Buffs Rally Falls Short Vs. Arizona State
BOULDER — Colorado cut a 22-point deficit down to eight in the final quarter Saturday night, but couldn't complete the rally as the Buffaloes dropped a 42-34 decision to Arizona State at Folsom Field.
The Buffs, who recorded their highest point total of the season, fell to 1-7 overall and 1-4 in Pac-12 play while ASU improved to 3-5, 2-3.
The Buffs trailed 42-20 midway through the fourth period, but scored two quick touchdowns — one on a long scoring drive followed by an 88-yard punt return from Jordyn Tyson — to put a scare into the Sun Devils.
ASU, though, managed two first downs on its final offensive possession and was then able to run out the clock.
Colorado finished with 359 yards total offense (222 passing, 137 rushing). Tyson had five catches for a career-high 115 yards and a touchdown along with the punt return for a score. CU quarterback J.T. Shrout threw for 222 yards and a touchdown and running back Deion Smith ran for a career-best 111 yards and a score.
The Sun Devils finished with 557 yards total offense. ASU quarterback Trenton Bourguet threw for 435 yards and three touchdowns and Sun Devils running back Xazavian Valladay ran for 118 yards and three touchdowns.
"I want to commend our team for the fight and resolve they exhibited throughout the entirety of four quarters," said CU coach Mike Sanford, who dropped to 1-2 in his role as CU's interim boss. "We're at a place where I believe that the team is fighting. It's showing up on Saturdays. But obviously the missing link is playing that type of football when a defense gets a stop, the offense goes in and scores. Our offense goes and has a tremendous drive, the defense has to get a stop. Those are the things I believe we're going to piece together throughout the course of these next four weeks."
HOW IT HAPPENED: The Buffs put together their two highest-scoring halves of the season, tallying 17 points in the opening 30 minutes and matching that total in the final two quarters.
But Colorado's defense couldn't contain the Sun Devils' offense in the first half, as ASU scored touchdowns on four of its six first possessions to take a 28-17 lead at intermission.
ASU scored first, driving 64 yards in eight plays for a touchdown and 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.
The Buffs answered with a 49-yard Cole Becker field goal to pull CU to within 7-3, but the Sun Devils responded with another long drive. Arizona State quarterback Bourguet, making his first start of the season, directed a 75-play scoring drive, capping it with a 12-yard touchdown throw to give ASU a 14-3 lead.
Colorado, though, didn't go away quietly. The defense finally came up with a stop early in the second quarter and the offense followed with a 52-yard scoring march. Smith had a 25-yard run to boost the drive before Shrout threw a bullet to Montana Lemonious-Craig for a 7-yard touchdown to pull Colorado to within 14-10.
"I really think the first half was probably the best offensive football that we've played this season," Sanford said. "I was pleased with some of the playmaking and really pleased with the fact that we had a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver."
But the Sun Devils again had an answer to CU's first touchdown. ASU went 75 yards for its third touchdown of the game, with Valladay taking care of the last 42-yards for a touchdown.
Colorado stayed within striking distance by scoring two possessions later. On a third-and-12, Shrout scrambled to buy time, then hit Tyson with a 58-yard scoring toss. With 3:16 left in the half, Colorado's deficit was once again down to four, 21-17.
But that was more than enough time for the Sun Devils to extend their lead again. ASU went 75 yards in nine plays for the touchdown. CU had a chance to halt the drive on a third-and-10 throw, but a possible interception slipped through the arms of CU's Nikko Reed and the Sun Devils kept the march alive and took a 28-17 lead into halftime.
CU's defense made some adjustments at halftime and came up with a stop to open the second half.
But the Buffs couldn't move the ball and were forced to punt. ASU didn't let a second opportunity to build the lead get away, driving 53 yards in nine plays for a touchdown and 35-17 lead with 8:11 still to play in the third quarter.
Colorado cut the deficit to 15 later in the third period. After Trevor Woods intercepted Bourguet in ASU territory, the Buffs drove 35 yards before settling for a 27-yard Becker field goal to cut Arizona State's lead to 35-20.
CU had a chance to pull back within single digits on its next possession, driving to the Arizona State 37 after converting a fourth-and-1. But a flea-flicker throw by Shrout was intercepted by Arizona State and the Sun Devils turned the miscue into an 88-yard touchdown drive, with Bourguet throwing a 20-yard scoring pass to tight end Jaylin Conyers — their third scoring connection of the game — for a seemingly safe 42-20 lead.
But the Buffaloes wouldn't quit.
CU responded with a 14-play, 71-yard scoring drive. Shrout completed four passes on the march before Smith carried in from 1-yard out. The touchdown pulled CU to within 42-27 with 8:12 to play and gave Colorado its highest point total of the season.
Colorado's defense then forced an ASU punt and Tyson took the kick back 88 yards for a score. Tyson found a seam, broke into the open and then outran an ASU defender to the end zone. Colorado's extra point pulled the Buffaloes to within 42-34 with 3:50 still to play.
But Arizona State picked up two first downs on its next possession and the Buffaloes were forced to burn their final timeouts. The Sun Devils were then able to run out the clock and escape with the win.
"This team is gonna fight to the very end, and there will be a breakthrough and I believe that," Sanford said. "I think the process that we're going about, the players believe in it, they're seeing some of the fruits of their labor. And I think putting it all together, we're going to see that that'll come to fruition at some point."
TURNING POINT: The Buffaloes had a chance to swing momentum fully in their favor late in the second quarter after scoring a touchdown to pull within 21-17. But CU's defense couldn't produce a stop and the Sun Devils drove for a touchdown to build their lead back to double digits. Colorado couldn't close the gap until the final minutes and ASU was able to run out the clock for the win.
KEY STATISTIC: The Buffs gave up 557 yards total offense, including 435 in the air … Buffs QB J.T. Shrout completed just 38 percent of his passes (13-for-34) … ASU receivers had 215 yards after the catch, as Colorado was plagued by missed tackles, especially in the first half … The Sun Devils had 14 "chunk" plays — rushes of at least 10 yards and completions of at least 15 yards.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs remain mired in the Pac-12 basement with just one conference win, joined by Washington State, Cal, Arizona and Stanford.
UP NEXT: Colorado returns to Folsom next Saturday for a 1:30 p.m. game against Oregon (ESPN).