As one of few experienced seniors, ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins chooses to take a positive approach when it comes to dealing with his younger, inexperienced teammates.
Instead of being demoralized over the fact the Sun Devils (3-3, 1-2) have three losses, all by a touchdown, Wilkins sees it the other way. He let his peers know that when they gathered for a team meeting Sunday, a day after a 28-21 road loss to surprising-and-still-unbeaten Colorado.
“Three games and there were no blowouts,” he said. “It’s a combined 21 points. We score four more touchdowns and everyone is talking about us and the playoffs,” he said. “Just four more touchdowns. We’re right there.”
The Sun Devils have a bye this week and return to Pac-12 play Oct. 18 at Sun Devil Stadium against Stanford (4-2, 2-1), which is coming off a 40-21 loss to Utah.
Wilkins’ knee was injured on ASU’s final offensive play of the game when he got rolled up on while back to pass. The Sun Devils never got the ball back, so he didn’t have a chance to test the sore knee again that afternoon.
He did not participate in practice Wednesday morning but did some light throwing on the side before the Sun Devils took the field. Wilkins, who has proven to be a tough competitor and played through other nagging injuries in his ASU career, said he would be back on the field when preparations started for Stanford and that coach Herm Edwards was just giving him a breather.
The same can be said for wide receiver N’Keal Harry, who was injured on a controversial punt return in the third quarter against Colorado. He didn’t practice Wednesday, either.
Several others either sat out or participated in a limited capacity.
Edwards said the bye at the midway point of the season is not just a chance to give some of his banged up athletes a break, but provides an opportunity to go back and assess his team’s progress.
“This is always a good time for evaluation,” he said. “The question is, what can I have done better personally to help these guys win the three games we lost?” he said “It’s always the question. It’s part of the DNA of coaching. You look for the answers and then you move on. I think it’s good for me to self-reflect. I haven’t coached in a while as far as a team. I was coaching America.”
The coach appreciates the way Wilkins is encouraging his teammates instead of lamenting that his team hasn’t made the big play down the stretch and now faces a must-win scenario every week.
“Manny has it right. I’m not going down that road because there is nothing to be gained from it,” Edwards said. “The most powerful word in the English language is hope. It’s what you do as a coach — give players hope, give people hope.”
Edwards said his team has focused the first part of the week on fixing its own mistakes and will work on preparation for Stanford in the days leading up to that game.
Still talking about it
Many are still talking about the punt return play in which Harry sustained a thigh injury. He was hit by Colorado linebacker Drew Lewis, who had been blocked out of bounds moments earlier, only to come back onto the field of play to make the tackle.
According to the NCAA rulebook, a player who goes out of bounds during a kick may only return in bounds during the play if he is blocked out of bounds and “attempts to return in bounds immediately.”
Lewis ran behind players and coaches on the sideline before returning to make the hit on Harry. No penalty was called.
Wilkins’ comment on the play wasn’t much different than what it was after the game.
“It was very unfortunate,” he said. “Colorado is not an undisciplined team out there playing dirty.”
Video of Colorado’s blindside hit of ASU punt returner N’Keal Harry in the third quarter of Saturday’s game.
Courtesy of, Colorado Athletics
Not lost on him was the even-more controversial play in the final seconds against San Diego State, in which receiver Frank Darby was the victim of targeting on a potential game-tying catch.
“It’s just bizarre the two most reviewed plays in college football this year and we were involved in both,” Wilkins said.
Defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales echoed Wilkins’ sentiments on the Colorado play, pointing out how little room there is on the sideline in Colorado.
Gonzales praises Robertson
The Sun Devils are starting three true freshmen on defense with another playing considerable minutes.
Gonzales singled out the play of freshman linebacker Merlin Robertson as the most pleasant surprise and called junior defensive back Kobe Williams his “most consistent.” player.