Running backs junior Marion Grice and freshman D.J. Foster were recruited by ASU for their ability to run the football. However, the duo’s capability to catch led the Sun Devils (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) to a 51-17 victory over Colorado.
Foster had six receptions for 71 yards, including a diving 34-yard touchdown reception from redshirt sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly. Grice led the way with five receptions for 101 yards and three touchdowns. Two of Grice’s touchdowns came on screen passes, which ASU had a lot of success with all night.
“It’s a great thing,” ASU offensive coordinator Mike Norvell said. “We had a couple opportunities tonight where we were able to catch them in man coverage and get the ball to our backs.”
In just six career starts, Kelly has continued to impress. Although Kelly made a questionable decision to run, rather than pass on a fourth down attempt in the first half, the Sun Devils signal caller had one of his best statistical performances.
Kelly finished off ASU’s defeat of Colorado (1-5, 1-2 Pac-12) with 308 yards passing and five touchdown passes, a career high.
“The guys played hard,” Norvell said. “We made some big plays in the first half … I’m proud of the way we played tonight.”
Despite ASU’s prolific offense and the lopsided final score, Thursday’s bout with Colorado was not as easy as it appeared.
The Sun Devils forced Colorado to punt on its first three possessions and had six plays of over 20 yards in the first half, but ASU only entered halftime with a three-point lead because of a crucial turnover and an inability to get off the field.
With 24 seconds left in the first half, Colorado redshirt junior quarterback Jordan Webb completed a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Nick Kasa, which was made possible by ASU’s failed attempt to tackle Webb on an earlier fourth down conversion.
Redshirt senior wide receiver Jamal Miles fumbled the ensuing kickoff, which led to a Colorado field goal and a 20-17 score at the half.
“We really came in at halftime and said, ‘Look, that’s not how we play football,’” ASU coach Todd Graham said. “I’m really proud of how they responded.”
Momentum was seemingly on the Buffaloes side, but ASU senior wide receiver Rashad Ross changed everything in a brief 11 seconds.
Ross opened the second half with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and the rout was on.
Grice, freshman wide receiver Rick Smith, and senior running back Cameron Marshall all found the end zone in a second half that featured 31 ASU points.
“We got better as a football team,” Graham said. “I like how we finished.”
The Sun Devils are content to be 3-0 in Pac-12 conference play, but the team knows it does not have any time to reflect on Thursday’s win or on the season thus far.
No. 2 Oregon will visit Tempe next Thursday in a nationally televised “blackout” game, and the Sun Devils are already anxious to hit the gridiron again.
“Our guys are excited and we’re ready to go to work in preparation for Oregon,” Graham said.
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