Fork Report: ASU Sun Devils outlast Duke for Hyundai Sun Bowl win
Offense may win games, but defense wins championships. And it was defense that clinched the 2014 Hyundai Sun Bowl for the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Junior cornerback Kweishi Brown intercepted Duke quarterback Anthony Boone in the back corner of the end zone with 45 seconds to play to secure a 36-31 Sun Devils win in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
Brown also forced a fumble as ASU, which began the year with nine new starters on defense, earned its 10th victory, marking the first time since the early 1970s that the Sun Devils won 10 games in back-to-back seasons.
A crowd of 47,809 watched No. 15 ASU (10-3) jump out to a 20-3 lead with scores on its first four possessions.
Duke (9-4), however, would respond with 14 unanswered points to pull to within three at halftime.
Coming out of the locker room, ASU scored twice to go up 30-17, only to see Duke answer with two touchdowns, the second of which gave the Blue Devils their first lead of the game, 31-30, with 5:03 to play.
The lead lasted all of 18 seconds.
Kalen Ballage returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards to the Duke 4, where Demario Richard caught a four-yard pass from Taylor Kelly for what proved to be the game-winning score.
Richard was the named the Sun Bowl MVP, as he scored all four Sun Devils touchdowns.
Ballage picked up special teams MVP and Marcus Hardison earned lineman of the game with 13 total tackles.
In his final game at ASU, Kelly completed 24-of-34 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns, finishing with a record of 26-11 as a starter.
On the Sun Devils’ second offensive play of the game, Kelly ran for 16 yards, resetting the school record for most rushing yards by a quarterback, which was previously held by Mark Malone (1,390 from 1977-79). Kelly went over 10,000 yards of total offense in his career after throwing for 98 yards and rushing for 16 in the first quarter.
Following his 11-yard run on the opening drive, D.J. Foster surpassed 2,000 rushing yards in his career. Later in the second quarter, he caught an 11-yard pass, giving him at least one reception in each of the 40 games he has played at ASU, the 10th-longest active streak in FBS. He finished with three catches, becoming the third Sun Devil in program history to have 60 or more receptions in more than one season.
Richard became the first true ASU freshman to rush for a touchdown in a bowl game since Hakim Hill in the 2002 Holiday Bowl. Richard’s nine-yard run gave the Sun Devils a 7-0 lead just 4:10 into the first quarter. Richard scored twice in the first half, his third and fourth rushing touchdowns of the season.
Playing his final game in a Sun Devil uniform, Jaelen Strong caught seven passes for 103 yards, the 12th time in 26 career games he surpassed 100 yards receiving, tying him with Shaun McDonald for second-most all time at ASU. Strong announced earlier in the month he planned to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.
Zane Gonzalez became only the second Sun Devil to ever kick 20 or more field goals in two different seasons — he made three Saturday to give him 22 on the season –joining Luis Zendejas who had 24 and 28 field goals in 1982 and 1983, respectively. Gonzalez accounted for 12 points in the game and 122 on the season, the second-best single-season scoring mark for a kicker in ASU history. He holds the current school record at 138, set last season.
Facing third-and-goal at the Duke 4 in the second quarter, Kelly was sacked by DeVon Edwards, who forced a fumble that was recovered by Nick Kelly for a 17-yard loss back to the 21. The Sun Devils had to settle for a field goal, their second straight drive inside the red zone that resulted in three points rather than seven.
After forcing the Sun Devils to punt — the first time ASU did not score in its first five possessions — Duke’s Jamison Crowder returned the kick 68 yards for a touchdown. It was his second punt return for a touchdown this season and Duke’s fourth special teams touchdown of the year. The play pulled the Blue Devils to within three at halftime, 20-17.
Twice Duke went for and converted on fourth down — fourth and 1 at their own 40, and fourth and 1 at the ASU 20 — during its 15-play, 69-yard fourth-quarter scoring drive that pulled the Blue Devils to within six, 30-24, with 10:10 left. Duke rushed 13 times for 41 yards on the drive.
Duke reached into its bag of tricks — twice — on its go-ahead scoring drive in the fourth quarter. First, punter Will Monday completed a 30-yard pass to Johnell Barnes on 4th and 11 at midfield; then, facing a fourth and 2 at the ASU 12, Crowder took a fly sweep handoff and threw to a wide open Isaac Blakeney for a touchdown and a 31-30 lead at 5:03.
Though he was protected well in the second half, Kelly was sacked three times in the first half, meaning the Sun Devils allowed three or more sacks in each of their final three games, including a season-high-tying seven by rival Arizona on Nov. 28.
STAT OF THE GAME
2: The number of red-zone turnovers forced by the Sun Devils defense, including the game-clinching interception by Brown
HE SAID IT, part I
“Pathetic job on special teams. That’s absoulutely embarrassing we would kick a ball like that,” said head coach Todd Graham at halftime, referring to Crowder’s second-quarter punt return.
HE SAID IT, part II
“I’m really proud of our guys. The heart of our kids. No way we were losing this game,” said Graham after what was his 28th win as Sun Devil head coach, breaking a tie with Dan Devine (1955-57) for the most wins in an ASU coach’s first three seasons.
– The Sun Devils scored 10 points in each of the first three quarters.
– The Sun Devils outscored Duke 10-0 in the third quarter, just the second time in the last seven games that ASU outscored its opponent in that period (7-0 against Washington State on Nov. 22).
– The Sun Devils led after the first quarter (10-3) for the first time since the Notre Dame game on Nov. 8. ASU had been outscored 35-17 in the first quarter of the previous three games combined.
– The Sun Devils played in their fourth consecutive bowl game and 28th overall, including the third straight under Graham, who became just the second ASU coach to lead the team to a bowl in each of his first three seasons on the job, joining John Cooper. ASU had not played in four straight bowl games since 2004-2007, and prior to that had not completed the task since the 1970-73 seasons.
The Sun Devils’ fifth appearance in the Sun Bowl concluded the 2014 season.
Looking ahead to 2015, ASU opens with a trip to Houston on Sept. 5 to take on the Texas A&M Aggies at NRG Stadium in the Advocare Texas Kickoff.
The game will mark the first-ever matchup between the two schools, and the second time in three years the Sun Devils play a regular season game in an NFL Stadium.