The Arizona State football team won more than just a game on Saturday in San Francisco—it won respect.
Being a team that has been mired in mediocrity for more than a decade, the tide is changing and the Sun Devils are plotting their return to greatness. Saturday’s 62-28 victory over Navy was just the tip of the iceberg of things to come for coach Todd Graham and the Arizona State Sun Devils.
I will drop grades on each starter and how they were able to manage not only the most points ever by a Pac-12 team in a bowl game but also the most total touchdowns, rushing touchdowns and first downs.
Four players also set or tied Pac-12 bowl records. Jump in to see who they were and what they did—it might just surprise you.
Marion Grice: Offensive MVP
After spending time away from the team to be with his family grieving the death of his brother, the week before Christmas, Grice returned to the team and gave the performance of his life.
Grice had a career-high 159 yards rushing and two touchdowns including a 39-yard scamper for his second TD in the third quarter. He also added 19 yards of receiving on two receptions.
He finished the year with 11 rushing touchdowns and eight receiving, the most by a running back in 2012. His 19 total touchdowns was tied with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and ranked third in the conference and 12th in the country.
Will Sutton: Defensive MVP
Will Sutton once again came to feast on the opposing quarterback and he left the game full. Sutton had a phenomenal day with five tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss of 28 yards including 2.5 sacks.
Sutton was continually in the backfield as the the star of the Arizona State defensive line and proved once again that he is a veracious force to be reckoned with.
He finished the season with 13 sacks, a mere one-half sack behind the leader in the FBS and his 96 yards on sacks ranks him fourth in the nation.
Taylor Kelly: Quarterback
Taylor Kelly had one of his best days as a quarterback and proved to be the quarterback for the future. He finished the day with 268 yards on 17-of-19 passing and four touchdowns. His completion rate of 89.5 was the best of his career as was the 277.4 rating.
He was the teams second leading rusher on a team that is stacked with great running backs. He finished the day with 81 yards on seven attempts and even scored his first rushing TD of his career.
Kelly showed great arm strength with two of his scores to Rashad Ross of 50+ yards and also found junior Alonzo Agwuenu in the end zone for his first career touchdown.
Kelly finished the year with 29 touchdowns, one short of Andrew Walter’s record of 30. He led the Sun Devils to several Pac-12 bowl records including most first downs and highest yard-average per play. Strangely enough, both previous records were held by Arizona State and Rudy Carpenter in their last bowl victory over Rutgers in the 2005 Insight Bowl.
Rashad Ross: Wide Receiver
Senior Rashad Ross waited until his final game in a Sun Devil uniform to have his best outing—and he went out with a bang.
Ross was the Sun Devils leading receiver with 139 yards, his first 100-yard game of his career. His three touchdowns on the day replicated his entire 2012 production. He also tied the Pac-12 bowl record for most TD receptions in a game with four others.
He finished the year as the leading receiver on the team with a 16.5 yard average and was second with six total touchdowns. His 610 total yards and 46.9 yards per game average placed him second for the year behind tight end Chris Coyle.
Cameron Marshall: Running Back
Senior Cameron Marshall returned to his previous form and lit up the Navy defense. He finished the day with two touchdowns on nine rushes for 59 yards including a 33-yard score in the Sun Devils 28-point 3rd quarter.
Marshall averaged 6.4 yards per carry and added a 20-yard reception to give him 79 all-purpose yards to finish off his Sun Devil career in style.
His name and numbers litter the Arizona State record books and he will long be remembered as one of the best running backs in Sun Devil history.
One of the best performances to date for senior Andrew Sampson and crew. When your team amasses the most first downs ever by a Pac-12 team in their bowl game and allows your team to average 7.8 yards per carry, that isn’t good—that’s amazing.
When you add to the mix that quarterback Taylor Kelly had his best completion and best QB rating ever, it has a lot to do not only with good reads but having a lot of time in the pocket to perfect his craft.
The numbers are sensational, 648 total yards of offense, 9.4 average yards per play, no interceptions and no sacks. The offensive line of Sampson, Evan Finkenberg, Jamil Douglas, Brice Schwab and center Koby Koebensky not only deserve the highest grade possible, but also the love and admiration of Sun Devil nation.
Sophomore linebacker Carl Bradford started the game off strong with a big sack of Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds and spent a lot of time in the Navy backfield with three tackles-for-loss. He finished the day with eight tackles, seven of them solo.
Senior linebacker Brandon Magee also had a big day and retired his Sun Devil career in style. He led the team with nine tackles including one for a loss.
Junior Grandville Taylor also had a grand day with eight tackles including one for a loss. Junior Steffon Martin got in on the action with two tackles, one for a loss of three yards.
Navy came back from the halftime intermission and looked to move away from the triple option. Reynolds ran for seven yards and then quickly threw an interception to junior DB Robert Nelson. The Sun Devil offense scored a touchdown less than a minute later.
Safety Alden Darby was burned early in the game by Navy’s Gee Gee Greene on a 4th-and-7 play but luckily for Darby and the Sun Devils, Greene couldn’t hold on in the end zone.Darby finished the game with eight tackles, four solo.
It seemed as though safeties Chris Young and Keelan Johnson were all over the field making key tackles and stopping the dreaded triple option from spreading. They finished the game with seven tackles apiece. Reserve safety Kevin Ayers compiled three tackles including one for a loss.
Corners Deveron Carr and Osahon Irabor were not called into much action as Navy QB Keenan Reynolds only threw 11 passes, completing five to his team and one to ASU. Irabor finished with two tackles and Carr had one for the day.
Junior Davon Coleman bookended the solid line with All-American Sutton. Coleman received credit for one-half sack with Sutton and a total of nine tackles on the day. Jaxon Hood proved that he belonged on the line as a true freshman by compiling three tackles of his own—all solo.
If I am grading the Defensive Line without Sutton, I would give them a solid B.
The Special Teams didn’t really make an impact on the game, but I will grade the players accordingly.
First and foremost, the kickoff team allowed Navy’s Gee Gee Greene to burn them for a 95-yard score and Alex Garroutte missed a PAT—unacceptable.
On to better news, Garroutte tied a Pac-12 bowl record for most PAT’s converted in a game with eight, finishing off a near perfect year of 59-of-60 extra points.
The Conference’s leading punter, Josh Hubner was seen nodding off on the sidelines as the Sun Devils scored touchdowns on their first nine drives and the final two drives ended on downs and a fumble. Place kicker Jon Mora was used as much as Hubner, good thing they weren’t playing poker in the clubhouse.
Senior wide receiver Jamal Miles took on the punt and kick return duties and performed admirably. He returned a punt 37 yards and a kickoff for 41 yards. With so many others seeming to score at will, I was truly hoping for Miles to get one final touchdown in his season. He finished the day with 124 return yards and allowed Deveron Carr to take a kickoff for 17 yards as well.
I am truly excited for the upcoming season and can’t wait to see what new recruits will come to Arizona State thanks to the new regime of discipline and accountability under coach Todd Graham.
Tempe, Arizona is one of the hottest cities in the country and the future looks, oh so bright.