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September 21st – at Arizona State          Colorado 34, No. 24 Arizona State 31

Colorado snapped a 29-game road losing streak against ranked teams, taking down No. 24 Arizona State in Tempe, 34-31. Steven Montez went 23-for-30 for 337 yards and three touchdowns, with all three scoring passes going to Tony Brown. The senior wide receiver collected nine passes in all, going for a career-high for 150 yards, with Alex Fontenot gaining 89 yards on 25 carries to lead the rushing attack.

The Buffs posted 447 yards of total offense, surrendering 453 to the Sun Devils. The CU defense remained consistent, giving up 31 points for the third time in four games (giving up, oddly enough, 30 points in the lone loss of the season). The victory not only gave CU its first win over a ranked team since defeating UCLA 31-20 in the Rose Bowl in 2002, it also gave the Buffs their first win in six attempts against the Sun Devils in Tempe, and a 2-0 record against ranked teams in the fourth game of the Mel Tucker era.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” Tucker said. “It was a hard-fought win for us. We had some injuries but guys stepped up. It was that next man mentality. It was a team win, offense, defense, special teams, everyone pitched in. I’m proud of our coaches getting these guys to play coming off a very tough loss to Air Force and it’s just a credit to the competitive character of this football team.”

Game Story … For the second week in a row, CU won the coin toss to open the game. For the second week in a row, the Buffs opted to take the opening kickoff.

And, for the second week in a row, the decision paid off.

It appeared as if the Buffs might be facing a three-and-out to open the game, but quarterback Steven Montez hit wide receiver Dimitri Stanley for a 17-yard gain on third-and-three to move the chains. A ten-yard completion to Tony Brown and a 23-yard completion to Laviska Shenault gave CU a first-and-goal at the ASU eight, with Alex Fontenot taking it in from a yard out two plays later to give the Buffs a 7-0 lead five minutes into the game.

The Arizona State offense quickly responded, with a 33-yard completion from quarterback Jayden Daniels to Jordan Kerley taking the ball into CU territory. A 24-yard run by Eno Benjamin looked to have the Sun Devils set up at the Buff one-yard line, but a clipping penalty moved the ball back to the CU 40-yard line. Two plays later, kicker Christian Zendejas missed a 48-yard field goal attempt. The Buff defense had held, but at a price, as star defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson, the victim of the clipping penalty, was lost for the remainder of the game.

Taking over at their 30, the Buff offense again avoided a three-and-out when Steven Montez connected with Alex Fontenot for a 15-yard gain on third-and-14. A few plays later, Fontenot again kept the drive alive with a five-yard run on third-at-two at the ASU 40. On the third third down of the drive, this time a third-and-four at the ASU 29, Montez scrambled away from pressure, then lofted a short pass to Tony Brown, who did the rest himself. The 29-yard touchdown pass gave Colorado a 14-0 lead with 1:18 remaining in the first quarter.

On ASU’s second possession of the game, the Sun Devils did not stumble. The Arizona State offense covered 76 yards in eight plays, with the final 53 being covered on a Jayden Daniels to Brandon Aiyuk bomb. Colorado 14, Arizona State 7, two minutes into the second quarter.

The ensuing kickoff was returned to the Buff 44-yard line … where K.D. Nixon fumbled the ball back to the Sun Devils.

It took seven plays for the Sun Devils to tie the score, with Eno Benjamin taking it over from the one-yard line. With 10:41 still to play in the second quarter, it was a new game, with the scored tied at 14-14.

Given the ball for the first time since scoring to make it 14-0, the Buff offense needed only six plays to reclaim the lead.

K.D. Nixon, who had fumbled the previous kickoff return, returned his second kickoff opportunity 38 yards to set the Buffs up at their 39-yard line. An 18-yard completion from Montez to Nixon set the Buffs up at the ASU 43-yard line. It took the Buffs four plays to pick up the next first down, with Alex Fontenot picking up three yards on fourth-and-one at the Sun Devil 34-yard line. On the next play, Montez connected with Tony Brown for the second time on the night. The 31-yard touchdown pass gave the Buffs a 21-14 advantage, with 8:45 still to play before halftime.

The Sun Devils then took ten plays to cover 75 yards to again tie the score.

The big play of the drive was an 18-yard completion from Daniels to Aiyuk on third-and-ten at the CU 35-yard line. Three plays later, ASU running back Eno Benjamin posted his second touchdown of the game, this time from three yards out. Colorado 21, Arizona State 21. with 5:23 remaining.

The Buffs then put together a time-consuming drive to run out the first half clock, with the offense using 12 plays to cover 63 yards to reclaim the lead. A 15-yard completion from Montez to Nixon converted a third-and-three before a 14-yard completion to Dimitri Stanley converted a third-and-five to keep the chains moving. The drive stalled, however, inside the ASU ten yard line. With 28 seconds remaining before the break, kicker James Stefanou hit a 25-yard field goal to give CU back the lead.

Halftime score: Colorado 24, No. 24 Arizona State 21

After a half of unchecked offense, the defenses opened the third quarter asserting themselves.

Arizona State punted for the first time in the game four plays into its opening drive, with the Buffs returning the favor soon thereafter. The Colorado offense held onto the ball for six plays, but also brought in the punting unit for first time in the game on its opening drive.

The ASU offense then pieced together a 14-play, 81-yard drive, taking up 7:20 of the third quarter … but failed to take the lead. The Sun Devils converted two third downs with gains of ten and 19 yards, but the third third down of the drive was not converted. Facing a third-and-two at the CU four-yard line, Eno Benjamin was denied his third rushing touchdown when Darrion Rakestraw, in at safety for the injured Aaron Maddox, stopped Benjamin for a loss. ASU kicker Christian Zendejas snuck a 23-yarder inside the right upright to tie the score, at 24-24, with 3:42 left in the third quarter.

A well-rested Buff offense needed only five plays to retake the lead for a third time.

Two runs by Alex Fontenot netted 21 yards before Steven Montez hit K.D. Nixon for 35 yards to the ASU nine-yard line. After a holding call put the ball back at the 20, Montez returned to Tony Brown for the third time on the night, with the 20-yard touchdown giving the Buffs the lead back, at 31-24, with 1:10 remaining in the third.

Undaunted by CU’s five-play touchdown drive, the ASU offense posted a five-play touchdown drive of their own. The cap to the drive was a 39-yard touchdown from Jayden Daniels to Frank Darby. Colorado 31, Arizona State 31, with 13:51 to play in the game.

The ensuing Buff drive got off to a good start, with Montez hitting K.D. Nixon for an 18-yard gain, but Nixon was called for unsportsmanlike conduct on the play, negating the gain. Three plays later, the Buffs were in punt formation, with the Sun Devils getting the ball at their 30-yard line after a 37-yard punt by Alex Kinney.

Taking the ball for the first time with the game tied, the ASU offense set out to take the lead for the first time on the warm (91-degrees at kickoff) evening. A 26-yard completion from Jayden Daniels to Jordan Kerley set up the Sun Devils at the CU 33-yard line. On the next play, however, safety Derrion Rakestraw gave CU its only turnover of the game, intercepting the Daniels offering at the Buff 24-yard line.

Taking the momentum of Daniels’ first interception of the season, the Buff offense … went three-and-out, giving the ball back to the Sun Devils at their 29-yard line.

The ASU offense responded … with a three-and-out of its own, with the Buff defensive stand gaving the CU offense the ball back at its own 16-yard line with 6:50 left to play.

The Buffs’ drive opened well enough, with a 21-yard completion from Montez to Tony Brown. Facing a third-and-three at CU 44-yard line, Alex Fontenot went up the middle for five yards and a first down. Two plays later, the Buffs faced a third-and-three at the ASU 44, with Montez hitting K.D. Nixon for 18 yards and a first down. On a third-and-six at the ASU 27, however, Montez threw high on a pass intended for Maurice Bell, forcing a fourth down. James Stefanou, who had yet to miss on the season, hit a 44-yard field goal. Colorado 34, Arizona State 31.

The Sun Devils took over with 2:03 to play, with three time outs in their pocket.

Yet another tough loss seemed in the offing for a CU team which had gone 0-5 in Tempe, but … the CU defense rose to the occasion. After two incompletions by Jayden Daniels, Buff defensive lineman Terrance Lang posted CU’s first and only sack of the night, forcing a fourth-and-16. The Buff defensive line again pressured Daniels on the fourth down play, forcing a bad pass and a turnover on downs.

CU took over at the ASU 19 with 1:39 to play, and while the Buff offense did not post a first down, it did force the Sun Devils to use their final two time outs. With 34 seconds to play, James Stefanou hit a 34-yard field goal to make it a 37-31 game … but … an ASU defender roughed holder Alex Kinney on the attempt. The personal foul gave the Buffs a first down, and that was the ballgame. One kneel down later, and the Buffs had a victory.

Final score: Colorado 34, No. 24 Arizona State 31

“I’m just so proud of our team as a whole and our offense as a whole”, said Steven Montez, whose 347 yards passing game him 8,005 for his career, just the second Buff to surpass 8,000 yards (Sefo Liufau: 9,568). “It was just an overall team win. Everybody chipped in, everybody did their job, everybody executed. And that’s why we got positive results.”

The Buffs out-gained the Sun Devils on the evening, 475 total yards to 453, (the first time in 2019 that CU actually out-gained its opponent) but the average per play was 6.8 yards for both teams (CU ran 70 plays to ASU’s 67) showed just how close the game was. CU never trailed, but lead for only 33:49, meaning that for 26:11 of game clock, the teams were tied.

“We believe in our players, our coaching staff and the players believe in us and what we’re doing,” said Mel Tucker, joining Rick Neuheisel as the only CU coaches to post victories in their first two games against ranked teams. “They’ve been bought in since December 5th when I got here. Credit to our players those are the guys out there doing it, and getting it done and they stepped up and continued to make plays on both sides of the ball and special teams.”

Game Notes …

— The game left Arizona State with an 8-3 all-time advantage in the series with Colorado, but the Buffs posted their third win in four years overall, and their first back-to-back wins against the Sun Devils;

— The temperature at kickoff (91-degrees) was only the eighth-warmest kickoff for a game in CU history (two games, including one against ASU, measured 102-degrees at kickoff);

— The win raised CU’s record in Pac-12 openers to 4-5, and 82-42-2 all-time in conference lid-lifters;

— Mel Tucker raised his record against ranked teams to 2-0, equaling the number of wins over ranked teams for the Buffs … over the previous nine seasons;

— The Colorado offensive line did not allow a sack (equaling the effort against CSU). In the first four games of the 2019 season, the Buff offensive line did not allow a second half sack to any opponent;

— Tony Brown, with nine catches for 150 yards, three touchdowns and seven first downs receiving, posted career highs in all four categories;

— Steven Montez started his 31st career game (15-16), tying him with Kordell Stewart for the fifth-most starts by a quarterback in CU history. Montez had 337 yards passing, making him the second CU quarterback (Sefo Liufau, 9,568) with over 8,000 career passing yards (8,005);

— K.D. Nixon (six catches for 98 yards) moved into position (at 948 career yards) to become the 31st Buff with over 1,000 career receiving yards;

— Sophomore defensive tackle Janez Jordan earned his first career start;

— James Stefanou remained perfect in field goal attempts for the season (6-for-6). His 44-yard game-winner came at the 2:08 mark, the latest for a CU game-winning field goal since Kevin Eberhart nailed a 45-yarder as time expired to defeat No. 3 Oklahoma, 27-24, in 2007.

*Video highlights from YouTube, courtesy of BuffsTV:

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8 Replies to “Colorado 34, No. 24 Arizona State 31”

  1. Awesome win. I made my first comments about Montez last week but he had an absolutely great game and was in the zone. Glad to eat the words. I like the consistency and players stepping up and not blinking. No doubt about the heart and the culture Tucker is building.

  2. WARNING

    If you are a football team and ranked #24 in the polls…………………….
    Don’t play the Mighty Buffs.

    3-1………………………
    Bye week………..
    8 to go…………………
    to be bowl eligible………………
    win 3 of 8………………..
    4 home games……..
    4 away games

    Go Buffs

    Note: Bowl game

  3. Yo Stuart,
    It was a great, warm night to be in Tempe. We ran into a lot of Colorado fans proudly wearing our school colors.
    It was a wonderful win. Mel Tucker is 2-0 against ranked teams. What a difference a new coach can make!
    Is this a great team yet? No, but they are learning to battle all game long.
    All I really expected was hoping to see them respond from their lackadaisical loss to Air Force.
    The Buffs made me proud today.

    Mark
    goldenbuffs.com

  4. Everyone that was trashing Montez last week… He had an amazing game. Only one bad throw really (the overthrow to bell that might have iced the game earlier).

    This was a phyrric victory though. A very dirty cheap shop on Mustafa. Whatever the hell happened to Viska. Abrams and Miller injured.

    ASU was doing dirty stuff after tackles all night. Twisting ankles, diving on top of piles after whistle was blown, intentionally dirty clip blocks. I’m disgusted by Herm Edwards.

    1. I saw that, I was yelling at all the dirty crap ASU was pulling and then not seeing any flags. And Montez did take a beating. I personally bashed the DBs, they had a better game but not great. Was just glad to see them less confused. I can’t believe how badly this bye is needed

    2. Congrats to Montez he played a great game. Yes I was critical last week.
      You could see ASU getting worn down in the 4th quarter. I love that this Buffs team is consistently doing that to opponents.
      The Mustafa hit? I was thinking the same thing. Any other team I would think it was random bad luck. Not the sun devils. MInd you I’m an Arizona alum (in addition to CU) and I have 35 years of pent up dislike for ASU.

  5. Some notes that may not get mentioned: Coaching staff managed the time perfectly all game and made all of the right decisions. Yes, get the points before half! Yes, call the time out before you get a delay of game in a critical 3rd down. The backups that were forced into action played pretty darn well. Passes in the middle of the field. (That drove me nuts about the last coaching staff.)

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