BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Colorado discovered it can score points against a quality Pac-12 opponent. The next step is beating one.
Taylor Kelly threw for three touchdowns and ran 50 yards for another score before leaving with a right foot injury, and No. 16 Arizona State withstood a late challenge from Colorado to beat the Buffaloes 38-24 Saturday night.
“We should have won that game, flat out,” Buffaloes quarterback Sefo Liufau said. “Too many turnovers, too many mistakes. We should have beat that team. Point blank.”
Liufau completed 31 of 46 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns but the Buffaloes could not avoid their 15th consecutive loss to a ranked team. Two of Liufau’s scoring passes went to Nelson Spruce, the last a 31-yarder to finish off the seventh 99-yard scoring drive in Colorado’s history with 8:38 remaining.
Liufau also threw two interceptions, the last one all but ended any comeback hopes for the Buffaloes.
“Really hurts. Really hurts,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said. “Can’t turn the ball over but we’ve got to create turnovers on defense. We’re improving, but this really hurts.”
D.J Foster also had a big night for Arizona State (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12), running 20 times for 147 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown. He also had a 5-yard scoring catch among his four receptions for 59 yards.
Defensive back Jordan Simone had an interception and forced a fumble, and both turnovers led to touchdowns as Arizona State improved to 6-0 all-time against Colorado (1-2, 0-1).
Kelly completed 13 of 21 for 195 yards passing and he pulled off a beautiful fake on an option play, pulling the ball from Foster’s midsection and bolting up the middle past stunned Colorado defenders en route to the longest touchdown run of his career to give the Sun Devils a 21-point edge midway through the third quarter. Earlier, he had finished the opening drive of the second half with his third scoring pass, a 1-yarder to Jaelen Strong.
Kelly was apparently injured during the Sun Devils’ last drive of the third quarter and was taken to the locker room for the further evaluation. Mike Bercovici finished at quarterback for the Sun Devils and Kelly returned to watch the fourth quarter from the bench with his foot in a protective boot.
Colorado made it 38-24 after the 99-yard drive but its bid to cut the deficit further was quashed by Liufau’s second interception, this one by linebacker Christian Sam with 4:44 left.
“Made two critical errors,” Liufau said. “I put too much on the second (interception).”
Trailing 17-0 little more than a quarter into the game, Colorado pulled to within three points on a pair of second quarter touchdown passes by Liufau. Colorado’s defense then forced the Sun Devils to punt and Colorado got the ball at its 10-yard line with just under four minutes left in the second quarter.
But the Sun Devils quickly reasserted control. Simone, whose earlier interception set up an Arizona State touchdown, stripped the ball from running back Michael Adkins II and linebacker D.J. Calhoun recovered the ball at Buffaloes’ 9-yard line.
Three plays later, Kelly hit Foster in the flat and he scooted into the end zone from 5-yards out, allowing Arizona State to take a 24-14 lead at the half.
“Got to hold onto the ball there but we’ve got to stop them,” MacIntyre said. “We’ve got to make them kick a field goal and we didn’t.”
Arizona State got off to a quick start, getting a 15-yard touchdown run from Foster and a 38-yard touchdown catch from Kalen Ballage in the game’s opening minutes that was preceded by Simone’s interception.
Foster broke free on a 52-yard run setting up a 31-yard field goal by Zane Gonzalez before Colorado finally got untracked as Liufau found Shay Fields for a 4-yard scoring pass and later connected with Spruce from 15 yards as the Buffaloes pulled to 17-14 with 5:39 remaining in the second quarter.
“Last year this team dominated us and today I didn’t feel at any point we were outmanned,” Spruce said. “Just a few things, turnovers. This is one we feel we could have won.”
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