The Colorado Buffaloes are coming off of a game where mistakes and missed opportunities dominated the storyline. The chances were there, but Colorado could not capitalize which ultimately led to them falling 30-23 in overtime to in-state foe Air Force. The loss was the first for the Buffs and Air Force’s first win over Colorado in 51 years.
Not to take anything away from a very talented Air Force team that ran their notorious triple-option to perfection, but had the Buffs played their game without the penalties and mistakes they would be 3-0.
Now, with a 2-1 record, the Buffs will go on the road and try to rebound against an unbeaten and very talented Arizona State team. This will be the Buffs’ biggest test yet. Here are three keys to a Colorado win.
Be aggressive early
The Sun Devils are looking to remain unbeaten on the season as they are coming off of a huge upset over Michigan State which catapulted them into the national rankings.
The Sun Devils could not muster up many yards on offense in their last outing and were actually beat in every major offensive category against the Spartans. However, Arizona State’s defense held the Spartans to only seven points and guided the team to the win.
Arizona State’s offense has not been stellar. But their defense has yet to allow more than one touchdown in any of their first three games.
Opposing teams have been stagnant offensively against the Sun Devils for a majority of the game as Kent State, Sacramento State and Michigan State have all been shut out in the first three quarters of the game until finally putting points on the board in the fourth quarter.
Getting on the board early is key for the Buffs and that is where Colorado can make their move. By scoring early and allowing the Buffs defense to do their part, Colorado can put the Sun Devils in the unfamiliar position of playing from behind.
Open up the playbook
One key to the Buffs forcing overtime last week against Air Force was opening up the offense in the fourth quarter. But trying to come from behind against a talented Arizona State defense is not going to work for Colorado.
Laviska Shenault Jr. is one of the best receivers in college football and for the first two weeks the opposing teams’ game plan was to slow him down. They achieved that goal.
Last week against Air Force, Shenault Jr. looked more like himself and that could be a good sign going into the game against the Sun Devils.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) September 15, 2019
After combining for just eight receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown in the first two weeks of the season, Shenault Jr. broke out. He had eight catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns in the game.
A silver lining for the Colorado offense is while Shenault Jr. has been the focus of opposing defenses, other players have stepped up for the Buffs have on offense.
Tony Brown has emerged with 151 yards and a touchdown through three games. K.D Nixon is second on the team with 197 yards and a touchdown as well, including 148 yards against Nebraska.
The Buffs offense also can keep it on the ground as they have a two-headed rushing core of Alex Fontenot and Jaren Mangham.
The Buffs will need to establish a rushing attack to help mix things up early. Success running the football should open things up for Montez to air it out to his talented receivers and keep the Sun Devils on their heels.
Stop the pass
Arizona State’s front seven is off to a hot start to the season. They have applied pressure to opposing quarterbacks and will be attempting to hurry Montez into some errant throws.
Through three games, Montez has been sacked five times and has thrown two interceptions on the season. The Buffs defense will have to apply that same pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
The defense is 🔥 up right now.
Offense's turn pic.twitter.com/phnMriokNz
— Colorado Buffaloes Football (@CUBuffsFootball) September 14, 2019
Against Air Force, despite the miscues, the defense did its part as they forced three turnovers in the game. Colorado will look to have that same kind of production this weekend.
ASU quarterback Jayden Daniels has thrown for 728 passing yards and three touchdowns. Defensively Colorado must try to rattle Daniels.
Outside the pocket, the Buffs defense will have to slow down wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk who has 302 receiving yards on the season. They will also need to watch for running back Eno Benjamin who has not put up big numbers running the ball but does have over 100 yards receiving.
The Buffs have what it takes to slow Arizona State’s offense down as well as get to the quarterback as Nate Landman has been rock solid to start the season with 34 tackles and Mustafa Johnson has a team-high three sacks as well. Both will have to keep making big plays if the defense plans on making stops.