Arizona State's victory over Navy on Saturday sent a message to their fellow Pac-12 cohorts. With Todd Graham leading the way as the Devils' head coach, this is a team that is going to fight, prepare, discipline themselves and come away with a few victories based solely on grit.
Fortunately for ASU, it didn't require much grit to beat the Navy Midshipmen. The Sun Devils were clearly the superior team, as evidenced by their 62-28 victory. The team looked well prepared to handle Navy's triple-option offense, holding them to 350 yards, most of which came in garbage time. As for ASU's offense, they did whatever they wanted, not being forced to punt a single time.
So the collective effort was there, but after breaking it down, which player deserves the game ball for their efforts? There are certainly a few players worthy of the award, so let's run through them one by one.
The Sun Devils quarterback came up huge for his team, throwing four touchdown passes and rushing for his first trip to the end zone all season. He was simply fantastic until he was pulled in the second half due to the margin of victory. He failed to connect on just two passes, one of which was a drop by tight end Chris Coyle.
The redshirt sophomore figures to make huge contributions in Todd Graham's high octane offense for the next two years. Kelly brings the threat of passing it with a strong arm, such as his 52 yard pass to Rashad Ross, and he brings the running game aspect with him as well. His performance in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl was a great example of that.
Speaking of Ross, the senior wide receiver provided the deep threat that the Sun Devils have been hoping for all year long. Some games he brought that, some not as much. But with a freshman cornerback guarding him much of the day, Ross went off. He had four catches for 139 yards and three touchdowns.
Before the game, Sutton collected the PAC-12 Defensive Player of the Year Award from Pat Tillman, Sr., father of the late and great Sun Devil/Arizona Cardinal, Pat Tillman. Sutton obviously saw the meaning behind such an award, as he decided to go off against the Midshipmen.
Sutton's 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks saw him bring home the Defensive MVP award from the game. He was consistently in Navy's backfield, speeding up their decision making in their triple-option offense. Most of the time, it ended in failure. Sutton showed why he is such a special player and why Sun Devils nation would like him back for his senior season before entering the NFL Draft.
Just a little over a week after the death of his brother in a gang related shooting, many were not sure if Grice was even going to play in the Bowl game. He had been very emotional in practice this past week having just returned from Texas where he was grieving with his family.
But it seems that once Grice decided to play, he walked onto the field with one thing in mind: he was going to play that game for his brother. And play he did. Grice won the Offensive MVP award after rushing 2 touchdowns and 159 yards on just 14 carries. He was also a threat coming out of the backfield as a receiver, catching a pair of passes for 19 yards.
It is hard to fathom what was going through Grice's mind, but to see him lay it all out on the field, even when ASU was up by more than 40 points, was truly inspiring.
For his effort and willingness to play in a football game after such a great tragedy, the game ball goes to Marion Grice. The junior JUCO transfer should be inspiration for all Sun Devils after his performance on Saturday. He is the perfect example of the type of player Todd Graham is looking to build his team after. He has skill and character, two things that do not go hand in hand.
Expect a big year from Grice in 2013, as well as the rest of the Arizona State Sun Devils.