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Kealy may return for ASU

By The Associated Press
Arizona Daily Wildcat, September 14, 1999

Associated Press

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Luck, the intangible that can shape futures, seems to be running Arizona State's way.

Coach Bruce Snyder said Monday that Ryan Kealy may return to quarterback the Sun Devils against New Mexico State on Saturday despite spraining his right knee the previous week.

If Kealy gets his 22nd start in 23 games, it will be another amazing medical achievement. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior had arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage Sept. 7, and five days later was cleared for practice.

"It took a couple of days just to get around," Snyder said. "But he reported to the team yesterday evening and suited up- we were in shoulder pads and shorts- and he threw the ball around and did some light running. So I believe he's right on target in terms of recovery."

The No. 22 Sun Devils (1-0) trailed Texas Tech 7-0 in the first quarter of their game on Labor Day when Kealy dropped back to pass and fell to the ground untouched, grabbing for his knee.

Kealy has had reconstructive surgery on both knees, and had another arthroscopic surgery on the right knee less than a year ago. But it was the first time Snyder had seen him go down in a game.

"It takes your breath away a little bit whenever it happens, and your first thought is for the athlete," the coach said.

"It happened twice in practice. The difference was he was able to walk it off and shake the leg, be mad, kick the dirt and all that stuff you do when you don't like what just happened," he said.

Backup John Leonard went in after taking 30 seconds to find his helmet - time that seemed like an eternity to Snyder - and completed 7 of 17 passes for 117 yards and no interceptions as the Sun Devils came back to win 31-13.

Leonard might have finished up, but he fumbled while setting up to pass in the fourth quarter, and the Red Raiders returned it for their second touchdown.

That convinced Snyder to take a look at Griffin Goodman, a transfer, who went 4-for-5 in his first major college action.

"It's not like you're dealing with chopper liver," Snyder said about the backups. "I mean, John is a talented guy. He's got an explosive arm, and he's probably our fastest quarterback ever - he's faster than (NFL star) Jake Plummer - so I think the upside to John Leonard is really good."

But the job belongs to Kealy whenever he's ready.

"We really believe that he has greatness in him," said Snyder, who had planned to work Kealy with receivers only to minimize the chance of another injury.

"We're not going to put him in a team setting where somebody might step on him or fall into him - that sort of thing," Snyder said. "That may change as the week goes on."

Tariq McDonald, who was Kealy's favorite target when both played at Phoenix St. Mary's High School, is still his top receiver.

McDonald caught five passes against Texas Tech, but three tight ends accounted for seven other receptions.

Transfer Richard Williams was the only other wide receiver who caught a ball, and Snyder said he hoped to get more production from the wideouts against New Mexico State.

"I'm not concerned yet. My hope is that we'll be pretty good there," he said.

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