Closing out halves hasn't been a strong suit for Colorado football during the young 2014 campaign. One play late in the first half likely cost the Buffs a chance to upset No. 16/14 Arizona State, as Colorado fell to 1-2 on the season after a 38-24 defeat.
After falling behind 17-0 early in the second quarter, CU stormed back, capturing the momentum - and for a brief moment - the adoration of the black-clad and fickle crowd of 38,547. Claiming the lead looked like an inevitability, after two back-to-back brilliant drives, led by Tony Jones and Phillip Lindsay.
Then, following a Sun Devil punt, ASU's Jordan Simone stripped Michael Adkins, and D.J. Calhoun fell on the ball at the CU 9-yard line, giving the ball and the momentum back to Arizona State.
It was an unfortunate time and situation for Adkins' first career fumble. Three plays later, ASU's Taylor Kelly found tailback D.J. Foster on the left side for an Arizona State touchdown.
"It's definitely a momentum killer," said Sefo Liufau, who had an up-and-down game, going 31 for 46 with three touchdowns and two interceptions. "You don't want to turn the ball over, especially deep inside your 20. That gave them some momentum and (seven) easy points."
Out of the locker room, ASU methodical marched down the field with a six play, 75 yard touchdown drive, capped by a one-yard Kelly touchdown pass to Jaelen Strong.
The only remaining glimmer of hope came with about 10 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, when Liufau found Nelson Spruce in the right corner of the end zone for Spruce's second touchdown reception of the night, bringing the Buffs to within 38-24.
With 8:38 to play and Kelly out of the game with an apparent right foot injury, Colorado's defense showed their teeth against backup quarterback Mike Bercovici, forcing a sack and two incompletions, resulting in a three-and-out.
Colorado's hurry-up offense seemed to be working, as Liufau ate up 5-7 yards with passes over the middle to Spruce, Bryce Bobo, and Tyler McCulloch. But as the Buffs crossed the 50 into ASU territory, Christian Sam picked off Liufau's pass to Spruce, all but putting the second latest game in Folsom Field history to bed.
Despite the bevy of missed opportunities, Mike MacIntyre and his staff can take away a multitude of positives from their first Pac-12 game of 2014.
The Buffs outgained ASU 545-426, and tallied up 10 more first downs than the Sun Devils. Statistically, the difference in the game can be found in ASU's 14 points off of turnovers, compared to Colorado's 0.
"The guys fought all game, and you can't take that away from us. We moved the ball up and down the field, and the defense made plenty of stops. But we should have won that game, flat out." Liufau said.
Colorado wraps up the non-conference portion of their schedule at Folsom Field next Saturday against Hawai'i at noon.
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