Don’t expect a tearful farewell from Arizona State fifth-year senior quarterback Manny Wilkins after Saturday’s Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium.
He’s already been through that twice.
Wilkins, an emotional leader, choked up at the team’s senior day ceremony before hosting UCLA and after a thrilling comeback win in the rivalry game at Arizona.
“I already had that,” he said. “I had the emotional crying and being upset about being done here. This is just a moment of joy, and it’s a moment for us to reflect on the whole season and everything we’ve done. This is a positive thing.”
Wilkins has been enjoying the week leading up to the game against Fresno State. He took a helicopter ride on the Strip as part of the welcome ceremony, though jumping out of a plane is still on his bucket list.
His more immediate goals involve preparing for a professional career after throwing for 19 touchdowns against four interceptions this season.
“The next thing for me is training for this (NFL) draft,” he said. “I think I’ll have a really good opportunity. I know I will actually because of who I am and what I represent, and I’ve got the tape so I’m not really worried about it. I’ll get my shot, so it’s in my hands to make the most of it.
“There’s a lot of things I want to do, but I’m going to rock with this football stuff as long as I can.”
Wilkins is the 29th-rated quarterback prospect, according to DraftScout.com. He will be without top wide receiver N’Keal Harry, a projected first-round pick who will sit out the bowl game to focus on preparing for the NFL draft.
Big loss for ASU defense
Arizona State probably will be without star linebacker Merlin Robertson for Saturday’s game.
“I don’t anticipate him playing,” coach Herm Edwards said of the Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year. “He had a family situation come up on Monday, and he hasn’t been with us. With him missing practice, I wouldn’t play him. It’s not fair to him or the team.”
Robertson, the team’s leading tackler who was named to USA Today’s freshman All-America team this week, will be replaced in the starting lineup by Khaylan Kearse-Thomas.
Can’t keep a good dog down
Fresno State lost twice this season, and both times the Bulldogs bounced back with some of their strongest performances.
They answered a 21-14 loss at Minnesota with a 38-14 victory at UCLA and a 24-17 loss at Boise State with a 23-14 win over San Diego State.
“It’s important to make sure we take those (losing) experiences and we learn from them and we go right back to work and really possess the attitude of, ‘OK, we have one more opportunity this next week,’” Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford said. “We don’t really get involved in the big picture.”
Fresno State avenged the loss to Boise State with a 19-16 overtime win in the Mountain West championship game that was played in the snow in Boise, Idaho.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” Bulldogs quarterback Marcus McMaryion said. “I’ve never played in the snow before. A lot of us are California boys. We don’t get that weather unless you drive to it, so playing in snow, winning the Mountain West championship, being in Boise were a bunch of escalating things that made it that more sweet.”
According to Herm
Arizona State coach Herm Edwards always will be known for his “you play to win the game” rant, but he delivers quality soundbites almost every time he speaks. Here’s some highlights from the week:
— On dancing to Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me” during Thursday’s practice at Bishop Gorman: “That’s the one I go on. They know if they want to get me going, they throw that one on. I like that one. It’s pretty good. I can understand the words.”
— On taking his team to the UFC Performance Institute: “I told all my players, ‘You guys think you’re all tough? You wouldn’t last five seconds in that octagon right there.”
— On motivating his team for the bowl game: “If you’re a football player and you don’t like playing football, if that doesn’t motivate you, then you should probably pick another sport. It’s tough. When it’s time to play, you better play. You owe football that. You can’t cheat this game.”
— On how he experiences Las Vegas: “I don’t pay for chandeliers. I don’t gamble. I’m on an allowance.”