BOULDER, Colo. — Rashard Ross returned the second-half kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to break open a close game, and Taylor Kelly threw three scoring passes to tailback Marion Grice in Arizona State's 51-17 victory over Colorado on Thursday night.
Grice caught touchdown throws of 37, 16 and 20 yards from Kelly, who threw for 308 yards and five TDs with no interceptions thanks to a steady diet of successful screen passes. He also tucked it and ran for 67 yards through huge chunks of open space all night long.
The Sun Devils (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) will take a three-game winning streak into their showdown next week against second-ranked Oregon.
The Buffaloes (1-5, 1-2) fell to 2-1 at home in Thursday night ESPN games. They beat Stanford in 1990 and West Virginia in 2008 and trailed 20-17 in this one at the break after scoring 10 points in the final 24 seconds of the first half.
"We have a lot of momentum," Buffs coach Jon Embree said at halftime.
Not for long.
Ross took the kickoff a yard deep in his end zone and darted down the right sideline untouched, reaching the other end zone 11 seconds later to make it 27-17.
That jump-started a 31-0 second-half onslaught by the Sun Devils.
Grice's third touchdown, from 20 yards out, made it 34-17 heading into the fourth quarter.
Just before halftime, Colorado's Jordan Webb hit tight end Nick Kasa over the middle for a 23-yard TD, and Jamal Miles fumbled the ensuing kickoff at his 17. K.T. Tu'umalo recovered for Colorado and after two shots into the end zone came up empty, Will Oliver nailed a 36-yard field goal as the first half expired.
Colorado was already without starting tailback Christian Powell (thigh) and three defensive starters: free safety Ray Polk (ankle), linebacker Paul Vigo (foot) and cornerback Yuri Wright (concussion).
Arizona State's schedule gets tougher and, considering the Sun Devils lost six of their final seven games last season after a similar 5-1 start, this was a game they couldn't afford to look past, and they didn't.