The Arizona State Sun Devils (5-4, 4-2 Pac-12) rebounded from a blowout loss against the USC Trojans last week to defeat the Colorado Buffaloes (5-5, 2-5) by a final score of 41-30 Saturday night in Tempe.
Here’s what we learned from the Sun Devils’ fourth conference victory of the season:
1. The running game — finally — lived up to expectations
After an extremely disappointing first three quarters of the 2017-18 season, Arizona State’s rushing attack finally found its stride Saturday night against Colorado.
Senior tailback Demario Richard carried the ball 25 times for 189 yards and a touchdown, redshirt junior quarterback Manny Wilkins scrambled 14 times for a total of 95 yards and even freshman Eno Benjamin got in on the fun, amassing 52 yards and a touchdown on just five carries. Senior running back Kalen Ballage only had nine carries for 43 yards, but the rest of the offense was so effective it didn’t matter.
Richard and Wilkins carried the offense on the ground all night long, keeping possession, wearing out the Buffaloes’ defensive line and giving Benjamin an opportunity to close it out.
It’s been a largely disappointing season for an often-vaunted running back core, but if the Sun Devils’ tailbacks can carry them to a bowl bid, much of it may be forgiven.
2. The defensive performances against Washington and Utah were flukes
ASU was able to edge Colorado in this one, but that doesn’t mean the Buffaloes didn’t have their own success throughout the night. Steven Montez threw for 345 yards and ran for 26, Phillap Lindsay tallied 80 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and Shay Fields had six receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown.
After challenging the narrative that ASU’s defense is one of the worst in the nation against the Utes and the Huskies two and three weeks ago, the Sun Devils have sunk back into it. Thankfully for Arizona State — other than Khalil Tate and Arizona — the Devils aren’t up against much defensively the rest of the way.
3. The Devils aren’t guaranteed a bowl game, not yet
It’s easy to imagine that ASU will manage to win one of the last three games on its schedule, especially after Saturday, during which all three remaining opponents on the Devils’ schedule lost by 14 points or more.
However, it wasn’t hard to imagine that Arizona State would be able to win one of its final seven games after starting 5-1 during the 2016-17 season — they didn’t. Even with an impressive win on the road in Salt Lake City, ASU has been historically bad away from Tempe in recent years. UCLA profiles as an extremely similar team to the Sun Devils, long trips to Corvallis rarely prove to be easy endeavors — no matter how bad the Beavers are — and the Arizona Wildcats are just playing much better football at the moment.
It’s been a long and winding road for Arizona State this season, so don’t expect the final fourth of the season to be any different.