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Pac-12 bowl woes continue as Arizona State falls in Sun Bowl to NC State

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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.

Nyheim Hines scores 3 TDs to lead NC State to halftime lead in Sun Bowl

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Arizona State kicked up some dust at the end of the first half, but NC State reaches halftime in a favorable position in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. The Wolfpack own a 28-10 lead on the Sun Devils in El Paso, despite not having standout defensive end Bradley Chubb on the field. NC State running back Nyheim Hines has done most of the scoring for the Wolfpack so far with three touchdowns in the first 30 minutes.

Arizona State wasted no time trying to catch NC State off guard, but a trick play on the opening play of the game did not get past the Wolfpack for more than a couple of yards. One play later, the Sun Devils fumbled the football away and NC State’s offense got to work. But when a drive stalled at the Arizona State four-yard line, it was the Wolfpack who tried catching Arizona State off guard to no avail. A fake field goal was sniffed out by Arizona State and kicker Kyle Bambard had to take off running for the corner when there was nobody to throw to. He came up just one-yard shy.

NC State scored touchdowns on their next four possessions in the game, with Hines ending each of the first three drives with a touchdown run.

After Arizona State scored a touchdown to cut the NC State lead to 21-10, Todd Graham elected to try a surprise onside kick with the hope of getting a little bit closer before halftime. That quickly backfired as NC State recovered the onside kick and started a possession at the Arizona State 49-yard line. Five plays later, Ryan Finley completed a 25-yard pass to Jakobi Meyers to pad the lead at 28-10.

Arizona State has some work to do in the second half. NC State will get the ball to open the second half.