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ASU preparing to face UCLA after long layover due to COVID-19

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

It has been almost one month since Arizona State football has suited up for gameday.

Despite the setbacks they faced over a coronavirus outbreak, however, ASU is ready to come out swinging against a tough UCLA team.

UCLA has played all four of its scheduled games this season, holding a record of 2-2.

The Sun Devils, on the other hand, have only played one game this season — their season opener against USC. The game resulted in a 28-27 loss in Los Angeles.

Their past three matchups were canceled due to positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing within ASU’s program.

“I feel confident we will play Saturday,” coach Herm Edwards said of the UCLA matchup via Zoom on Monday.

But because Arizona State had such a long break into between games, Saturday’s matchup feels more like a season opener and not the second game of the year.

With the time off, Edwards has had a lot of time to reflect and watch film, probably more than ever before.

There was also a hefty amount of Zoom calls to ensure there would be no lapse in communication as far as scheme goes, defensive end Michael Matus explained Tuesday.

Being away for so long still has its consequences.

“I don’t look at this time off as a positive advantage. … It’s not an easy situation to be in as a player or a coach,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said.

One of the most important elements in getting back on track is getting into football shape.

“You get into shape as you play, but we had time off, so we have to find our way back into that football shape,” Edwards said.

During ASU’s first game this season, they were able to run the ball well against USC, Edwards pointed out.

Between their two starting running backs, ASU produced 160 rushing yards in addition to 111 rushing yards for quarterback Jayden Daniels.

The trouble is having that group carry over that momentum after being away from football activities for so long.

“Well, we [have] to continue to do that,” Edwards explained. “I think if you’re UCLA, you’re going to load the box up a little bit on us and try and stop us from running. That would be my thinking if I was them. With that said, we are going to have to make some plays in the passing game.”

In that same game, Daniels went 11-of-23 for 134 yards and a passing touchdown. Edwards wants him to improve upon that number.

“We’re not a team that wants to throw it 60 times, but you want that balance. … You need big chucks every once in a while,” Edwards said.

But no matter what this time in limbo has presented them, the players are amped about playing football once again.

Linebacker Kyle Soelle believes the team is poised to pick up right where they left off.

“We have to play … and that is what we are going to do,” Edwards said.

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