EL PASO, Texas – An opportunistic Arizona State defense made play after play and held on to edge Florida State 20-14 Tuesday afternoon, closing out the final day of 2019 with the victory in the 86th Annual Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl.
Arizona State freshman defensive back Willie Harts struck like a lightning bolt in the final quarter, picking off a James Blackman pass and darting 25 yards untouched into the end zone for the game breaker, giving the Sun Devils their 20-14 final margin with 10:06 left.
Arizona State finished the season 8-5 with Tuesday’s win. Florida State closed out 2019 at 6-7.
A crowd of 42,412 turned out on a sun-swept 50 degree day for this old bowl bash.
The Sun Devils gifted freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels won the C.M. Hendricks Most Valuable Player trophy, completing 12-of-28 passes for 195 yards. The swarming Florida State defensive line hounded Daniels all afternoon, sacking him three times and giving him little time to throw and even less room to operate. Still, Daniels maintained his composure, completed key passes, ran for 36 yards and did not turn the ball over.
Seminole defensive lineman Robert Cooper was awarded the Jimmy Rogers Jr. Most Valuable Lineman Award and Arizona State’s Cristian Zendejas won the John Folmer Most Valuable Special Teams award by kicking four field goals – tying the Sun Bowl record shared by Paul Rogers of Nebraska in 1969, Drew Dunning of Washington State in 2001 and Conrad Ukropina of Stanford in 2016.
“You have to give credit to both defenses, I thought they both played really good and when you play in a game like that it becomes a defensive game. There were a couple scores but for the most part it was made by both defenses not allowing a lot of big plays,” said Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards. “I can’t say enough about our kicker and our defense, when you get 6 turnovers you should probably win a game. With that being said these guys (Florida State) kept fighting back, I give them a lot of credit. I’m happy for our seniors.”
The first half was defense, defense and a little more defense. Defense and Zendejas field goals. Arizona State led 3-0 after the first quarter off a 40-yard Zendejas kick. The Sun Devils led 9-0 at the half – thanks to a 26-yard Zendejas boot and a 24-yard Zendejas kick.
Florida State came roaring back in the second half. The Seminoles finally got on the scoreboard thanks to a three-yard run by Ontaria Wilson and a Ricky Aguayo extra point, narrowing the Arizona State lead to 12-7 with 3:17 left in the third quarter.
Florida State then dialed long distance to take the lead. Blackmon hit Tamorrion Terry streaking down the right sideline for a bowl record 91-yard touchdown pass with 1:04 remaining in the third quarter, giving the Seminoles a 14-9 edge.
The throw and catch and run broke the previous Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl record of 80-yards for longest pass play, a mark set by Purdue’s Kyle Orton, who connected with Brian Hare against Arizona State in 2004.
But the young Sun Devil defense would not yield again.
Zendejas connected on his fourth field goal, a 34-yarder with 12:02 left in the game to cut the Seminole lead to 14-12.
And then came the Harts lightning bolt. Harts read the play perfectly, darting in front of the receiver and then dashing to the end zone with what would ultimately be the game winner.
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