Ballage remains humble in the spotlight

Following a record-setting effort, Kalen Ballage heard from ASU alumni like James Harden and Vontaze Burfict.

Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage's phone wouldn't stop buzzing after his record-breaking eight-touchdown performance Saturday night against Texas Tech. 

Receiving notes of praise and congratulations from family members and friends alike, even some decorated former ASU athletes decided to give Ballage a call. 

"I spoke with James Harden, you know an ASU alumni, and Vontaze Burfict," Ballage said. "Just a lot of ASU alums and Jaelen Strong and just a lot of people that have played here previously so I aways just take that in stride and that is kind of a cool deal for me." 

Despite all the media hype surrounding Ballage's performance -- tying the NCAA record for touchdowns in a single game and breaking the ASU and Pac-12 records as well -- the junior running back has been handing the attention with grace and poise. 

"It's been kind of hectic for sure, but I'm taking it all in stride and taking it one step at a time from here on out," Ballage said. 

Ballage, who now has eight rushing touchdowns on the year, is now only 11 touchdowns away from tying the ASU record for the most rushing touchdowns in a season. The current record holder is Woody Green, who had 19 rushing touchdowns in 1972. 

"Kalen's performance was obviously, I'll let it speak for itself," ASU head coach Todd Graham said. "I mean that's pretty incredible, 140 yards rushing and eight touchdowns and what he said is what I'll say. He brought his offensive line in here and gave credit to his teammates because I think that's what is unique to this team is the synergy that they have." 

Graham said he was also very proud of Ballage's character and class. Like he was after ASU's 68-55 win over Texas Tech, Ballage -- who had 185 total yards (137 rushing, 48 receiving) on just 15 total touches on the night -- remained humble on Tuesday and again gave a lot of the credit to his offensive line. 

"There are 10 other guys on the field besides me," Ballage said. "Those touchdowns, I happened to have the ball in my hands, but there are other guys that are working and I firmly believe we had eight touchdowns, not necessarily me."

The 6-foot-2, 227-pound running back said the connections between himself and the offensive line stretch way beyond football. 

"It's amazing," Ballage said. "(Sophomore offensive lineman) Sam Jones is another guy from Colorado so we have that in common, but I've tried as hard as I can since I've been here to build a relationship with each and every one of these guys separately and together, there is a lot of love and when you are on the field I run hard for them and they block hard for me so it all works out."

Ballage also credited first-year ASU offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey for his success, saying Lindsey "is a mastermind," as he was the one to put the offensive game plan together and the only thing the team had to do was get on the field and execute plays.  

Headed into Friday's game against University of Texas-San Antonio, Ballage said he does feel like there are more expectations for him to perform at a higher level this week. 

"Definitely," Ballage said. "I think my teammates depend on me and I depend on them and I've heard a lot of people outside this team expect me to perform, but I'm not going to do anything different than what I've done before. I'm going to go out practice hard and play on Saturdays like I have been for my whole life."

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