Arizona State was 7-0 last year when tailback Ryan Torain went out for the season with a foot injury.
The Sun Devils are 5-5 since, a drop-off that correlates in part to their troubles rushing without Torain, who has a rare combination of strength and speed at 6 feet 1 and 213 pounds.
With ASU (2-2, 1-0 Pac-10) now averaging just 89 yards rushing (110th nationally), it’s hard to remember that the Sun Devils put up 296 yards rushing against Washington in what turned out to be Torain’s final game.
They were averaging 177.1 yards rushing before Torain’s injury; by the end of last season they were down to 137 per game.
Dennis Erickson is determined to reverse that trend coming off a Georgia game in which ASU rushed 19 times for 4 yards.
“If I had a mulligan, I would go in and run it more,” against Georgia, Erickson said Monday. “It doesn’t have anything to do other than let’s make a commitment to doing it more, and we’re going to do that. It’s not how many yards you gain, but that you run it and you’re physical. We made a mistake not thinking we could go in and run it against Georgia. It’s just doing it more, believing in what you’re doing. Obviously we’ve got to get better up front, that’s simple to see. But it’s hard to get better running the ball if you don’t run it.”
Starting tailback Keegan Herring is expected to back from a hamstring injury Saturday at California (3-1, 1-0). Herring and Dimitri Nance rushed for a combined 181 yards last year against Cal, a 31-20 victory in the first game after Torain’s injury.
Junior college transfer Tom Njunge is leading in competition to start at right tackle following the off week. Redshirt freshman Matt Hustad and Adam Tello, who started the first four games, also are in the mix. Guard Shawn Lauvao also is getting a look at right tackle. True freshman Zach Schlink now is a backup at both guard positions.
A better run game should open up ASU’s deep passing game.
Cal’s Best out for ASU
BERKELEY, Calif. — California running back Jahvid Best will miss at least one game with a dislocated left elbow, but the versatile speedster won’t require surgery.
Best was injured in the third quarter of the Golden Bears’ 42-7 victory over Colorado State last Saturday. The sophomore is third in the nation with 215.5 all-purpose yards per game, and third in the Pac-10 with 105.3 yards rushing.
Best hopes to play in the Bears’ Oct. 18 game in Tucson.
The Associated Press
Pac-10 players of the week
Tailback Jacquizz Rodgers and safety Greg Laybourn of Oregon State and punt returner Syd’Quan Thompson of California have been named Pac-10 players of the week.
Rodgers and Laybourn played key roles in Oregon State’s 27-21 upset victory against then-top-ranked USC.
Rodgers, a freshman from Richmond, Texas, rushed 37 times for 186 yards and two touchdowns. He added two catches for 27 yards to account for 213 all-purpose yards.
Laybourn, a senior from Portland, Ore., had a team-high 11 tackles and intercepted a pass.
Thompson, a junior from Sacramento, Calif., returned five punts for 131 yards (26.2-yard average), including a 73-yard return for a touchdown in Cal’s 42-7 win over Colorado State.
Citizen Staff Report