ASU RB Demario Richard expected to play vs. Utah
TEMPE, Ariz. – With what’s at stake this week, Arizona State is hoping to have its full complement of offensive weapons.
And that includes sophomore running back Demario Richard.
“I expect him to play,” head coach Todd Graham said.
The Sun Devils visit No. 4 Utah on Saturday with first place in the Pac-12 South on the line.
Richard, the Sun Devils’ leading rusher, has been limited in practice as he recovers from a knee injury suffered against Colorado.
Earlier in the week Richard wore a no-contact jersey and was spotted with a brace on his right leg during the portion of practice open to the media.
“He should’ve gotten reps today,” Graham said Thursday.
Richard was unavailable for comment, adhering to the school’s policy of not allowing injured players to address reporters.
ASU (4-2, 2-1) enters its matchup against undefeated Utah having won two in a row, including at then-7th ranked UCLA, a victory that vaulted the Sun Devils back in the conference championship game conversation as a potential contender in the South Division.
Utah (5-0, 2-0) has played one fewer game than Arizona State and has yet to face a Pac-12 South opponent. Their league wins are over Oregon and Cal.
“I think our guys understand the challenge ahead of us,” Graham said. “I don’t have to tell the kids that this game is important. I mean, you’re playing the fourth-ranked team in the country, so you don’t have to do that.
“It’s a single-elimination tournament. If you lose a game you put yourself in jeopardy and so you can’t lose a game.”
Both Graham and quarterback Mike Bercovici talked about the focus and intensity the team had all week in practice.
A win at Rice-Eccles Stadium, where the Sun Devils haven’t lost in two previous trips, would once again raise expectations. They would control their own destiny within the division moving forward.
“It’s fair to say it’s been our best week of practice we’ve had all year,” Bercovici said. “The message is clear. But, really for us as a football team, this is just another championship Saturday. It was a championship Saturday game one and it is this week, too. So, we’re not going in trying to press too much. It’s going to be four quarters of ball, and we’re going to ready for all 60 minutes.”
Richard injured his knee early in the third quarter, and after the game was seen exiting the field on crutches.
Sophomore Kalen Ballage and senior D.J. Foster each saw time in the backfield after Richard got hurt. Those two, along with perhaps junior De’Chavon Hayes and sophomore Jacom Brimhall, would be looked at to replace Richard in the lineup, if necessary.
Richard leads the team with 529 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
“Demario has been great,” Bercovici said when asked how Richard had looked in practice. “You don’t got to worry about his attitude. He’s going to be ready for practice every single day. He’s going to give us the best chance to win on Saturday.”