September 13th – Boulder           No. 16 Arizona State 38, Colorado 24

Colorado out-gained No. 16 Arizona State, 545 yards to 426 yards, but three turnovers doomed the Buffs to a 38-24 loss to the Sun Devils in Boulder.

Sefo Liufau went 31-for-46 for 278 yards and three touchdowns, but also had two interceptions. Christian Powell, thanks to two long runs, became the first Buff to rush for over 100 yards in 2014, with 11 carries good enough for 118 yards. Nelson Spruce had a pair of touchdowns for his third consecutive game, collecting seven catches for 97 yards.

After being out-gained by the Sun Devils, 222-22 in the first quarter, the Buffs had 523 yards of total offense to 205 for the Sun Devils in the final three quarters, but were never able to get closer than two touchdowns in the second half.

Colorado came out for its 2014 home opener wearing solid gray helmets labeled “Black Storm” by the CU equipment crew.

In the first quarter, the Buffs could have used a real storm instead.

The weather was not an issue, but CU’s inability to be competitive against Arizona State – at least early on – was at issue. The Buffs took the opening kickoff and did the one thing you cannot do against a team averaging 51 points per game against you … go three-and-out. Taking over at their 31-yard line after the Darragh O’Neill punt, Arizona State went 69 yards eight plays to take the lead.

The small consolation for the CU defense? In 16 previous scoring drives to open the season, the Sun Devils took less than three minutes in each drive to score.

The first scoring drive against Colorado … took 3:07.

Colorado got its fans into the game for the first time on the ensuing kickoff, when Phillip Lindsay returned the ball 46 yards. The enthusiasm lasted all of one play, however. On first down, freshman wide receiver Shay Fields beat his man deep, but quarterback Sefo Liufau put to much air under the ball, allowing safety Jordan Simone to catch up an intercept the ball, giving the Sun Devils the ball back (after a 29-yard return) at the ASU 35-yard line.

Three plays later, it was 14-0.

After a pass interference penalty put the ball at midfield, a completion went for 12 yards put the ball at the CU 38 yard line. There, quarterback Taylor Kelly hit freshman running back Kalen Ballage (a Colorado native who spurned his home state school on Signing Day) on a screen pass. Ballage did most of the work, covering 38 yards to make it a 14-0 game with 8:39 still to play in the first quarter.

In 2013, the Buffs fell behind the Sun Devils, 25-0, in the first quarter. That being the case, it was something of an upgrade to only be behind, 14-0, at the end of the first quarter. At the end of the quarter, though, the stats sheet reflected the Sun Devils’ dominance: 222 total yards for Arizona State, 22 for Colorado; 109 yards rushing for the Sun Devils, minus-9 for the Buffs …

… and Arizona State was sitting pretty, with a second-and-nine at the CU 16-yard line.

The Buffs did manage to hold the Sun Devils to a field goal on that drive, however, with Arizona State taking a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Perhaps inspired by the defensive stand in the red zone, the Colorado offense responded with a scoring drive of its own. A 22-yard completion from Liufau to Nelson Spruce was followed by a defensive holding call, giving the Buffs their first snap on the ASU side of the field. Three runs by Phillip Lindsay netted eight yards, leaving Colorado with a fourth-and-two at the ASU 38-yard line. After a timeout, the Buffs went for it, with Sefo Liufau completing a four yard pass to Shay Fields for a first down.

A 26-yard completion to Tyler McCulloch set the Buffs up with a first-and-goal at the nine. Phillip Lindsay took it to the four, before Sefo Liufau hit Shay Fields for a touchdown and new life for Colorado. Arizona State 17, Colorado 7, with ten minutes left to play in the first half.

The Colorado defense then responded with its first three-and-out of the game, giving the ball back to the fired up Buff offense.

Taking over at their 23, Colorado pieced together an eight-play, 77-yard drive. Tony Jones had runs of eight, 11, and 12 yards, coupled with an 18-yard completion to D.D. Goodson. The score came on a 15-yard pass from Liufau to Nelson Spruce, making it a 17-14 game midway through the second quarter.

After the Buff defense forced another three-and-out, the Blackout crowd at Folsom Field began to believe that an upset was now possible.

That belief lasted one play.

A 57-yard punt pinned the Buffs back at their ten yard line. On first down, Michael Adkins was stripped, with the fumble giving Arizona State the ball at the CU nine yard line. On third-and-goal at the five, Taylor Kelly hit running back D.J. Foster for a touchdown and a 24-14 ASU lead.

Halftime score: No. 16 Arizona State 24, Colorado 14

The Arizona State offense, which scored ten second quarter points without the benefit of a single first down, got its act together to start the third quarter.

After converting a third-and-seven with a 20-yard screen pass from Taylor Kelly to D.J. Foster, Kelly hooked up with Jaelen Strong for 45 yards on the next play, taking the ball to the CU one-yard line. Kelly and Strong then finished the 75-yard drive with a one yard hookup, restoring order for the Sun Devils.

Arizona State 31, Colorado 14.

The Colorado offense had the opportunity to fold its tents after the quick ASU score, but instead retaliated. On a third-and-one at the 33-yard line, Christian Powell, lined up as a fullback, took off up the middle for a 56-yard run to the Arizona State 12-yard line. The Buffs, though, could not take advantage, settling for a 27-yard field goal to make it a 31-17 game.

The next Arizona State drive demonstrated how tantalizingly close the Buff defense was coming to being successful. The Buffs forced a third-and-five after the kickoff, only to have a pass interference call give ASU new life. Then, on third-and-ten, the Sun Devils completed a 12-yard pass. On the next play, quarterback Taylor Kelly went up the middle on a designed keeper for 50 yards and a touchdown.

Colorado then responded with a 12-play, 78-yard drive … but no points.

An 11-yard completion from Liufau to Fields on a third-and-eight kept the drive alive, with freshman wide receiver Donovan Lee, who earlier had lost seven yards on a reverse, going 45 yards on a similar play, setting up the Buffs at the Sun Devil 24-yard line. A five-yard completion to red-shirt freshman fullback George Frazier made it first-and-goal at the 12, but the Buffs would not score. On fourth-and-one at the ASU three, Phillip Lindsay was stopped for a one yard loss, returning the ball to the Sun Devils.

The CU defense forced a three-and-out, and, as the fourth quarter opened, the Buffs were at the Arizona State 40-yard line. A sack of Sefo Liufau got the Buffs out of position, with a fourth down pass giving the Sun Devils the ball back once again. Despite giving Arizona State the ball near midfield, the Colorado defense did force a punt … which was downed at the Colorado one yard line.

No problem.

Christian Powell went over 100 yards for the game on a 42-yard run, flipping the field for the Buff offense. After a roughing-the-passer penalty took the ball across midfield, Sefo Liufau found D.D. Goodson for an 11-yard gain on third-and-ten. A 31-yard touchdown pass from Liufau to Nelson Spruce completed the seven-play, 99-yard drive.

Arizona State 38, Colorado 24, with 8:38 to play.

The Buff defense, teeing off on backup quarterback Mike Bercovici (in for injured quarterback Taylor Kelly), forced a three-and-out, giving the Buffs the ball back at their 30-yard line.

There was still 6:46 remaining.

Time enough for a comeback? No.

After collecting a pair of first downs, the Buff offense faced a third-and-three at the ASU 40-yard line. There Liufau tried to force the ball into Nelson Spruce, with the ball being intercepted by linebacker Christian Sam.

Neither team was able to mount a threat the final five minutes of the game, with Jordan Gehrke coming in for the Buffs in the last series, going four-of-eight for 35 yards before the Buffs turned the ball over on downs near midfield.

Final score: No. 16 Arizona State 38, Colorado 24

“Wow. It really hurts, it really hurts,” said CU coach Mike MacIntyre. “Can’t turn the ball over, but we have to cause turnovers on defense. Our kids kept fighting, kept battling. We are improving, but golly that hurt. They are a really good football team, Arizona State, very athletic, very big, and I thought our guys kept fighting, kept battling. A couple third down stops we didn’t get. We have to get the ball in the end zone when we’re down there (in the Red Zone). We have to keep working on it, and find a way to get that done. But, I thought we flew around and fought and battle hard out there tonight”.

As to the Colorado defense, which “held” Arizona State below 40 points for the first time as a member of the Pac-12: “We’re getting better,” said MacIntyre. “Our athletes are starting to understand where to fit better, starting to understand what they see better, diagnosing quicker, tackling in space well, some good one-on-one tackles and getting them down. They are a bunch of young guys that are playing more and more and getting better”.

Colorado out-gained Arizona State, 545 yards to 426, including a remarkable 523-to-204 in the final three quarters. But it was a 222-to-22 advantage in the first quarter for the Sun Devils which led to a 17-0 cushion the Buffs were never able to overcome.

Game Notes –

– After posting 22 total yards in the first quarter, Colorado was consistent thereafter, posting 171 yards in the second, then 178 in the third, and 174 in the fourth.

– The 8:11 p.m. kickoff was the second latest for a home game in CU history (the 2007 game against Florida State had an 8:15 p.m. kickoff).

– Colorado is now 21-24-1 wearing all black uniforms … with nine straight losses.

– Two Buffs saw their first action for Colorado. True freshman wide receiver Donovan Lee had two carries on reverses, going for 38 combined yards, while red-shirt freshman offensive lineman Jonathan Huckins saw his first action, subbing for Jeromy Irwin at right tackle Jeromy Irwin (concussion, day-to-day).

– Michael Adkins’ fumble in the second quarter was the first of his career (125 carries; 142 touches all together).

– The seven-play, 99-yard drive by the Buffs in the fourth quarter was the seventh 99-yard touchdown drive in school history, the first since 2001.

– Nelson Spruce, with his two touchdowns, became the first Buff to ever post two scoring receptions in three consecutive games. After his seven-catch, 97-yard evening, Spruce moved into the top ten in career catches (ninth, with 123) and career yards (tenth, with 1,442).

– True freshman wide receiver Shay Fields set a new school record for most catches in the first three games of a career. His 21 catches was one better than the 20 Scotty McKnight posted in 2007 (the pair had shared the record for first game and first two games of a career).

– The attendance of 38,547 was the lowest for a conference home opener since 1985, when 38,604 were on hand for the Big Eight opener against Missouri (a 38-7 CU victory).

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4 Replies to “No. 16 ASU 38, Colorado 24”

  1. The one problem never discussed: the inability to execute ‘when it matters’.

    Alot of positives out of the game and the team; I support them 100%.They are improving. BUT…..what about ‘when it matters’ in a game? You know, within one score and still have a chance instead of down by three scores? That is on the coaching. Here is some constructive criticism. Cases in point:

    Offense
    1. Dont wait to be down 14 or 17 to show creativity on offense.
    2. If I can successfully predict 7 of 10 first down running plays from 1800 miles away, an opponent can watch film and do the same. BREAK TENDENCIES
    3. Lindgren……..beyond frustrated with his inability to scheme
    4. Red zone offense is abysmal; get Sefo on the move with a run/pass option, move the pocket
    5. Coach Mac failed big time in clock management at the end of the first half. No reason to go to halftime with 2 timeouts, no effort at a FG, and at a bare minimum, a hail mary to end the half. Lost points

    Defense
    1. Gap and man assignments are a problem at LB except for Gilliam. Need an upgrade here
    2. 3rd down defense is awful; must lead the nation in giving up 3rd and long conversion
    3. Not sure why some players are in no matter how many stupid penalties they make ( a certain DB, who I wont call out)
    4. We are still a step slow, but improving team speed
    5. Learn to shed blocks and dont run into a block, run into the guy with ball. Saw several safeties on contain run to the block and not try to avoid. Big yardage ensued

    In all, I liken the situation so far to learning to play an instrument: they know their keys, their chords, their notes……but they arent playing a song yet. Lindgren needs to get them there on O or step aside; Defense needs to fly around and get angry, then be smart with that aggression.

    Play a damn song already guys.

  2. I totally agree guys ,I didn`t get to watch the game but what I see here is that corner is is really close ,I wish i could have seen the game but tv program had us watching new mexio st and some one else . So what I have read makes happy about the team finally doing what a 1a team does even with the loss I am proud of them for showing they can play with the big boys and they will beat some by playing with this kind of effort. way to go Buffs .

  3. I was at the game. These kids played hard and fought through their miscues over and over. I could not help but realize how much they looked like the 93 Buffs out there. Kordell was still maturing and the team was losing games to big time opponents like Miami and Nebraska by only six or seven points after battling back from rookie mistakes and interceptions early.

    These kids are gonna win some games!

    What really bothered me was that a stadium that was packed early was two thirds empty half way through the third quarter. WTF Buff fans? Why did you leave? They were in the game until the bitter end. If Colorado is going to climb back into the top tier , they need real fans, not fair weather fans. The Buffs made me proud tonight. That was the best they have played against a ranked opponent since the 17-14 win over West Virginia and even though they lost this game, the team that lost was better than the team that beat WV.

    Go Buffs!

  4. Yo Stuart,

    It feels good to be a Buffalo again. I have no illusions that the Buffs are going to win all their games just yet. But I, like most of us, have been waiting for a long, long time for the Buffs to turn the corner and be competitive against good teams.

    The faith in Mike MacIntyre and his staff is now going to pay huge dividends. Arizona State is a very good team. They came in thinking that the Buffs would be a pushover yet again, and found out that the days when Colorado could be counted upon to put up token resistance were over.

    When the Devils smacked CU upside the head, the Buffs came back with uppercuts of their own. I was proud of the way the guys played and also proud of the game prep and play calling of the coaches.

    We’re not to the point yet where we can give up three turnovers and 14 points off of them and still expect to win. What I saw tonight though was something that has been missing for way too long, and that was some swagger. It was nice to see.

    I’m hoping that Mac and staff won’t let the guys sit on their laurels but will instead use the game as a springboard to better things. I want to see these guys continue to gel and improve and show that on a consistent basis throughout the rest of the season.

    Hawaii will be here next week. They have played tough in two close losses to Pac-12 teams. The Buffs cannot overlook these guys. If they can play hard and keep their momentum going, the Buffs can head to play Cal with their heads held high.

    Keep up the good work, young men. It’s nice to see your hard work pay off at least with statistics. Next in line is the final score.
    Go Buffs.

    Mark
    Boulderdevil

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