Injuries continue to plague Dillingham’s Sun Devils as they prepare for No. 19 UCLA
Nov 6, 2023, 8:45 PM | Updated: Nov 7, 2023, 8:52 am
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
TEMPE — “When it rains, it pours.”
That’s how Arizona State head football coach Kenny Dillingham has described his team’s injury situation this season.
However, a more apropos analogy might be a snowball becoming an avalanche.
Having lost a number of quarterbacks this season for a significant period of time, including true freshman Jayden Rashada for a significant portion of the year, redshirt sophomore Drew Pyne’s spotty status and now redshirt junior Trenton Bourguet’s lower leg injury from last week, depth is an issue for Dillingham’s Sun Devils. Never mind DeCarlos Brooks’ injured hamstring and the M.A.S.H. unit supporting the offensive line.
“We’re not getting muscular issues. We’re getting, I mean, really elbows pop out of their joints,” Dillingham said Monday in his weekly press conference. “So I mean, we’re getting real problems. It’s unfortunate but it is what it is.
“Guys are playing more than they should and they’re battling through things. So it’s unfortunate. … I told guys today and I said all year: Nobody cares.”
Latest Arizona State injury updates
— Bourguet’s status for Saturday is uncertain as well. Dillingham said he is day-to-day, but he wouldn’t comment directly. “We’ll find that out as the week progresses,” he said. “But if we were to play today he would not play.”
— Prince Dobrah, a redshirt junior on the defensive line, is expected to undergo an MRI on Monday and his status for Saturday against UCLA is uncertain.
— The news isn’t nearly as good for graduate student Michael Matus. He suffered a torn ACL in Saturday’s loss to Utah.
“The kid is the embodiment of Sun Devil football,” Dillingham said of his defensive end. “He sent an unbelievable text to the guys Saturday night after the game. He’s just an unbelievable person, not just a player but just person. He’s gonna be successful in life.”
Dillingham admitted it was a different knee than Matus injured last season.
— Dillingham made sure to shout out Sean Na’a. The true freshman got his first career start at left tackle against Utah on Saturday, a move from guard.
“Everybody should be so proud of that kid,” Dillingham said. “He gets moved to left tackle on the plane to Utah on the road in a hostile environment to go verse one of the best, if a top three defensive end in the nation, and the dude battled, he never quit. He never wavered.”
Na’a’s move to left tackle comes on the heels of Isaia Glass’ departure from the program.
ASU is coming off a 55-3 loss to No. 18 Utah in Salt Lake City.
As previously mentioned, injuries may have finally caught up to the Sun Devils as they were without one of their top running backs, a bulk of their offensive line and they lost their starting quarterback in the game early in the first quarter.
“I didn’t prepare good enough for (quarterback) Trenton (Bourguet) going down so early in the game and and that scenario just because I feel like we would struggle if that would happen,” Dillingham said. “So, preparing for a situation that you struggle in is, do you how much time do you invest in that versus, okay, let’s go win this football game, you know, guns are blazing.
“So I could have done a better job preparing and putting together a plan for (running back Cam Skattebo) and some other guys back there to try to move the ball instead of just kind of throw one together on the sideline probably should have just kind of had a better plan there moving forward.”
But even through the injuries, Dillingham admits it was a tall task to ask his team to go into Salt Lake City and topple to the Utes.
“That is a we lost that game in March, we lost that game in April,” Dillingham said. “That’s not a game that you win in your week of prep. That’s a game that you find out what your nine months of prep puts you in position to do and I said so that’s my fault because I didn’t do a good enough job the last nine-to-10 months putting us in position to win a football game like that because those games are not scheme-based those games are purely culture-based, effort-based, program-based and I haven’t done a good enough job in the last nine months to get us to that point to compete versus team like that.
“Let’s go back to being the team, just like Utah did two weeks ago when they had a result that didn’t like, they responded with their best game of the year. That’s what good teams do good cultures do. Now it’s on us to go respond with our best game of the year this week and flush it and go be the defense that played versus Washington in the offensive played versus Washington State.”
The Sun Devils continue on the road as they travel to the Rose Bowl to take on No. 19 UCLA.
It will be another strong test for their further-depleted offense, as the Bruins represent one of the best defenses in the nation.
“I think this is the best defensive front I’ve faced in two years,” Dillingham said. “In my opinion, I think going back the last two years, I think from a talent perspective this front seven could be the most talented the most disruptive I’ve seen in my last two years here. They’re super-talented, super-good and that’s not a knock on Utah. … (Utah)’s sound but this UCLA team is very very very talented.”
UCLA is home to the second-best rushing defense in the nation, giving up just 70.4 yards per game, and the 56th best passing defense, which has surrendered 223.9 yards per game. That’s good enough for 13th in the country in total defense.
Dillingham emphasized the line of scrimmage as a point of emphasis that had be won on Saturday.
“That’s why, if you think about the most highest paid guys and the NFL, it’s defensive ends, offensive line and quarterback,” he said. “That’s the No. 1 correlation to winning. If you can’t run the ball, if you can’t protect the quarterback, if you can’t impact the quarterback or if you can, on the contrary, then you’re going to win a ton of football game. So we’ve definitely got to be unique and creative with how we utilize guys.”