(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
For as much as the “trap game” narrative was littered all over Arizona State’s matchup with Colorado in Sun Devil Stadium, ASU come out quickly and dominated the majority of the game on its way to a 48-23 win over the Buffaloes.
Things got off to a strange note on ASU’s first drive as a fumble by sophomore running back Demario Richard led to an opportunistic scoop-and-score by ASU redshirt junior tight end Kody Kohl.
“It was six points, so we’ll take it,” redshirt senior quarterback Mike Bercovici said.
ASU would follow that drive with an interception by freshman safety Kareem Orr that set up a touchdown pitch-and-catch from Bercovici to Kohl, and ASU found itself up 14-0 five minutes into the game.
“It’s really important that we start fast,” ASU head coach Todd Graham said. “Obviously, I think we’re a team that plays well from ahead.”
The Sun Devils ended the first quarter with a stellar special teams play by redshirt freshman Dasmond Tautalatasi, who blocked and recovered a punt that allowed junior kicker Zane Gonzalez to convert from 22 yards, giving ASU a 17-7 lead.
“He’s (Tautalatasi) phenomenal,” Graham said. “He’s really a special teams demon. He does a great job on special teams for us. I think our special teams has steadily gotten better and better and better.”
ASU would keep things rolling as Bercovici found redshirt junior Tim White with a beautiful pass for a 38-yard touchdown that stretched the lead to 24-7 with 14:13 to go in the second quarter.
White would add another touchdown to his night after a deflection by Colorado junior cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon landed right in White’s hands, which he took 45-yards to the house.
Coupled with ASU’s best offensive output this season, the defense kept Colorado under wraps for the majority of the night. The Sun Devils were putting constant pressure on Colorado junior quarterback Sefo Liufau, sacking him eight times. Liufau finished with 25-for-40 for 389 yards. ASU also did well to minimize the impact of redshirt senior wideout Nelson Spruce, who tallied a quiet six catches.
ASU redshirt senior Devilbacker Antonio Longino shined brightest, finishing with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
“We’ve adapted what we’re doing to what he (Longino) does well,” Graham said. “I think he’s played really well. He played really well last week (against UCLA), and I thought tonight was his best game of his career.”
It wasn’t a perfect performance for ASU by any means as the defense allowed three completions of over 40 yards, but it was strong nonetheless. Pressure caused turnovers and mistakes by Colorado, which is exactly what Graham wants to see from his team.
Offensively, the Sun Devils performed as well as the scoreline would suggest. ASU was in rhythm all night long while putting up the most points in a single game this season, and Bercovici tied his career high with five touchdown passes, going 21-for-30 and 260 yards on the night.
Bercovici also fed the ball to six separate receivers, led by White, who caught seven passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns. It was White’s first 100-yard receiving game for the Sun Devils, and his impact continues to grow week-to-week.
“I think he’s (White) improved every week as a returner,” Graham said. “I think he’s getting better with his route running. He’s a guy that I love getting him the ball quickly where he can have time to do things with it… He’s really a smart kid. He’s doing a good job, so I think he’s no doubt one of our go-to guys.”
Most importantly, ASU came away with a win, putting the Sun Devils at 2-1 in Pac-12 play before it heads to Salt Lake City to take on No. 5 Utah. After the beatdown ASU received at the hands of USC two weeks ago, to be where the Sun Devils are at now bodes well for progress that could be made as the season progresses.
“This is the grind,” Graham said. “This is the kind of time of year that you got to grind. You got to fight to stay relevant, so every week it’s like a single-elimination tournament.”
The first half of the season has been an up-and-down roller coaster for the Sun Devils, but through six games, a 4-2 record is nothing to scoff at when considering the level of play in the conference.
“We have dealt with adversity,” Bercovici said. “We’re excited about the situation. We’re more hungry now that we do have those two losses, and we’ve already moved past it.”
Utah will be the second top-10 team ASU will play on the road, the last being then-No. 7 UCLA, and ASU will look to duplicate the results from Pasadena when it heads to Salt Lake City. While ASU maintains its “1-0” mentality and attitude, it isn’t oblivious to the importance of performance.
“This has been a great year,” Graham said. I’ve had a lot of fun. To get kicked in the gut and knocked down and then go over to LA and win like that, that’s pretty cool. I kind of like that. I’d rather just win them all and make it easy, but we’re not quite there yet.
“I realize that people are going to love you when you win, and they’re not going to love you – and they should not love you – when you lose, period,” Graham said.
You can reach Zac Pacleb on Twitter @ZacPacleb or via email at email@example.com