Sun Devil Football Falls in Sun Bowl, Looks Ahead to 2018

Sun Devil Football Falls in Sun Bowl, Looks Ahead to 2018

While Sun Devil fans didn’t get the big victory they were rooting for, the Sun Bowl capped off another roller coaster year for ASU Football. 

The Sun Devils traveled to the Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas for a thrilling matchup on Friday, Dec. 29. Despite a promising fourth-quarter comeback, they couldn’t quite make it happen, ultimately falling to the NC State Wolfpack, 52-31.

In their last game with Head Coach Todd Graham, ASU struggled with costly mistakes that put the game out of reach. While they cruised to a 42-30 victory over rival Arizona a few weeks earlier, they failed to dominate in the Sun Bowl. ASU’s second-best record in the Pac-12 South behind USC represented both their strong offense and defense, but they were lacking in their final game with far too many turnovers.

Throughout the season, the Devils cut down on costly errors, as they are tied for seventh in the country for fewest penalties this season (49). They come in seventh in the country for  fewest turnovers lost (11).

Mistakes aren’t good for any team, but they ended up costing the Devils the game. They enjoyed a fantastic scoring drive led by receiver N’Keal Harry, who caught four passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. But despite their aggressive push, they stumbled when it counted, with quarterback Manny Wilkins throwing three interceptions and wide receiver Ryan Newsome fumbling at the start of the game. These mistakes allowed NC State to score 10 points. Then there were the 21 points they racked up from recovering three of ASU’s four on-side kicks.

With a victory just out of reach, the Sun Devils couldn’t quite capture that high note they were hoping for. The situation may feel eerily similar for ASU fans, who watched in 2011 as recently fired head coach Dennis Erickson lost the Las Vegas Bowl to Boise State, 56-24. He then handed the reins over to newly-hired Todd Graham.

The fluctuating coaching situation may have been a distraction for the team, as the hiring of Herm Edwards came after weeks of speculation. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett and offensive coordinator Billy Napier also recently announced they would not be returning to their posts at ASU.

Leading up to the bowl game, much of the focus was on the future at ASU and the new coaches, rather than the matchup. After the game, Graham said he admired his players for coping with the uncertainty. “The kids did a good job deflecting it,” Graham said in a post-game interview. “No excuses, we didn’t play well today. It’s been very challenging in preparing under this circumstance.”

Putting this season behind the, ASU Sun Devil Football has a lot to prepare for to get back to top-shape for the 2018 season. For more information, news and updates, check out the official website of Sun Devil Football HERE. 

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