ARIZONA STATE FOOTBALL

Graham: Mental game, maturity key to Wilkins’ improvement

Sep 29, 2017, 1:20 PM | Updated: 2:46 pm
Arizona State's Manny Wilkins (5) passes the ball during an NCAA college football game against Texa...
Arizona State's Manny Wilkins (5) passes the ball during an NCAA college football game against Texas Tech, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, in Lubbock, Texas. (Brad Tollefson/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal via AP)
(Brad Tollefson/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal via AP)
LISTEN: Todd Graham, ASU football head coach

Through four games this season, Arizona State’s Manny Wilkins has been solid.

After finishing last season with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions, Wilkins has clearly improved, but what has changed?

“I think the biggest thing is that I challenged him,” ASU head coach Todd Graham told Doug and Wolf on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station. “I said ‘well I am going to tell you, you got to stop playing quarterback with your athleticism and you need to start playing with your character and your smarts and that’s what a quarterback does is manage the game.’

Our goal is to have zero interceptions and zero turnovers.”

And while Wilkins has fumbled once this year, he’s the only starting Pac-12 quarterback without an interception. Through four games, he’s thrown for 1,271 yards and eight touchdowns, completing 93 of his 140 pass attempts for a 66.4 completion percentage.

“I think he played solid Week 1 and I think he played solid Week 2, better Week 3, better Week 4. He’s just continuing to play better,” Graham said. We’ve got five receivers over 100 yards, no one in the country has that and I don’t think it’s been done here in that short amount of time.

“We’re spreading the ball around, he’s taking what they give us and we’re able to do that by him really being prepared and his intellect and his football smarts and him checking and getting us in the right place.”

In ASU’s upset win over the Oregon Ducks last Saturday, Wilkins went 24-39 for 347 yards, his most this season, and one touchdown. He also got it done on the ground, adding two more scores and 35 yards on 14 attempts.

Penguin Air
Oregon wide receiver Kyle Buckner, left, dives for a first down as Arizona State defensive back Chase Lucas (24) tackles him during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. Arizona State defeated Oregon 37-35. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona State's Brandon Ruiz (1) watches his go-ahead field goal during the fourth quarter of the team's NCAA college football game against Oregon, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. Arizona State won 37-35. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Oregon linebacker Troy Dye sits in the bench area after Arizona State defeated Oregon 37-35 during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona State coach Todd Graham raises his arms after Arizona State defeated Oregon 37-35 during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Oregon coach Willie Taggart, left, talks to Arizona State coach Todd Graham before an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert (10) throws against Arizona State during the first half during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona State wide receiver N'Keal Harry (1) makes the catch over Oregon cornerback Deommodore Lenoir during the first half during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona State wide receiver N'Keal Harry (1) scores a touchdown against Oregon during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Oregon running back Royce Freeman (21) carries for a first down against Arizona State during the first half during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins (5) motions to fans in the student section after scoring a touchdown against Oregon during the first half during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Oregon wide receiver Dillon Mitchell (13) celebrates with Johnny Johnson III (80) and Casey Eugenio after scoring a touchdown against Arizona State during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona State defensive back Dasmond Tautalatasi (30) hits Oregon wide receiver Kyle Buckner during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Oregon tight end Jacob Breeland cannot make the catch in front of Arizona State defensive back J'Marcus Rhodes (17) during the first half during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins (5) throws a pass against Oregon during the first half during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Oregon running back Tony Brooks-James (20) reacts after scoring a touchdown against Arizona State during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert (10) stiff-arms Arizona State defensive back Chad Adams during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona State defensive back J'Marcus Rhodes (17) gets a hand on the pass intended for Oregon wide receiver Alfonso Cobb during the second half during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona State running back Demario Richard (4) scores a touchdown over Oregon linebacker Troy Dye during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona State wide receiver Jalen Harvey reacts after gaining a first down against Oregon during the second half during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. Arizona State defeated Oregon 37-35. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Oregon tight end Jacob Breeland (27) runs after making a reception, as Arizona State linebacker DJ Calhoun gives chase during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. Arizona State defeated Oregon 37-35. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Oregon wide receiver Kyle Buckner, left, dives for a first down as Arizona State defensive back Chase Lucas (24) tackles him during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. Arizona State defeated Oregon 37-35. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

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