ASU football leans on strong running game to pull away from Colorado

The Sun Devils rushed for 381 yards in their win against Colorado

ASU football used a strong rushing attack to overwhelm the Colorado Buffaloes (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) resulting in a 41-30 victory.

This was the Sun Devils' 600th win in program history and puts ASU (5-4, 4-2 Pac-12) one win away from clinching bowl eligibility. 

Heading down the stretch of the season, it looks like the Sun Devils' running game is heating up.

"Our whole game plan was about running the football," head coach Todd Graham said. "We just kind of feel like our formula for winning games (is) to control the ball and to control how many snaps we play on defense."

ASU has put together some decent rushing outings in previous games this season, but nothing like Saturday night when the Sun Devils gouged Colorado for 381 rushing yards, the most ASU has compiled this millennium.

That was a remarkable performance by the Sun Devil offense, and it was multiple players who had a part in it.

Senior running back Demario Richard rushed for 189 yards and a touchdown, which is the highest single game yardage mark of his college career. 

Richard performed when the team needed him most, as he rampaged for 141 yards in the fourth quarter alone. 

But even with all the success, Richard had trouble picking up yards in the first half, with just nine carries for 31 yards at the break.

"I'm a young guy with fresh legs. I just got to keep working," Richard said on getting off to a slow start. "In the fourth quarter, I already know what time it is when the game is close."

His coach took notice of his efforts.

"(I am) really proud of Demario Richard," Graham said. "He's really emerged as the leader of our team."

Richard may have picked up the most rushing yards on Saturday night, but there were other Sun Devils who amassed some impressive rushing numbers.

Redshirt junior quarterback Manny Wilkins held ASU together in the first half. Wilkins ran for 95 yards on the night, but 71 of them coming in the first half, often times on undesigned scrambles that kept the offense afloat.

In fact, the Sun Devils' offense found itself in a 10-0 deficit with 11:46 in the second quarter (it could have been more, but the Colorado receivers dropped some easy scores). 

But Wilkins stepped up and delivered two accurate touchdown passes in the second quarter, the first to sophomore wide receiver N'Keal Harry and the second to sophomore wide receiver Kyle Williams with less than a minute left in the first half. ASU was down 17-14 at halftime. 

"Our mindset was, simply – just execute what our game plan is," Wilkins said. "We knew adversity was going to strike." 

The Sun Devils struck back in the second half, outscoring Colorado 27-13. 

This is when freshman running back Eno Benjamin made his mark on the game. 

Colorado was still hanging tough in the fourth quarter. The two teams had traded touchdowns, but the Buffaloes took a 30-27 lead with 7:09 on the clock. 

ASU made its way into the Colorado red zone thanks to a 40-yard burst from Richard, and that is when Benjamin spun his way for a 19-yard touchdown run, his first collegiate score. 

That rush gave ASU a 34-30 lead with just over five minutes remaining. It also helped Benjamin rush for 52 yards on five carries. 

The defense clamped down on the Buffaloes in the following possession, which gave the Sun Devils the ball with a chance to put the game out of reach.

And that is exactly what happened, as Richard put ASU in scoring position with a 63-yard run to the Colorado 17-yard line.

"(I was) just thinking, 'It's my time, time to seal the deal,'" Richard said on his 63-yard scamper, which effectively won the game for ASU.

Wilkins then put the game out of grasp a handful of plays later with a one-yard touchdown run. That put the Sun Devils up 41-30 with 46 seconds left in the game.

"It's hard to win, so it's always great," Graham said. "I could tell our guys were very determined."

ASU will face the UCLA Bruins in California on Saturday, Nov. 11.



Reach the reporter at mpharri7@asu.edu or follow @Harris_Mark7 on Twitter.

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