TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) – Colorado managed to stay close to No. 2 Oregon last week before fading.
The Buffaloes never stood a chance against Arizona State.
Struggling on both sides of the ball against the fired-up Sun Devils, Colorado trailed by 25 points in the first quarter and never recovered in a 54-13 loss to Arizona State on Saturday night.
“We talked about starting fast against power teams like this and we didn’t do that,” Colorado receiver Nelson Spruce said. “After that it’s hard to recover I think.”
Colorado (2-3, 0-3) kept it close against Arizona State in Boulder last season before being outscored 31-0 in the second half.
The Sun Devils nearly matched that in the first quarter and never let up on the Buffaloes, forcing four turnovers while sending them to their 11th straight Pac-12 loss.
Colorado replaced quarterback Connor Wood in the first quarter after an interception and freshman Sefo Liufau wasn’t much better, throwing two more interceptions. Colorado also lost a fumble, standout receiver Paul Richardson was held to four catches for 39 yards and the Buffaloes finished with 268 total yards in their third straight lopsided Pac-12 loss
“We didn’t execute near as well as we would like in the first half, we gave them a short field there a few times and it kind of got out of hand on us there early,” first-year Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said.
Hoping to avoid a letdown after a brutal four-game stretch, the Sun Devils raced past the Buffaloes from the start, scoring on a 69-yard pass from Taylor Kelly to Jaelen Strong in the first 90 seconds. Marion Grice scored on an 8-yard run three minutes later, Zane Gonzalez kicked a 26-yard field goal and Grice scored again on a 1-yard run after a Colorado interception.
That made it 25-0 after one quarter for Arizona State, which scored 24 points in the opening quarter of its first five games combined. It was the Sun Devils’ most first-quarter points since 2002, when they had 28 in a rout of Stanford.
Arizona State didn’t let up, either, giving a defensive player a chance to score – end Davon Coleman on a 1-yard pass – and getting a 17-yard rushing touchdown by Kelly for a 47-6 first-half lead before sitting most of the starters in the second.
“Tonight happened about how I thought it would,” Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. “Our guys came out and played well.”
The Buffaloes doubled their win total from last season in their first two games under MacIntyre, but have struggled since the Pac-12 season started, losing to the two Oregon schools by a combined score of 101-33.
It didn’t get any better against Arizona State.
Stagnant on offense and unable keep up with Arizona State’s quick-hitting attack, Colorado fell into a big early hole it had little chance of climbing out of.
Wood struggled his previous two games – 25 of 67 with four interceptions and two TDs – and was replaced by Liufau in the first quarter after an ill-advised, across-the-body throw was intercepted by Arizona State’s Lloyd Carrington to set up the Sun Devils’ third touchdown.
The change didn’t make much difference.
Liufau was called for intentional grounding the end zone for a safety and forced a pass into coverage that was knocked into the air and intercepted by Damarious Randall. Gonzalez followed with his third field goal of the half, a 20-yarder that made it 40-6.
Arizona State had a 392-94 advantage in total yards in the first half and Liufau opened the third quarter by throwing an interception in the end zone.
“It didn’t look like it was too big out there for him,” MacIntyre said. “I thought he was good, but had a couple turnovers there that we can’t have.”
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