Todd Graham pretty much summed up Arizona State’s 54-13 win over Colorado on Saturday with this line:
“We dominated them probably as bad as they’ve been dominated this year.”
The Sun Devils (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) dominated the Buffaloes (2-3, 0-3) in all three phases just as they were expected to while holding them to a season-low 13 points and just 85 offensive yards in the first half. It was Colorado’s second straight 41-point loss.
The win obviously has to be taken with a grain of salt given the opponent, but it was an important step regardless as the Devils continue toward their goals of winning the Pac-12 South and playing for a Rose Bowl berth.
ASU was already talking more about the next step Saturday night: No. 20 Washington visits next week. So while the Sun Devils have already put the win over the Buffaloes to bed, here we take one more look back at the dominant performance.
This one turned early. Like, first-quarter early. On ASU’s first two series, it needed 10 total plays to take a 15-0 lead. The game was pretty much over at that point. The Sun Devils led 25-0 after a quarter and went into the half up 47-6. OFFENSIVE MVP
Running back Marion Grice. Already the nation’s touchdown leader with 13 entering the night, Grice added two more Saturday on 134 total yards. Only playing the first half, Grice finished with an 8.9-yards-per-touch average. He now leads the nation in rushing touchdowns (10) and still leads the nation in scoring (15.0 points per game). He also moved into sixth on ASU’s career touchdowns list with 34. DEFENSIVE MVP
Linebacker Carl Bradford. After the game Saturday, Bradford admitted he’d been a little frustrated by his slow start, at least from a statistical standpoint. He added to the numbers a bit against Colorado with four tackles, 2 1/2 tackle for loss (including 1 1/2 sacks) and a forced fumble. It was his pressure that caused Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau to commit an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone, leading to a safety.
THREE THINGS WE LEARNED
— ASU has its priorities straight. The Sun Devils knew this game was a must-win, even it was against struggling Colorado, and it was clear they approached it that way. They never left room for doubt, putting the Buffs away early. And then they celebrated quite briefly.
There was as much talk — perhaps more — after the game about Washington as there was Colorado. ASU knew it had taken care of business and was ready to move on quickly to what will be a much tougher task.
The same should be expected next week if ASU can beat Washington. With no margin for error in what Todd Graham has taken to calling a “single-elimination tournament” for the Pac-12 South, there is little time to waste celebrating a win when another game awaits, even if the Sun Devils to have a bye week after playing the Huskies.
— The defense can still create pressure. After four straight games against top-tier offensive lines, ASU’s defensive front finally had the chance to break through and display some of the pressure that it thrived on last season.
Certainly, some of the pressure ASU was able to create Saturday had to do with playing Colorado, but it was still impressive. ASU recorded seven tackles for loss, including three sacks, and had Colorado quarterbacks under pressure all night. That pressure played a large part in forcing Connor Wood’s interception to Lloyd Carrington, the first of three interceptions for the Sun Devils. ASU also forced a fumble, which it recovered.
The game should be a confidence booster for the front seven, though they say they did not need one. This should also be more the norm going forward. The Sun Devils will face another tough offensive line or two, but the toughest are behind them. If ASU can get back to consistently getting pressure in the backfield like it did last season, the defense should look more like what fans got used to seeing last year.
— Colorado is still a ways away from competing. Based on early results, Mike MacIntyre has the Buffs playing with more confidence, but that only goes so far. From a talent and competition standpoint, Colorado is still a long ways from being a factor in the Pac-12.
Colorado only had one edge over ASU on Saturday: punting. Other than that, the Buffs were far, far behind the Sun Devils, which puts them even further behind the conference’s elite teams. It may take three seasons alone just to get Colorado bowl eligible and even longer to return to national relevance.
WHERE THEY STAND
After Saturday’s dominant win that saw ASU play its starters for just a half, the Sun Devils moved up in nearly every category nationally. Here’s where ASU stands after six games:
— Total offense: 18th with 496.5 yards per game, which is fifth in the Pac-12 (down from 15th) — Total defense: 45th with 372.2 yards allowed per game (up from 59th) — Scoring offense: 10th with 44.2 points per game (up from 11th) — Scoring defense: 70th with 27.2 points allowed per game (up from 80th) — Rushing defense: 76th with 168.8 rushing yards allowed per game, which ranks ninth in the Pac-12 (up from 92nd) — Passing defense: 31st with 203.3 passing yards allowed per game (up from 36th) — Fewest penalty yards per game: 13th with 34.17 penalty yards per game (up from 15th)
ODDS AND ENDS
— ASU is now 4-0 at home this season and 8-2 at Sun Devil Stadium under Todd Graham. ASU has gone undefeated at home just once in the past 16 seasons (6-0 in 2004).
— Wide receiver Jaelen Strong posted his fifth straight game of 100 or more receiving yards, finishing with 109 yards on three receptions. His first catch of the night came across the middle in traffic, from which Strong pulled away for a 69-yard touchdown. His 678 yards through six games are more than ASU’s leading true receiver had all of last season (610).
— Safety Damarious Randall grabbed his first interception after dropping one against Notre Dame and then saying this on Tuesday: “I don’t want to call it, but I’m planning on getting one this week against Colorado.”
— ASU’s 25 first-quarter points were the program’s most since the 2002 team scored 28 in the first quarter against Stanford. ASU has now scored first in 16 of 19 games under Graham, going 11-5 in those games.
— Freshman placekicker Zane Gonzalez is now 11 for 14 on field goals this season after making kicks of 26, 41 and 20 yards. The 41-yarder was a career long. With 10.5 points per game, Gonzalez ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring.
— Defensive end Davon Coleman lined up as a fullback and caught a one-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. It was his first career reception and first career touchdown.
— While discussing Coleman’s use on offense, Graham mentioned the possibility of using tight end De’Marieya Nelson on defense as a pass rusher at some point.
— Defensive tackle Will Sutton committed the team’s second personal foul of the season in the first quarter when he hit Colorado quarterback Connor Wood after a false start had ended the play.
— By forcing four turnovers, ASU raised its turnover margin to plus-7 this season. The Sun Devils are outscoring opponents 62-28 on points off turnovers.