After a 28-21 loss to the Buffaloes in Boulder, what was the best, worst, and ugliest thing to come out of the Sun Devils’ performance on Saturday?
For the second consecutive week, sophomore running back Eno Benjamin ran the ball with some authority; at least in the first half.
Benjamin scored the first two of ASU’s three scores and totaled 120 yards on 28 carries. Though a massive step down from last week, Benjamin sparked the offense on all of the first half drives.
Once Colorado regrouped after halftime, he was never the same.
Benjamin only rushed 24 yards in the final 30 minutes.
“They did a nice job,” said coach Herm Edwards of the Buffaloes defense. “They got us in some bad downs too and that’s always bad. You never want to be behind the chains.”
If Benjamin’s production can carry through a full game like against Oregon State, he could average nearly 200 yards on the ground for the rest of the season.
You can’t use him that much after he gets injured on a punt return, but when he was in the lineup, there was very poor usage of N’Keal Harry.
Harry had three catches for 62 yards as well as two yards on one carry. This performance was better than his recent road performance against Washington where he had five catches for 20 yards.
Good coverage is one thing and the injury is another, but Harry, in comparison to Colorado receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., was poorly utilized in Saturday’s game.
Offensive coordinator Rob Likens spoke highly of the importance of Harry after the loss.
“You build things around him because he is an elite player,” Likens said. “When you have an elite player you build formations around him and certain things.”
Formations like ‘The Sparky’, where Harry takes the snap directly, could come more heavily used in the upcoming Thursday night game at home against Stanford.
Following a poor job defending the run against Oregon State, the run protection improved, but the pass protection was blown wide open.
Shenault Jr. ran all over the ASU defense, whether he was handed or thrown the football.
He totaled 140 all-purpose yards and scored every touchdown for the Buffaloes.
In contrast to Harry, Shenault Jr. was used in practically every aspect of the CU offense.
“That guy is a really good player,” said defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales. “Give him a lot of credit. He’s probably better than I thought he was on tape. Couldn’t tackle him, couldn’t cover him. We gave up two big plays to him. We’ve got our best man cover guy one-on-one and he beats him.”
Quarterback Steven Montez was 24 for 33 and threw 328 yards, exploiting the poor coverage of ASU’s backfield with just four receivers making receptions.
The one improvement for the defense, they didn’t allow as many rushing yards. CU only had 166 rushing yards as a team among five different players.
To make things more of a struggle, ASU will now be without linebacker Koron Crump for the remainder of the season. Crump has decided to leave so he may fully heal his ACL and prepare for ASU’s pro day in the spring.
With an already young defense, losing a veteran leader like Crump could cripple the defensive 11. With the bye week, ASU has time to regroup and prepare a new plan prior to next Thursday.