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The opponent’s view: Status of ASU running back Marion Grice a mystery

Marion Grice celebrates one of his three TDs vs. Arizona last season. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Marion Grice celebrates one of his three TDs vs. Arizona last season. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State running back Marion Grice, who has scored 20 touchdowns this season, suffered a leg injury late in last week’s game at UCLA and seems unlikely to play against Arizona.

The word out of ASU is that he is “day-to-day” for the Territorial Cup matchup on Saturday night.

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez says Grice’s status isn’t going to change the way the Wildcats prepare, but the senior’s absence would figure to be significant. He has rushed for a team-high 996 yards and 14 touchdowns, also active in the passing game with 50 receptions, six for scores.

The Cats would be happy to see Grice only on the sideline. He rushed for 156 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s 41-34 victory in the Territorial Cup.

Grice has taken about two-thirds of the team’s handoffs. If he is unavailable, ASU will turn to Deantre Lewis (who had some fumbling issues earlier this season) and D.J. Foster, who otherwise spends a lot of his time in the slot (52 receptions).

Here is more in an ASU notebook from The Arizona Republic, our Gannett partner:

By Zach Buchanan
azcentral sports

The health of running back Marion Grice has been an Arizona State secret since he was forced from the Sun Devils’ 38-33 victory over UCLA and later seen on crutches.

ASU coach Todd Graham said the senior back, who leads the team with 20 touchdowns, is day to day. Tuesday’s practice was closed to the media, and Grice’s level of participation was kept under wraps.

If Grice can’t go, the Sun Devils are at least well-stocked at the position, with sophomore D.J. Foster and junior Deantre Lewis in line for more action. Foster has been more of a receiver this year — he has 10 more catches than carries — and Lewis has been a seldom-used reserve, but both are familiar with Grice’s offensive duties should they need to step in.

“They’ve done a great job all year long in being prepared if their number’s called,” offensive coordinator Mike Norvell said. “You’ve seen all of them line up at that position before throughout the season. I know Marion is working to be at full speed.”

The Sun Devils might be reluctant to change Foster’s role, as his 52 catches and 524 receiving yards are second on the team behind Jaelen Strong. The sophomore has taken some snaps in the backfield in practice but also will continue to split out wide.

That would leave a significant uptick in work for Lewis, who has 269 yards and a touchdown on 49 carries this year. Lewis has touched the ball only four times in the past three games but has experience with a higher volume of carries. As a freshman in 2010, he rushed 92 times for 539 yards and four scores.

“I’m pretty sure teams (overlook me),” Lewis said.

“If they remember, I’ve done stuff in the past. I’m the same guy I was freshman year. You can take me for granted all you want. I’ll hit you in the mouth.”

Senior reflections

It’s doubtful that after failing to finish above .500 in at least half of their college careers that ASU’s seniors could have imagined themselves competing for a Pac-12 title on their way out the door.

Now, as they prepare for what could be their final game at Sun Devil Stadium — if ASU falls to Arizona, the Pac-12 title game would be in Palo Alto, Calif. — seniors Osahon Irabor and Alden Dardy did some looking back.

“(Finishing 6-7 in) 2011 was a tough year, but it helped us grow as a team and as a program,” Irabor said.
“This group of seniors really persevered through that and embraced what Coach Graham has brought to this program.”

Darby said dealing with a coaching transition helped him grow as a person, but he isn’t ready to say goodbye to his home field just yet.

He’s not even considering the possibility that Saturday could be his last game in Tempe.

“I don’t let that come in my mind at all,” Darby said “I plan on hosting the Pac-12 Championship here.”

Praise for Sutton

Will Sutton’s 2013 totals of three sacks and 91/2 tackles for loss might pale in comparison to his career-high numbers last year — 12 sacks and 231/2 tackles for a loss — but Graham thinks his senior defensive tackle is even better this go-round.

Sutton put on about 20 pounds in the off-season, which some think might have slowed him and contributed to his drop in tangible production.

Graham doesn’t see it that way.

“I think he’s had a better year than he had last year, in my opinion,” Graham said.

“It’s not all about somebody’s individual statistics. What he does and how he’s developed as a player, the unselfish attitude he has and the power that he has; he’s a great player. The reason why our guys respect him so much is the passion which he plays with.”

Extra points

ASU senior defensive back Marlon Pollard was named to the Pac-12 All-Academic first team Tuesday, and junior quarterback Taylor Kelly was named a second-teamer.

Seven other Sun Devils were honorable-mention selections.

ASU announced that Saturday’s game has been sold out. A limited number of standing room only tickets will be available for $45 on Saturday, Nov. 30, beginning at 10 a.m. at the Sun Devil Ticket Office. Fans must purchase the tickets in person at the ticket office.

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