AT&T PARK — It’s become an annual holiday tradition in San Francisco, a bowl game along the shores of McCovey Cove and, no matter who wins or loses, the game benefits local charities to fight hunger in America.
This year, Arizona State jumped out to a big lead and never looked back as the Sun Devils steamrolled Navy, 62-28 in the 11th Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
The 62 points by ASU turned out to be a bowl record for points scored, surpassing the total of 44 points by Florida State in 2006. More impressive, it’s the most points scored by a Pac-12 team in a bowl game in conference history.
Arizona State also beat rival Arizona and won a bowl game this season, a feat the Sun Devils had not accomplished since 1978.
Vallejo native Rashad Ross had four catches for 139 yards and three touchdown receptions for Arizona State:
“This meant a lot, we hadn’t done this like since 1978, that’s a long time. I’m just glad to be on this team that finally did it, beat U of A and then go on to win a bowl game.”
Arizona State (8-5) sunk the Midshipmen by jumping out to a 21-0 lead, then stretching the margin to 41 points in the third quarter. Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly was a near-perfect 17-of-19 for 268 yards and four touchdowns. Their offensive attack was potent and relentless, like a runaway freight train.
The win had to be especially difficult and inspiring for ASU running back Marion Grice. Grice had missed several practices leading up to the game following the tragic death of his brother who was shot and killed in Houston on Friday morning.
The shooting happened during a robbery attempt where two men tried to steal a newly released pair of Air Jordans from Grice’s brother and an unnamed friend.
Grice dedicated the game to his brother’s memory and ran for 159 yards on 14 carries with two touchdowns. He pointed to the sky after his first touchdown, then went on to earn the game’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player award.
ASU head coach Todd Graham said it was Grice’s decision to go ahead and play in the game:
“It’s really been difficult for him. We were concerned about how well he would be able to play. We didn’t know if he’d be able to play but he played unbelievably and was very emotional after the game. He’s got brothers that love him and support him and it’s going to be a hard road as time goes on.”
The game was decided at the end of the first quarter. As if to put an exclamation point on the scoreboard, Kelly’s 1-yard TD run just before time expired capped off a 9-play 69 drive and put Arizona State ahead by three touchdowns at the end of the first quarter.
This was Navy’s second appearance in the bowl. Their first trip to San Francisco in 2004, put the game on the map. Fan support was tremendous from the Navy recruits and cadets and helped paved the way for better matchups and scheduling. In recent years, the bowl has drawn good ratings and serves as a 3.5 hour commercial to promote the city of San Francisco.
This time, the lone highlight for the Midshipman was a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Gee Gee Greene.
Navy has lost five of its last six bowl games. One of their two losses came against No. 1 ranked Notre Dame losing 50-10. They were also shut out by San Jose State which enjoyed its best season ever winning 11 games capped off by the Spartans victory in the Military Bowl over Bowling Green.
“The future for us is bright,” Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We’ve got to find a way to come back and bounce back and have a great offseason and look to what we can do better as coaching and find a way to get our program up. We just wish we could have finished better. I didn’t do a good job of getting our team ready.”
NOTES: This is the second to last bowl game to be played in San Francisco. After the 2013 Bowl game, the site of the 2014 game will be the new 49ers stadium in Santa Clara. … But all the events leading up to game day will still be held in the city including the annual rally in Union Square and the kickoff luncheon at the Westin St. Francis Hotel. Both teams are treated to various events during bowl week including a tour of Alcatraz. … And this year, both teams volunteered their time to serve meals at Glide Memorial on Christmas day. Of the 35 college bowl games, this is the only one dedicated to a worthy cause, to help fight hunger in America. One meal is donated for every ticket sold to each of three local hunger organizations: the San Francisco Food Bank, the St. Anthony Foundation and the Glide Foundation. This year, the game attendance was 34,172 resulting in 102,516 meals donated. One in six Americans has no idea where their next meal is coming including one in five children so it’s a win-win siutation having a game that’s vital to promoting local businesses while helping to eliminate food insecurity. For information, please visit feedingamerica.org.