I think it’s safe to say that senior running back Demario Richard was telling the truth when he said he wasn’t himself last season.
After carrying the load as the bell-cow back for the Arizona State Sun Devils in 2015, Richard took a couple steps in the wrong direction last season production-wise, carrying the ball 155 times for 593 yards and three touchdowns. In his absence, fellow senior back Kalen Ballage took the touches and the headlines, leaving Richard as a forgotten man.
This season, it took a bit to get going, but he finally looks like his old self. Topping 70 yards in three of his last four games, you could tell he was finding the same groove that made him a star during his sophomore season.
But not even the most positive fan, except maybe Richard himself, could have predicted what happened Saturday.
Against Colorado, Richard set a career high with 189 yards on 25 carries and the game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. He looked back and even better than he ever was.
In fact, statistically he was. Richard had more yards in the fourth quarter (141) than he had in any game prior (135 against Oregon in 2015).
He seemed to get stronger as the game wore on, likely helped by ASU keeping his touches down in the first half. Whatever it was, winning time became Richard Time.
“I was just thinking: ‘It’s my time, I have to seal the deal,’” Richard said.
And that mentality is part of the reason why Richard needs to be featured heavily in his final games as a Sun Devil.
In the fourth quarter, with the game on the line, he busted out runs of 40 and 63 yards, changing field position in an instant. He claimed to have a banged up ankle for the game, but he showed no signs of it when his team needed him most.
It’s just business as usual for the outspoken running back from southern California, seemingly undeterred by adversity. He’s just going to do his thing, carry the rock and talk some trash.
Featuring Richard doesn’t mean ignoring the other weapons in the backfield, however. His effectiveness stems partially from the array of skillsets the Sun Devils have in the backfield.
Ballage and freshman Eno Benjamin totaled 14 carries for 95 yards in Richard’s stead and Wilkins had that line on his own, giving Colorado looks at more finesse runners. Then, ASU would unleash its power back who would run at and through Buffalo defenders.
That change of pace and physicality keeps Richard fresher and the defense off-balance, giving ASU the running game it expected before the season.
A year ago, Demario Richard was the forgotten man. Now, he’s just The Man.