PULLMAN, Wash. - The most prolific running back in the Pac-10 does not wear Trojan red or Bruin powder blue. In fact, he is about as far away from Los Angeles as one can get in the conference.
Though he is nowhere near Tinseltown, the light from Jerome Harrison of Washington State shines white hot. This season, the senior has rushed for 1,310 yards, second in the nation behind DeAngelo Williams of Memphis.
What’s more, Harrison has been remarkably consistent, with 11 straight 100-yard games — tied with Marcus Allen for the second longest streak in conference history. Against Arizona State today, he can tie the mark held by J.J. Arrington, a California product who now plays for the Cardinals.
"It ain’t a bad name to be next to, I’ll say that," Harrison said of Allen, an NFL Hall-of-Famer. "He had a lot of success at the next level."
The Cougars seem out of place owning one of the nation’s best running backs. After all, WSU is known as a quarterback factory, the place where strong-armed gunslingers utilize a sophisticated, pass-happy offense to punch their ticket to the NFL.
Not this year.
"We commit to the run more because of Jerome Harrison, because it is working," Cougars coach Bill Doba said. "We’re getting yards, pretty safe yards. I think he’s got two fumbles. All the rest is positive."
While USC’s Reggie Bush and LenDale White and UCLA’s Maurice Drew get the Heisman buzz, the 5-foot-9, 192-pound Harrison — a single back in the Cougars’ spread offense — just gets hit.
And he keeps coming back for more.
"He doesn’t have the speed of Reggie Bush, and he’s not as big as LenDale White," ASU coach Dirk Koetter said. "He’s a combination of the two. He’s the one and only back in the offense, so for him to be second in the nation in rushing is very impressive.
"It speaks well to his durability and his ability to break tackles."
The Sun Devils will get a chance to test Harrison’s durability today. They are ranked 93rd in the country in rush defense, giving up 182.8 yards per game on the ground.
Last week, Washington’s James Sims, a fullback-turnedtailback who came into the game with only 52 yards rushing on the season, galloped for 140 against ASU. How well could the nation’s second-best rusher fare?
Koetter said that poor gap spacing — which resulted in bigger holes — on the defensive line and missed tackles were to blame for the Sun Devils’ poor performance against the run.
"If we don’t fix those things and do a good job on (Harrison), we’re going to have problems all day," Koetter said.
Being in the opponents’ cross hairs does not faze Harrison. Eleven straight foes have focused on stopping him, with miserable results.
"When the offensive linemen get that look in their eyes and are locked in with me, that just lights me up inside," Harrison said. "When that happens, it’s going to be me and the safety all day."
The Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review contributed to this report.