TEMPE, Ariz. — Todd Graham has no idea how his team will handle the five-day Christmas break he is granting it before the Sun Devils resume practice for the Cactus Bowl against West Virginia on Jan. 2 at Chase Field.
“We’ll see,” he said after the Devils’ final pre-Christmas practice on Monday. “I’ve never done it before.”
At least one player plans to use the break constructively and competitively. Freshman quarterback Bryce Perkins, a Chandler High product, will take part in a long-running family tradition: making gingerbread houses.
“I take it seriously,” Perkins deadpanned. “I will make a gingerbread house for the whole team.”
Perkins’ aunt started the tradition years ago when he was about 8. Even then, he competed to win.
“It could be a mansion. It could be a condo with a penthouse,” Perkins said. “I go to work. I put the gloves on and everything.”
The lengthy layoff between the end of the regular season on Nov. 28 and a bowl game on Jan. 2, combined with the location of the Cactus Bowl, convinced Graham and his staff that this break was the right thing to do.
“We talk about family all the time and how important that is so having an opportunity to fly them all home and fly them all back because we’re playing here is really a luxury you’d only have by playing in your hometown,” Graham said. “We want them to be able to go home and see the people that they love and care about; people that sacrificed to put them here.”
Graham is convinced the Devils have put in the requisite time before they face the Mountaineers, including Monday’s annual Sun Devil Bowl scrimmage, won by the defense on a two-point conversion stop.
“We’ll end up with 18 to 19 practices,” Graham said. “It’s a whole spring training plus three counting the week of (bowl) preparation.”
If Graham has one concern, it is with his team’s diet over the next five days.
“We just have to make sure they don’t sit around and eat turkey,” he said.
When asked how he would manage that concern, Graham smiled and shrugged.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t manage it because I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to put on about 10 pounds in about a week.”