Sun Devils rout Navy in Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

SAN FRANCISCO — A week before the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, ASU redshirt senior linebacker Brandon Magee said he would not be surprised if ASU started the game a bit slow because of the long layoff.

The 37-day break appeared to have no impact however, as the Sun Devils (8-5, 5-4 Pac-12) cruised to a 62-28 victory over Navy, setting several offensive records in the process.

“Offense did a great job in practice all month just preparing and watching film,” ASU redshirt sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly said. “Today, our offensive line did a great job of protecting me and getting our running backs the holes to run through. Our receivers did a good job as well.”

The Navy (8-5) defense entered the game ranked No. 30 in the country allowing just 22 points per game, but the Sun Devils struck early and often.

ASU opened the game with an eight-play touchdown drive that culminated with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Kelly to senior receiver Rashad Ross.

The Sun Devils scored touchdowns in each of their next eight possessions and accumulated 648 yards of offense to make the team’s first bowl win since 2005 become a full fledged rout.

“It was probably the best game that we’ve had (with our offensive tempo),” coach Todd Graham said. “Our guys were very physical. … I thought (offensive coordinator Mike) Norvell and his guys did a good job.”

All nine of ASU’s touchdown drives took less than three minutes and the team’s 62 points are the most the Sun Devils have ever scored in a bowl game.

“Taylor was phenomenal,” Graham said. “The thing he has to the core of him is (a) team-first (mentality) and that’s what gives me confidence in him. All year long, I have never doubted that and that’s why we have a chance to win a championship. That’s why we are bowl champions today.”

Kelly finished the game with four passing touchdowns and 268 yards through the air. The signal caller added 81 yards on the ground in addition to his first career rushing touchdown.

Ross was responsible for a little more than half of Kelly’s passing yards as he hauled in four passes for 139 yards and three touchdowns.

In ASU’s regular season finale — a win over UA in Tucson — Ross had dropped two passes, but used the time in between the games to focus on his final collegiate contest rather than dwelling.

“The good thing about having time off was me and Taylor (were throwing) and our timing got (better),” Ross said.

In the long run ASU’s win marks the eighth time in school history, and first since 2005, the Sun Devils have won a bowl game and defeated the Wildcats in the same season, but on Saturday, December 29, the win was for junior running back Marion Grice.

After Grice’s brother was murdered last week, the team dedicated the game to Grice’s brother and family. Graham was not sure if Grice would be able to play because of all the emotions, but the running back was named the game’s offensive MVP after he rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns.

“We opened our arms up for Marion,” Kelly said. “We are all with him and he and his family are in our prayers. He’s all into this program and he wanted to play for his brother and his family.”

 

Notes

Junior tight end Chris Coyle finished the game with four catches for 37 yards. Coyle had 57 catches on the season and now holds the ASU record for most catches by a tight end in a single season. Zach Miller previously held the record with 56.

Redshirt junior defensive tackle Will Sutton recorded two and a half sacks against Navy and finished the season with 13. Sutton sits in fourth place on ASU’s all-time single season list, and still has not decided whether he will return to ASU next season or enter the NFL Draft.

Grice’s two touchdowns gave him 19 on the season. The running back has the third most rushing touchdowns in a season for ASU.

Magee left the game in the second half and was seen wearing a sling on his right arm following the contest.

Freshman running back D.J. Foster suffered a concussion when he was hit trying to catch a pass in the first half and did not return to the game.

 

Reach the reporter at william.boor@asu.edu