TEMPE, Ariz. — The schedule shows Arizona State as having a bye this weekend, meaning the Sun Devils don’t play on Saturday.
Well, that’s partly true.
“We don’t take bye weeks here,” running back D.J. Foster said.
The Sun Devils returned to the practice field on Tuesday, three days after winning on the road at USC, thanks to a 46-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass. It was ASU’s first victory in the Coliseum since 1999, ending a streak of seven straight losses.
“The hangover is gone,” said quarterback Mike Bercovici, who threw the ball that landed in the arms of receiver Jaelen Strong for the game-winning score, prompting a wild on-field celebration. “We’re focused on beating Stanford, because if any team leaves a salty taste in our mouth, it’s them; they took (the Pac-12 Championship) away from us last year.”
The Stanford game is on Oct. 18, giving Bercovici and his teammates an extra week to prepare, but also some time to rest and heal up.
“If you ask those big boys up front, they’re saying ‘hallelujah’ for those bye weeks, getting as much ice tub (time), ice, stem (treatment) — everything they possibly can. Because we’ve got a lot of veterans on the offensive side of the ball,” the quarterback said. “Some of those defensive guys are a little more fresher, so maybe that might affect them. They might want to get back on the field. But for us, it’s going to be exciting to watch Stanford (on Friday) and recover for us personally.”
Stanford, coming off a 17-14 loss at Notre Dame, will host Washington State before taking the field at Sun Devil Stadium the following week.
“We couldn’t feel more confident going into Stanford,” Bercovici said.
It’s hard to argue with the redshirt junior, who will make his third consecutive start if starter Taylor Kelly is unable to play because of a foot injury.
Kelly, according to head coach Todd Graham, is expected to return to practice by the end of the week.
The victory over USC helped the Sun Devils erase the sting of the UCLA defeat the week before. A second loss in a row to a fellow Pac-12 South program likely would’ve eliminated any chance of ASU (4-1; 1-1) returning to the conference title game.
“We’ve definitely been working hard, and we’re going to work hard all week and definitely try to perfect our game plan as much as we can,” Foster said. “We’re out here working hard trying to get our bodies back, but still trying to get the mental aspect of the game ready for this week.”
The Sun Devils will practice twice more before taking Friday and Saturday off, and they’ll reconvene Sunday.
There is still much to improve, according to Graham.
“If you watched today’s practice, it was like a spring practice. We went good on good. We cracked the pads and we got after it, getting better fundamentally,” he said. “This week, (the bye) couldn’t have been more perfect timing from that standpoint (of) being able to heal up and then get better fundamentally.”
“The key is just improvement — fanatical improvement every single day. And I think we’ve gotten better. It needs to get faster. Our focus is on us and the two-time defending Pac-12 champion, because that’s next on the list.”