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Todd Graham era ends with ASU football collapsing in Sun Bowl

The Sun Devils gave up the second most points in Sun Bowl history

Sun Bowl Trophy

The North Carolina State team poses with the Sun Bowl trophy after defeating ASU 52-31 on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas.

The obvious goal for ASU football heading into the 2017 Hyundai Sun Bowl was to send Todd Graham and the senior class off as winners. Instead the Sun Devils (7-6, 6-3 Pac-12) lost 52-31 to the North Carolina State Wolfpack (9-4, 6-2) in a game that seemed out of reach from the first possession.

Redshirt junior quarterback Manny Wilkins threw for 352 yards and three scores, but he threw for three interceptions.

Although the offense was in shambles early on, sophomore wide outs N’Keal Harry and Kyle Williams combined for 16 receptions, 227 yards and two touchdowns. 

As a unit, the ASU offense put up 469 total yards and 31 points, but Wilkins was scrambling throughout the game with little to no help from his offensive line.

“Obviously the outcome wasn’t what we wanted it to be," senior running back Demario Richard said. "We came out to slow and you can’t come out to slow against a team like that. We made a lot of mistakes.”

Even though a handful of individuals lit up the stat sheet, not one of the three phases of ASU football executed well.

The inefficiency was evident in the offense’s four turnovers.

ASU attempted multiple onside kicks, one of which came in the first half, to go alongside a 37-yard punt and a missed field goal.

The Sun Devils took a brutal blow before the game even started as redshirt junior linebacker Christian Sam didn’t dress to play. 

With the absence of one of the team's leading tacklers, ASU struggled to stay afloat. 

NC State’s junior tailback Nyheim Hines rushed for 72 yards and three touchdowns, and Hines was just one rushing touchdown shy of tying the Sun Bowl record.

Dominance on the ground didn’t hinder NC State’s passing game as redshirt graduate student Ryan Finley completed 82.7 percent of his passes on his way to 318 passing yards and one touchdown.

“We actually dominated tonight. I think that’s apparent by the six rushing touchdowns. It all starts out there on the trenches and we had a great game plan," Finley said. "Hats off to our coaching staff for getting us ready for this game. When we can run the ball like that it opens up so many things in the play calling and offensive production. What a job those five guys did today.”

The ability to score at will left ASU hopeless in its attempt to make the largest comeback in Sun Bowl history (22 points is the current record). 

"I know a lot of these senior guys are going to be successful at the next level," Graham said. "Whatever they do, I know they will be champions. They’ve always given me everything they have and I am very grateful for that. I poured my heart and soul into this thing and I don’t have one regret."

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