TEMPE, Ariz. – Continuity along the Arizona State offensive line has been key to the Sun Devils success since Todd Graham arrived.
That group has not had a player miss a game due to injury since 2012, a streak that in all likelihood comes to end this week when 15th-ranked ASU hosts 18th-ranked Utah for first place in the Pac-12 South Division.
Starting left guard Christian Westerman is not expected to play, according to the third-year head coach. He’s been labeled as “doubtful” after suffering a leg injury late in the third quarter at Washington.
Westerman was replaced by redshirt sophomore Stephon McCray, the proverbial “next man up,” to borrow a phrase used so often by the other 6-1 football team in the Valley.
“Really proud of Stephon,” Graham said, following practice Tuesday. “I actually challenged him before the game. I said, ‘I hope you’re ready. I don’t know if you are.’ He came in and answered the call. Really, really proud of him. He did a tremendous job. To be real honest with you, we didn’t fall off a bit. He’s a physical guy; does a great job.”
McCray is 6-2 and 305 pounds, while Westerman is 6-4 and 305 pounds, so the Sun Devils don’t miss much in terms of size at that position.
They do lose experience, however.
Westerman, who is expected back for Notre Dame, has eight career starts under his belt. McCray would be making his first collegiate start on Saturday.
“Very intelligent. He’s a hard worker,” offensive coordinator and deputy head coach Mike Norvell said of McCray, who doubles as the team’s backup center.
McCray played the entire fourth quarter, meaning he was on the field for what proved to be the game-winning score, a nine-play, 75-yard drive that finished with quarterback Taylor Kelly throwing a seven-yard touchdown pass to redshirt junior receiver Gary Chambers.
“(McCray) was ready for his opportunity,” Norvell said. “You never know when that one snap, that one opportunity that you’re going to jump in and help impact the team to win. He made some big plays, some big blocks there in that fourth quarter. That was fun to see.”