ASU run game could get another scoring surge at UTSA
AUSTIN, Texas — With one brilliant game, Arizona State’s Kalen Ballage barged into the NCAA record book.
Eight touchdowns against Texas Tech last week tied the NCAA record for most in a game and in a quarter (four). He suddenly leads the nation in scoring at 28 points per game and his nine total rushing touchdowns would rank seventh nationally among all teams after two games.
Now it’s UTSA’s turn to try to slow down the Sun Devils tailback on Friday night at the Alamodome.
"It’s been a little hectic for sure, but I’m taking it all in stride," Ballage said. "The night of and the next day after was pretty wild, just my phone being blown up with text messages and notifications, but it’s calmed down a little bit."
Ballage’s scoring rampage a week ago came on surprisingly few carries. He touched the ball a total of 15 times. Six touchdowns came on runs of 7 yards or less when he took the snap directly from the center. He also had a 39-yard catch for a TD and scored the final touchdown on a 75-yard run in the fourth quarter.
"Going into the season I talked to them about the things we felt he needed to improve, being a downhill runner, being explosive," Arizona State Todd Graham said.
Ballage could get rolling again if Arizona State can find him space on the fast track of the Alamodome’s artificial turf.
Slowing down any part of the Sun Devils offense could be a challenge for the Roadrunners. Arizona State ran 90 plays from scrimmage against Texas Tech.
"(Texas Tech) gave them opportunities," first-year UTSA coach Frank Wilson said. "When you throw the ball as much as their opponent did, the clock stops a lot … We don’t want them to have 90 snaps against us."
Some things to look for when Arizona State (2-0) and UTSA (1-1) play Friday night:
The Sun Devils are playing their fourth game in Texas in four seasons. Graham, a Texas native who previously coached at Rice, knows how valuable a recruiting pipeline into the Lone Star State can be. Arizona State has more than a dozen players from Texas.
"Texas is our third largest alumni base," Graham said. "It is hard to recruit in a place that we don’t play. We get great support when we play there and we have great turnouts."
The Roadrunners get a rare moment on the big stage, playing a Power Five opponent with a national television audience on ESPN2. The UTSA program is just six years old.
"Our intent is to win. I don’t know if we will, but that’s our intent for every game," Wilson said. "We relish the opportunity."
The Roadrunners are struggling on offense and rank just 101st nationally at 342 yards per game. A 23-14 loss at Colorado State left open the question of who will start at quarterback.
Wilson said he’ll likely stick with Dalton Sturm, who has started the previous nine games dating back to last season. But he’ll be ready to go to Jared Johnson if needed. Johnson played some last week as the Roadrunners gained just 235 total yards.
Ballage’s big game will likely coax the UTSA defense into stopping the run, but that could leave plenty of room for big plays over the top. Quarterback Manny Wilkins, who hadn’t thrown a college pass before this season, was 28 of 37 passing for 351 yards and two touchdowns as Arizona State rolled up 652 total yards last week.
Desperate for points to keep up with the Sun Devils, Wilson said this week he’s changing kickers, opting for Victor Falcon over Daniel Portillo.
Portillo started the first two games but missed two extra points in the opener. Falcon is a walk-on kickoff specialist who joined the team midway through the 2015 season. The Roadrunners haven’t yet attempted a field goal in 2016.
- Arizona State Sun Devils
- Dalton Sturm
- Daniel Portillo
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- Jared Johnson
- Kalen Ballage
- Manny Wilkins
- UTSA Roadrunners
- Victor Falcon