Rashad Ross may have a permanent job as a kick returner.
Colorado surged at the end of the half, scoring 10 points in 24 seconds, giving them a manageable 20-17 deficit. Their new life, however, was deflated in 11 seconds by Ross. On the kickoff to begin the third quarter, Ross took over for Jamal Miles, who fumbled at the end of the second quarter, and returned it 100 yards for the score, giving the Sun Devils a 27-17, essentially negating Colorado’s late drive. From that point on, ASU maintained its lead and never looked back, cruising to a 51-17 final.
ASU fans have become accustomed to early scoring, and the Sun Devils did not disappoint. On the second drive of the game QB Taylor Kelly connected with a 37-yard pass to give them a 6-0 lead (the extra point was blocked). In addition to early points becoming commonplace, they are also crucial. ASU is 4-1, and not so coincidentally they have scored first in 4 of their 5 games.
Redshirt sophomore QB Taylor Kelly has been exceptional all season, and even the ESPN broadcasters covering tonight’s game began to notice. “He knows where to go with the football,” they said after a perfect three-play drive that included three consecutive completions and a touchdown. All night he was a pocket quarterback when he needed to be, he ran out to the flats, or just tucked and ran.
He ended the day 20-28 for 308 yards and a career high five touchdowns, adding 67 yards on the ground. He also improved upon his excellent passer efficiency rating, which now stands at 175.9, good for 6th in the FBS. His favorite receiver tonight was Marion Grice, who had five receptions for 101 yards and three TDs.
In case the bye week caused anyone to forget, Will Sutton reintroduced himself to opposing offenses. He spent the evening getting another sack, as well as multiple tackles for loss and making himself as much of a fixture in the Colorado pocket as the quarterback was. Aiding the defensive cause with sacks were Brandon Magee (two), Alden Darby, and Sean O’Grady. Other than the closing seconds of the first half, the defensive unit as a whole was stellar, allowing only 255 total yards, 75 on the ground in 32 attempts, an average of 2.3 yards per rush.
The only life Colorado showed was at the end of the second quarter. They made the choice to go for it on a 4th and 4 with under a minute to go at the ASU 43 yard line. They converted, and two plays later were able to put 7 on the board with a 20 yard pass from Jordan Webb to Nick Kasa. The conversion was crucial, as the ESPN announcers noted that they did not want to punt, citing ASU’s ability to score quickly, and that the Devils were set to receive the kickoff at halftime.
On the ensuing kickoff after the touchdown, Jamal Miles fumbled, giving the Buffaloes the ball on a short field, which led to a free 3 points on a field goal as time expired. The 4th down conversion and ASU special teams gaffe led to 10 points, and ASU only led by 3 at the half. Worrisome to say the least for the Sun Devils, but fortunately for them, Ross’ return was a dagger to the hearts of Colorado for the duration of the game.
It was a game that ASU needed to come into Boulder and dominate, and that’s exactly what they did. Next week they face arguably the toughest challenge they will all year, a home “blackout” against the Oregon Ducks. Tonight they improved to 3-0 in conference, 5-1 overall, taking care of business against the Colorado Buffaloes with a 51-17.