TEMPE, Ariz. -- When coming off of a tough loss, it's good to see the Colorado Buffaloes on your schedule.
Following their disappointing loss to Notre Dame last week, Arizona State returned home to host Colorado. The Sun Devils took out any lingering aggression on the Buffaloes, smashing them 54-13 thanks to a dominating first quarter.
"We're really proud of our guys. We dominated a team we should dominate," said ASU head coach Todd Graham. "Tonight happened like I thought it would."
ASU scored 25 points in the first quarter to key the victory. Jaelen Strong led off the game with a 69-yard touchdown catch-and-run score from quarterback Taylor Kelly.
“With the defense that we saw and the covers that we ran, we had a clear out with D.J. and an under with Jaelen. It was great for him to catch that and use his speed and athleticism," said Kelly.
Marion Grice ran for two more touchdowns in the quarter, giving him 15 total touchdowns on the season.
After throwing an interception to Lloyd Carrington, Colorado pulled quarterback Connor Wood in favor of true freshman Sefo Liufau. The move generated some early returns, as Colorado opened the second quarter with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Liufau to Nelson Spruce, but they failed on their two-point conversion attempt.
That represented the closest Colorado would get all night, as the Sun Devil defense held them to just 85 yards in the first half.
“I think it started this week in practice," said ASU linebacker Carl Bradford. "Our guys were focused. We came out really prepared. We knew we needed to step up and play our Sun Devil defense.”
ASU responded with a five-play drive that was capped by a one-yard touchdown pass from Kelly to defensive tackle Davon Coleman, who was lined up at fullback.
"I thought Will (Sutton) was the receiving fullback," joked Graham after the game.
On the ensuing possession, Coleman forced an intentional grounding penalty from Liufau in the endzone, giving ASU a safety. Two Zane Gonzalez field goals then followed, and ASU ended the first half with a 17-yard touchdown run by Kelly.
With the game in hand, Graham pulled his starters on both sides of the ball for the remainder of the game, but he and the rest of the staff remained focused on exceution.
"One of the things we’re doing when those twos are in there is we’re coaching them hard because that’s the future," said Graham.
Sun Devil fourth-string running back R.J. Robinson was able to score his first career touchdown in the third quarter, while the defense forced a pair of turnovers: Robert Nelson made a leaping interception in the endzone, while Viliami Latu recovered a fumble. Christian Powell ran for a touchdown in the fourth quarter for Colorado in their lone highlight.
ASU moves to 4-2 on the year and 2-1 in Pac-12 play. They will face a major test next Saturday when they host the Washington Huskies (4-2, 1-2). Washington is coming off a pair of losses to Stanford and Oregon, and Graham knows that the Huskies will come here ready to play.
"After the game, there was nothing but talk of Washington," said Graham. "We have a heck of a football team coming in here next week and we have six ball games. We checked that one off tonight—that’s 2-0 in the Pac-12 South, 2-1 overall. Our guys are focused on Washington."
Numbers and Notes:
- ASU's 25 first quarter points were their most since 2002 against Stanford.
- Kelly finished the night with 233 yards passing, snapping his streak of five straight games over 300 yards.
- True freshman wide receiver Cameron Smith made his first career start, making one catch for 47 yards.
- Zane Gonzalez's 41-yard field goal in the second quarter was the longest of his career. He has now made seven consecutive field goals.
- Jaelen Strong went over 100 yards receiving for the fifth straight game.
- ASU's third quarter touchdown drive took 7:04, the longest scoring drive for ASU under Todd Graham.
- Attendance: 50,104.