The Colorado Buffaloes continued their hot start defeating the ASU Sun Devils 28-21 on a brisk Saturday afternoon at Folsom Field.
ASU drew first blood in the game on a 1-yard TD hurdle by Eno Benjamin after going 86 yards down the field in a pedestrian six minutes and thirty three seconds. The drive was aided by three Buffs penalties including a costly pass interference by Dante Wigley on third and long. Benjamin was the centerpiece of the Sun Devils opening possession carrying the ball 8 times for 43 yards.
Colorado responded nicely with a well orchestrated drive of their own to tie the game up at seven. Tony Brown had a 39 yard reception on a free play where Steven Montez drew the defense offsides, and Laviska Shenault put the cherry on top scoring his third wildcat touchdown of the season and first of the day.
In an NFL esque twist, Brandon Ruiz and James Stefanou traded missed field goals.
The Sun Devils success running the football and juicing the clock continued after Stefanou’s miss. Benjamin had a huge seventeen yard run on the second play of the drive to capitalize on their already good field position. Three plays later, Nate Landman was ejected on a controversial targeting call, drawing a wave of boo’s from the Folsom faithful. The ejection forced the Buffs to make some changes both schematically and personal wise moving Drew Lewis from the outside linebacker position to back inside where he played his first three seasons in Boulder.
“It kind of felt like I was going back to what I knew last year,” Lewis said. “I can remember last year not knowing what I was doing [at inside backer], getting better at it and then shifting to outside linebacker this year and starting a new position. It didn’t make me too nervous at all because it’s kind of going back to what I do best.”
ASU got the ball in the end zone with another 1-yard TD run from Benjamin to take a 14-7 lead. The Sun Devils gave the Buffs run defense problems in the first half running for 121 yards on the ground. However, they made some nice adjustments at halftime to limit them in the second half. CU’s offense built on their hot start on offense striking back with a nice 13-play, 84 yard drive of their own to knot the game up at 14 going into halftime.
The Sun Devils broke the tie on their first drive of the 2nd half when quarterback Manny Wilkins showed off his arm strength on a 38-yard touchdown pass to Frank Darby where he split the double team of Evan Worthington and Dante Wigley.
However the Buffs stormed right back once again on the ensuing drive. Heisman hopeful Laviska Shenault continued to put the team on his back, catching his second touchdown pass of the day (third total) from 30 yards out. Shenault would finish the day with four touchdowns and 144 total yards.
After the team’s traded field position several times, the Buffs went down the field and took their first lead of the day on Laviska’s fourth touchdown, and second as the wildcat quarterback. KD Nixon made a huge impact on the drive catching passes of 24 and 51 yards. Their was a lack of consistency in the refereeing crews judgement of targeting, as a hit by Aashari Crosswell on KD Nixon after the 24 yard completion that was originally flagged, got overturned after a replay review.
Their was a momentum shift in the game early in the fourth quarter when the Buffs came up with a huge goal line stand - stopping ASU on fourth down in the process - to get the ball back. Nick Fisher’s tackle at the two yard line on a 72 yard catch-and-run play to Darby early in the possession proved to be crucial.
“It was a critical play that he never gave up and got him down,” Coach MacIntyre said. “Our guys didn’t just say they’re down there and they’re going to score - they said no we’re going to rise up and stop them, and they did. They strained, they got after it, and that was a huge series in the football game.”
CU’s defense proved to be the deciding factor in the end as they didn’t let Arizona State into the endzone for their final five drives. Travon McMillan carried the load once again, finishing the day with 136 rushing yards on 30 carries, and helped milk out the clock with a few huge runs at the end of the game.
Colorado will travel to Southern California next week for a shot at redemption in prime time against the USC Trojans.