No. 24 Arizona State was here a year ago, earning a Top 25 ranking after an upset victory over Michigan State in its previous game.
This time, the Sun Devils know better than to get overconfident.
Losses in the next two games and four of five followed, and coach Herm Edwards plans to emphasize the lessons learned from that skid as the Sun Devils prepare to host Colorado in the Pac-12 opener for both teams Saturday night.
“Last year, similar spot — had some success, got our nose punched in,” Edwards said. “All the warning signs are there. We’ll find out. Last year, we didn’t listen to it. It went to deaf ears.”
Arizona State (3-0) has built its early-season success on mistake-free play from true freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels and a stifling defense that has limited opponents to 21 points, one touchdown in each game, which ranks second in the FBS in average points per game.
Colorado (2-1) is attempting to bounce back from a 30-23 overtime loss to Air Force, its second consecutive overtime game. Colorado scored 14 points in the final 6:09 to send the Air Force game into overtime but could not convert a fourth-down pass play on the final possession.
The Buffaloes have been outscored 37-10 in the first half of the last two games, when the offense behind quarterback Steven Montez did not click until late. They scored 24 points in the fourth quarter of a 34-31 overtime victory over Nebraska two weeks ago, tying the game on a Montez touchdown pass with 46 seconds remaining.
“Not to get into specifics, but we need more consistency in our performance and we need better execution,” Colorado coach Mel Tucker said. “It really drills down to details.”
Montez has completed 67 of 104 passes for 827 yards, with six touchdowns and two interceptions. Top target Laviska Shenault Jr. has 16 receptions for 203 yards and two touchdowns. He scored all four touchdowns in the Buffs’ 28-21 victory over Arizona State in Boulder last season, two rushing and two receiving.
“You better be ready for him,” Edwards said. “You know in big moments, they are going to find a way to get him the ball.”
Daniels, the first true freshman to start the season opener for the Sun Devils since freshman were granted eligibility in 1972, has completed 47 of 77 passes for three touchdowns without an interception. He also has rushed for 75 yards and a score, and his 15-yard run on fourth-and-13 set up halfback Eno Benjamin’s game-winning 1-yard scoring run with 50 seconds left for a 7-3 victory at Michigan State last week.
Benjamin, who rushed for 1,642 yards last season, has 209 yards on 57 carries this season, a 3.7-yard average. Arizona State reconfigured its offensive line last week to include two freshmen.
Michigan State had 404 yards total offense to Arizona State’s 216, but the Spartans missed three field goals, the last a 47-yarder in the final seconds. The Pac-12 later admitted its officiating crew missed what would have been a leaping penalty on ASU’s Cam Phillips on the last kick, which would have given the Spartans one more chance.
“We need to start scoring points if we are going to be competitive going through this Pac-12 gauntlet of teams we are going to play,” Edwards said.
—Field Level Media