Injuries decimating ASU, but Sun Devils continue winning ways

The Sun Devils were down to their fourth quarterback by the end of Saturday's game against UCLA, yet still managed to come away with a 23-20 win.

For the second straight week, Arizona State added another quarterback to its list of injuries, bringing its total to three injured signal-callers on the season.

Last week, sophomore starter Manny Wilkins was knocked out of the game right before halftime of ASU’s 41-20 loss to USC. Wilkins spent the second half of the game in a walking boot and on crutches on the sidelines in the second half.

On Tuesday, ASU head coach Todd Graham said that Wilkins was "questionable to doubtful" for ASU's game against the Bruins and officially ruled him out Friday on his radio show. Wilkins was lightly jogging at Tuesday's practice, but stood to the side of warmup lines on Wednesday and Thursday viewing periods open to media. 

In Wilkins' place, redshirt freshman Brady White earned his first career start against UCLA and had started to bounce back after a 8-of-21 passing game in the first half, but was injured with ASU leading 23-20 with just under seven minutes to play in the fourth quarter. 

"I don't know," Graham said about White's status when asked after the game. "I mean, I do know, but I'm not going to say anything. Right now just don't know for sure. We'll let you know as soon as we are ready to do that."

White was seen with his right shoe off and on crutches headed to the locker room in the fourth quarter.

Both Wilkins and White began fall camp in a three-way competition for the quarterback job, as ASU redshirt freshman quarterback Bryce Perkins was also expected to factor into an open competition. However, Perkins suffered a neck injury on Aug. 8 that ended his chance of earning the job for 2016. Perkins has since been wearing a neck brace and it was expected Perkins would be out for two to three months.

With the injury to White Saturday, the Sun Devils had to burn the redshirt of freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole. Sterling-Cole's first career pass was an interception to UCLA sophomore safety Darius Pickett in the end zone with under six minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

Graham joked that Sterling-Cole's backup moving forward would be his own son, 14-year-old Mike Graham. He then clarified and said in actuality it will be freshman quarterback Jack Smith. Smith is a Phoenix native and graduated from Mountain Pointe High School. 

Graham said there was a thought that ASU could stick with its Sparky package featuring junior running back Kalen Ballage at the helm of the offense when White was hurt, but once ASU was certain White was out for the remainder of the game, the Sun Devils brought in Sterling-Cole.

“That’s what coach (Chip) Lindsey wanted to do (Sparky package) and what I did was I wanted to know what Brady’s status was because we had a lot of time left in the game before we put Dillon in because obviously we didn’t want to burn his redshirt if he was going to be okay," Graham said. "If he’s going to be okay, we were going to go with the Sparky, but he wasn’t going to be okay. We knew he was out for the game for sure, so we went with Dillon.” 

Graham said after knowing White's status, "the best thing to do is get him (Sterling-Cole) in there and get him going" 

ASU Secondary 

In addition to the loss of another quarterback, ASU lost a key member of its defense, sophomore cornerback Kareem Orr

Orr was injured with 14:56 left in the second quarter and headed straight to the locker room. When Orr was first injured, Graham automatically went out onto the field to talk with Orr and see about his status. Orr limped off the field and after going into the locker room, he lightly jogged out and tried to do some testing on the sidelines before settling with riding the stationary bike for the rest of the game. 

"We lost our best defensive player tonight, Kareem Orr," Graham said. "(Senior cornerback De'Chavon Hayes) came in, stepped up and played great. (Junior defensive back Maurice) Chandler also played great and I am so proud of everyone stepping up. We are really getting back to Sun Devil defensive football by getting TFLs, sacks and putting the heat on" 

Chandler was second on the team in tackles with seven, leading ASU for the night was junior Bandit safety Marcus Ball.

Ball was getting his first start of the season at Bandit safety after ASU had tried out four different bandit safeties in ASU's 41-20 loss to USC last week. Ball not only led the team with 10 tackles, but also had an interception that he returned for 22 yards to set up a Zane Gonzalez field goal. 

In addition to the loss of Orr for the game, ASU again gave up over 400 yards passing, this time to the duo of sophomore starting quarterback Josh Rosen and senior backup quarterback Mike Fafaul. Rosen was 24-of-43 for 400 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Fafual was 3-of-11 for 44 years and two interceptions. 

The Sun Devils are on pace to have the worst passing defense in college football history. However, the quarterbacks they have defeated are NFL-caliber players, including Rosen, Texas Tech Patrick Mahomes, and Cal quarterback Davis Webb.

Including ASU's performance Saturday night, ASU is giving up 404.3 passing yards per game. The Sun Devils surrendered 16.4 yards per completion to UCLA Saturday night. 

"It doesn't matter the yards you give up," Graham said. "What did we give up? 400 yards passing? I'll take it." 

Notes

  • ASU junior running back Demario Richard went over 2,000 career yards rushing Saturday night after carrying the ball 15 times for 62 yards and one touchdown. 
  • Graham has a 25-6 record at Sun Devil Stadium since his arrival to Tempe, and defeated UCLA for the first time at home, which leaves Oregon as the lone Pac-12 school Graham has yet to defeat in Tempe. 
  • ASU held UCLA to minus-1 rushing yards on the night. The performance by ASU was the fifth-best rush defensive game in ASU history. 

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