a group lacking in talent. Mike Bercovici has a nice skill set as a quarterback, with a strong arm and underrated mobility. They have two capable running backs in Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage. While the receiving corps lost Jaelen StrongDevin Lucien has emerged as a weapon next to D.J. Foster and deep threat Tim White. Even so, the offense hasn’t been able to replicate the success that it had last year with Taylor Kelly heaving passes down the field to Strong.

And that, perhaps more than anything, has accounted for the disappointing 4-3 start in which the Devils find themselves mired. So how can they turn it around as they prepare to host the Oregon Ducks on Thursday night? A game against a struggling Oregon defense might help, for starters.

The Ducks rank 113th in the country in yards against per game, surrendering 462 yards per contest overall, including 306.6 through the air (in which they rank 123rd) and 155.3 on the ground (56th). That could bode well for Bercovici and passing attack from ASU football, but it’s far from a guarantee, given the inconsistency we’ve seen from the phase. Not that Bercovici is necessarily the one to blame. His receivers have dropped passes and the gameplan has limited him greatly from getting the ball down the field.

As far as what Todd Graham is hoping for, the tempo could be an aspect to watch against the Ducks on Thursday night. He wants to push that aspect while still limiting turnovers. After their start to the year, where the Devils seemingly couldn’t hang onto the ball, they’ve certainly improved in that regard. Nonetheless, it doesn’t take any sort of statistic to easily notice that the offense isn’t moving at the tempo that might be required to jumpstart this offense.

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At 4-3, now might be the time to let Bercovici and the passing attack loose. It’s been a plan primarily predicated around short pass attempts that they’re hoping to turn into long gains, almost exclusively in the hands of D.J. Foster. But with Foster struggling, it might be time to turn to the emerging Lucien and the speedy White to jumpstart the offense, especially against an Oregon team that has been so brutal against the pass this season.

That’d be a start. The running game should rebound with the return of Demario Richard. He and Ballage have proven to be an effective combo back there. But with the Ducks remaining relatively stout against the run, at least in comparison to their struggles against the pass, getting Bercovici and the passing game going should represent the focal point for Mike Norvell and the ASU offense this week.

At this juncture in the season, where just attaining a decent bowl game is the optimistic approach, what do you have to lose? Let Bercovici sling it downfield and see what happens. This week against Oregon seems like as good a time as any.

**Statistics via ESPN

Randy Holt is the managing editor for Devils in Detail. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.