The bowl season has not been kind to the Pac-12 this season. After entering the day with a dreadful 1-5 record, the conference of champions fell to a lowly 1-6 after Arizona State (7-6) started slow and could not rally enough to catch No. 24 NC State (9-4) in the Hyundai Sun Bowl on Friday afternoon in El Paso, Texas. The 52-31 win by the Wolfpack improves the ACC to 4-3 after Wake Forest topped Texas A&M earlier in the day.
Ryan Finley was efficient in his final game of the season, completing 24 of 29 pass attempts for 318 yards and a touchdown. Nyheim Hines rushed for three touchdowns in the first half but Reggie Gallaspy II picked up the pace after Hines got banged up on a play. Gallaspy scored twice. Jaylen Samuels didn’t get his touchdown until the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Samuels also recovered an onside kick attempt by Arizona State and nearly returned the football for a touchdown before being brought down at the seven-yard line.
Arizona State did try to make a game of it in the fourth quarter with a couple of touchdown drives, but the damage had largely been done by then. By then, three turnovers and a lackluster first half and a few too many gambles not paying off made for too big of a hole to climb out of against a solid NC State team. Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins was picked off three times but did have three touchdowns and 2352 yards through the air.
NC State ends the season with the most wins in a season under head coach Dave Doeren, and the Wolfpack will be finishing in the top 25 for the first time under his watch. This will be just the third season NC State finishes the season ranked in the top 25 since 1995. With win totals of 9, 8, and two years with 7 wins the last four years, the trick is for Doeren to be able to get NC State to take that next step forward as an ACC contender, and perhaps as a playoff contender.
Todd Graham goes out as Arizona State’s head coach with a final record of 46-32 and a bowl record of 2-3, with the last win coming in 2014. Graham was fired by Arizona State in late November. The School then went out and hired former NFL head coach Herm Edwards with the intent of keeping the coaching staff together, but Edwards has already had to replace both of his coordinators after each left voluntarily following his hiring.
NC State will open their 2018 season on Sep. 1, 2018 at home against FCS powerhouse James Madison. The highlight of the non-conference schedule will be a home game two weeks later against West Virginia, while the Wolfpack will get Florida State at home and Clemson and Louisville on the road in division play. Arizona State’s season will also begin on Sep. 1, 2018 with a home game against UTSA. The Sun Devils will also play Michigan State at home and San Diego Stae on the road in non-conference play.