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ASU Football: Sun Devil offense hopes to keep things rolling at Stanford

Running backs to play vital role Saturday on The Farm

Oregon v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The last time the Arizona State Sun Devils (2-2, 1-0 Pac-12) and Stanford Cardinal (2-2, 1-1 Pac-12) faced off in 2014, it was a knock-down, drag-out defensive struggle at Sun Devil Stadium. In 2017, while the identities of the two programs may not have changed, the results on the field sure have.

Both the Sun Devils and Cardinal have taken considerable steps back defensively since their last meeting, ranking 114th and 108th in total defense in the nation respectively entering Saturday’s matchup.

On the other side of the ball, however, senior running back Demario Richard said he’s seen things from his group that reminds him of the one that beat the Cardinal 26-10 and won the Sun Bowl.

“We’re starting to get our rhythm and gel everything together,” Richard said. “Everything is coming together perfectly. Showing a lot of things we used to do back in 2014.”

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Manny Wilkins is in the midst of an ASU record pass attempts without being intercepted, distributing the ball well. The Sun Devils have had five different receivers top 100 yards in a game this season, the most in the country this season and the first time it’s happened in program history.

Over their last seven quarters, the Sun Devils have scored 79 points and gained 904 total yards. Led by sophomore receiver N’Keal Harry, ASU’s offense has stepped up to the task.

To keep things going, redshirt junior Quinn Bailey said ASU needs to keep its identity and attack Stanford, not letting the Cardinal dictate the flow of the game.

“I think we have to get our tempo going and run a lot of plays,” Bailey said. “They’re going to take some time off the clock with their offense. As a line, we just have to do our job and our running backs are good enough to make plays.”

Those running backs — Richard and fellow senior Kalen Ballage — will play a vital role in the Sun Devil attack.

The Cardinal have allowed 183.5 yards per game on the ground, which ranks them 94th in the nation. USC’s Stephen Carr and Ronald Jones II, San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny and UCLA’s Soso Jamabo have each run for over 100 yards in a game this season against Stanford’s defense.

In order to replicate the success of Stanford’s last three opponents, Bailey and the offensive line must continue to make strides in creating space, like they did on ASU’s game-winning drive last week.

Richard compiled nearly half his yards en route to freshman Brandon Ruiz’s go-ahead field goal, wearing down a Duck front that kept the ground game in check for most of the night.

That makes the gameplan simple in Richard’s eyes.

“Just run the ball,” Richard said. “We’ve got two great backs, three great backs, here and we need to run the ball and push the tempo on these guys.”