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ASU Football: Sun Devils start fast, handle Buffaloes in 48-23 rout

ASU was supposed to come into Saturday's game against Colorado and take care of business. That's what it did.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona State Sun Devils' first trip to the end zone Saturday was thanks to pure luck. Going on to dominate from there was not.

One week after an emotional victory over UCLA in the Rose Bowl, the Sun Devils (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) returned to Tempe for a matchup with the Colorado Buffaloes, which came into Sun Devil Stadium with a winning record and brimming confidence that it could upend Arizona State.

Colorado's successes against the Sun Devils were few and far between, and Arizona State ran away with a 48-23 win.

Tim White had a monster game while Devin Lucien caught his first touchdown for the Sun Devils in a contest that was decided long before it ended.

"Came out and dominated a team that we should dominate," coach Todd Graham said. "Really the story tonight was controlling the line of scrimmages. Really pleased with how our special teams played."

Colorado (3-3, 0-2 Pac-12) received the ball to start out the night, and ASU's attack-oriented defense immediately put its stamp on the game, as Demetrius Cherry and Antonio Longino combined for a sack on Sefo Liufau on the Buffaloes' first play from scrimmage. ASU forced a punt, and sent the offense out for its first crack at the Colorado defense.

Fresh off an impressive performance in the win over the Bruins, ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici got off to a hot start against the Buffaloes, connecting with White on a 38-yard strike that turned into a 53-yard gain when Colorado defensive back Ryan Moeller tugged on White's facemask. Demario Richard was given touches on each of the following two plays, and after being stopped for a measly gain on his first chance, his second carry resulted in an ASU touchdown. However, it wasn't Richard who scored, as Kody Kohl found himself in the right place at the right time to recover a Richard fumble and rumbled 28 yards untouched for a score.

Arizona State turned its good fortune into game-changing momentum. After true freshman Kareem Orr made a great play to pick off Liufau, who was hit as he threw, the Sun Devils wasted no time in increasing their lead. A four-yard completion to Kohl set ASU up in goal-to-go territory, Bercovici found Kohl again on another four-yard strike, this one in the end zone for ASU's second touchdown of the night and Kohl's second trip to the end zone.

Colorado's offense relied on the deep ball against ASU and they got their first score thanks to a 42-yard connection from Liufau to Sean Irwin that set up Phillip Lindsay's 16-yard touchdown scamper to pull the Buffaloes back within a possession.

Bercovici's sole mistake on the night came on ASU's third drive, ending a promising march with an interception in which Ahk Witherspoon boxed out the receiver and corralled Bercovici's inside throw to turn the ball back over to Colorado with a chance to tie the game. Rather, the Arizona State defense shut down the Buffaloes offense in three plays and Dasmond Tautalatasi made the big play, blocking Colorado's punt and setting the Sun Devil offense in the red zone with a chance to make up for the turnover on their last drive. Arizona State failed to punch it into the end zone, but Zane Gonzelez connected on a 22-yard field goal to extend the lead back to double digits at 17-7 entering the second quarter.

"{Tautalatasi's] phenomenal," Graham said. "He's just a special teams demon. I think our special teams have slowly gotten better and better and better."

Arizona State forced another Colorado three-and-out, and the Sun Devils made quick work of their opportunity following a Buffaloes punt. Richard opened up the drive with a nine-yard gash, and Bercovici connected with White with a 38-yard rainbow that the receiver pulled down in the end zone for ASU's third touchdown through the air on the night. Bercovici would leave in the fourth quarter having thrown five touchdowns, tying his career high set last year against USC.

The two squads spent the rest of the second quarter trading punts, and Arizona State held a 24-10 lead headed into the locker room with the ball theirs to start the second half.

Responding to Colorado's field goal that turned the game back into a two-possession contest, Bercovici got his legs going in the Sun Devils' first drive of the second half. As the Colorado defense hunkered down on Richard, Bercovici took advantage with eight-yard and 11-yard scampers, and Gary Chambers' ten-yard reception put Arizona State in Colorado territory. That's when Bercovici and the Sun Devils found some continued luck fall their way, as a ball down the left sideline for White was tipped in the air, caught on its way down by White and ran into the end zone for a zany 45-yard score.

Holding a 31-10 lead, Arizona State was looking for a kill shot, and Antonio Longino's sack and forced fumble gave the Sun Devils their opportunity. Viliami Latu's recovery set Arizona State up at the Colorado 35-yard line, and Bercovici found a wide open Lucien over the middle for a 10-yard score that would represent the receiver's first in an ASU uniform after transferring from UCLA in the offseason.

"(Longino)'s coming off the edge most of the time, it's something he does pretty well," Graham said. "We've adapted what we're doing to what he does well. He played really well last week an I think tonight was his best game of his career since he's been here."

Colorado's deep attack was able to produce another score, as Ross beat Orr over the top for a 68-yard score, but as the third quarter ended with the Sun Devils sitting ahead 38-17, the outcome of the game had been decided.

Bercovici remained in for the first two Sun Devil drives of the quarter, ending the first with a field goal and the second with a gorgeous 12-yard touchdown to D.J. Foster that showcased Foster's consistently-improving ball skills.

Sitting on a 48-23 lead, Graham gave redshirt freshman Manny Wilkins his first collegiate career appearance. Wilkins didn't have enough time to fully make an impact on the game, but did shake three defenders on a six-yard scamper. Wilkins was on the field when time expired on Arizona State's 48-23 victory, one that Bercovici said won't be celebrated very long at all.

"A big team win for us in the Pac-12 South. South wins are never easy but we took care of business tonight.," Bercovici said. "Enjoy the win for fifteen minutes but the mindset is go 1-0 against Utah, and we're focused on that right now."

ASU now heads to Salt Lake City for what should be one of the top matchups of Week 7 of the college football season, as the Utes will likely continue to rise in the Top 5 after holding off an impressive Cal team 30-23. With USC's loss to Washington to give them two conference losses, the Sun Devils now can put themselves in pole position for a Pac-12 South title if they upend the Utes next week.

"We got a whole bunch of winners out there. We've gotten better every week," Graham said. "We get to go on the road and play a Top 5 team in the country, so we're excited about that...We're right where we need to be. We control our destiny and nothing else matters."

Note:

Richard, who was pulled from the game with ASU's first-string offense, was seen leaving the field with the team on crutches. Graham said Richard and linebacker Viliami Moeakiola were sidelined for precautionary reasons and will be evaluated next week.