For Ryan Torain, the name of the game is performance

By Tracee Hamilton
Tuesday, October 19, 2010; 12:14 AM

The Kansas Comet is out. That nickname is already taken by the legendary Gale Sayers. So we'll have to find another moniker for Ryan Torain.

Rugged Torain? All-Torain Vehicle? The Gravy Torain?

Okay, that last one's a stretch.

Of course, it's too soon to anoint - or burden - Torain with a nickname. After all, the 24-year-old Kansas native was cut after training camp and added to the practice squad, where he waited two weeks for his chance. When the Washington Redskins abruptly dumped Larry Johnson, it was Torain's turn. He has had a grand total of two starts, and he has rushed for 100 yards in an NFL game exactly once, Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts in a 27-24 loss.

(Wayward Son? No, too obscure for those not raised on '70s music.)

Torain ran hard a week ago against Green Bay, but had only 40 yards on 16 carries when the dust ("in the wind") settled. There were those who said he wasn't going to cut it as Clinton Portis's replacement. But there were others who said he ran hard against the Packers; he just didn't have any room.

Turns out they were right. Sunday night at FedEx Field, against the Colts' less-than-mighty run defense, he had room. Not gaping holes that the speedsters lap up, but gaps large enough to allow him a two- or three-yard burst. Then his elusiveness and spin moves took over.

(The Kansas Torainado? Nope, trying too hard.)

I have been impressed with Torain since training camp, but the 360-degree evasive manuevers were a revelation. They helped him gain 100 yards on 20 carries - making it easy even for the math-impaired to calculate his average of five yards a carry - and two touchdowns, the second and third of his Redskins tenure. It was the first 100-yard game for a Redskins back since Ladell Betts did it last November.

So where did that spin move come from?

"I don't know," Torain said with a huge grin. "I've just been waiting to get the opportunity to get out there and make plays. Do what you got to do to get free and just keep running downhill."

(Freight Torain? Express Torain? Runaway Torain? Then, if he gets injured, he can be Out of Service Torain, in honor of Metro?)

The only person not surprised by Torain's performance Sunday night was Torain himself. To go from the practice squad in Week 2 to 100 yards in Week 6, on national TV, against the defending AFC champions, surely you never saw that coming, right?

"That's always been the plan," said Torain, who has the rare ability to sound confident without being cocky. "That's always been the plan to get to that No. 1 spot, get out there and help the team, get out there and produce, and make big plays, and I was excited."

(Prairie Dawg?)

Coach Mike Shanahan was probably not surprised, either, although he'll need to look at the film before he'll commit. After all, Torain is one of the youngsters Shanahan and his staff culled from among the waiver wire and the undrafted free agents (Brandon Banks) and the Arena League (Anthony Armstrong).

The plan going into the season had been for the Redskins to run run run, but in the first five games, that hadn't materialized. Even after Torain's big day, the Redskins rank 23rd in the league in rushing attempts (137) and 25th in rushing yards per game (92.7).

Torain may find it hard to duplicate Sunday night's performance, but he gave the Redskins something they hadn't had much this season - a threat out of the backfield to take pressure off the passing game and help sustain drives, which helps the defense get some rest. The Redskins had been unable to do that in the first five games; Sunday night, they had the ball five more minutes than the Colts.

Then again, Torain's 100 yards were based on essentially three quarters of work; he sat out most of the final period as the Redskins turned to the passing game and Keiland Williams took over at running back.

"It was just what the coaches were calling for and Keiland was the man" - Torain pauses and laughs - "for the plan."

(He's a poet! Torain of the Plains?)

Maybe Torain should just forego a nickname. His surname is already tattooed across his back - a nickname would just demand more ink. And he hasn't got time to sit in a chair right now; he's enough of a Shanahan disciple to walk the walk and talk the talk. A Sunday night sampling:

"It's a great feeling to get out there and help the team out. We just have to keep working hard."

"Just get in there, do what the coaches ask."

The 100-yard game "lets us know what we can do on offense. Keep working hard, not going to quit. Just got to keep pushing."

Okay, he's not a poet. Let's see, he's from Kansas, he's wearing the gold pants, which are reminiscent of golden wheat . . . The Kansas Combine! Done.

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