Fans will credit ASU’s upset over the Oregon Ducks to solid defensive play, an outstanding performance from Manny Wilkins or even Todd Graham’s coaching. However, the reality is when it mattered most, there was always one guy there – N’Keal Harry.
Game in and game out, the sophomore wide out continues to make high-caliber plays for the Sun Devils’ offense.
What coaches around the country seem to miss in their extensive film sessions is how dominant of a presence Harry brings to the field, not to mention, his boost of determination when he feels disrespected.
“What’s going through my head is if you try to man coverage me with no safety over the top, that’s disrespectful,” Harry said. “So whenever they do that, I just have a mindset that I’m coming down with the ball every time.”
His highlight of Saturday’s game came early in the third quarter on a third and four.
Redshirt junior quarterback Manny Wilkins took the snap from the shotgun on the ASU 46-yard line with Harry lined up in the slot on the left side.
Wilkins took the snap, dropped back two steps, looked left and fired a dart to Harry on a quick slant. After a short 10-yard burst, Harry got sandwiched by two Oregon defenders, only to have them bounce off. Two broken tackles later, Harry galloped 37 more yards before being tackled at the Oregon seven-yard line.
Later in the third quarter on a third and 27, Harry snagged a 52-yard jump ball with an Oregon defensive back right on top of him to end the quarter.
Wilkins threw up a prayer to the former Chandler Wolves basketball star, and although it was not a rebound in the stat sheet, Harry’s box out was textbook.
“That catch on third and however long was huge," Wilkins said. "Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time times.”
ASU’s offense has caught fire over the last two weeks, the reason being that the 6-foot-4, 19-year old star has racked up 20 catches for 318 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite the overwhelming numbers Harry puts up each week, Wilkins continues to tell all his wide outs to fight for every ball in every situation.
“I tell them, 'When I throw you the ball, just go get it,'" Wilkins said. “Like I said last week, 50/50 balls to guys like N’Keal — they’re not 50/50 balls in my mind. They’re 100-percent balls.”
After the team’s first Pac-12 win of the season and a promising outing from several individuals, head coach Todd Graham said it was not any one guy who single-handedly sent the Ducks home with a loss.
“We got some warriors out there,” Graham said. “After the game, I didn’t say anything about anybody individually — usually I give game balls. I said 'Look, there is no way that I’m (going to) come in here and say anything about anybody else other than our football team.'”
Obviously, synergistic offensive play will be a determining factor in ASU’s attempt to beat the Stanford Cardinal next week. But, when looking at specific individuals, Harry is set to continue his phenomenal stretch of play.
Stanford is coming off a 58-34 win over the UCLA Bruins. However, in that game, UCLA had two wide receivers reel in 11 catches and over 140 receiving yards.
Looking at the Cardinal’s film, Harry and the rest of ASU’s wide receivers must be licking their chops to get a chance at another pass-catching feast.