ASU’s Ballage-Richard duo hopes to find more success against Texas Tech

Sep 15, 2017, 6:04 AM | Updated: 11:32 am
Arizona State's Kalen Ballage (7) runs past Texas Tech defenders for a touchdown during the second ...
Arizona State's Kalen Ballage (7) runs past Texas Tech defenders for a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, FIle)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, FIle)

On Sept. 10, 2016, the potential of Arizona State’s backfield was unveiled.

Senior running back Kalen Ballage scored eight touchdowns (seven rushing, one receiving) to tie the FBS single-game record during the Sun Devils’ 68-55 win over Texas Tech. He carried the ball 13 times for 137 yards to go with two catches and 48 yards, and was instantly launched into the national spotlight for his performance.

Just over a year removed from that evening, Ballage said Tuesday that he’s put the game behind him. Instead, he’s looking forward to facing the Red Raiders this weekend; last year’s showing lost from thought.

“It was cool and everything, but as a whole, it’s a year ago,” Ballage said. “It’s time to just get over that. I’ve been hearing about it for a year. I’m looking forward to the next thing coming.”

Ballage, named an ASU captain for the first time this season, typically protrudes a more business-like attitude. This week though, his nonchalant tone could also be attributed to the rough start the Sun Devils’ rushing game has gotten off to this season.

The weaknesses of ASU’s rushing attack were at their most apparent during last week’s loss to San Diego State. The Sun Devils finished the evening with 44 rushing yards on 31 carries. Ballage was, as coach Todd Graham put it, “dinged up” for much of the second half of the game, while fellow senior tailback Demario Richard missed the contest altogether with a right knee injury of his own.

“I’m fine now,” said Ballage of his ailment. “Bumps and bruises — it’s football.”

“I’m chilling,” Richard said after fully practicing Tuesday. “I’m good every week.”

The impact of Ballage and Richard’s absence was only heightened by an offensive line struggling to win at the line of scrimmage.

Through two games, ASU attempted 71 rushes for 123 total yards (61.5 yards per game) and three touchdowns. That’s good for an abysmal 1.4 yards per carry — a mark that ranks 124th in Division I.

“We darn should be able to run the ball better than we’re running,” Graham said. “That has to do with execution. There’s lots of factors you can go and explain all that away; nobody cares about that, neither do I. It’s about performance.”

The backfield’s production is a stark contrast to the 577 rushing yards on 5.83 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns the Sun Devils tallied through the first two games of last season, which includes the past matchup against Texas Tech. That game marked the last time Ballage (137 rush yards) and Richard (109 yards) both surpassed 100 yards on the ground in the same game. The victory also highlighted ASU’s 5-1 start.

As for recapturing that form — something the Sun Devils have been apparently in search of since early last year — Richard said the team just needs to keep running the ball.

“Just basically get the ball in the playmakers’ hands,” he said. “Don’t shy away from it.”

Despite poor showings in each of the their first two contests, the Sun Devils seem insistent the running game is something that can be improved and remedied. Perhaps a visit to Lubbock to face a Texas Tech defense that gave up 177 rushing yards to Eastern Washington last week and surrendered 103.6 rushing yards to opponents in 2016 is just what the ASU running game needs to awaken.

“Just execute. It’s not a lack of talent,” Ballage said. “That falls on all 11 people on offense, and we’ve got to continue to get better.”

This story appears on courtesy of a partnership with, part of the Scout Network and home for the most detailed information on Arizona State football.

Arizona State Football

Arizona State wide receiver Javen Jacobs during 2023 spring ball in Tempe, Arizona. (Sun Devil Athl...
Jake Anderson

ASU’s pass-catcher competition includes ‘deep wideout and tight end positions’

The Arizona State Sun Devils have a plethora of talent on the offensive side of the football when it comes to pass catchers.
2 days ago
Arizona State true freshman quarterback Jaden Rashada gives the "forks up" after a spring ball prac...
Jake Anderson

Arizona State’s QB battle heats up after 1st week of spring ball with Jaden Rashada

There are six on the roster, half of which are returners, while two are transfers and one is freshman five-star dual-threat QB Jaden Rashada.
5 days ago
Arizona State defensive back Chris Edmonds, celebrates his pass interception with linebacker Will S...
Jake Anderson

Communication is key for Arizona State’s new defense early on in spring ball

Communication is key in defense, especially in the modern era of college football where offenses are running quick-tempo, hurry-up offenses.
7 days ago
Arizona State University president Michael Crow interviews with Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona'...
Kevin Zimmerman

ASU, Arizona presidents: Not preparing to leave for Big 12

The presidents of Arizona State University and the University of Arizona went on the record reaffirming their commitment to the Pac-12.
8 days ago
Kenny Dillingham. (Twitter Photo/@ASUFootball)...
Jake Anderson

Kenny Dillingham instills ‘just compete’ philosophy on Day 1 of ASU spring ball

The first day of spring ball for ASU with new head coach Kenny Dillingham had a vastly different vibe than previous regimes.
9 days ago
Quarterback Trenton Bourguet #16 of the Arizona State Sun Devils throws a pass during the second ha...
Kellan Olson

ASU QB Trenton Bourguet far more healthy in 2023 after 2-year foot issues

ASU's spring starter at quarterback will be able to utilize his skill set in a way he hasn't been physically able to since training camp of 2021.
10 days ago
ASU’s Ballage-Richard duo hopes to find more success against Texas Tech