TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State running back Marion Grice openly admits that he’d like to break the school record for touchdowns. The only problem: He doesn’t know what the record is.
“I don’t know the number,” Grice said. ” I’ve got to look more into it, ask more people about it and try to go for it.”
What Grice will find out if he does consult with someone familiar with ASU’s record book: He’s awfully close.
After less than two full seasons at ASU, Grice is on the verge of breaking multiple school scoring records and may finally be getting noticed on the national scene.
“I’m kind of surprised he hasn’t (been noticed more),” ASU coach Todd Graham said. “It’s surprising to me to think you can be the leading scorer in the nation and not get any more national acclaim than he’s got.”
Grice will soon be in the national headlines, as multiple national media outlets are in Tempe this week to chronicle the former Blinn College (Brenham, Texas) running back’s eye-popping season that has remained largely off the radar.
With just 20 Division I games under his belt, Grice is already etching his name in the ASU record books. If he continues on the torrid pace he’s on through seven games this season — he has 12 rushing touchdowns on 553 yards and six receiving touchdowns on 302 yards — he will finish at the top of more than one list.
The first record that could fall, perhaps before the Sun Devils play their next home game Nov. 16: touchdowns in a season. Grice is already tied for third on that list, which looks like this:
If Grice can break that mark, he’d be at 42 career touchdowns, well within range of the ASU record for career touchdowns — and in fewer seasons that everyone currently ahead of him. Grice is already tied for fourth on that list:
Grice, originally a Texas A&M commit, is also one game away from tying the ASU record for consecutive games scoring a touchdown in a season (11, set by J.D. Hill in 1970) and two away from tying the career mark (13, set by Hill from 1969-1970). And with two more touchdowns, Grice would become just the 15th player in the
Pac-10/12 era — a span of 36 seasons — to score 20 touchdowns in a
At his current pace, Grice would finish with 28 touchdowns in the regular season, more if ASU plays in the Pac-12 championship game and a bowl game. With at least a bowl game likely, Grice is on pace to score 33 TDs, which would eclipse former Stanford running back Toby Gerhart’s Pac-12 record for touchdowns in a season (28) set in 2009 and break Gerhart’s Pac-12 scoring record of 172 points. Grice is on pace for 201 with a bowl game.
It’s that scoring, perhaps more than anything, that has gotten Grice noticed this year. He leads the nation with 15.4 points per game, which is more than six FBS teams — Western Michigan, Purdue, Southern Mississippi, Florida International, Miami (Ohio) and Massachusetts — have averaged this season.
With 108 points already this season, Grice is in position to break that ASU mark as well:
While all those records could fall by the end of the season, Grice already has had a tremendous year that could earn him All-Pac-12 honors.
“What he’s doing is phenomenal,” Graham said. “Here’ the thing that’s amazing: He can do a lot better.”
Teammates have certainly taken notice, too, even on the other side of the ball.
“After the (Washington) game, I went up to Marion and tapped him on the forehead and was like, ‘Where is Marion Grice and what have you done with him?'” defensive tackle Will Sutton said. “Because he was running like a mad man last week. He’s the top running back in the nation, in my eyes.”
In the 53-24 win over Washington, Grice ran for a career-high 161 yards, scored two touchdowns and added 37 receiving yards and a score.
Grice impresses coaches, teammates and opponents with what appears to be effortless ability to make defenders miss and, particularly this season, Herculean strength that often has him dragging multiple defenders along with him for another few yards before he goes down.
“Whether it’s a one-handed catch or a run, it just looks too easy out there for him,” quarterback Taylor Kelly said. “He’s just so smooth and quiet.”
But what has stood out most among Grice’s many talents is his apparent nose for the end zone.
“He’s always had a knack, since he’s been here, for getting the ball in the end zone,” offensive coordinator Mike Norvell said. “So we like to get him his chances.”
Added Graham: “With the ball in his hands, he’s special.”
When ASU gets into the red zone, and especially inside the 10-yard line, Grice is a no-brainer option. He leads the nation in red-zone touchdowns. And even when teams try to key on Grice, it frees up Kelly to pass or run the ball in himself.
Factor in Grice’s ability as a receiver — clearly significant, as evidenced by the leaping, one-handed touchdown catch Grice had against Washington — and Grice is an ideal back for the offense ASU runs.
“He’s a complete back,” Norvell said. “He’s extremely versatile, he’s a guy that can do everything. In this offense, that’s what we look for. We look for backs that can get those one-on-one matchups versus linebackers or safeties.”
The offense has certainly provided Grice more opportunities to score than others might, and humble as he is, he’d rather credit the system than his own ability.
“I’d just say I get great opportunities to make great plays for the team,” Grice said. “My coaches put me in great position to make touchdown plays, and I’m happy for that.”
Asked if he knows his touchdown total this season, Grice thinks for a second and produces the correct number, but he also says his numbers don’t mean all that much to him, even if he does want those records.
“As long as we win the game, that’s all that matters,” Grice said. “I’m just thankful for the opportunity I’ve got right now.” Follow Tyler Lockman on Twitter