SAN FRANCISCO -- On a personal level, Arizona State running back Cameron Marshall didn't have the season he expected.
On a team level, Marshall delivered exactly what the Sun Devils needed to reach Saturday's Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against Navy at AT&T Park.
The star of the ASU backfield a year ago, when he rushed for 1,050 yards and scored 18 touchdowns, Marshall swallowed his ego and shared the running back position with two new teammates this fall.
First-year coach Todd Graham said Marshall's willingness to accept a new role and buy into a fresh agenda was a key to the Sun Devils' turnaround. ASU takes a 7-5 record into its matchup with the 8-4 Midshipmen.
"There's not a selfish bone in his body," Graham said. "He really easily could have had a different approach to that, and I think most people would have. Not Cam Marshall. Special kid."
This was not an easy season for Marshall, a senior from San Jose's Valley Christian High. He entered the year on target to break ASU's career touchdown record and perhaps elevate himself as an NFL prospect.
"This guy was on the cover of magazines before the season started, and he's on the bench," linebacker Brandon Magee said. "He handled it like a pro. You could tell he wanted to win more than he wanted personal stats. That's big-time.
"A lot of people look up to Cameron Marshall."
Graham brought in two new backs -- highly touted freshman D.J. Foster and JC transfer Marion Grice -- and a new set of rules. Determined to instill discipline, he banned earrings and told players they could not wear hats, hoodies or headphones in the football facility. "Yes sir" and "no sir" were the expected responses.
Asked about the initial reaction to the new culture, Marshall acknowledged players wondered, "Are you crazy? What's up with this stuff?"
But, he added, "We figured if we choose to not buy into everything, we have no chance of winning."
After ending last season with five straight defeats, the Sun Devils raced out of the gate with five victories in their first six games. Marshall, who had four 100-yard rushing games in 2011, remained the starter but saw his carries and his production slashed. His 524 yards are almost exactly half his total of a year ago.
"I wouldn't say I took it personally. It definitely took some getting used to," Marshall said. "I've said my first and primary goal for the year over everything was to win. If that took me having a lesser role statistically, then that's what needed to be done."
His dad, Greg Marshall, told the Arizona Republic he was proud of his son for taking the high road to the benefit of his team. He said Cameron has "an old soul."
"I think he meant that I was mature for my age," Cameron Marshall said. "I know a lot of guys in this situation might not have handled it the way I handled it."
Graham said not once did he even detect bad body language from Marshall.
"He actually was coaching those guys to help them get better," Graham said of the assistance Marshall provided to Foster and Grice. "On the offensive side of the ball, he was the key component to the leadership and development of our team."
Marshall is seven touchdowns shy of the ASU career record he was expected to challenge. He carried the ball 13 times or more just four times all season, after doing so in all but one game as a junior.
"It's a balance of keeping your ego in a place where you maintain your confidence, but at the same time you realize your role," Marshall said. "I think I was able to find that balance."
Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/CalBearsBANG.
WHO: Arizona State (7-5) vs. Navy (8-4)
WHERE: AT&T Park, San Francisco
WHEN: 1 p.m.