Grice epitomizes efficiency

When Arizona State's offense got inside the 10-yard line against the Badgers, there was little doubt as to whom they were giving the ball to. All four of Marion Grice's touchdowns came from inside the red zone, but three came from punching it in from less than five yards out. The senior running back's instincts and natural ability are once again guiding the ASU offense as they did in 2012.

In just fifteen games as a Sun Devil, Grice has accounted for 25 touchdowns, averaging over a touchdown and a half per game. Arizona State head coach Todd Graham mentioned recently that Marion Grice doesn't remind him of any running back that he's ever coached.

"He has an interesting style," Graham said. "Sometimes I'm looking at him and like, ‘is he going full speed?' Because he's so smooth in how he runs. But he is very tough, very physical."

Grice's response?

"It probably doesn't look like I'm running fast, but I'm running fast enough," Grice said with a smirk. "I just try to be a balanced back, and try to do everything. I don't want to just be listed as, ‘Oh, he can't do this, he can't do that.' So I'm working every day making sure I can catch and run. I just get the job done."

The four-touchdown night against Wisconsin was special, considering the Badgers didn't allow a player to rush for more than two touchdowns in any game in 2012, and hadn't given up a single point this season up until the game in Tempe last week.

The nationally televised game last Saturday served as a coming out party for the 6-foot, 207 lbs. running back, who stayed relatively under the national radar last season as a junior. Graham said he thinks with Grice, finding the goal line is 99.99% instinct. Though according to Grice, that's only partly true.

"It's something I work on," Grice said about getting across the goal line for a touchdown. "But you could say it's instinctual too. It is something I work on everyday in practice, when it's red zone I take it very seriously. I run hard and make sure I get into the end zone."

In his first season with Arizona State, Grice played in all 13 games, yet didn't start a single contest even though he led the team in rushing with 679 yards, and scoring, accounting for 114 points, 37 more than the next player on the list.

After the game against Wisconsin, there was little doubt who the starting running back would be for the Sun Devils going forward, yet Grice sounded anything but content.

"Pretty much I have a lot to prove," Grice said. "I still have more to prove to my coaches and my teammates. I want my O-line to be comfortable with me in the backfield so it's something that I just work on every day."

Grice's running mate in the backfield, Deantre Lewis, who was coming off a very productive off-season, is another player that who had high expectations placed on him, although not at the level that Grice has garnered. Nonetheless, the junior who was a victim of a drive by shooting, is looking closer than ever to his 2010 form where as a true freshman he gained over 980 all-purpose yards for the Sun Devils.

Graham has given Lewis praise for how he's run the ball in Arizona State's first two games of the season, and said he wouldn't be surprised if Lewis saw the field more often to give Grice a breather every now and then. Grice concurs with his head coach.

"I have faith in him," Grice said of Lewis. "I have faith in him and D.J. (Foster). I can run as hard as I can knowing the fact that if I was removed from the game I know that he can get in the game and basically pick up where I left off and maybe even run harder."

Grice, Lewis and company were called on to rush the ball 41 times against the formidable Wisconsin defense last week, signifying Arizona State's commitment to the run game and making a statement in the process.

"We learned some things from that game," Grice said. "We have to continue to establish the run game, being physical and basically just show everyone that we can run the ball."

The Sun Devils' next opponent is a near mirror image to Wisconsin in No. 5 Stanford. The Cardinal are just as physical as the Badgers, and according to Graham, more talented as a whole, so running the football will be just as much of a challenge, if not more considering that Saturday's contest will take place in Palo Alto.

This will be the first road game of the season for the Sun Devils, and in a tough environment to boot, as Stanford hasn't lost a game at home since Nov. 12th of 2011.

Typically to deal with a raucous crowd and loud stadium, Grice said that the team pumps blaring music into their indoor practice facility and develop a silent system to help prepare for the atmosphere on game day.

"It's going to be a loud crowd," Grice said. "…We have to have great communication in hand signs and just focus. Identify the same thing and basically be on the same one page."


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