Brown’s Interception Preserves Sun Bowl Win
Arizona State’s wildly unpredictable 2014 season came to an end just as it deserved on Saturday, in dramatic fashion. After racing ahead to an early 20-3 first half lead, the Sun Devils were forced to hold on late for the win. Heading into the fourth quarter with a 30-17 lead, Arizona State appeared to be in the driver’s seat, cruising towards a convincing win. And then the sun began to break through the clouds in south Texas and things took an unexpected turn. Boone, who completed 15-31 passes for 193 yards on the day, connected with sophomore wide receiver Johnell Barnes for a 14 yard touchdown to pull the Blue Devils within six with 10:10 to play. Less than a minute later, Arizona State, who had moved the ball well against Duke all afternoon on the ground, faced a fourth down and short, electing to go for it at the Blue Devil 40 yard line. Freshman running back Kalen Ballage, who carried the ball just five times for 14 yards, was stuffed short of the first down marker, turning the ball back over to the suddenly rejuvenated Duke offense. However, the Sun Devil defense would respond, forcing Duke into a punt situation near midfield just moments later. However, Head Coach David Cutcliffe opted for the trick play, dialing up a fake punt in an effort to keep the Blue Devil drive rolling. Punter Will Monday rolled to his right before throwing back across field to a wide open Barnes, who marched all the way down to the ASU 20 yard line before being brought down. After a near interception by ASU safety Damarious Randall, the Blue Devils once again decided to go for it on fourth down, this time from the 14 yard line. Boone handed off to wide receiver Jamison Crowder on a jet sweep, but just as the speedy receiver appeared to have run out of room along the ASU sideline, he spotted Anthony Blakeney for a touchdown pass, putting the Blue Devils ahead 31-30 with 5:03 to go. But on a day when the ASU special teams struggled mightily, they came up with the game’s biggest play as Ballage took the ensuing kickoff 96 yards down to the Duke four yard line, setting up a short Demario Richard score for the go-ahead touchdown just one play later. Richard scored all four of ASU’s touchdowns, matching an Arizona State bowl game record set by Woody Green in the 1972 Fiesta Bowl. The freshman, whose 24 points tied a Sun Bowl record shared by former NFL greats Thurman Thomas and Priest Holmes, was named the game’s Offensive MVP after rushing for 41 yards on seven carries to go along with five catches for 22 yards. But the Sun Devils weren’t in the clear just yet as Duke quickly moved down the field once again. With 45 seconds to play, the Blue Devils faced a 3rd down & 10 from inside the ASU 20 yard line. Boone dropped back, lofting a pass to the back corner of the endzone intended for Crowder but was intercepted by Kweishi Brown, sending the Sun Devil sideline and its fans into a wild celebration. With the win, ASU notches its first pair of back-to-back 10 win seasons since 1972-73 and improved to 3-0 all-time in the Sun Bowl. Quarterback Taylor Kelly, making his final start as a Sun Devil, completed 24-34 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns in the win. The senior also rushed for 24 yards as the Sun Devils used a balanced offensive attack against the Blue Devils. Junior Jaelen Strong, who also made his final appearance in maroon and gold after declaring earlier in the week that he’ll forego his senior season and enter the upcoming NFL Draft, caught seven passes for 103 yards. Running back D.J. Foster added 79 yards on 11 carries for the ASU offense while catching three passes for 42 yards while junior wide receiver Fred Gammage set a career-high with four receptions for 23 yards. But it was Brown and the defense who delivered in the end. The junior college transfer helped force both Arizona State turnovers on Saturday as he forced a Blakeney fumble inside the ASU 15 yard line early in the third quarter that was recovered by safety Jordan Simone, stopping a Blue Devil scoring threat. Linebacker Antonio Longino led all players with 17 tackles on the day. Senior defensive lineman Marcus added 13 tackles for the Sun Devils while Salamo Fiso and Simone totaled 12 and 10 tackles, respectively, in the win. After Richard put Arizona State on the board with a nine yard first quarter touchdown run, kicker Zane Gonzalez extended the lead to 10 with a 28 yard field goal midway through the quarter. Gonzalez was a perfect 3-3 on Saturday as he became just the second kicker ever at Arizona State to successfully make 20 or ore field goals in consecutive years since Luis Zendejas in 1982-83. Gonzalez also finished the year with 121 points, the second-most ever in a season at ASU to his 138 points from a year ago. Notables With his catches against Duke, D.J. Foster finished the season with 64 receptions, becoming just third Sun Devil player to ever record 60 or more receptions in consecutive season at ASU. Derek Hagan (2003-05) and Jaelen Strong (2013-14) are he only other two players to accomplish that feat. Strong’s 103 yard receiving performance gave the junior twelfth 100 yard receiving outing at Arizona State, which is tied for second-most at ASU along with former wide receiver Shaun McDonald. Kalen Ballage’s 96 yard kickoff return late in the fourth quarter was the longest kickoff return by ASU since Rashad Ross’ 100 yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Colorado in 2012. With the loss, Duke remains winless in bowl games since 1961.
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