For the Sun Devils to keep their chances alive, they would need to focus, keep from looking past struggling Colorado toward the rest of the schedule.
Turned out to be no problem at all.
Taylor Kelly accounted for three touchdowns and Marion Grice ran for two more in a dominating first half, leading Arizona State to a 54-13 rout over listless Colorado on Saturday night.
"A lot of people talked about after the five games that we'd have a letdown and all that," Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. "I feel good about the maturity of our team and we dominated all three phrases."
Arizona State (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) wanted to make a statement and did just that, overwhelming the Buffaloes with 25 points in the game's first 11 minutes.
Kelly threw for 233 yards and two touchdowns, ran for another score and Grice pushed his nation-leading touchdown total to 15 as the Sun Devils built a 47-6 halftime lead.
Jaelen Strong had three catches for 109 yards, including an opening 69-yard touchdown, and Arizona State had 532 total yards in a dominating performance to kick off its bid to win the Pac-12 South.
"We didn't take Colorado lightly," said Kelly, who completed 9 of 19 passes and ran for 36 yards on five carries before sitting out the second half. "We handled our business tonight."
Colorado (2-3, 0-3) kept it close against Arizona State in Boulder last season before being outscored 31-0 in the second half.
The Sun Devils nearly matched that in the first quarter and never let up on the Buffaloes, forcing four turnovers while sending them to their 11th straight Pac-12 loss.
Colorado replaced quarterback Connor Wood after a first-quarter interception and freshman Sefo Liufau wasn't a whole lot better, throwing two more interceptions. Colorado also lost a fumble, standout receiver Paul Richardson was held to four catches for 39 yards and the Buffaloes finished with 268 total yards in their third straight lopsided Pac-12 loss.
"We didn't execute near as well as we would like in the first half, we gave them a short field there a few times and it kind of got out of hand on us there early," first-year Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said.
The Sun Devils have one of the nation's toughest schedules and were coming off the most brutal part of it, facing Wisconsin, Stanford, Southern California and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks.
Arizona State went 2-2, closing the run out with a disappointing 37-34 loss to the Fighting Irish in Texas.
The 25-0 first quarter was uncharacteristic.
Arizona State scored 24 points in the opening quarter its first five games combined. It was the Sun Devils' most first-quarter points since 2002, when they had 28 in a rout of Stanford.
Arizona State didn't let up, either, giving a defensive player a chance to score — end Davon Coleman on a 1-yard pass — and getting a 17-yard rushing touchdown by Kelly for a 47-6 first-half lead before sitting most of the starters in the second.
"Tonight happened about how I thought it would," Graham said. "Our guys came out and played well."
The Buffaloes doubled their win total from last season in their first two games under new coach Mike MacIntyre, but have struggled since the Pac-12 season started, losing to the two Oregon schools by a combined score of 101-33.
Colorado managed to keep it close with Oregon in the first quarter last week, but stood no chance against the fired-up Sun Devils.
The Buffaloes stagnated on offense to start and couldn't keep up with Arizona State's quick-hitting attack to fall into a big early hole.
Wood struggled his previous two games — 25 of 67 with four interceptions and two TDs — and was replaced by Liufau in the first quarter after an ill-advised, across-the-body throw was intercepted by Arizona State's Lloyd Carrington to set up the Sun Devils' third touchdown.
The change didn't make much difference.
Liufau was called for intentional grounding the end zone for a safety and forced a pass into coverage that was knocked into the air and intercepted by Damarious Randall. Gonzalez followed with his third field goal of the half, a 20-yarder that made it 40-6.
Arizona State had a 392-94 advantage in total yards in the first half and Liufau opened the third quarter by throwing an interception in the end zone.
"It didn't look like it was too big out there for him," MacIntyre said. "I thought he was good, but had a couple turnovers there that we can't have.
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