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What’s the deal with ASU’s running game?

Remember Cameron Marshall running through holes the size
of the Grand Canyon in a 48-14 win over Colorado? In that
game, Marshall paced the Sun Devils’ rushing attack with
114 yards on just 15 carries and found the end zone three
times. Marshall then continued his stellar play the
following week, racking up a career-high 168 yards in
Pasadena in a 29-28 loss to UCLA.

Since then, Marshall and the ASU running game have been
absent. In a tight game in Pullman, the junior averaged
just 2.3 yards per attempt and ASU ran for only 60 yards
against Washington State–a team that had allowed a 100-
yard rusher in seven straight games. After shutting down
Marshall, Washington State then yielded 186 yards rushing
to Utah’s John White IV.

But things didn’t get any better on the ground for ASU
against Arizona. In a game in which the Sun Devils were
tied or had the lead for 67.1% of the game action, somehow
ASU ran the ball only 23 times while throwing it 65.
Marshall again wasn’t effective, gaining only 2.3 yards
per carry.

One explanation could be Marshall’s health. He’s been
bothered by an ankle injury for most of the season, but
hasn’t missed any games to this point. College coaches
aren’t usually very verbose when it comes to talking about
player injuries, so maybe Marshall’s injury is worse than
what has been discussed.

But a lot of that responsibility has to do with the play
calling of offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. Before the
Arizona game, ASU had run the ball 47.9% of the time all
season, and then just 26.1% of the time against U of A.

California is stout in defending the run. Clancy
Pendergast’s defense ranks fourth in the Pac-12 and 26th
nationally, yielding just 122.8 yards per game. Only
LaMichael James of Oregon had over 100 yards rushing
against Cal this year (he had 239), so it will be tough
sledding for ASU.

But there’s got to be a concerted effort to move the ball
on the ground if it’s a close game.

If there’s another 30-70 run to pass split on Friday, it
will spell trouble for the Sun Devils.