ASU 41, Colorado 30
How it happened: CU led most of the night, but mistakes early (including two dropped TD passes) and the inability to stop the run late proved costly.
Turning point: After ASU pulled within 27-20 early in the fourth quarter, the Sun Devils blocked a CU punt, with 11:03 to play in the fourth. Seven plays later, the Sun Devils scored a touchdown to tie the game and CU was reeling from that point on.
CU's stars of the game
RB Phillip Lindsay: Ran for 80 yards and two touchdowns.
QB Steven Montez: Threw for 345 yards and one touchdown, while having two others dropped in the end zone.
OLB Derek McCartney: Finished with 14 tackles and two pass breakups
Bottom line: The Buffs blew a chance to secure bowl eligibility, and this is the type of loss that could be tough to get over emotionally.
TEMPE, Ariz. — On the verge of a second consecutive win, bowl eligibility and a little bit of demon exorcising at Sun Devil Stadium, the Colorado Buffaloes crumbled on Saturday night.
A disastrous fourth quarter epitomized a season filled with disappointment and sent the Buffs to a crushing 41-30 defeat against Arizona State.
"It gets tough," quarterback Steven Montez said. "It sucks losing games. We don't come out here to lose games.
For the Buffs (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12), this may have been the most devastating defeat they've had this season.
Offensively, the Buffs failed to capitalize on numerous opportunities early. Then, they built three separate 10-point leads, including 27-17 going into the fourth quarter.
ASU (5-4, 4-2) rallied each team and closed the game by outscoring CU 24-3 in the fourth quarter, steamrolling the Buffs' defense with its run game. It's the first time since 2010 that the Buffs lost a game in which it led by two scores at some point in the fourth quarter.
"This, to me, is one of the harder losses we've had all year," senior linebacker Rick Gamboa said.
That's because it appeared for much of the night to be a win, and a monumental win at that.
CU has never defeated ASU in this stadium, and had never even come close, losing each of the previous four by at least 19 points. In addition to breaking that ugly streak, a Buffs win would have given them the coveted sixth win to secure bowl eligibility for the second year in a row.
Instead, ASU dominated the final 15 minutes by running for 191 yards and three touchdowns, shutting down the CU offense and even blocking a CU punt.
The blocked punt came with about 11 minutes to play and CU still clinging to a 27-20 lead. That play set up the ASU offense on the CU 40-yard line.
Seven plays later, ASU's Demario Richard scored on a 5-yard run to tie the game at 27-27.
CU responded with a James Stefanou field goal to regain the lead, but the momentum had clearly shifted to ASU's side. The Sun Devils scored twice in the final 5:33 to steal the win.
"You hardly ever win a game with a blocked punt," MacIntyre said. "Statistics prove that. Especially a blocked punt on your end of the field. That was a big turning point of the game and that was a huge mistake by us."
Had it been the only huge mistake made the Buffs, they might have been able to overcome it.
Unfortunately for the Buffs, the first quarter was just as disappointing as the fourth.
Montez made two poor throws on the opening drive, both of which would have been touchdowns. Then, senior Shay Fields dropped what would have been a 76-yard touchdown. On the first play of the second quarter, Devin Ross dropped what would have been a 44-yard touchdown.
Instead of leading 21-0, the Buffs' early advantage was just 10-0.
"Yeah, it caught up to us," Montez said. "Definitely caught up to us. Missed throws, dropped balls, missed assignments, all mistakes we made in the first half caught up to us."
The Buffs kept fighting, though.
Running back Phillip Lindsay was held in check most of the game, finishing with just 80 yards on 23 carries, but he did score twice. Montez tossed a 56-yard touchdown pass to Fields. And, James Stefanou booted three field goals.
That all helped CU to three separate 10-point leads, but when it counted most, the offensive disappeared. And, so did the defense.
One of the worst rushing teams in the country, ASU racked up 381 yards on the ground, with half of those coming in the fourth quarter. Richard had 141 of his 189 rushing yards in the fourth quarter.
"They definitely wore us down," MacIntyre said. "There's no doubt about it."
"That's part of sports. We just got to go back and work again. We got two more gold games left and we need to get them. That's our main focus. This one's over. Learn from some corrections. We just need to keep finding ways to make plays."
After each of their losses this season, the Buffs have talked about putting it in the rearview mirror and going back to work on Monday. They mentioned it again Saturday.
As the Buffs have proven this year, that's easier said than done, and it may be even more difficult after this one.
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.