The Las Vegas Bowl had its 9th largest crowd come out to see the Arizona State Sun Devils vs the Fresno State Bulldogs at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. The Devils coming in with a 7-5 record, coming off a great 19 point comeback win in the fourth quarter of the annual territorial cup game. Fresno St. came in having won 12 games in the regular season, and a team that would be a tough match-up for the Sun Devils.
The match up against the Bulldogs stout defense was going to be a task for the Devils coming in without star wide receiver N’Keal Harry, and the young wide receiving core would have to step up and fill the void. The Devils struggled in the passing game, as Manny Wilkins had some accuracy issues on the deep balls all day. In the first quarter Wilkins gave 7 points to the Dogs on a 70 yard pick six that put the Dogs ahead 10-0 early.
First half belonged to the up and coming star running back Eno Benjamin, as he racked up 92 yards and got the Devils on track and looked in total control scoring on two straight touchdown drives to take the lead 14-10. Both quarterbacks were over throwing wide open receivers on the deep ball that could have counted for at least 3 scores.
Passing was very mediocre as Manny Wilking threw for only 129 yards on 19 /31 attempts and one touchdown. Wilkins favorite target was Brandon Aiyuk whom he hit 9 times for 61 yards with a long of 21 yards. The pass game was not effective enough to keep Eno Benjamin relevant and not allow the SunDevils offense to become one-dimensional.
Going into half the Devils were tempted to go for a fourth and goal on the 2 yard line, Coach Herm Edwards called two consecutive timeouts and eventually kicked the field goal for the 17-17 tie at the break.
Third quarter the Devils manage to get two takeaways on interceptions, which gave them great field position inside the 30 hardline on both. But the offense was only able to add 3 points to their total as the Bulldog defense begin to stiffen up the line of scrimmage.
There was one more opportunity for the Devils to stay in the game as Bulldogs game MVP running back Ronnie Rivers appeared to score in the corner of the end-zone. After further review the ball was fumbled forward and hit the pile on resulting in a touch back for the Devils.
That turned out to be a none factor in the game other than the final score, as the Dogs begin to gash the tired Sun Devils defense and finally running back Rivers put the game away with a 68 yard burst up the middle for a touchdown.
Final score was Fresno State 34 Sun Devils 20, and under the circumstances the Devils put up a good fight. The ASU program is headed in the right direction as the Herm Edwards effect has already attracted top recruits coming in for next year and according to reports more are coming.
It was a great first year under Coach Herm Edwards and I must say, it was a joy to watch all season long.