SAN FRANCISCO – For all the talk about how Arizona State would handle Navy’s triple-option offense, the real mismatch turned out to be when the Sun Devils had the ball.
Taylor Kelly threw four touchdown passes and ran for a fifth score and Arizona State scored touchdowns on its first nine possessions to win a bowl game for the first time in seven years, a 62-28 victory over the Midshipmen in the Fight Hunger Bowl on Saturday.
“We couldn’t stop them,” Navy linebacker Brye French said. “Everything that they would try, they just dominated us in basically every aspect of the game. It was very frustrating but you have to give them credit. They had a great game plan. They executed on everything. They had the deep ball, they had the run, they had the short pass. They had a great game plan and we just couldn’t stop them.”
Offensive MVP Marion Grice ran for 159 yards and two touchdowns for the Sun Devils (8-5), who used their fast-paced spread offense to gain 648 yards and average more than 10 yards a play through three quarters.
The Sun Devils won their most games since 2007 and won a bowl for the first time since the 2005 Insight Bowl against Rutgers. They also capped their first season under coach Todd Graham by beating rival Arizona and winning a bowl, a feat they had accomplished just once in the past 33 seasons.
“This win means a lot – 1978 is a long time,” said Rashad Ross, who caught three touchdown passes. “I’m just glad to be on this team, the team that finally did it: beat U of A and then go on and win a bowl game.”
The Midshipmen (8-5) have lost five of their last six bowl games. Among the few highlights for Navy were Keenan Reynolds’ 3-yard TD pass to Matt Aiken in the first half and a 95-yard kickoff return for a score by Gee Gee Greene in the third quarter.
“It’s a low right now for us,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We’re pretty emotional in the locker room, just the sadness of knowing it’s an end.”
Grice, playing with a heavy heart after his brother was murdered last week in Houston, scored on a 10-yard run in the first quarter and a 39-yarder in the third. He had 19 touchdowns this season, with 11 coming on the ground.