TEMPE, Ariz. -- Kalen Ballage couldn’t possibly take all the credit for this.
One person alone isn’t capable of producing his stat line from Arizona State’s 68-55 win over Texas Tech on Saturday night. Ballage scored eight touchdowns -- tying a 26-year-old NCAA record -- on just 15 offensive touches.
Yes, 15 touches.
The junior running back carried the ball 13 times for 137 yards and seven scores and caught two passes for 48 yards and one touchdown. With 9:11 to play in the game, his career-long 75-yard run equaled the single-game scoring record set by Howard Griffith of Illinois in 1990.
“This is college football,” Ballage said. “That’s big.”
But Ballage didn't want all the accolades, so he dragged the Sun Devils’ entire starting offensive line to the postgame news conference -- left tackle Evan Goodman, left guard Sam Jones, center A.J. McCollum, right guard Stephon McCray and right tackle Quinn Bailey.
Ballage even hauled a chair across the front of the interview room to let each of the big guys sit, while he stood to answer questions from the media.
“I really don’t care about [the record],” said Ballage, a 6-foot-2, 227-pounder out of Peyton, Colorado. “You can ask these guys, and they’ll tell you straight up, I want to win football games, and that’s what this is about. And that’s what we did tonight.
“Scoring eight touchdowns, that wasn’t part of the plan at all.”
Regardless, he did it, overshadowing the spectacular performances of the quarterbacks on display at Sun Devil Stadium. Arizona State sophomore Manny Wilkins threw for 351 yards, and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes accounted for 584 yards of offense and six scores, including 540 yards through the air.
For that matter, Ballage even exceeded the production of other elite Week 2 outings, by some measure, including a 610-yard, five-touchdown outburst from Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson in the Cardinals' 62-28 win at Syracuse on Friday.
So make room in the Heisman conversation.
Ballage and the Arizona State offense were motivated Saturday by Texas Tech’s explosiveness. The Red Raiders scored 69 points in their opener against Stephen F. Austin and kept pace with the Sun Devils for much of the game Saturday. Tech, in fact, led 41-37 early in the third quarter before Ballage scored on consecutive possessions -- all out of the Wildcat formation -- for scores of 1, 2 and 7 yards.
“We just got out there and said we have to be unstoppable,” Ballage said.
They were. And he was. In addition to his four second-half TD runs, Ballage scored twice from the 1-yard line in the second quarter and once from the 4. His touchdown catch, which also came in Arizona State’s 28-point second quarter, covered 39 yards.
Had he ever experienced a similar game, at any level of the sport?
“Yeah,” Ballage said, “Pop Warner, it happened -- a lot, actually.”
Before Saturday, Ballage had scored nine career touchdowns as a college back, including one on the ground in the Sun Devils’ Sept. 3 opening win over Northern Arizona. He dealt with injuries and illness in his first two seasons at ASU.
All of it made him stronger, he said.
“He’s just starting to scratch the surface of his potential.” Arizona State coach Todd Graham said.
If so, the nation can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.