For a photo gallery of the game, click here.
It was a universal assumption that No. 16 Arizona State had Saturday night’s game against CU in the bag. Not even the hype surrounding a South Park-themed surprise — which turned out to be Cartman introducing Ralphie — could quell the pessimism surrounding what seemed a ridiculously uneven matchup. After a disastrous first quarter for Colorado, which saw the Sun Devils leading 14-0 early on, it looked like things would play out as originally anticipated. But the Buffs surprised their conference rivals and gave them a run for their money, eventually falling 38-24.
Colorado saw tremendous improvement on both sides of the ball after the first quarter, something that head coach Mike MacIntyre pointed out after the game.
“Our kids kept fighting, kept battling,” he said. “We are improving, but [Arizona State] is a very good football team. They’re very athletic, very big…We have to get the ball in the end zone down there. We’ve been working on it, and we got to keep working on it.”
When Las Vegas predicted a 17-point spread in Arizona State’s favor this week, most fans thought that was generous. But the Buffs showed a lot of heart and fight on the field, managing to only stay within 14 points of the Sun Devils by the end of the night.
During the postgame press conference, sophomore quarterback Sefo Liufau said that he believed the Buffs had it in them to run away with an upset victory, and attributed two interceptions and one fumble as reasons for the loss.
“We should have won, point blank,” Liufau said. “[We had] too many turnovers, too many mistakes. We should have beat that team.”
The Buffs got off to a rough start in the first half. In the first quarter alone, the Sun Devils gained 222 total yards with 11 first downs. The Buffs only managed to gain 22 total yards on one first down. But everything changed in the second quarter when the Buffs gained some confidence in both their offense and their defense.
In the first 55 seconds of the second quarter, Colorado’s defense was able to stop the Sun Devils and hold them to a field goal. On Colorado’s first possession, Liufau moved the offense well for the first time in the game and connected with freshman wide receiver Shay Fields for a 4-yard touchdown. The scoreboard then read 17-7, Arizona State.
Colorado’s defense capitalized on the newfound confidence and stopped the Sun Devils on a three-and-out in their next two possessions. Liufau then led his offense to another successful drive. On the final play of the possession, Liufau connected with junior receiver Nelson Spruce for another 15-yard touchdown: 17-14, Arizona State.
But their scoring stint died when the offense fumbled the ball inside their own 20 yard line several plays later. After the game, Liufau noted, “It was definitely a momentum-killer. You don’t want to turn the ball over, especially inside your own 20.”
That was the closest the score would get. For the remainder of the first half and for the entire third quarter, Colorado’s defense fell apart again. They allowed the Sun Devils to score 21 more points by the middle of the second half, while their offense only put up an additional three.
Then came the final rally. In the fourth quarter, despite the growing scarcity of faces in the CU student section, the Buffs found the strength to fight back. Their defense didn’t let Arizona State score another point, and the offense scraped together one last touchdown.
By the end of the night, the Buffs actually put up better numbers than their fiery rivals. Once Colorado’s defense clicked, they wouldn’t let Arizona State move the ball hardly at all. The Sun Devils finished with 426 total offensive yards, meaning they only gained 204 after the first quarter, while the Buffs finished with 545. You read that right. The Buffs gained 545 yards during the game, and they were distributed well between passing and rushing.
“The guys fought all game, you can’t take that away from us,” Liufau said. “We moved the ball up and down the field, our defense made plenty of stops. Like I said earlier, we should have won that game, flat out. That’s how I feel and that’s how the whole team feels.”
Colorado will face the University of Hawaii at noon, next Saturday, Sept. 27 on Folsom Field.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Alissa Noe at Alissa.Noe@colorado.edu.