Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Howard carries WVU past Arizona State in Cactus Bowl

Dana Holgorsen lifting the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl trophy at Chase Field (Photo Credit: Ashley Conley, BGS)

Dana Holgorsen lifting the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl trophy at Chase Field
(Photo Credit: Ashley Conley, BGS)

PHOENIX–The West Virginia University football team ended a season of ups and downs on a high note when the Mountaineers beat the Arizona State Sun Devils 43-42 on Saturday night at Chase Field.

It was an exciting game of high power offense between the two teams, who combined for 1,196 yards of total offense.

After three scoreless drives, junior quarterback Skyler Howard threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to freshman quarterback/wide receiver David Sills to cap off a 75-yard scoring drive.

Much like it had done all season, the Mountaineers’ defense stood tall and stopped ASU’s offense to seal the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl Trophy.

“Long game, but good outcome,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “I’m proud of these guys; proud of my seniors, and proud of my team. We were the underdog, the visiting team, playing against a team on their turf and we found a way to win.”

WVU’s Howard threw for 532 yards and completed 28 of 51 passes. He threw two interceptions.

Howard’s performance broke a 24-year old Cactus Bowl passing record set by Drew Bledsoe in 1992. He also broke Marc Bulgers’s 429-yard Insight.com Bowl performance in 1998. The junior quarterback had the third best passing performance in school history.

Howard threw for 532 yards and completed 28 of 51 passes. He threw two interceptions.

Howard’s five touchdown passing performance is a career best. He threw four against Maryland and Baylor this year.

WVU's Skyler Howard (3) is looking for a pass during the Mountaineers' Cactus Bowl victory. (Photo Credit: Ashley Conley, BGS)

WVU’s Skyler Howard (3) is looking for a pass during the Mountaineers’ Cactus Bowl victory.
(Photo Credit: Ashley Conley, BGS)

“It’s about time it fell together,” Howard said. “We finally started clicking on offense.”

The Sun Devils and WVU battled back-and-forth much of the night.

Trailing 36-35, ASU gave their all after two ineffective chances to move the ball. On third and 10, quarterback Mike Bercovici found Gary Chambers for the first down.

Dravon Askew-Henry fell down on the play, and Chambers was able to get into the end zone to complete a 52-yard touchdown to put the Sun Devils back in front.

Instead of going for two, ASU head coach Todd Graham elected to kick the extra point.

“It’s my fault,” Graham said. “In the fourth quarter we have a chart, a box, that we go off of, and we were supposed to be going for two and we didn’t. That was mismanagement on our part and that’s my responsibility.”

WVU kicker Josh Lambert made two field goals to give WVU a 6-0 advantage.

The Mountaineers’ defense held the Sun Devils to a field goal after Salamo Fiso at the WVU 40 intercepted Skyler Howard’s pass.

Devin Lucien would score on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Bercovici to give the Sun Devils its first lead of the game with 9:59 to play in the second quarter.

Howard passed for 334 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. White had 116 receiving yards and Shell had 106.

Howard’s stellar performance earned him offensive MVP honors. Senior Shaq Petteway was named the defensive MVP.

Wendell Smallwood rushed for 72 yards, earing him the honor of Big 12 rushing champion.

Qur'an White (2) catches a pass before the Cactus Bowl at Chase Field in Phoenix.  (Photo Credit: Shanna Rose, BGS)

Ka’Raun White (2) catches a pass before the Cactus Bowl at Chase Field in Phoenix.
(Photo Credit: Shanna Rose, BGS)

Bercovici threw for 418 yards and four touchdowns, which tied an ASU single season record for 30 passing touchdowns on the year.

Ka’Raun White’s 53-yard catch in the first quarter was a career long catch for the sophomore wide receiver.

ASU’s Lucien recorded 116 receiving yards in the first half on seven catches. He now has three straight 100-yard receiving games and four this season.

Lambert had three field goals in the first half and moved up to a tie with Paul Woodside for third place all-time with 21 field goals made this season.

The Sun Devils are 3-2 in bowl games under Todd Graham. The Mountaineers are 2-2 under Holgorsen.

The attendance for the Cactus Bowl was 39, 321.

WVU’s win over ASU gives the Mountaineers their first eight win season since joining the Big 12.

 

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