September 8th – at Arizona State          Arizona State 33, Colorado 14

No, there is no such thing as a good loss (especially after taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter).

But is there hope for the rest of the season?

The Arizona State Sun Devils shook off early mistakes and a 14-0 deficit to defeat the Colorado Buffaloes, 33-14. ASU quarterback Rudy Carpenter completed 19 of 37 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns as the Sun Devils dominated the last three quarters of the game. A crowd of 58,417 gladly accepted the late start time (7:28 p.m. local), as the temperature was 102 degrees at kickoff.

As with the CSU game the week before, the Buffs started out as well as could have possibly been expected. Against the Rams, the Buffs took the opening kickoff and marched smartly down the field for a score. Against the Sun Devils, the Colorado offense didn’t even need to take the field for the Buffs to take the lead, as on the third play of the game’s opening drive, ASU quarterback Rudy Carpenter was intercepted by Buff cornerback Terrence Wheatley. Wheatley returned the ball 35 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 CU lead less than one minute into the game.

The remainder of the first quarter was spent almost entirely on the Sun Devil side of the field. Colorado had five drives in the quarter, the worst of which started on the Buffs’ 49 yard line. Despite great opportunities provided by their hosts, the Buffs could do no better than a 14-0 lead. Arizona State committed three personal fouls and had pass interference call go for a fourth Buff first down, but the Colorado offense could not capitalize. It took a Sun Devil fumbled punt at the ASU 17 yard line and a personal foul penalty on a field goal attempt to give the Buffs their second score. A 10-yard touchdown pass from Cody Hawkins to wide receiver Scotty McKnight put the Buffs up 14-0. In the quarter, Colorado had four first downs – all by penalty.

Rather than wilt in the heat, however, the Sun Devils thereafter slowly took control of the game.

Arizona State took a 19-14 halftime lead on three touchdowns in the last four minutes of the half. First, Rudy Carpenter hit Michael Jones from 12 yards out to culminate a 12-play, 80-yard drive to cut the lead to 14-7. Four plays later, Cody Hawkins was intercepted by Troy Nolan, who returned the pick 26 yards for a score (the extra point attempt was missed, leaving the score at 14-13).

Colorado still clung to the lead with 2:55 remaining in the half, but another three-and-out gave the Sun Devils another opportunity. In nine plays taking just 1:11 of possession, Arizona State marched 86 yards, with Kyle Williams giving the Sun Devils their first lead of the game, 19-14, on a 22-yard pass from Carpenter with 14 seconds before halftime (a two-point conversion attempt failed).

The second half was all ASU.

After the Buffs failed to mount an attack on the first possession of the third quarter, the Sun Devils needed only four plays to cover 46 yards to put the game out of reach. The Ryan Torain seven yard scoring run effectively ended the drama for the evening, and a Rudy Carpenter to Michael Jones touchdown covering 20 yards late in the third quarter rounded out the scoring. When the dust had settled after a scoreless fourth quarter, the Sun Devils were 2-0 after a convincing 33-14 win over Colorado.

“When the defense is playing really, really well, the offense has to be able to compliment that,” said CU head coach Dan Hawkins. “When you get in that situation, you have to learn how to capitalize. When you don’t, it becomes almost a reverse momentum.” Cornerback Terrence Wheatley had another way of putting it: “We had their wallet. We took their money and we gave it back to them with interest.”

On the day, the CU offense looked like the Buff offense of 2006 – unable to muster any consistency. Cody Hawkins hit on only 15 of 42 passes for 155 yards, though several of his throws could have resulted in touchdowns (Patrick Williams dropped a sure touchdown on the Buffs’ second possession, and another potential score drifted threw the hands of freshman wide receiver Kendrick Celestine in the second quarter when the Buffs still lead, 14-13). The CU running game was non-existent, with a net of 39 yards rushing on 27 attempts.

Up next for the 1-1 Buffs was Florida State. The Seminoles were also 1-1, having lost to Clemson, 24-18, before rebounding to defeat Alabama-Birmingham, 34-24. The latter game had some eerie similarities to the CU/ASU game. The Seminoles fell behind by two touchdowns at home, 17-3, before roaring back to outscore their visitors, 31-7, the rest of the game. Even if the Buffs were fortunate enough to stake themselves to an early lead the following week against Florida State, players and fans on both sides of Folsom Field would be forgiven if they were to wonder if a similar comeback was imminent.

Still on Pace

The Buffs were 14-point underdogs heading into Sun Devil Stadium, and left 19 point losers. In the grand scheme of things, the loss was not the end of the world. Colorado still has another five wins out there on the 2007 schedule to post a bowl-worthy record. The win over Colorado State was mandatory, as will be the game against Miami (Ohio) game in two weeks.

The Arizona State and Florida State games were and are opportunities to break through and garner some national attention. The appetites of Buff fans were whetted by a 14-0 lead against the Sun Devils, so it was easy to overlook the fact that the Buffs had no offensive first downs in the first quarter. The Sun Devils were faster and stronger, and, especially in the second half, seemed more interested in winning the game.

So what of the 2007 Buffs? Is the offense receding back to 2006 levels, where progress was marked in first downs, not touchdowns? Have the Sun Devils provided a formula for future opponents to emulate (blitz and confuse) which the Buffs’ freshman quarterback and young offensive line would not be able to overcome? Was this the beginning of another slide below mediocrity?

Not in my opinion. These young Buffs have yet to have a home game, and the next three contests will be within the friendly confines of Folsom Field. Yes, the Seminoles of Florida State have speed at the skill positions, and a veteran quarterback, but this is not the Seminoles of the 1990’s. FSU fell behind 17-3, at home, to an Alabama-Birmingham team which lost its opener, 55-18, to a mediocre Michigan State team. If the Buffs come out fast against the Seminoles (and, if the first two games had any similarities, it was that the Buffs came out of the gate fast), the elements which worked against the Buffs in the second half against Arizona State (late start, extreme heat) will work in favor of the Buffs in the second half against Florida State (a late start – 10:00 p.m. for the eastern time zone Seminoles, high altitude).

Can you look back at two plays and say that the Arizona State game could have gone another way? Sure. With a first-and-ten at the Arizona State 45-yard line with just over two minutes before halftime and the Buffs clinging to a 14-13 lead, Cody Hawkins laid the ball into the hands of wide receiver Kendrick Celestine. The freshman was behind the ASU secondary, but the ball fell right between his hands. A score would have put the Buffs up 21-13 just before the half. Who knows?

The second play came moments later. After punting the ball back to Arizona State, the Sun Devils faced a fourth-and-six at the Colorado 38-yard line. An incompletion would have preserved the Buff lead going into the half, but Rudy Carpenter connected with Chris McGaha for sixteen yards and a first down (the tackle was made by senior, though first year Buff, Daniel Dykes). Two plays later, Carpenter hit Kyle Williams for a touchdown. Instead of being down 21-13 or at least 14-13, the Sun Devils were up at the half, 19-14, and never looked back.

Would those two plays have made a difference? Perhaps not. Still, these were plays not made by first year players that more veteran players may have made. That is our lot this year. With the enthusiasm of the players and their promise of future success comes the reality that they are first year players who make mistakes.

Hang in there, folks. It’s going to be a wild (and sometimes disappointing) journey.

Game Notes –

– The 102 degree temperature at kickoff was the highest in Buff history. The previous high was 99 degrees at kickoff against UCLA in Los Angeles (the Rose Bowl), on September 21, 2002. The Buffs, 1-2 on the season and coming off a 40-3 home loss to USC, defeated the Bruins, 31-17.

– Terrence Wheatley’s interception was the 11th of his career, tying him for 6th on the all-time list with Ben Kelly (1997-99) and Steve Rosga (1992-96). The return for a score was the second for Wheatley, now just one shy of the all-time Buff record of three in a career set by Victor Scott (1980-83).




Trivia you’ll want to remember – Arizona State

* When did Arizona State, along with rival Arizona, join the Pac-8 to form the Pac -10?

* How many times has ASU won the Pac-10 title?

* Has Arizona State ever won the national championship in football?

* Bar Bet Winner – What was the nickname for the Arizona State teams prior to becoming the Sun Devils?


Pregame Preview

Had the Buffs lost to Colorado State in the opener, there would be a storm clouds looming over Boulder, with lighting bolts thrown at the athletic department by every poisoned pen columnist in the front range. An 0-3 start would be predicted, and would become the favorite new website. What a difference a few made plays can make!

What are the Buffs chances in Tempe? Colorado opened as a 14-point underdog to Arizona State. In week one, the Sun Devils destroyed what was supposed to be a decent San Jose State team, 45-3. ASU racked up 520 yards of total offense, holding the Spartans to only 115 total yards. Though only a junior, quarterback Rudy Carpenter has already thrown for just shy of 5,000 yards, including 197 yards and two touchdowns last weekend. Under new head coach Dennis Erickson, the Sun Devils are just outside the national rankings after week one of the new season. (A side note. Erickson is 1-1 all-time against CU; a 26-17 loser to the Buffs as the head coach at Washington State in 1987; a 35-29 winner as the head man at Miami in the infamous brawl game in 1993 – which, by the way, is one of the archived games on the website!). Arizona State returns 17 starters from a team which defeated the Buffs 21-3 in Boulder last season.

So, what is in the Buffs’ column? First, the Buffs have a game under their belt with a number of new (and young) starters. Second, the defense gave up a slew of third down conversions, but also held when it had to against the Rams. Third, the offense sputtered at times, but is already light years ahead of what CU fans witnessed this time last year (10 points each against Montana State and Colorado State vs. 31 last weekend. Total offense against CSU in 2007: 330 yards. Total offense against Montana State and Colorado State in 2006 : 362 yards – combined!). Finally, the special teams are once again special. Instead of ranking 104th in the nation in punt returns, the Buffs are ranked 19th. Instead of being ranked 95th in kickoff returns, the Buffs are ranked 17th. Granted, these are numbers for only one game, but in twelve tries last season, the Buffs didn’t have a special teams effort like they did against CSU.

Perhaps the best thing the Buffs have going for them on the road to Arizona is a fresh start. With a win under their belts in week one, the Buffs are, if not the darlings of the media, at least not the butt of their jokes. The Buffs head to Tempe with a new sense of confidence, and can, for the first time since the end of the Gary Barnett era, look forward instead of backward. This can’t be overstated. We’re not talking about 2-10 anymore. We’re not talking about Montana State. We’re not talking about 70-3. We’re not talking about scandals.

The Buffs have a great opportunity the next two weekends. Colorado is still flying well under the national radar. A win over Arizona State or Florida State will get people’s attention. Close losses, or at least well played games, will keep the Buffs on track for their six wins and a bowl. The pressure really won’t return until the Miami (Ohio) game in three weeks. Then, the Buffs will face a must win situation if the 2007 season is to be a success. Buff fans can relax just a little bit, hoping that what they saw at Invesco was just the beginning.

The next two games are kicking off after 8:00 p.m. mountain time, two of the latest starts in Buff history. Here’s hoping the late starts don’t disrupt the Buffs’ fast start to the 2007 season.


Trivia you’ll want to remember – Arizona State

– In 1978, the Sun Devils, along with rival Arizona, joined the Pac Eight to form the Pac Ten. ASU has won the conference title twice, in 1986 and 1996.

– In 1975, Arizona State, then still a member of the Western Athletic Conference, finished 12-0 after defeating Nebraska, 17-14, in the Fiesta Bowl. ASU still finished second in the final polls, though, behind 11-1 Oklahoma. In 1996, #2 ASU lost in the last minute, 20-17, to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. A win would have meant a national title, as #1 Florida State lost to #3 Florida in the Sugar Bowl, giving the Gators their first national championship.

– Up until 1946, the Arizona State Sun Devils were known as the Arizona State Bulldogs.

– Famous alumni – football – Jake Plummer (1993-97); Danny White (1971-73)

– Famous alumni – other – Phil Mickelson (golf); Barry Bonds (baseball); Al Michaels (announcer); Reggie Jackson (baseball)


Going Down in History

Jordon Dizon – senior linebacker

Career total tackles – 302 Rank: 15th

#16t – Kanavis McGhee (1987-90)* 297

#16t – Brian Cabral (1974-77) 297

Up next: #13t – Steve Rosga (1992-96) 304

#13t – Don DeLuzio (1984-88) 304

*Kanavis McGhee never led the team in tackles or sacks. He wasn’t even as well known as one of the other “Houston boys”, Alfred Williams. McGhee is, however, immortalized in the annual media guide. Look up the account of the 1990 National championship season, and you will see a photo of McGhee in full celebration. In addition to being in the top 15 in career tackles, McGhee ranks in the top 15 in career quarterback sacks and career tackles for loss.

Terrence Wheatley – senior cornerback

Career Interceptions – 10 – Rank: t8th

t8th – Victor Scott (1980-83)* 10

t8th – Roy Shepard (1950-52) 10

t8th – Cullen Bryant (1970-72) 10

t8th – Boyd Dowler (1956-58) 10

*Victor Scott is one of my all-time favorite Buffs. Not only was he a contemporary when I was in school, but he was an All-Big Eight player when CU didn’t have many. Scott was the only Big Eight first-teamer in 1982, and was one of only two in 1983 (tight end Dave Hestera was the other). Scott is probably most remembered for his efforts in one game. In the 1982 game against Oklahoma State, Scott returned not one, but two interceptions for touchdowns (the game ended in a 25-25 tie). How remarkable was the feat? Only one other player in CU history (Donald Strickland in 2001) has had two interceptions returned for a touchdown in a season! Scott went on to post a Buff record three interceptions for scores in a career before going on to play five seasons for the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL.

Hugh Charles – senior running back

Career rushing yards – 1,670 Rank: 21st

Up next: #20 – Byron White (1935-37)* 1,864

#19 – Bob Stransky (1955-57) 1,868

#18 – Tony Reed (1975-76) 1,938

*If you need help with this name, you are not a true Buff fan. Byron “Whizzer” White after leading Colorado to its first ever bowl game (the 1938 Cotton Bowl) as CU’s first consensus All-American, went on to become the Buffs’ third Rhodes Scholar before playing for three seasons in the emerging NFL. White served as a Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1962-1993. Justice White was the initial inductee into the Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame, in 1998.

Freshman Season Records:

Passing: 1,778 yards (Craig Ochs, 2000)

Cody Hawkins: 201 yards

Rushing: 830 yards (Lamont Warren, 1991)

Demetrius Sumler: 85 yards

Receiving: 337 yards (Chris McLemore, 1982)

Scotty McKnight: 106 yards

Freshman record already set:

Most yards receiving, first game of career: Scotty McKnight, 106 yards (previous record – 60 yards, Phil Savoy, v. NE Louisiana, 1984).

One Reply to “Arizona State – Buffs wilt in 102-degree heat”

  1. I am hoping that the Florida State game is when the offence can have some success without penalties being a major help. The defence has made me a believer. The secondary is getting better with each game. I am looking forward to a win in Boulder this weekend

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