CU suffers second-half meltdown in loss to ASU

Colorado sophomore running back Tony Jones (26) beats ASU junior safety Alden Darby (4) to the corner for a touchdown, giving Colorado a 7-6 lead in the second quarter. (Photo by Kyle Newman)

It was a tale of two halves for Colorado.

The Buffaloes (1-5, 1-2 Pac-12) appeared they could hang with ASU going into halftime, as they only trailed by three points at the break.

However, it appeared a different Colorado team returned from the locker room, as the Buffaloes fell to the Sun Devils (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) 51-17 on Thursday.

“We had chances,” Colorado coach Jon Embree said. “We couldn’t get first downs to stay on the field to give ourselves chances to get some rhythm.”

Colorado was threatening the Sun Devils throughout the first quarter. After allowing ASU to score in the opening drive, sophomore tailback Tony Jones ran for a two-yard touchdown that gave the Buffaloes a 7-6 lead.

It didn’t take long for ASU to bounce back. Kelly threw a 34-yard strike to freshman running back D.J. Foster on the next drive, and followed it up with a 16-yard touchdown pass to junior Marion Grice.

Even after ASU’s two consecutive touchdowns, Colorado kept fighting. Junior quarterback Jordan Webb connected with senior tight end Nick Kasa for a 20-yard touchdown reception. On the following kickoff, the Buffaloes’ special teams forced ASU senior wide receiver Jamal Miles to fumble on the return in the final minute of the second half on the Sun Devils’ 18-yard line. Colorado capitalized on the opportunity with a field goal to enter halftime down 20-17.

It looked like Colorado was going to continue the momentum, but ASU came out swinging in the second half.

On the second-half’s opening kickoff, senior wide receiver Rashad Ross returned it 100 yards for a touchdown. After the Colorado offense failed to score on the following drive, Grice again scored on a 20-yard screen pass.

The Buffaloes seemed to be deflated from that point on.

“That kickoff return kind of killed us, really,” Jones said.

Emotions were getting the best of the players as late-hit and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, combined with the stifled momentum, dug the Buffaloes further into the deficit. The Buffaloes failed to score in the entire second half.

“I thought the guys still kept competing (and) still kept fighting,” Embree said. “We were around it for a while. We just couldn’t get anything offensively.”

Colorado’s 255 yards of offense was more than doubled by ASU’s 593.

Webb was under pressure by the Sun Devils’ defensive line practically all night, as he was sacked five times and had -20 yards rushing.

On the other side of the ball, Embree’s defense had little answers for Kelly. Despite sacking the quarterback three times, Kelly was 20-for-28 passing, and finished the game with 308 passing yards and five touchdowns. He also rushed for 67 yards.

“We have to be better with the pass rushing lanes,” Embree said. “We ran a lot of man coverage, so whether we had vision on the quarterback, I don’t know. I have to watch and see the tape whether the guys were chasing (Kelly) around the field and didn’t see him, or we were playing with vision. (Kelly) did a good job when nothing was there to throw it to, to pull it down and run.”

Colorado was shorthanded on Thursday night, as the Buffaloes were without freshman fullback Christian Powell, freshman defensive back Yuri Wright, senior defensive back Ray Polk, freshman defensive lineman Justin Solis and junior inside linebacker Paul Vigo all due to injuries.

The Buffaloes now have to prepare for their Oct. 20 home game against No. 11 USC.

 

Reach the reporter at jnacion@asu.edu