2012 Kraft Fight Hunger - ASU 62, Navy 28

Posted Dec 29, 2012

2012-2013 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2012 Kraft Fight Hunger

2012 Kraft Fight Hunger

Arizona State vs. Navy

- 2012-2013 CFN Bowl Central

- CFN Thoughts and Analysis on the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

National Rankings
31st Total Offense 79th
26th Total Defense 55th
21st Scoring Offense 84th
40th Scoring Defense 31st
39th Rushing Offense 6th
74th Run Defense 78th
46th Passing Offense 117th
12th Passing Defense 36th
35th Turnover Margin 59th
Position Rankings
relative to each other
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
A   N
4 Quarterbacks 3.5
4 RBs 4
3.5 Receivers 1.5
2.5 O Line 3
3 D Line 2
3.5 Linebackers 2
4.5 Secondary 2
3 Spec Teams 4
3.5 Coaching 4
Arizona State 62, Navy 28

(AP) SAN FRANCISCO -- Taylor Kelly threw four touchdown passes and ran for a fifth score to lead Arizona State to its first bowl win in seven years, a 62-28 victory over Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Saturday.

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 score touchdowns on their first nine possessions.

That helped provide a bright end to a successful first season at Arizona State for coach Todd Graham, who helped the Sun Devils win their most games since 2007 and win a bowl for the first time since the 2005 Insight Bowl against Rutgers. The Sun Devils also capped their season by beating rival Arizona and winning a bowl, a feat they had accomplished just once in the past 33 seasons.

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.

Rashad Ross, who grew up in nearby Vallejo, started and ended the first-half outburst with touchdown receptions. His 16-yard catch from Kelly capped a 75-yard game-opening drive, and he got behind the Navy defense for a 52-yard score in the final minute of the half to make it 34-7. Ross then caught a 50-yard TD pass on Arizona State's first drive of the second half to make it 41-7.

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.

Much of the talk leading up to the game was how Arizona State would handle Navy's unique triple-option offense. It turned out that the Midshipmen had much more trouble with the Sun Devils' spread, giving up 648 yards.

Arizona State had seven touchdown drives of at least 60 yards in the first three quarters and had just three third-down plays in that span as Kelly easily picked apart the defense. The longest drive took just 2:43 and one of the quickest came at the end of the half when the Sun Devils went 80 yards in two plays covering 19 seconds after Nick Sloan missed a 33-yard field goal for Navy.

Kelly finished 17 for 19 for 268 yards, ending the season completing a school-record 67.1 percent of his passes. He also rushed for 81 yards, scoring on a 1-yard run that made it 21-0.

The Midshipmen had a few opportunities to keep the game close on offense in the first half but Greene was unable to hold onto a pass in the end zone on fourth-and-7 from the 31 in the first quarter and Reynolds lost 3 yards on a third-and-1 keeper from the 8 before Sloan's missed field goal.

Sen. John McCain, a former Navy fighter pilot who represents Arizona in Congress, handled the pregame toss. Instead of using a coin, the game sponsored by Kraft uses an Oreo, with one side being a chocolate cookie and the other vanilla.

Before that, Pat Tillman Sr. presented Sun Devils defensive tackle Will Sutton the Pac-12 defensive player of the year award named after his son, the former ASU star who died as an Army ranger in Afghanistan.

Navy (8-4) vs. Arizona State (7-5)
Dec. 29, 3:15, ESPN2

Here's The Deal … For a second straight year, Arizona State is appearing in a mid-tier December bowl game. This one, however, has a drastically different vibe than last winter's lopsided loss to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

A year ago, the Sun Devils trudged into Vegas, uninspired and without their deposed head coach Dennis Erickson. In stark contrast, this squad enters the second season with a head of steam and a lot of confidence. Sure, there were ups-and-downs in Todd Graham's debut in Tempe, but even at 7-5, the program exceeded modest expectations at a time when the postseason appeared as if it might be a stretch in 2012.

Arizona State has been streaky all year. At 5-1, it was a threat in the Pac-12 South. Four consecutive losses later, the Sun Devils were circling the drain, and in danger of skipping bowl-eligibility altogether. But back-to-back wins, capped by a 41-34 upset of rival Arizona in Tucson, has the team pointing north once again. The future is solidifying in the desert. With an eight-win season and the school's first bowl victory in seven years, the new staff can add substantially more concrete to the foundation.

Navy has turned its offense over to a plebe. And it's working out rather swimmingly. True freshman QB Keenan Reynolds was given the ball from head coach Ken Niumatalolo in early October, and the Midshipmen have lost just once since. After being shut out by San Jose State on Sept. 29, it appeared as if the annual Army-Navy game would mark the end of a second straight the season for the Academy. Instead, the Mids brought the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy back to Annapolis, while also becoming bowl-eligible.

For Niumatalolo, it's been an especially redemptive season. After the coach went 5-7 a year ago, and started slowly in 2012, whispers began to surface that he may have hit a wall. He has answered his critics with the timely move to Reynolds and the wicked 7-1 finish down the stretch. Traveling cross-country to San Francisco for win No. 9 would cap quite a turnaround this season for the Midshipmen.

Players to Watch: In his debut out of Goodpasture Christian (Tenn.) School, Reynolds took a giant step toward becoming a four-year starter in Annapolis.

The rookie has not only been a factor as a runner, a job requirement in this system, but also as a passer. Sure, Reynolds has sprinted for 628 yards and 10 touchdowns, but he has also thrown eight touchdown passes and just a single interception. Naturally, the Sun Devils have been practicing to stop the triple-option, yet will also have to pay attention to Gee Gee Greene swinging out of the backfield, and 6-4, 225-pound Brandon Turner striding behind the secondary.

If the Midshipmen are to put Reynolds in a position to make plays, they'll have to control a tenacious and underrated Arizona State front seven.

The Sun Devils are No. 2 nationally in sacks and tackles for loss, testament to their depth of talent near the line of scrimmage. Now, sacks will be tough to come by against run-first Navy, but ASU still figures to get a consistent push on an undersized Middie front wall. The catalyst is freakishly quick and disruptive DT Will Sutton, but he'll get plenty of help. DE Carl Bradford, rookie NG Jaxon Hood, LB Brandon Magee and versatile Spur Chris Young are all capable of making stops at or behind the line.

Navy is the more committed ground-oriented team, but it is Arizona State which boasts the deeper stable of backs.

Four Sun Devils have rushed for at least 400 yards, including QB Taylor Kelly. Cameron Marshall is the feature back, if such a thing exists in Tempe. JUCO transfer Marion Grice has been a big-play guy on the ground. And rookie D.J. Foster has the best hands, catching 36 balls for 522 yards and four touchdowns. They'll all look to evade Middies linebackers Matt Warrick, Brye French and Keegan Wetzel, the senior leaders of a vulnerable run D.

Navy will win if … it can withstand Arizona State's first few punches and noticeable edge in speed.

The Midshipmen get better with time. In their four losses, they failed to score a single point in the first quarter of any of those games, falling into a deep hole. Navy isn't the kind of team that excels when playing from a deficit, needing to run its attack without any additional sense of urgency. It's a grinder that can wear out opposing defenses in the second half. The Academy is 4-0 in 2012 in games decided by a touchdown or less. If it can hang with the Sun Devils in the first 30 minutes, its confidence will be soaring coming out of the halftime locker room.

Arizona State will win if … Kelly provides the offense with a steady dose of balance.

When the sophomore was on target through the air this season, the Sun Devils looked like a bona fide threat for the Rose Bowl. When he wasn't, the team was downright ordinary. In fact, when Kelly produced more passing touchdowns than picks, his team was 6-1. When he didn't? 1-4. Arizona State harbors too much speed and too many weapons for the blue-collar Navy defense. The onus will fall on the orchestrator to involve all of his team weapons, including the myriad backs and sure-handed H-back Chris Coyle.

What Will Happen: The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl will come down to want-to. Navy will be steeped in it. If Arizona State is, too, it'll get little resistance to its eighth win.

The Sun Devils have too much talent for a Midshipmen team that was not competitive in early-season games with prominent opponents, Notre Dame and Penn State. They have options on offense, and enough playmakers—and time—on defense to keep the Academy in check. Graham should have his team motivated for the trip to AT&T Park, with a chance to showcase its progress this season. ASU will jump on Navy early, forcing it into the kind of a game it cannot win. The Mids will mount a second-half challenge, but never shrink the lead below double-digits.

CFN Prediction: Arizona State 38 … Navy 20
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Arizona State -14.5 O/U: 56

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl History
2012 Arizona State 62, Navy 28
2011 (Dec.) Illinois 20, UCLA 14
2011 (Jan.) Nevada 20, Boston College 13
2009 USC 24, Boston College 13
2008 Cal 24, Miami 17
2007 Oregon State 21, Maryland 14
2006 Florida State 44, UCLA 27
2005 Utah 38, Georgia Tech 10
2004 Navy 34, New Mexico 19
2003 Boston Col 35, Colorado St 21
2002 Virginia Tech 20, Air Force 13