Don't Call It a Comeback

It certainly isn't the dreaded sophomore slump, but second-year running back Keegan Herring is not having as stellar of a season compared to his freshman campaign. Some will call his play against Washington sweet redemption for his early season struggles. Herring on the other hand, told Devils Digest that he doesn't feel that his performance last week was any kind of return to glory.

"I never left," said Keegan Herring. "I was always there, and when I got my chance I tried to shine. When I get my opportunities I just try to play to the best of my abilities." To say that he seized the moment last Saturday in Seattle would be an understatement. The running back carried the ball six times for 98 yards and scored on two of those carries. He added three receptions for 43 yards that helped his team register first downs in Husky territory.

In 2005, Herring set the school's single-season freshman rushing yards mark (870 yards). This year in six games played, he has amassed 345 yards. Up until two weeks ago he scored only one touchdown in five games played, and in his seven contests he participated in thus far in 2006, he has eclipsed 80 yards of rushing just twice. "It's been up and down season," he admitted. "When anybody loses their starting job, like I did to Ryan Torain, it's not the same. But your mindset has to be that everybody on the team is just as good as you are, and the coaches recruited Torain because he's a great player. I'm just gonna wait to hopefully get my chances and when I get them, try to do the best with them."

Herring's blazing speed and athleticism, along with Torain's bruising and physical running, has given the tandem the proverbial ‘lighting and thunder' moniker for their contrasting attributes. Herring can appreciate the benefits of having two capable ball carriers who bring different set of skills to the table. "We do compliment each other," he noted. "We watch film together and talk about what we can do against that defense, reading the coverage, reading the corners…we work together as a team."

Granted, the sophomore has found much success running on the perimeter of the line of scrimmage and not through it. Nevertheless, that is a component of his game that Herring would like to improve on. "I know that to be a great running back I have to do a better job running between the tackles, instead of just bouncing off the tackles," he explained. "I have to show everyone that I'm not scared to run between tackles."

While he had a good week of practice last week, even Herring couldn't have predicted that he would enjoy one his best outings as a Sun Devil. That performance was spoiled a little by some hot-dogging antics on his first touchdown run that drew the ire of head coach Dirk Koetter on the sidelines. "He gave me crap for the first five seconds (after Herring came over to the sidelines) and that's OK, because that's what coaches are supposed to do - keep us from not celebrating too much. But after that he told me that it was a great run and keep on running hard all game."

After opening Pac-10 play with three consecutive losses, some tend to discount the Sun Devils win over winless Stanford, and questioned how much confidence was there to be gained from that victory. However, a road win at Washington is definitely not having anyone question the quality of this feat. "We did beat someone legit, but even when you play a team like Stanford you know they're motivated to get that first win," said Herring. "We didn't take them lightly and we didn't take Washington lightly because they were having a good season. We had to go up there mentally focused and knowing what our assignments were, and we have to do the same thing against Oregon State." Herring added that the week of preparation before Washington was a very good one, and he feels that the practices thus far before the Oregon State game are taking on the same tone.

Herring portrays the Beavers' defense as one that continually penetrates the line of scrimmage and "always flies to the ball." He doesn't believe that the host team will suffer from a letdown after their emotional win against USC last week. "Their motivation is high and you can't take away anything from them after beating USC," Herring commented. "We have to go their house, not thinking that they beat USC there, play hard, tough and physical football."

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