TEMPE, Ariz. — An offense that was held out of the end zone on its final eight possessions and without a point on its final three drives last week may be without one of its top scoring threats this week against Washington State.
Leading receiver and Biletnikoff Award semifinalist Jaelen Strong is “probably 50-50” after he sustained a concussion in the fourth quarter of Arizona State’s 35-27 loss at Oregon State, according to head coach Todd Graham.
“He has improved dramatically, doing well, but it just depends on — I should know more (Wednesday) kind of where we’re at on that,” he said.
Strong wore a green no-contact jersey, but did not participate in drills during the portion of practice open to the media on Tuesday.
“Obviously, he wants to play and all that,” Graham said of Strong, whose nine touchdowns are tied with running back D.J. Foster for the team lead. But we’re going to make sure. He’s got to be able to go through the protocol that we always go by. He did clear up really good (Monday), so we’ll see.”
It’s uncertain when Strong may have suffered the concussion.
Twice in the fourth quarter he came down hard on his head, first on a pass attempt into the end zone that he failed to grab and then later on a sideline throw in which he and the defender, cornerback Steven Nelson, jumped for the ball, colliding in midair before crashing back down on the ground.
In both instances, the Sun Devil training staff examined Strong. After the second play, they would not allow him to re-enter the game, taking away his helmet, much to his disappointment.
Before getting hurt, Strong had recorded his 11th 100-yard receiving game (103 yards on nine catches), the third-most in school history.
On the season, Strong leads ASU with 71 receptions and 982 yards, numbers that have made him just the third Sun Devil wide receiver to be named a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist, joining Derek Hagan and Shaun McDonald.
His absence would be significant against Washington State (3-7).
“I think Cam Smith’s role continues to grow,” offensive coordinator and deputy head coach Mike Norvell said. “Cam is a guy that, I think, has done a lot of great things. He’s really grown to be a primary target in the offense. Ellis (Jefferson) has made a lot of great plays for us this year. The USC game in the fourth quarter, he’s a guy that stood out that did some great things. Gary Chambers.
“Depending on what Jaelen’s status is, everybody has got to step up and pull a bigger load.”
Overall, ASU (8-2) struggled offensively at Oregon State, especially in the second half when they gained only 110 total yards and scored just one field goal.
“I thought we had some missed opportunities. We had a couple of negative plays that you can’t have in a close game. We just didn’t get it done,” said Norvell, who mentioned his unit did “some uncharacteristic things” throughout the game.
“If you don’t execute very well, you’re not going to win close games. It’s something we’ve got to get better at, and we’re on our way doing that.”