TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arkansas State's best defensive player stood on the sideline, on crutches, and watched the final game of his career with a bulky brace attached to his left knee.
Ronheen Bingham, the Red Wolves' senior defensive end who finished the season with 18½ tackles for loss and nine sacks, exited the first quarter of Saturday's 16-13 Arizona Bowl loss to Nevada with a medial collateral ligament injury to his left knee. He said he expects to undergo surgery Monday.
"I was going in to make a tackle and one of my teammates was swinging out the tackle, and they went straight into my MCL and stuff," Bingham said. "I'm going to have surgery Monday. I already know."
The 2018 Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year will undergo an MRI today in Arkansas, which will reveal the severity of his injury. ASU expects the injury to be a torn or ruptured MCL.
"It's heartbreaking," ASU Coach Blake Anderson said.
Bingham's surgery will require months of recovery time, which will hamper his preparation for the the 2019 NFL Draft set for April 25-27.
Earlier this month, Anderson said he expected Bingham to be invited to the 2019 NFL scouting combine. Arkansas State University defensive line coach Brian Early said Bingham's NFL future is most likely as an inside linebacker because of his side-to-side speed as a chase-down tackler.
Bingham, 6-2, 242 pounds, has an uncertain professional future ahead with a lengthy rehab almost a certainty.
"I'm going to recover and get back to it," Bingham said. "When I get back to 100 percent, I'm going to show the teams that I can still move around, I can still drop back into coverage and do all the things that I've been doing."
ASU senior running back Warren Wand became the fifth player in school history to reach 3,000 rushing yards after piling up 140 yards Saturday at Arizona Stadium.
Five yards short of his season high, Wand's 140-yard day put him at 3,095 career yards, the third most in school history.
"I appreciate that," Wand said.
"Sheesh," senior quarterback Justice Hansen said, "that guy was playing out of his mind."
Wand's workload dramatically decreased earlier this season as Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year, running back Marcel Murray, emerged as ASU's first-string tailback.
"He went through a tough time this year," Anderson said. "We put him in a tough spot, to have to deal with a young guy taking a lot of reps. He did it flawlessly. He's family with me forever."
Arkansas State did not have the best kicking day in the Arizona Bowl.
Freshman kicker Blake Grupe whiffed on two attempts in the first half. Grupe botched a short and ugly ball from 47 yards in the first quarter, then sailed a 25-yard attempt wide right in the second quarter.
The Red Wolves did not attempt a field goal in the second half until the game clock was at three seconds with the Red Wolves down 10-7. Grupe lined up for a 37-yard, game-tying attempt, but Nevada was penalized 5 yards for having 12 players on the field, moving Grupe's try from 32 yards away.
"We're in a position where you've got to put him back out there," Anderson said. "It's not like we've got a lot of other options. The time of the game and the situation of the game tells you that that's what you've got to do. I told him earlier in the day, 'Hey, relax. Go back out there when you get your opportunity and just go back to the basics.' "
The Red Wolves decided against replacing Grupe with junior kicker Sawyer Williams for the game-tying attempt. Grupe took the kicking job away from Williams after he missed the first two field-goal attempts of the 2018 season.
Grupe was responsible for ASU's final six points from 32 yards at the end of regulation and a 24-yarder in overtime.
"He made two that he needed to make," Anderson said.
Sports on 12/30/2018
Print Headline: Bingham ends career on sideline