Sun Devils exit 2012 on firm footing

Arizona State ended the 2012 season, coach Todd Graham’s first, with some meaningful momentum thanks to the program’s first bowl win since 2005. And it did so in record-setting — or record-tying — fashion.

In a 62-28 win over Navy on Saturday, the Sun Devils broke 20 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl records, including most points. They also broke or tied seven Pac-12 bowl records, including most touchdowns (nine) and points scored.

Individuals including quarterback Taylor Kelly, tight end Chris Coyle and running back Marion Grice also made their way into the record books, be it for the game or the season, but the big story was ASU’s victory to cap what was an unexpectedly successful first season under new leadership.

For one last time in 2012, we look back at the game and what we learned.

THREE THINGS WE LEARNED

— Todd Graham knows how to plan. Granted, Graham had a month to get ASU ready for Navy, but the Sun Devils’ handling of the Midshipmen’s unusual triple option couldn’t have been much better. Sure, Navy piled up 313 rushing yards, but much of that came after the game was already decided, and quarterback Keenan Reynolds finished with just 21 yards on 22 carries. Navy scored just one touchdown on the ground. Moreover, ASU’s offensive plan was unstoppable. Navy might be smaller and slower, but the Sun Devils’ offense was totally dominant. The overall plan proved impressively sound.

— ASU has a strong core returning on both sides. The Devils lose a few key pieces to graduation — think Brandon Magee and Cameron Marshall — but some of their best returning players shined Saturday. On offense, there was junior running back Marion Grice, who scored 19 touchdowns this season, and redshirt sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly, who capped a stellar season with 268 yards and four touchdowns to finish the season with 3,040 yards passing. On the other side, defensive tackle Will Sutton and linebacker Carl Bradford stood out. Sutton, who had 2.5 sacks Saturday, might be gone to the NFL, but Bradford collected eight tackles and three tackles for loss, including a sack. The sophomore could be in for a big 2013 season.

— “High Octane” was more than talk. Graham’s talk of a high-octane offense seemed overdone early on, but with a full season of Graham and offensive coordinator Mike Norvell’s system in the books, it’s very evident that the offense is the real deal. On Saturday, ASU needed less than three minutes to get into the end zone on all nine of its scoring drives. The Devils had with just seven scoring drives over three minutes all year (51 of 58). Their final offensive figures: 38.4 points per game, 77.8 plays per game and 464.5 yards per game.

NOTEWORTHY

— Magee left the game in the third quarter with an apparent right arm injury. The initial diagnosis was a sprained elbow, though further tests were required.

— Freshman running back D.J. Foster was knocked out of the game in the first quarter by what appeared to be a helmet-to-helmet hit that resulted in a personal foul against Navy for targeting. He was on the sidelines but did not return. Backup quarter Michael Eubank also exited late in the game with an apparent head injury.

— Kelly now owns the ASU record for best single-season completion percentage, at 67.1 percent, breaking Brock Osweiler’s record of 61.8 set last season. He also set a new mark for passing efficiency in a season, besting Rudy Carpenter’s 145.09 (set in 2007) with a 159.91.

— ASU won three games to end the season for the first time since 1978, when Frank Kush was still the coach. It was also the first time ASU beat Arizona and won a bowl game in the same season since 2005.

— ASU finished with 648 yards of total offense Saturday, over 50 more than its previous high this season, 593 against Colorado. It was also the most by an ASU team in a single game since the 2005 team racked up a school-record 773 against Northwestern.

— The Sun Devils, who ranked second nationally in tackles for loss during the regular season, collected 11 such tackles Saturday to tie the school record for most in a season. The 117 total tied that of the 1998 team.

— Sutton and Bradford became the first ASU teammates with 20 or more tackles for loss in a season since Al Harris and Bob Kohrs in 1978. Sutton finished with 23.5 and Bradford had 20.5.

— Grice’s two touchdowns Saturday left him with 19 on the season, good enough for fourth on ASU’s all-time single-season list.

— After making 100 consecutive extra-point attempts, Alex Garoutte missed his 101st try in the first half Saturday. It was just the second miss of his ASU career in 109 attempts.

LOOKING AHEAD

Spring practice will begin in just a few months, so here are a few storylines to think about in the meantime:

— How will ASU’s finish impact recruiting? The Devils ended the year on a three-game winning streak, including a big win in the Territorial Cup and their first bowl win since 2005. They are still in on a few big-time recruits, including local talents Devon Allen (WR, Phoenix Brophy) and Priest Willis (DB, Tempe Marcos De Niza).  Might the strong finish help Graham and Co. reel in a stellar recruiting class? National Signing Day is Wednesday, Feb. 6.

— The QB situation: After a stellar first season under center, Kelly has to be the starter heading into spring and the 2013 season. But Graham said last week that Kelly could be beat out by either Michael Eubank or Mike Bercovici — assuming both stick around. With so much competition at QB — and highly touted recruit Joshua Dobbs arriving next season — Bercovici, Eubank or both could consider transferring for an opportunity elsewhere.

— Up for grabs: A few starting positions will be vacated on defense, and spring practice will offer some early indicators of who could fill those spots. Magee graduates, leaving a spot open at linebacker, as do safety Keelan Johnson and cornerback Deveron Carr. Sutton may be gone, too, if he declares for the draft this month. On the offensive side, Andrew Sampson and Brice Schwab vacate spots at right guard and tackle, and the receiver positions should all be available.