After getting out to a quick start, it looked like Arizona State was going to run away with the Sun Bowl on Saturday. But the Duke Blue Devils did not fold up the tents, and rallied to take the lead in the fourth quarter. However, that lead did not last very long as the Sun Devils came right back to regain the lead, and eventually the game by a score of 36-31.
ASU was up 20-3 halfway through the second quarter. At that point, Duke wasn’t able to stop freshman Demario Richard and the Sun Devil offense at all. Richard rushed for touchdowns of nine and one yards in the first half. Combine that with the boys from Durham’s inability to get anything going on the offensive side of the ball, it appeared that a blowout was in store.
But all of the sudden in the final four minutes of the second quarter, a 78-yard touchdown drive followed by a punt return for a touchdown by Jamison Crowder brought Duke back within three as the teams headed into the locker room.
ASU responded right back after halftime with a passing touchdown to Richard, his third score of the day. A Zane Gonzalez field goal later in the third quarter put ASU back up by 13.
Then the comeback commenced. Anthony Boone started the fourth quarter with a touchdown pass to Johnell Barnes to cut the lead back down to six. On the ensuing ASU drive, Duke forced a turnover on downs to get the ball back with a chance to take the lead.
Then mayhem happened.
Facing 4th-and-11 at the 50, Duke called for a fake punt, resulting in a 30-yard gain. Four plays later, needing two yards for a first down, the Blue Devils dug deep into the playbook again and ran a trick play that had wide receiver Crowder throw a 12-yard TD pass to Issac Blakeney. After the PAT, Duke had their first lead of the day.
That lead would last for 18 seconds.
On the kickoff, another ASU freshman made his mark on the game as Kalen Ballage returned the kick 96 yards down to the Duke 4-yard line. On the very next play, Taylor Kelly found Demario Richard to give Richard his fourth touchdown of the game, tying a Sun Bowl record. Kelly had the opportunity to stretch the lead to seven on a two-point conversion, but a broken play led to a failed attempt which kept the lead at five with 4:45 remaining.
Duke then drove 57-yards to the ASU 14 in just under four minutes. Boone went to the endzone to try and regain the lead, but the pass was picked off by another Sun Devil freshman, Kweishi Brown.
Give Duke credit for coming back on two separate occasions, but ASU and Demario Richard were just a little too much for the Blue Devils in El Paso. Arizona State finishes the season with a 10-3 record, while Duke finishes at 9-4. With all the freshmen making such a big impact on the game for ASU, Todd Graham has to be encouraged for what’s in store in 2015.
*Section Photo credit to Christian Petersen, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Cal Sports Media, AP Images.