ASU senior running back Demario Richard flashed from one side of the offensive line to the other, breaking tackles and sprinting into the open field on his way to a 63-yard rush and his greatest performance ever in an Arizona State uniform.
As the officials hustled down the field to catch up to the ASU offense and reset the chains, Richard strolled around the Sun Devils’ backfield, holding his index finger up to the fans in the stands that were rewarded for believing in the team’s ability to mount a second-half comeback.
Richard later walked into the athletic facility, hugged his offensive coordinator Billy Napier during his interview with the media and called him the “G.O.A.T.”
The performance — and the senior tailback’s celebrations — were long-awaited. Richard reached the triple-digit mark for the first time since September 2016, after tallying 100 yards seven times the year before.
“Demario Richard is a warrior,” Head Coach Todd Graham said following the tailback’s 189 yard, one touchdown performance against Colorado. “I mean, wow. He’s impressive.”
16 games in a row a program vaunted for it’s intimidating rushing attack failed to net it’s primary ball-carrier 100 yards. It failed to reach the potential it flashed in 2015 and in recent games was unable to convince opposing defenses that it was more than a one-year wonder from two seasons ago.
Richard knew it wasn’t the legacy he wanted to leave in Tempe.
“My dad always told me to keep my head up, praise God and just keep working,” Richard said. “When I have a guy like (Manny Wilkins) on the side of me keep telling me to be patient and run the route, that’s what I’m going to do.”
During his 63-yard rush that iced the game and propelled the Sun Devils to a 5-4 record, Richard knew he had to close. Knew he had to present a brilliant final act that capped spectacular three-quarter performance.
“I was just thinking, it’s my time,” Richard said. “I have to seal the deal...I’ve been playing with a busted ankle all week so honestly I think if my ankle wasn’t busted it was 80 yards to the house.”
At the break, ASU seemed destined for another mediocre rushing performance that it had displayed countless times before this season. Richard had nine carries for 31 yards, while senior Kalen Ballage and freshman Eno Benjamin had combined for just five.
Richard knew it was just a matter of time before the rushing attack wore the Buffaloes’ defense down.
“We just worked the cut,” he said. “We take everything like it’s boxing. You see a guy keep getting jabbed in the left side of his eye until eventually he gets a cut... just keep working (it) and they’re going to get tired.”
Arizona State may have been outspoken in its game-plan to gash the Colorado defense early and often during week nine, but it was the Sun Devils’ own wound that they were tending to Saturday night.
The same wound that had hindered their success during the 2016-17 campaign and had put them on a similar trajectory to fall well-short of its back-to-back ten win campaigns when Richard initially burst on to the scene.
With just three games remaining in his collegiate career, Demario Richard has a chance to alleviate the struggles he and the Sun Devils faced last season and carry them to a place they haven’t been since his sophomore year: the postseason.