Ron Jaworski once said that the “quarterback is the heart of a team”. Right now, ASU is flatlining.
After mostly coasting through the first two games of the 2010 schedule against FCS opponents, starting quarterback Steven Threet seemed to be on the brink of stardom. On the road against #11 Wisconsin, he led ASU’s final drive of the game with tremendous poise. The drive resulted in a touchdown that came within a blocked extra point of forcing overtime.
However, since that point, it’s been ugly. Really, really ugly.
At home against #5 Oregon, the Sun Devils played well all game long and entered the fourth quarter trailing 42-31. How did Threet respond with his team at the cusp of their biggest win since the legendary Nebraska game? He threw three interceptions, including two inside the Oregon 11 yard line, and ASU lost their sixth straight to the Ducks.
This past week, the Devils were on the road against Oregon State. At the outset of the fourth quarter, they found themselves within seven points at 24-17. Threet’s performance? Two more interceptions, including one jaw-droppingly bad throw that was picked off at the Beaver goal line.
As a result, the Cardinals aren’t the only Arizona football team with a burgeoning quarterback controversy.
The true measure of a quarterback is winning football games, and the fact is that Threet has yet to beat a FBS team this season. It’s no secret that championship quarterbacks such as Montana, Roethlisberger and Brady all are at their best when their teams need them most in the fourth quarter. Has Threet risen to the challenge in his second stint at his second school as a starter?
The answer is a resounding no.
An examination of the statistics reveals some disturbing numbers:
- Threet ranks a middling 55th among FBS quarterbacks in passer rating (130.7)
- Threet ranks 2nd among FBS quarterbacks in interceptions (10)
- His performance in the 4th quarter against Oregon: 6 for 14 with 0 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Passer rating 56.4
- His performance in the 4th quarter against Oregon State: 4 of 7 with 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Passer rating 57.6
- His passer rating in the first three quarters of those two games: 118.9
- His passer rating in the fourth quarter of those two games: 56.8
But hey, he did rush for 51 yards in those quarters.
Sure, every quarterback throws interceptions, but Threet’s turnovers have been inexcusable. A quarterback simply cannot make the mistakes Threet has made consistently when the game matters most. He’s not a starry eyed freshman. He’s a 21 year old redshirt junior in the midst of his fourth season of major college football. He’s made poor decisions, thrown into double and triple coverage and on several occasions thrown it right to the defender. Had he not made those egregious errors, ASU very well could be 4-1 and a ranked among the top 20.
So what now?
It’s time for Brock-toberfest. Prost!
All summer long and into the final week of fall camp, Threet battled sophomore Brock Osweiler in an intense competition for the starting quarterback job. Most people around the program felt that Osweiler held the edge for most of the competition until a late rally by Threet won the job.
If they were indeed that close a few weeks ago, it’s time to make the change to try to save the season.
ASU is currently 2-3. Their defense has proven to be stout, the two headed running back tandem of Deantre Lewis and Cameron Marshall have far exceeded expectations and the wide receivers have shaken off an early case of the drops to become a reliable group. Their remaining schedule after this week’s road game at Washington is certainly tough, yet manageable. They travel to Cal, host Washington State, visit USC, then host #16 Stanford and UCLA before the Duel in the Desert against #9 Arizona.
The season began as a campaign for the Pac-10’s youngest team to build for a run at the conference crown in 2011. With their inspired play, there is now legitimate hope of ending ASU’s two season bowl drought.
Well, that is if their horrendous turnover problem can be remedied. ASU ranks 117th out of the 120 FBS teams in turnover margin at -7. Unsurprisingly, 10 of the team’s 13 turnovers have come from the arm of Threet.
Some will argue that benching Threet for Osweiler would be a knee-jerk reaction to a poor stretch of games. They’ll say that the prudent course of action would be for Threet to press on and work through his issues as the ASU program rebuilds. Those are certainly sound and rational arguments, and under different, more typical rebuilding circumstances, I’d be inclined to agree.
However, this is not your typical rebuilding situation.
After two consecutive losing seasons, head coach Dennis Erickson is on the hot seat and there is strong pressure to win now, both from a frustrated fanbase and an athletic department that is sick of seeing empty seats at Sun Devil Stadium. That urgency may have exhausted any patience he would have with a quarterback who consistently throws away victories and could push Erickson to make a major move in the hopes of fixing their turnover woes.
Any quarterback can throw interceptions. It’s really not all that hard. Just ask the Chicago Bears.
The bottom line may very well be that the worst case scenario of starting either will be the same – more turnovers and losses. But the potential and talent of Osweiler as the starting quarterback may just be the shock to the heart that ASU’s season desperately needs.
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