ASU Football: What happened to the rushing attack?

TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 10: Running back Kalen Ballage
TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 10: Running back Kalen Ballage /

Despite having one of the best passing offenses in the nation, ASU football is still looking for production from the running game.

ASU football is feeling good. After a rough non-conference slate, the Sun Devils defeated a good conference opponent by upsetting Oregon last Saturday in Tempe.

Manny Wilkins has been phenomenal pacing the 12th-ranked passing offense in the nation. The junior has taken hits but has done a tremendous job of staying in the pocket and finding receivers down the field. Most surprisingly, ASU has been able to put up points without a strong running game.

Seniors Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard were expected to be key offensive contributors, but due to injuries to Richard and ineffectiveness from Ballage, the running game has been stagnant.

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Arizona State enters week five as the 105th-best rushing team in the nation, a stunning place for a team with two talented seniors as well as highly touted freshman Eno Benjamin. Ballage has averaged 3.7 yards per carry and Richard in limited touches has run for only 3.1 yards.

Arizona State’s offensive line has to be part of the blame for the struggles. The unit has struggled in both pass protection and opening up lanes for the running backs to exploit.

A.J. McCollum and Cohl Cabral have both had issues snapping the ball, putting Todd Graham in a tough position of deciding who he trusts to lead the unit.

Fortunately for the Sun Devils, their matchup with Stanford this weekend could reverse this trend.

Stanford enters this weekend’s contest as the 100th-best rushing defense allowing an average of 183.5 yards through four games. This is a surprising change for David Shaw’s team who has sported a top-40 rushing defense the past seven seasons.

Coming off a season-saving win, the Sun Devils should be confident heading into their trip to Palo Alto. The key for this team to take the next step in competing is to create a balanced offensive attack led by their senior running backs.

Next: ASU Football: 2017 Pac-12 Week Five Power Rankings

Ballage has shown flashes of brilliance coupled with stretches of mediocrity. If the Sun Devils want to pull off back-to-back upsets, they will need the running game to step up and make their presence felt.