On Saturday night, it was all Colorado. The Buffs dominated Arizona State in every aspect of the game, except special teams, and came away with a blow out win.
The first quarter began with an Arizona State drive that stalled almost immediately. CU’s defense has been virtually flawless this year, especially in the first quarter. Chidobe Awuzie, the commander of the United States aerial defense, nearly picked off a pass on the second play of the game. That was telling of things to come on that side of the field.
Colorado got the ball back and brought in a familiar face at quarterback: Sefo Liufau. It was Liufau’s first start since he injured his ankle against Michigan. He was magnificent for the Buffs in this crucial homecoming game.
This particular drive was one we’ve seen so many times this season. In less than three minutes of game time, Liufau captained the offense down the field for a seemingly effortless touchdown. That touchdown was scored on a 21-yard run by No. 21, Kyle Evans. He, too, would have an incredible game as the Sun Devils could do nothing to stop his jitterbug ways. He finished with 93 yards and that touchdown on 12 touches.
ASU and CU then exchanged three-and-outs. On ASU’s drive, Awuzie had another near-interception. This one was an acrobatic leap to undercut what could have been a substantial gain from the Sun Devils. Then on the ensuing Colorado punt, Awuzie teamed up with Isaiah Oliver and forced a fumble. ASU recovered but were held to another three-and-out. Then on their punt, Jay MacIntyre muffed the catch and gave them the ball on the 25-yard-line. Oh the symmetry! ASU would score a touchdown shortly thereafter, tying the game at 7 apiece.
A pair of exchanged field goals later, Sefo Liufau showed everyone how healthy his ankle is. On the first play of the drive, Liufau scrambled to his left, evaded would-be tacklers, rolled back again, and found Bryce Bobo deep down the field for a 66-yard pass. Bobo would have scored, but he could only run past and through so many defenders before he collapsed of exhaustion. Bobo finished the game with 110 yards on 6 catches. That’s now 21 receptions, 265 yards and 2 touchdowns in his last three games (non-Oregon State). That’s Sprucian production from the junior wideout.
A couple of plays after Bobo’s brilliance, Liufau again scrambled everyone’s eggs and nearly ran it in for a touchdown. He had to make due with a touchdown on the very next play. Liufau finished with 23-31 for 265 yards and had 45 yards and that touchdown on the ground.
The next CU drive ended in similar fashion as its predecessors, but with Phillip Lindsey spinning past a wave of demons to get the score. Because nothing can go right for CU all the time, Davis Price doinked the extra point. CU would have to defend a 23-10 lead.
With a two-score lead and facing a hobbled quarterback in Manny Wilkins, the CU defense could pin their ears back and rush the pocket without fear of giving up a big play. Jimmie Gilbert took full advantage of this strategy and powered past an overmatched offensive line to get two huge sacks and a tackle-for-loss that should’ve been a sack (Wilkins bobbled the snap and Gilbert tackled him four yards behind the line scrimmage). Gilbert’s great game against Oregon State looks more like the norm and his struggles against USC look more like the exception. Gilbert continuing this would be a boon for this defense that is only a consistent pass rush away from being among the best in the nation.
Behind Gilbert and Awuzie, Colorado’s defense had arguably their best game of the season. They gave up only 199 total yards (!!!) and 16 points, and ten of those points came on very short scoring drives — ten after two MacIntyre muffed punts and three after ASU returned a short punt to CU’s 35-yard-line. On those two possessions that yielded field goals, ASU actually had negative yards.
Even if CU stopped scoring after the second quarter, there was virtually no way their defense would allow enough points to lose.
The second half started with a bang at the line of scrimmage, another bang at the second level, and then a 75-yard sprint to the end zone. Phillip Lindsey’s jaw-dropping, bone-shattering, ankle-breaking run was just the first of many more to come. His elusiveness and power were pervasive in the second half. On runs like those, Lindsey finished with 219 yards on 26 carries (8.4 yards per carry) for three touchdowns. This was inarguably the best game he’s ever played.
The rest of the second half was mostly a defensive one. Eventful things did happen after that Lindsey run, such as: Jay MacIntyre barely missed Sean Irwin on a trick pass; MacIntyre had a one-handed catch while being interfered with; Awuzie had an out-of-nowhere sack to put him No. 1 all-time on defensive back sack leaders (passing Michael Lewis); and Addison Gillam almost killed a Man(ny Wilkins).
About midday through the third quarter, the game was essentially over. ASU could do nothing against CU’s defense and the Buffs’ offense did just enough to put it away. By the time the game actually ended, the majority of fans had gone home and all the sportswriters had their recaps finished up.
Colorado is now 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the conference. They are tied for first in the Pac-12 South and have just begun a series of very winnable conference games. Next up on the ledger is Stanford on the road. The Cardinal looked unbeatable last season and even earlier this year, but they’ve fallen on hard times. Colorado has a great chance to come out of there with an authoritative road win.