Kalen Ballage Gets An Accidental Nickname

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I have previously used this space to address the all-too-frequent gaffes when it comes to Arizona and Arizona State references. After ASU running back Kalen Ballage tied an NCAA record with eight touchdowns, however, another Grand Canyon-sized blunder seems avoidable.

Right?

Not exactly, as you’ll note from the headline image. Add ESPN’s reference to “Kalen Barrage” tying former Illinois star Howard Griffith’s single-game record to the ever-growing list of Arizona school slights.

Credit to the Worldwide Leader for correctly noting Kalen Ballage plays for Arizona State, and not Arizona. Further, this might be that rare instance of a typo actually improving the story.

Barrage — it’s an onomatopoeia that accurately describes the Sun Devil running back’s game. Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury might agree that’s exactly what he saw from Kalen Ballage Saturday night in Tempe.

“When we gave up eight touchdowns to the running back, that’s when we knew it was not going to be a good night,” Kingsbury said, via TheSunDevils.com. “There were a lot of missed tackles, I know that, that is not hard to see.”

Barrage also sounds like the nickname for a member of the X-Men. Ballage’s play Saturday certainly looked more mutant than human, with the Sun Devils’ proverbial Professor Xavier, offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, unleashing the running back’s special power of tackle-breaking.

At 6-foot-3 and a modestly listed 230 pounds, Ballage brings a power element to Arizona State’s speed-predicated offense. He functioned primarily as a situational back for most of his first two seasons, deferring to Demario Richard. Head coach Todd Graham, knowing the talent he had with Ballage, toyed with the idea of playing him at linebacker, as well, much in the same vein as UCLA’s Myles Jack or Washington’s Shaq Thompson.

But after scoring eight times against the Red Raiders, providing an offensive barrage might be more Kalen Ballage’s fit in the Sun Devil lineup. He emphatically addressed questions that might have lingered about an Arizona State offense with inexperience on the line and a quarterback who, prior to Week 1, had never thrown a collegiate pass.

“Kalen is a guy who is just now figuring out how powerful and explosive he can really be and I think tonight he began to scratch that surface really well,” Graham said in his postgame presser.

If that is “just…figuring out,” Ballage might be this year’s unexpected Heisman contender — an offensive barrage all the way to New York.