The home of the 2012 World Series Champions San Francisco Giants was a fitting environment for the Sun Devils. Call it ironic or a coincidence, but baseball stadium football games have been nothing but good luck for the Sun Devil football team. It has been a long seven years since a post-game trophy was hoisted in the air, the last time being in the 45-40 2005 Insight Bowl win against Rutgers played at the Arizona Diamondbacks very own Chase Field.
The win over the Midshipmen was the cherry on top of a very unique season for the Sun Devils. From a complete coaching makeover and the roller coaster of a season, the ASU seniors will close the book to their collegiate careers three-final wins with wins over Arizona and a bowl game; something that has not been done since the 1978 Coach Frank Kush era.
“Obviously I am very proud of our football team.” Head Coach Todd Graham commented in the post game debriefing. “We are about honor, discipline, and character. These guys have come an awful long way. We have a very good football team as you could tell today. Our focus was winning this game and preparing. Our guys came prepared today and dominated and I’m really proud of them.”
Though the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl win was a game that broke records, the real story sits with the outstanding offensive player of the game, Marion Grice. The junior running back was faced with tragedy with the loss of his brother days before the team was set to leave for San Francisco, and left the team to return to Texas to be with his family during the unfortunate time.
Through his heartbreak, the junior back was able to have the mental strength to focus on the task at hand and have an unyielding performance in the game that Coach Graham dedicated in the pregame to Grice’s late brother.
“He [Grice] has a lot of brothers here to support him and that love him.” Coach Graham added about the back. “We didn’t have conversations about what happened (before the game). I just asked him if he wanted to play and he said yes. It was great to hand Marion the game ball to take home with him.”
“We opened our arms up for Marion,” starting quarterback Taylor Kelly added. “We are all with him. He is in our prayers and his family. He is having a hard time outside the locker room but he is al-in to this program and he wanted to come out and play for his brother and his family and also our brothers so we welcome him with all our feelings and all our prayers go out to him.”
Grice would end the game with 159 yards and two touchdowns with the longest rush being a 39-yard rush in the 3rd quarter to put the Sun Devils up 55-14 over the Midshipmen.
The team coming together more than ever for Grice may have been the backbone of the success for the Sun Devils. Records were met, stout defense was played, and much momentum was created going into the 2013 season.
Seven records that were held in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Game were broken by ASU. Those included sacks (Will Sutton, 2.5), PAT’s (Alex Garoutte, 8), points by the winning team (62), and points in a quarter (ASU, 3rd Quarter).
Efficiency is the word that describes the offensive side for ASU. During each of the nine touchdown drives for the Sun Devils none would exceed three minutes. The sophomore quarterback would end the day going 17-19 for 268 yards with four touchdowns, putting the quarterback tied for second in ASU football history with 29 touchdown passes.
“We’ve got a good quarterback.” Coach Graham added. “It’s team first (with him). I’ve never doubted that. That’s why we are bowl champions today and why we’ll compete for a conference championship. I appreciate Taylor and his leadership. He’s the offensive coordinator on the field.”
Domination is the word you would assign to the defense, containing Navy’s triple-option offense led by defensive linemen Will Sutton. Sutton ended what could be his game in the maroon and gold with 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles.
“He has a passion for what he does.” Coach Graham commented. “I’m hopeful he will be back.”
ASU defense would only allow a mere 350 total yards in the game for the triple-option offense that Navy brought to the field, which was of main concern for the Sun Devils heading into the game Saturday afternoon.
“I hope we never play that triple-option again.” Sutton added with humor in the postgame conference. “Preparation for it was harder on our scout team more than anything trying to do what they do and the blocking scheme that they do is different but we handled it real well. We have been practicing for about a month for this game so it was with due time that we were going to get it down and we did and we came and we had a good game.”
Lost in the excitement of the bowl win was another ASU record that was set by the junior tight end Chris Coyle. His 57th reception in the game against the Midshipmen would pass the previous record held by Zach Miller. Coyle who had a break out season for the Sun Devils will end his junior season with 696 yards. Coyle has benefited from the three-back offensive system that Coach Graham and offensive coordinator Mike Norvell have brought to 2012 season.
There were many questions that were made in the beginning of the season when Coach Graham stepped foot into Tempe as the next head coach for the Sun Devils, and many of those questions were now answered as ASU heads back to the Valley of the Sun with a new trophy to shine their lights on. Coach Graham is now 4-1 in bowl games after the win Saturday night, and with big wins over Arizona, the future of Arizona State football seems to be in the right hands with the momentum in their favor.
“There is no doubt that this will propel us into the offseason.” Coach Graham concluded. “The first thing we talked about in the locker room was the foundation that these seniors have laid.
“We have got a great core coming back next year, and I’m excited for the future.”