NCAA: A Look Back at the Holiday Bowl
What was once considered a successful season for the Arizona State Sun Devils was “washed” away with a humiliating and hard to understand loss to the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the Holiday Bowl.
After winning seven in a row to play in their first Pac-12 Championship Game, the Sun Devils closed out their season with two embarrassing losses to the Stanford Cardinal and the Red Raiders.
Texas Tech, losers of five straight games at the end of their Big 12 season, entered the game as 14½-point underdogs to the 10 win and Pac-12 South Division champion Sun Devils. However it was the Sun Devils who were pushed around by the Red Raiders, in a game that was never really close.
The Sun Devil coaches and players had 23 days to prepare for this game and more specifically, the passing attack of Red Raiders. When a program has that much time to get ready for a football game, and comes out as unprepared and lifeless as the Sun Devils did this past Monday night, their fans are left confused.
The Sun Devils played perhaps its poorest first half of the season and never recovered to make it a competitive game. They looked like they did not want to be there. They struggled in every aspect of the football game. Tyler Kelly went only 16-of-29 passing for 125 yards, an interception and no touchdowns. Failure to consistently convert third downs was a big killer for the Sun Devils.
A porous defense gave up big play after big play. The Red Raiders posted 484 yards of total offense, their quarterback Davis Webb had 403 yards on 28-for-41 passing with four touchdowns, and the offense converted nine of their sixteen third-down attempts. They averaged 8.5 yards a play and ran off a play every 22 seconds, keeping the Sun Devils defense guessing on what scheme to use to stop the Red Raiders offensive attack.
Special teams mishaps for the Sun Devils included a “botched” field goal attempt before half time, as well as a kick return for a touchdown by the Red Raiders that took what little momentum the Sun Devils had after scoring a touchdown to start the second half and sent it right back over to the Red Raiders.
The Sun Devils committed uncharacteristic penalties as well. They were flagged eight times, which is four more than their average for the year.
For their fan base it was a performance that will take a while to shake. It will be a long offseason for the players returning in 2014, Sun Devil coaches and their fans.
On the bright side a look toward the 2014 season will show that the Sun Devils have one of the strongest recruiting classes with 19 commitments already signed on; and several starters returning to defend the Pac-12 South Division title.
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