Injuries pile up for ASU football ahead of Oregon game

The Sun Devils have a road trip to Oregon standing in the way of a much-needed bye week

It's not uncommon for injuries to pile up past the midway point of the college football season. 

But the significance and sheer number of impactful players who are out or limited due to injury wasn't lost on ASU football head coach Todd Graham at his weekly press conference Monday, with ASU's first trip to Autzen Stadium since 2011 standing in the way of a bye week.  

Graham said redshirt sophomore quarterback Manny Wilkins was "day-to-day" and so his status for the Oregon game will likely not be confirmed until later in the week. 

Junior center AJ McCollum did not play against Washington State due to a "personal matter," while redshirt sophomore left tackle Sam Jones and redshirt sophomore safety Armand Perry were also out.  

The scariest moment for the Sun Devils (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12) in their 37-32 loss to Washington State Saturday was when redshirt senior Salamo Fiso went down with a knee injury early in the fourth quarter and needed to be helped off the field. However, Graham said Fiso's condition was questionable and was thankful it wasn't "anything severe."

Graham praised his team's effort in all phases of the game Saturday, including offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey's play-calling and capitalizing on the versatility of skill position players like redshirt senior wide receivers Tim White and Fred Gammage, as well as junior running backs Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage for 20 snaps in the Sparky formation. 

"Coach Lindsey did a good job with the specials," Graham said. "Using our Sparky and Moose formations, and keeping things simple for (freshman quarterback Dillon-Sterling Cole)."

Wilkins exited after just the second ASU drive of the Washington State game, giving Sterling-Cole his biggest test yet and the most Pac-12 playing time of his young career. 

"Dillon made some fantastic throws," Graham said. "I think that helped him once he got a few completions under his belt and he got better." 

ASU commemorated the 30th anniversary of the 1987 Rose Bowl Championship team, and its members were honored at the game as well as in a ceremonial banquet before last week's game where Graham addressed the former players. Former ASU head coach John Cooper returned the favor and spoke to the players on the active Sun Devil roster before the game. 

"I can tell you that all of our players commented to me about how powerful that was," Graham said. "You can tell exactly when you get around them why they where champions." 

One of several bright spots for Graham that came out of the loss was the play of redshirt junior linebacker Marcus Ball and redshirt senior linebacker Laiu Moeakiola. Ball said Saturday he stepped up in the absence of Fiso, as he and Moekiola accounted for 30 percent of the team's 53 tackles.

"I think Marcus has played outstanding," Graham said. "He's really done well. I think Laiu played outstanding. I think the key for us — that's created the stability, obviously Armand being out hurts." 

Graham cited missing out on the opportunity to recover a Luke Falk fumble forced by junior Devilbacker Koron Crump deep in Washington State territory as a key turning point in the game.

"That was a key play," Graham said. "We needed to get possession of that ball. You've got to make that play." 

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