As the referees signaled the end of the third quarter, the Arizona State Sun Devils (5-4, 4-2 Pac-12) marched toward the north end zone of Sun Devil Stadium. The massive scoreboard, the newest edition to the recently-renovated stadium, read “Sun Devils - 17, Colorado - 27.”
Fifteen minutes later, when ASU walked through the same end to its locker room, the scoreboard had been flipped, now reading as a 41-30 Sun Devil victory over the Colorado Buffaloes (5-5, 2-5).
Colorad had control of the game from the start, scoring on its first possession of the game and extending its lead to 10 in the second quarter. Despite chances, ASU could not find a way to tie the score — the Devils were hindered by two missed field goals by freshman Brandon Ruiz.
Redshirt junior quarterback Manny Wilkins and the offense stayed the course; however, despite the offensive struggles.
“It’s not who scores first wins for a reason,” Wilkins said. “We just got to continue to stay grounded and stay poised when adversity strikes. I know it sounds corny and cheesy, but it’s simple. The good teams are going to bounce back from adversity when it strikes.”
And the Sun Devils faced more than enough of it Saturday.
Each time ASU would cut into Colorado’s lead, the Buffaloes would respond with points, keeping them at an arm’s length. Until the fourth quarter, that is.
They opened the final period with a 37-yard field goal by Ruiz with 13:37 emblazoned on the clock.
Down for the previously over 39 minutes straight, the Sun Devils needed to catch a break to get back into the game.
Then, they found it.
Junior Jay Jay Wilson sacked Colorado sophomore quarterback Steven Montez, bringing up fourth down. Then, as Colorado junior punter Alex Kinney stepped up to punt the ball away, redshirt sophomore linebacker Khaylan Thomas broke through the middle of Colorado’s punt unit for a block, giving ASU a short field and the momentum shift it needed.
Seven plays later, senior running back Demario Richard found paydirt. Richard had just nine carries for 31 yards in the first half, giving him fresh legs for the game’s pivotal moments.
“In the fourth quarter, I already know what time it is when the game’s close,” Richard said. “My team needs to depend on me in the fourth quarter and that’s why I work my tail off at practice to just keep being great.”
Yet, once again, the Buffaloes responded. On their first play from scrimmage, Montez found redshirt senior running back Phillip Lindsay for 60 yards inside the ASU red zone, but the Sun Devil defense stiffened, holding them to a field goal.
“That was huge,” Bennett said. “They tried to run it the next play, then we double covered... I thought (redshirt freshman cornerback) Chase Lucas showed up tonight, and that was huge.”
That’s when ASU’s backfield truly went to work. Richard ate up 49 yards on three carries and freshman Eno Benjamin ran through Colorado defenders on his way to his first career touchdown to give ASU the lead back.
Wilkins added a 1-yard touchdown run in the game’s final minute to finish the Buffaloes off, but Richard made sure they were done long before that.
On the second play of ASU’s final drive, Richard broke through the line for a 63-yard gain, setting his career high as a Sun Devil with 189 yards on the ground.
“I was just thinking ‘It’s my time, I have to seal the deal,’” Richard said. “I know the offensive line is 110 percent confident. We come on the field and we tell them it’s the mindset every time.”