Injury trend continues for ASU ahead of Territorial Cup

Much like most of Arizona State's games this season, the Sun Devils will be short-handed against Arizona on Friday as multiple players suffered serious injuries against Washington.

Arizona States consistent injuries have stockpiled week after week this season, and against Washington, the Sun Devils did not leave unscathed.

Before the game even kicked off on Saturday in Seattle, ASU was hit with another blow to its overall depth.

Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jalen Bates went down with leg injury, and head coach Todd Graham said it occurred while Bates was planting during warmups in a pass rush drill.

Hes out for the season,Graham said. Yes, its pretty rare. We get warmed up, were doing a little pass rush drill and just planted wrong or whatever. Those things happen sometimes.

At one point during Mondays press conference, Graham had to ponder who was going to be available for this week due to the extent of injuries that have stacked up for the Sun Devils throughout the past month.

Its been that kind of year for the Sun Devils, but Graham said Monday that he hopes to have some of the team's injured players like sophomore wide receiver Jalen Harvey and senior offensive lineman Stephon McCray back for ASU's regular season finale against Arizona.

Its hard to keep up with some of it, but we had Zach Robertson go down,Graham said. He wont be available this week, but were hoping some of the guys like George (Lea) and Stephon (McCray) and those guys well get back. Christian Hill, maybe, Jalen Harvey. Cam Smith wont be available. Im trying to think here, its a long list.

"Well know more about them,Graham said. We feel like Gump (Hayes) should be okay, and then Fred (Gammage), just kind of see how he moves around tomorrow. And then Marcus Ball, we expect to be back.

One area that the Sun Devils have been plagued by injuries almost the entire season is the offensive line. So far, ASU has used at least five different combinations of starters and no fewer than seven total combinations when factoring in in-game substitutions.

In Saturdays loss, Robertson was injured and then replaced by sophomore Quinn Bailey at right tackle, which provided a significant shakeup because Bailey rotated out from right guard to right tackle.

Junior college transfer A.J. McCollum moved over to right guard from center and walk-on junior center Tyler McClure joined the lineup in McCollum's place. Redshirt freshman Steve Miller and senior Evan Goodman remained the guard and tackle on the left side, respectively.

One of ASU's most important absences is sophomore left guard Sam Jones, who was injured on the final play of ASU's 40-16 loss against Colorado.

Jones has been nursing an ankle injury over the past four weeks, but Graham said that they hoping Jones will be able to play against the Wildcats on Friday.

With game preparation being pushed up by a day due to kickoff being Friday in Tucson, Graham said he will know more on the status of all of his players later in the week.

I think Sams (Jones) been one of the most critical people thats been out,Graham said. Its really been difficult for us, so hopefully hell be able to play. Were counting on that. Well know a lot more after we practice. Being a short week, we had a walk-through today and then well practice Tuesday and Wednesday and walk-through on Thursday, so its a little bit different week, but just trying to think of someone else who got hurt in the game.

Territorial Cup pride runs deep

If becoming bowl-eligible wasnt enough motivation for ASU, the pride of keeping the Territorial Cup in Tempe will put the Sun Devils into overdrive.

Over the last 10 seasons, the Sun Devils have won six Territorial Cup meetings, including three of the last four matchups. Overall, Arizona leads the Territorial Cup series 48-40-1, but Graham is looking to notch ASUs 41st victory over the Wildcats.

Graham, who was a part of the last Backyard Brawl game featuring Pittsburgh and West Virginia in 2011, said the passion of ASU's fanbase around its rivalry game is unlike any other rivalry he has participated in.

Ive been a part of the Backyard Brawl with Pitt and West Virginia,Graham said. This one, I can tell you, theres not any fans more passionate than ours are about this game. Its something I always get a lot of emails, messages this week. Ive already gotten quite a few just saying, Hey, dont worry about anything in the past. Just go win this game.Its a very, very important game. Its very passionate."

With Arizona riding a winless conference record into Fridays game and the Sun Devils looking to reach the six-win bowl eligibility threshold, motivation for a win for both teams is high.

Graham expects Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez to put together his best game plan, and said thats how its usually gone for the Sun Devils when facing off against the Wildcats.

While expectations and implications are relatively low for this years Territorial Cup, Graham said the pride associated with the series is not fading.

The bottom line in a rivalry game is you better get ready,Graham said. Were going to get their best game. Every year that weve played them since Ive been here, we get their best game. And were going to get their best game, so weve got to be on our best game. We dont spend a lot of time on somebody that doesnt have anything to lose or not. Youre going to get everything thrown at you. Youre going to get that teams best. In my experience in all rivalries games Ive been a part of, thats what youre going to get. Teams are going to play their best and theyre going to have their best game plans. It runs deep. Its the most intense rivalry game Ive been a part of.

Notebook

  • An aspect Graham noted from Saturdays blowout loss to Washington was the amount of penalties that pushed ASU back to third and long situations throughout the night. In its last two games, ASU has tallied 17 total penalties. Still, ASU is tied with Washington atop the conference for the fewest penalties per game.
  • When speaking on ASUs defensive performance against Washington, Graham said that its main focus was to slow down junior wide receiver John Ross. The explosive plays from Ross were limited, but he still finished with a season-best 12 receptions for 95 yards on the Sun Devilssecondary.
  • Graham said senior linebacker Salamo Fiso who has only played in six games this season due to a disciplinary suspension and a knee injury — is not 100 percent healthy yet, but he provides stability to the linebacking corp. Graham mentioned Fiso and senior Spur linebacker Laiu Moeakiola as two players who have represented the Sun Devils well during their time with the program.

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