Osweiler powers Sun Devils past Buffaloes
Letdown? Not a chance, at least not this time.
Osweiler guided Arizona State's offense to near perfection during a big opening blitz, Marshall scored three touchdowns on the ground and the 23rd-ranked Sun Devils maintained control of the Pac-12 South with a 48-14 rout of Colorado on Saturday.
"We didn't want to come out lethargic like we have the past few times (against underdogs)," said Arizona State receiver Gerell Robinson, who had four catches for 89 yards. "This is a different team with a different mindset. We know that we control our own destiny and it's the first time we're in this position, so we're not going to slip."
Arizona State hasn't been particularly good against teams it was supposed to beat, including a sluggish-starting win over then-winless Oregon State to start October.
Knowing they couldn't afford a slip-up against an injury-riddled, 31-point underdog, the Sun Devils (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) manhandled the Buffaloes on both sides of the ball from the start, jumping out to a 21-point lead in the first quarter.
Marshall finished with 114 yards on 15 carries, Arizona State had 522 total yards and its defense forced five turnovers to stay a game ahead of UCLA in the division race.
"From Oregon State, we learned how to come out and start a football game, how to come out and execute," said Osweiler, who hit 18 of 28 passes for 307 yards and a pair of touchdowns. "I think we did a great job of that today."
Arizona State's start left Colorado with another disappointing finish.
The Buffaloes (1-8, 0-5) couldn't stop Osweiler's passing, Marshall and the running game (207 yards on 36 carries) or hold onto the ball on offense as Colorado suffered its 22nd straight road loss and sixth straight overall.
Tyler Hansen, back from last week's concussion, threw for 285 yards and a touchdown, but also had two interceptions after replacing freshman Nick Hirschman in the first quarter.
Colorado had a respectable 420 total yards of offense, but the offense couldn't find the end zone until the game was out of reach.
Adding another lopsided loss to the pile left first-year coach Jon Embree fuming, focusing on the players who appear to be along for the ride instead of the ones trying to turn the struggling program around.
"You can tell which ones by the way they play, the way they act on the sidelines, how they act after a loss like this, how they have acted after previous losses," Embree said. "In some cases we can't do anything about it because they are the only people we have, which is the sad thing."
Arizona State put itself in control of the Pac-12 South with a solid run through the toughest stretch of its schedule.
The Sun Devils have a favorable closing road to the Pac-12 Championship game, with four of their five games against teams with losing records.
Unlike the Oregon State game, there was no lookahead or letdown this time.
Osweiler hit Jamal Miles on a 25-yard touchdown pass on Arizona State's fifth play. Next drive, Arizona State's line created a hole big enough for a bus to drive through and Marshall cruised through for a 19-yard touchdown run.
Osweiler made it 21-0 before the first quarter was over, threading a 33-yard pass just over the shoulder of Colorado defensive back Ray Polk into the hands of Kevin Ozier for a touchdown.
Marshall added touchdown runs of 11 and 4 yards to keep the Buffaloes from making any kind of run.
"We took down there right away and scored and dominated the first half," Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said. "I thought it was a good effort, I really did."
Arizona State's dominance wasn't much of a surprise the way Colorado's year has gone.
The Buffaloes came into their inaugural Pac-12 season without much depth, making the rash of injuries even tougher to take.
Colorado's injury report for Arizona State listed 18 players, including five out for the season, leaving Embree to spend his first season in Boulder shifting the roster around like a game of Sudoku while trying to find combinations that work.
The lack of a bye week hasn't helped much, either.
Outscored 145-33 the previous three games, Colorado found itself on the wrong end of another rout almost from the opening snap.
Arizona's offense had its way with the young Buffs, piling up 222 yards in the first quarter on the way to a 31-7 halftime lead.
Colorado's offense didn't have it much better, even after switching quarterbacks.
Hirschman opened under center and nearly threw an interception on his first pass. He was just 3 for 6 for 16 yards when Hansen replaced him for Colorado's third series.
Hansen appeared to be fine after last week's hit and had a few decent plays in the first half, but he and the Buffaloes couldn't get out of their own way.
Colorado had two turnovers in the half - an interception by Hansen and a fumble on a hook-and-ladder that failed miserably - and got its only points when Josh Moten scooped up a deflected backward pass and ran the fumble in for a 16-yard touchdown that made it 24-7.
Three plays later, Marshall scored on an 11-yard touchdown run, set up by Osweiler's 51-yard pass to Aaron Pflugrad over the middle. Hansen completed a Hail Mary to Logan Gray at the halftime buzzer, but the 53-yard pass was well short of the goal line.
It was that kind of day - and season - for the Buffaloes.
"There are some guys who are just OK with wearing the jersey," Hansen said. "That's wrong and that's what has to change. We have to change that culture around here."
Just like the Sun Devils have.