(Photo: ASU Athletics)
The Arizona State Sun Devils were heavily favored to win the Holiday Bowl on Monday night, but that didn’t come to fruition as they were cast aside by the Texas Tech Red Raiders in a game that was never really close.
With a 37-23 final, the Sun Devils season came to a stunningly quiet conclusion after it ran rampant earlier in the year due to a seven-game winning streak.
It was over when: Taylor Kelly found sophomore wide receiver Rick Smith on a deep pass in the fourth quarter that would have cut the score to 37-30. Instead it was dropped and the Sun Devils were forced to punt a couple plays later.
Player of the Game: Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb wasn’t declared the starter for the Red Raiders until game day, but the freshman looked like he was a veteran in the team’s offense. With 403 yards passing and four touchdowns, he carved up the ASU defense like no passer had all season and found his way in the Holiday Bowl record books, tying the most touchdown passes thrown in the game’s history.
Biggest Concern: The season is over now so it’s a problem that Arizona State will have eight months to fix, but the pass rush might be the biggest concern moving forward. Without Davon Coleman, Gannon Conway and, most importantly, Will Sutton, on the defensive line, the Sun Devils will have to rely on a mostly new cast of characters to find pressure (with the exception of Carl Bradford). Even with the seniors in for one last time, ASU was unable to bring down Webb once.
Unsung Hero: D.J. Foster again proved that life without Marion Grice isn’t so bad for Arizona State, as the sophomore running back racked up 136 yards rushing, including a 20-yard rushing touchdown. Grice might be missed most in that he allowed Foster to be used often in the passing game, giving ASU a dynamic pair of weapons to be creative with. That was lacking from the team’s offense on Monday night.
Stat of the Game: 24. That’s the number of first downs racked up by the Red Raiders offense that converted third downs at will in the first half to jump out to a big lead. Arizona State struggled to keep drives going and Texas Tech wouldn’t get off the field.
What’s Next: A long offseason of thinking about the would’ve, could’ve and should’ve of a season that was so close to being one of the greatest in school history. With plenty of offensive talent returning for 2014, there’s reason to be optimistic, but the Sun Devils will have their hands full replacing defensive players like Sutton, Chris Young and Alden Darby.
You can reach Adam Stites on Twitter @AdamBCC or by email firstname.lastname@example.org