Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Colorado 28, Arizona State 21
Play of the game: Early in the fourth quarter, with CU clinging to a 28-21 lead, ASU completed a 72-yard pass to the 3-yard line. Four plays later, CU cornerback Delrick Abrams Jr. broke up a pass in the end zone on fourth down to end the threat and preserve the lead.
Turning point: Steven Montez’s 51-yard pass to KD Nixon late in the third quarter set up the go-ahead touchdown — a 1-yard Laviska Shenault run — and give the Buffs the first lead of the afternoon.
Top 3 Buffs of the game
1. WR Laviska Shenault: Again. The sophomore continues to prove he’s one of the best players in the country with 13 catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns, along with two TD runs.
2. QB Steven Montez: He also is proving week-in and week-out to be one of the elite players in college football. He went 24-for-33 for 328 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 17 yards.
3. DL Mustafa Johnson: Another great day for the JUCO transfer, who had seven tackles, two tackles for loss and a monster sack just before Abrams’ pass breakup.
Colorado is 5-0 for the first time since 1998. More importantly, the Buffs are 2-0 in the Pac-12 and handed one of their toughest competitors for the South its second conference loss. The Buffs are rolling going into next week’s matchup at Southern Cal.
In the closing moments of the fourth quarter on Saturday, as the Colorado Buffaloes put the finishing touches on another victory, receiver Laviska Shenault shuffled up and down the sidelines, raising his arms to get the crowd going.
“I was just in the moment,” the stellar sophomore said.
The largest crowd at Folsom Field in eight years — 52,681 — didn’t need Shenault to get cranked up in that moment, however. They were already rather pumped after watching Shenault score four touchdowns and the defense rise up in the second half to knock off Arizona State, 28-21.
The No. 21-ranked Buffaloes (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) are off to their best start since 1998 and have already matched their win total from last year, when they went 5-7 and missed a bowl game for the ninth time in 10 years.
Now, the Buffs are just one win from bowl eligibility and remained the only undefeated team in the Pac-12.
“Our mindset is different from last year,” Shenault said. “We have a better mindset, a winning mindset, and a dog mindset.”
Having Shenault on their side certainly helps the Buffs develop a winning mindset.
A true sophomore from De Soto, Texas, Shenault came into the game as the nation’s leading receiver, and against the Sun Devils he caught 13 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns. He also lined up in the wildcat formation several times, finishing with five carries for 13 yards and two touchdowns.
“That’s insane,” quarterback Steven Montez said. “He had an absolutely monster game today.”
Montez was spectacular again, too, completing 24-of-33 passes for 328 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
While the Montez and Shenault show continued to roll along, the Buffs won this game in the end by flexing their muscles — mentally and physically.
“We are more mentally and physically tough as a whole team than we were last year, there’s no doubt,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “We didn’t win those type of games last year. We wouldn’t have put them away like we did. We wouldn’t have kept battling.”
CU’s toughness took the spotlight with 7 minutes, 10 seconds to play.
Leading 28-21, the Buffs’ defense had just forced a three-and-out by the ASU offense — CU’s fifth consecutive stop — and the offense took over at its own 24-yard line.
ASU never got the ball back, as CU marched down the field with 13 time-melting plays: eight runs up the middle, two third-down throws to Shenault and three kneel downs to run out the clock.
McMillian finished with 136 yards on 30 carries, getting 31 of his yards on that possession.
“No better feeling than running the ball down their throat for the win,” left guard Brett Tonz said.
Even better to do it against Arizona State (3-3, 1-2), which is the best team CU has played this year, and a top competitor in the Pac-12 South.
Last year, CU had a 10-point lead going into the fourth quarter at ASU, but the Sun Devils dominated the fourth quarter to win 41-30. CU never recovered and lost its last two games.
“It really did cross my mind midway through the game,” linebacker Drew Lewis said of that loss. “I can remember the feeling last year of being up by so much in the second half and letting it go. I feel like part of it was on me, not being able to stop the run. I definitely took part of that personal and applied that to the game today.”
He wasn’t alone. Lewis and the Buffs had to fight and scrap all day to beat the Sun Devils.
ASU had three separate seven-point leads, but each time, the Buffs responded with a touchdown to pull even.
Late in the third quarter, the Buffs finally got the advantage, on Shenault’s second touchdown run of the day.
This time, the Buffs didn’t relinquish the lead, keeping their perfect season intact for another week.
“It’s important and it feels good and everyone is super happy about it right now, but we still have so much work to do,” Montez said. “The season doesn’t end today. We have to come back, regroup and get back to work just like we always have every week.”
No. 21 Colorado 28, Arizona St. 21
Arizona St.7 7 7 0 — 21
Colorado 7 7 14 0 — 28
First quarter: ASU — Benjamin 1 run (B.Ruiz kick), 5:47 COL — Shenault 1 run (Stefanou kick), 2:52Second quarter: ASU — Benjamin 1 run (B.Ruiz kick), 5:47 COL — Shenault 3 pass from Montez (Stefanou kick), :24 Third quarter: ASU — Darby 40 pass from Wilkins (B.Ruiz kick), 13:35 COL — Shenault 30 pass from Montez (Stefanou kick), 11:46 COL — Shenault 1 run (Stefanou kick), 2:52
First downs 18 25
Rushes-yards 39-145 45-166
Passing 222 328
Comp-Att-Int 12-18-0 24-33-0
Return Yards 36 24
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-0
Penalties-Yards 5-35 6-60
Time of Possession 26:33 33:27
RUSHING — Arizona St., Benjamin 28-120, Wilkins 7-14, Floyd 1-8, Harry 1-2, T.Smith 1-2, (Team) 1-(minus 1). Colorado, McMillian 30-136, Montez 3-17, Shenault 5-13, Evans 3-3, Nixon 1-1, (Team) 3-(minus 4).
PASSING — Arizona St., Wilkins 12-18-0-222. Colorado, Montez 24-33-0-328.
RECEIVING — Arizona St., Darby 3-131, Harry 3-62, Ky.Williams 3-26, Benjamin 2-2, T.Hudson 1-1. Colorado, Shenault 13-127, Nixon 5-97, Brown 4-55, MacIntyre 2-49.
MISSED FIELD GOALS — Arizona St., B.Ruiz 53. Colorado, Stefanou 38.