Sun Devils stage fourth quarter comeback, beat Colorado 41-30
By Michael Baron // Football Beat Writer for Blaze Sports
TEMPE, AZ On Salute to Service Night in Tempe, the Sun Devils outscored the Colorado Buffaloes 24-3 in the final 15 minutes of play and won 41-30 on Saturday night.
With the victory, ASU captured its fourth Pac-12 Conference win and fourth “W” at home.
“I’m really proud of how they played, coming from behind, the character and the toughness that they showed,” ASU head coach Todd Graham said. “Got it done kind of the old-fashioned way. It was just a whole team effort.”
With members of the armed forces on hand at Sun Devil Stadium, ASU started slow, but began to take control of the game thanks to a dominant fourth-quarter run game. Senior running back Demario Richard led the way for the Devils rushing-wise, garnering 189 yards on 25 carries.
“In the fourth quarter, I already know what time it is when the game is close,” Richard said. “That’s why I work my tail off at practice. That’s the key to being great.”
In all, ASU put up 381 rushing yards, including 191 yards in the final 15 minutes. The 381 total rushing yards was the highest since September 2014.
“In that second half and especially the fourth quarter, we just simply ran the ball with a different attitude,” redshirt junior quarterback Manny Wilkins said. “It was a statement for us.”
“I think our whole game plan was about running the football,” Graham said. “We just feel like our formula for winning games is to control the ball and to control how many snaps we play on defense. I think we’ve gotten better and better. It was something I think [coach] Billy [Napier] did a great job being patient with.”
ASU took the lead for the first time when freshman running back Eno Benjamin spun and drove his way 18 yards for a score. ASU took a 34-30 lead with 5:33 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“He’s got something and it’s very unique. He’s really different from the other backs,” Graham said. “We have to get [Eno] more snaps. It’s just hard because it’s a pretty deep backfield.”
That lead would hold up, as on ASU’s next offensive drive, the Sun Devils traveled 85 yards down the field in seven plays and Wilkins put the game away with a 1-yard run for the score. The score came with just 46 seconds left in the fourth.
Earlier in the game, the Buffaloes seemed to have the upper hand over the Devils as Colorado’s Phillip Lindsay ran into the end zone untouched from six yards out to give the Buffs a 10-0 lead with 11:46 remaining in the first half.
Wilkins and the Sun Devil offense came to life later in the second quarter, as the redshirt junior quarterback fired two touchdown passes to close the half. One was to sophomore wide receiver N’Keal Harry from 20 yards out and the other a 25-yard pass to fellow sophomore WR Kyle Williams, the latter with seven seconds remaining in the first half.
“Simply our mindset is always take what the defense gives us,” Wilkins said. “You keep picking away, eventually they’ll give you the game.”
The third quarter saw the Buffaloes go up by double digits again as Colorado quarterback Steven Montez located wide receiver Shay Fields on a 54-yard TD strike. The score was 27-17 CU with 4:55 remaining in the third.
But perhaps the turning point of the game came on a special teams play. Colorado was forced to punt from their own 35-yard line, but ASU’s Khaylan Thomas blocked the punt and the ball only traveled six yards.
That set the Sun Devils up with excellent field position at the Colorado 40-yard line and seven plays later, ASU tied the game up 27 with 8:38 left in the fourth quarter when Richard carried five yards for his lone score of the night. From there, the Sun Devils would outscore the Buffaloes 14-3 to seal the comeback victory.
“I’m really proud of Demario Richard,” Graham said. “He’s really emerged as the leader of our team. It’s just the absolute relentless way he runs the football.”
ASU finished with 583 total yards while Colorado racked up 454 yards.
“I knew we had to score more than 30 points,” Graham said. “But I think we wore them down. I’m really proud of our offensive line. I think our offensive line really dominated and really took a big step forward.”
Containing the Run
Entering tonight’s game, Lindsay was the fourth top rusher in FBS D-I. The Sun Devil defense held him to just 80 yards on 23 carries with his longest carry of the night being seven yards.
“I thought coach [Phil] Bennett did a tremendous job,” Graham said. “[Lindsay] is really special. I thought we made some great adjustments at halftime.”
As a team, the Buffaloes were limited to 109 yards on the ground.
What’s Next for ASU
ASU will begin the last road trip of the year this coming Saturday, when the Sun Devils face Josh Rosen and the UCLA Bruins in Pasadena, California. It is the first of two Pac-12 Conference road games. Kickoff from the Rose Bowl is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. MST with the game being carried right here on Blaze Radio with Braiden Bell and Eliav Gabay on the call.