Patience pays off for Morrison

As the Sun Devils continue to rebound from the plethora of injuries suffered this season, the maroon and gold offense saw the return of running back James Morrison last weekend against Colorado. Showcasing his skills, the redshirt junior had 3 carries for 30 yards as well as an 8-yard touchdown against the Buffaloes.

"It felt good," Morrison said. "Not just to score but just to get in the game. It was like my first time to get in the game and actually play this year so it felt good. I've been in game situations not so much at running back but special teams and things like that so it felt really good to get in the game and also score."

Morrison arrived at Arizona State as a walk-on in 2008 from Phoenix St. Mary's High School, and immediately impressing the coaching staff during fall camp. Shortly thereafter the running back suffered a season ending ankle injury and unfortunately this wasn't the only injury Morrison has had to overcome.

"I came and I had the potential to play my true year freshman year when I walked on but I broke my ankle," Morrison began. "I just got a little dinged up like with my shoulder earlier this year and some ankles but nothing major. It's a little challenging but its adversity it comes with the good and the bad so you just have to fight your way through it."

Since August the running back has worked to rehabilitate an injured shoulder, and finally it appears that Morrison is injury free and beginning to work his way back into the rotation.

"It's feeling good now," Morrison commented. "If I could rate it I would say about 95%. I can still feel it here and there but I get the job done for the most part."

While sidelined, Morrison admits that the learning does not stop and although he cannot contribute to his unit on the field, off the field is a different story.

"Its hard but at the same time it's a learning experience," explained Morrison. "You learn from defenses and what they like to do and you learn from blocking situations, you just learn from sitting on the sidelines. You get a lot of film in and everything, its just mental reps."

Throughout the season, Sun Devil opponents have attempted to utilize the blitz to stall the maroon and gold offense. One key responsibility of the running back unit is to recognize the blitz and protect their quarterback.

"For the most part we pick up the blitz pretty well," admitted Morrison. "If you notice in the Oregon week, Cameron hit some guys pretty hard but that's one thing we work on day in and day out. We have to put a lot of focus on it because with the things we do on offense, a lot of teams try to put pressure on us and things so you really have to pick up the blitz if you want to be successful on offense."

Despite being highly favored over Colorado the 6-2 Sun Devils maintained their composure and focus in the 48-14 blowout over the Buffaloes. Overlooking an opponent isn't an option for Morrison and his teammates.

"We were the favorite by a lot of points but a few years back Appalachian State beat Michigan on a big upset," the running back stated. "You don't want to feel like you're better. You always want to have respect for your opponent., you don't want to come in and say we're going to win and we don't have to practice hard. You always want to come in and work. If you're working hard you're going to get better no matter who your opponent is."

Throughout the week the maroon and gold will prepare for their next opponent. This weekend the Sun Devils will travel to Los Angles to face the UCLA Bruins, which will naturally be a more difficult task than the previous week.

"They're physical," Morrison commented. "They have a lot of good athletes. A lot of kids on our team are from California so you know they know a lot of people. It's going to be a good game. Everybody is saying that besides us they're the next in line for the South so with all the hype around I'm pretty sure its going to be a good game on Saturday."

For the maroon and gold, defeating the Bruins on Saturday will likely secure spot as Pac-12 South champions but this will not be an easy task as their opponent is also seeking the same title.

"That's our goal," Morrison explained. "No different from any other week, you still want to come in and work hard but the coaches are putting a lot of emphasis on it. If we lose, it's out of our hands right now. With the way we've been playing this year everything is in our hands. If we win out, the season is going to look pretty good and the Rose Bowl but if we lose I don't know what's going to happen it's not in our hands and you want to keep it in your hands.

"As long as we get the win the season is still in our hands but if we lose we don't know where we'll go."

Should the Sun Devils secure a spot in the Pac-12 title game, it appears they will face either Stanford or Oregon and although the two options present many different challenges Morrison admits he does have a preference on whom the Sun Devils may face.

"Personally I would always like to get Oregon back," admitted Morrison. "At the same time you have Andrew Luck and nothing is wrong with a little competition but they're both good teams. They're both nationally ranked so if we make it that far and hopefully we make it that far we will just try to get the win no matter who we play."

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