CU vs. Arizona State, at a glance
What went right: The Buffs were dominant on defense and in the run game. They racked up 580 yards in total offense, with 315 of those coming on the ground. Defensively, they held the Sun Devils to 199 yards.
What went wrong: Special teams struggled again, as the Buffs missed an extra point and a field goal and had two fumbles on punt returns.
Turning point: After ASU tied the game at 10-10 early in the second quarter, the Buffs scored a touchdown, forced an ASU punt and then scored again to take a 23-10 lead into the half. They never turned back from there.
CU player of the game: Phillip Lindsay. The junior ran for a career-high 219 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 20 yards. His 75-yard touchdown run to open up the third quarter blew the game open for the Buffs.
Bottom line: After a dominating performance against a solid team, the Buffs are sitting atop the Pac-12 South division and find themselves just one win away from achieving bowl eligibility for the first time in nine years.
For years, the Colorado football team was beaten and battered by Arizona State.
Forgive the Buffaloes for expressing their satisfaction in returning the favor on Saturday night.
"The first time my class played them (in 2013), we kind of got destroyed by them," quarterback Sefo Liufau said. "In my senior year to finally beat these guys and put a good win on the board is great."
Returning to the starting lineup for the first time in nearly a month after dealing with an ankle injury, Liufau was instrumental in the Buffs' 40-16 rout of Arizona State at Folsom Field.
Liufau, in fact, was one of several veterans to step up and produce one of the most impressive wins in years for CU (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12).
"This is the first team with a winning record we've beat this year," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "They've perennially beat us bad. We had them at home and the kids have been hearing all week this is the Pac-12 South, we're leading; we control our own destiny.
"All of that pressure, our young men have not ever been under before, so I thought tonight was a breakthrough win."
In addition to Liufau directing the offense in his return, running back Phillip Lindsay rushed for a career-high 219 yards and three touchdowns and linebackers Jimmie Gilbert and Addison Gillam led a punishing effort by the defense.
"Four years later, we're finally starting to win some games," said Gillam, a fourth-year junior. "It's awesome."
With the win, the Buffs remain in a first-place tie in the Pac-12 South division with Utah (6-1, 3-1), which defeated Oregon State on Saturday. The Buffs now have three conference wins in a season for the first time since 2007, when they were still a member of the Big 12.
It's also the first time the Buffs have defeated a team ranked in either national poll since 2009, as the Sun Devils (5-2, 2-2) came in ranked No. 24 in the USA Today Coaches poll.
And, let's not forget the relief CU gains from finally defeating the Sun Devils, who owned a 7-0 all-time mark against the Buffs, with none of those games being close.
This one wasn't close, either, but it was CU doing the whipping.
"It just shows the success of our team and how well we're doing," said Liufau, who made his collegiate debut against the Sun Devils in a 54-13 loss on Oct. 12, 2013.
Offensively, CU rolled up 580 yards, including 315 on the ground. It was the highest rushing total for the Buffs against a conference opponent since gaining 331 against Iowa State on Nov. 16, 2002. And it came against the nation's fifth-leading rushing defense.
Making his first start since suffering a sprained right ankle against Michigan on Sept. 17, Liufau completed 23 of 31 passes for 265 yards. He also ran for 38 yards and a touchdown.
One of the country's most efficient passers before his injury, Liufau picked up where he left off, completing his first nine passes for 139 yards.
"It feels great to just be able to come out here and play the game I love with these teammates that I've been with for four years now," Liufau said.
Defensively, the Buffs held ASU, which came in averaging 39.7 points per game, to just one touchdown, 199 yards and seven first downs. ASU ran for just 50 yards on 28 carries.
"We felt like tonight we just had to really dominate and stop the run and then just get to the quarterback as many times as possible," Gilbert said.
Gilbert had two of CU's five sacks, while Gillam had a sack and twice drilled Wilkins as the sophomore threw the ball. Wilkins was 13-for-35 for 149 yards.
"It gets everybody excited," Gillam said of the big hits. "When the defense is playing excited and we're having fun, that's when we play our best."
On Saturday, if the Buffs weren't at their best, they were close.
The teams traded points early, with the score tied at 10-10 early in the second quarter.
CU then went on a quick four-play, 75-yard scoring drive. A 66-yard pass from Liufau to Bryce Bobo set up Liufau's 3-yard touchdown run to give the Buffs a 17-10 lead.
The Buffs never looked back from there.
Lindsay scored on a 13-yard touchdown run before the half. He then opened the second half with a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play. The longest run of Lindsay's career gave CU a 30-10 lead.
Lindsay capped the night with his third touchdown run, from 4 yards out, in the final minute, putting an exclamation point on a significant win for a team with lofty goals.
"We're one step closer to keep going where we want to go," MacIntyre said. "We've got a long ways to go, but we've done pretty well so far."
Brian Howell: email@example.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.Colorado 40, Arizona St. 16
COL — Evans 16 run (Price kick), 11:16
ASU — Kohl 5 pass from Wilkins (Z.Gonzalez kick), 2:48Second Quarter
COL — FG Price 20, 12:54
ASU — FG Z.Gonzalez 51, 10:57
COL — Liufau 3 run (Price kick), 9:11
COL — Lindsay 13 run (kick failed), 4:47Third Quarter
COL — Lindsay 75 run (Price kick), 14:48
ASU — FG Z.Gonzalez 50, 10:50
COL — FG Graham 36, 1:50Fourth Quarter
ASU — FG Z.Gonzalez 59, 8:54
COL — Lindsay 4 run (Graham kick), :40ASU COL
RUSHING — Arizona St., Richard 10-59, Ballage 7-14, Ralston 2-8, McCray 0-0, Wilkins 9-(minus 31). Colorado, Lindsay 26-219, Evans 11-59, Liufau 14-38, (Team) 1-(minus 1).
PASSING — Arizona St., Wilkins 13-35-1-149. Colorado, MacIntyre 0-1-0-0, Liufau 23-31-0-265.
RECEIVING — Arizona St., T.White 5-97, Harry 3-13, Richard 1-14, Ca.Smith 1-13, Kohl 1-5, Jenkins 1-4, Ballage 1-3. Colorado, Bobo 6-110, Ross 6-46, MacIntyre 4-37, Lindsay 4-20, Fields 2-20, Evans 1-32.
MISSED FIELD GOALS — Colorado, Price 26.