(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
With the Colorado game hanging in the balance in the second quarter, D.J. Foster hauls in a 34-yard diving touchdown catch to give the Sun Devils a lead they would not relinquish.
2 Points: Momentum Changing Play
3 Points: Play happened in a Sun Devil victory
5 Points: Play resulted in a Sun Devil touchdown
7 Points: Big Play (30+ Yards)
Total: 17 Points
When D.J. Foster arrived on campus, the Arizona State coaching staff gushed about his brilliant speed, his surprising toughness, and his readiness for the college game. Though Foster entered the 2012 campaign as a true freshman, offensive coordinator Mike Norvell promised that Foster would get a significant amount of playing time in his first season.
The biggest question mark surrounding the heralded recruit from Saguaro High in Scottsdale, Arizona was just how in the world he would be able to compete for snaps.
The Sun Devil team already looked stacked in the backfield, as returning starter and proud member of the 1000-yard rushing club Cameron Marshall appeared ready to dominate his senior season. When Marshall needed a spell, powerful JUCO transfer Marion Grice could provide the perfect alternative, especially in short-yardage situations.
Though Foster might be the most gifted athlete of the coveted trilogy of backs the Sun Devils possess, he very well could have ended up the odd man out in a stable of horses.
Instead of letting the freshman bide his time until a star like Marshall graduated, the Sun Devil coaching staff decided to get creative. In order to maximize the talent at hand, Arizona State elected to use Foster and Grice as slot receivers when they did not line up in the backfield.
With Cameron Marshall still showing some wear and tear from a rugged career, Todd Graham and Mike Norvell also decided to give more than a fair share of the carries to the two new assets they picked up in the offseason.
As a fully incorporated member of the Sun Devil offense, D.J. Foster showed opposing teams exactly why Arizona State worked so hard to keep him close to home. The freshman torched his opposition in a multitude of ways as he gained over 1,000 all-purpose yards this season.
Many of Foster's touches had the potential to go the distance, and few were as important as his electrifying contribution in the second quarter of the Sun Devils' battle against the Colorado Buffaloes.
When Rashad Ross' opened the second half of the Colorado game with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown (Play No. 6), Sun Devil fans marveled at Ross' combination of blazing speed and big-play ability. As remarkable as his effort might have been, Ross' return doesn't even rank as the best play of the evening in Boulder.
While Ross may have given the Arizona State team the momentum it needed to start the second half, D.J. Foster gave the Sun Devil offense the lift it needed early on in the game.
After Colorado took a surprising 7-6 lead in the second quarter, the Sun Devils were on the verge of an epic collapse.
The Buffaloes entered the matchup with a dismal 1-4 record, and Arizona State desperately needed a rebound drive after Colorado seized the lead.
When the Sun Devils took over possession at their own 25-yard line, quarterback Taylor Kelly promptly drove the offense right down the field. Arizona State needed seven plays to march 41 yards down to the Buffaloes' 34-yard line.
Upon reaching the 34, the Sun Devils encountered a second and short situation that usually gives offensive coordinators the freedom to open up the playbook.
The Sun Devils worked out of a shotgun formation and balanced the set with two receivers split to each side. Marion Grice lined up at running back and flanked Kelly to his right.
D.J. Foster aligned in the slot on the left side of the formation and at the snap of the ball, the playmaker shot off the line of scrimmage straight down the field. Initially, Foster's effort looked like a clearing route to open a throwing window for Kelly to hit Rashad Ross on a quick slant.
However, Kelly locked in on Foster from the get-go as the freshman matched up on a Buffalo linebacker. Foster ran past the linebacker and attempted to separate himself from the coverage, and Kelly lofted a beautiful spiral through the air.
Foster had his man beat to the inside, but Kelly's throw forced Foster to spin and look over his left shoulder at the last second. As Foster turned his head, he appeared to stagger a moment as his strides lengthened. When Foster entered the end zone, the ball fell from the sky just as the Sun Devil back stretched his body forward to receive the ball.
On a diving effort, D.J. Foster made a startling catch that left the ESPN announcing crew in awe of the freshman's athleticism and balance. Foster secured the football upon slamming into the surface and slid across the grass along the back of the end zone.
Foster's incredible catch helped the Sun Devils regain the lead and provided much needed offensive flow. Kelly and Foster connected over 30 times this season, but few were as critical and none were as breathtaking as this twirling touchdown in Colorado.
Foster ended the night with six catches and 71 yards, and Taylor Kelly threw for a career-high five touchdowns as the Sun Devils escaped a slow first half to defeat the Buffaloes by a score of 51-17.
With a performance like this, D.J. Foster proved that though he might only be a freshman, he's a freshman that opposing teams will have to game plan for accordingly.