Spurred on by the contributions of guest writers here at STAT BOX STORIES for the BOWL BLITZ INVITATIONAL, I am excited to share the tale of my second Bowl Game using NCAA Football 12 today: the 2011 MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, set to be played between the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Broncos of Boise State. Though Boise State has to be disappointed to settle for a lower-tier Bowl Game instead of getting into a BCS Bowl Game after a one-loss season, Arizona State is a team in turmoil as they face the coming installation of a new head coach and likely changes for the program. With a significant rating disparity between the two teams, it was an easy decision to suit up in the new uniforms of the Sun Devils as they took the field against a team in the BCS Top Ten.
Even though I had yet to lose a game of NCAA Football 12 for STAT BOX STORIES since the beginning of the blog series, this was a game that I knew would be an incredibly tough contest when the game booted up. Could I win against all odds?
To be certain, the game did not start off well for me as I took control of Arizona State. As the visiting team, I won the coin toss and made my typical decision to kick off to begin the game and get the ball back after halftime. This backfired immediately as Boise State scored a 62-yard touchdown pass on their very first offensive play of the game. Forced into a 7-0 deficit, I was feeling pressure on my very first possession to get things done on offense. Unfortunately, on third down a pass across the middle resulted in a fumble that was recovered by Boise State’s defense. With a short field, the Broncos drove and ended up scoring their second touchdown on a 3-yard run. My next offensive drive went no better, as Boise State intercepted my quarterback and the Broncos had the ball once again. Though I forced them to settle for a 30-yard field goal attempt and a 17-0 lead, my struggles were clear. On my next offensive drive, I managed to not turn the ball over; unfortunately, I went three-and-out and had to punt the ball. On the Broncos’ ensuing drive, a lengthy third down play resulted in a 47-yard touchdown pass with 21 seconds remaining in the first quarter, giving Boise State a 24-0 lead after only 7 minutes of play.
To begin the second quarter, I finally strung together a drive with multiple first downs. When I entered the red zone, however, I threw an interception in the end zone and was beginning to feel the game really slipping away. My defense finally stepped up and forced the Broncos offense to punt, and then with the ball back I faced 4th-and-5 at midfield. Instead of conceding and punting the ball right back to an offense which had been so prolific in the first quarter, I instead opted to go for it on 4th down and converted. This set up a 34-yard touchdown pass later in the drive and my first points on the board. Unwilling to simply settle for the extra point, I elected to go for the 2-point conversion and was successful, bringing the score to 24-8.
With 2:01 left in the half, I got the ball back from Boise after forcing a punt. On my two-minute drill, however, I threw an interception which was picked off at the Boise State 1-yard-line. Though I was denied the chance to get more points on the board via touchdown, the next play saw Arizona State’s middle linebacker tackle Boise State’s halfback in the end zone for a safety.
After the free kick, I tried to drive down the field and get more points on the board before halftime. The drive ended unsuccessfully when Boise State’s defense picked off the Sun Devils once again, setting up a 51-yard field goal conversion as time expired to allow the Broncos to take a 27-10 lead into the break. The 17-point deficit was still disheartening, but not nearly as much as the initial 24-0 deficit after one quarter.
To begin the third quarter, my first possession resulted in a deep 71-yard touchdown pass in the first minute to narrow Boise’s lead to 10 points. When the Broncos regained possession, I grabbed an interception and returned the ball deep into Boise territory. With just under 5 minutes remaining in the quarter, a 16-yard touchdown run on a draw play narrowed the gap to 3 points and momentum had swung entirely.
As my defense took the field, again I forced a Boise State punt. With the ball back in possession, however, my wide open receiver dropped a pass on third down and I had to punt the ball right back. Boise State didn’t have nearly as much trouble with their third down attempt, as they completed a 12-yard pass to the end zone with 17 seconds remaining in the third quarter to reclaim a 34-24 lead.
The 10-point lead didn’t hold for very long, however, as my kickoff returner brought the ball back 97 yards for a touchdown on the next play, ending the third quarter with the score at 34-31 in favor of the Broncos. The ASU defense stood up big on Boise State’s next possession, forcing a punt and allowing the Sun Devil offense to take lots of time off of the clock on a lengthy drive relying on the ground game. With 2:45 left in the game, Arizona State’s halfback took a delayed handoff 3 yards for a touchdown and the team’s first lead of the game, 38-34.
Knowing that the Broncos would have to get in the end zone to win the game—and that a field goal would do nothing for them—I had my defense playing the pass on every down. After an incompletion, a quarterback sack left the Broncos facing 3rd-and-17. Another key sack on third down made the task even more difficult, as Boise faced 4th-and-25 with the game on the line and no option but to go for it. Though the pass was deep enough to convert, it was too close to the sideline and fell harmlessly out of bounds as the Arizona State crowd began to celebrate. With the ball back from the turnover on downs, all the Sun Devils had to do was gain a single first down to run out the clock and complete the improbable comeback victory.
Despite the large early deficit faced by the Sun Devils, the final team stats ended up surprisingly close. Each team managed 13 First Downs, and each team finished with just under 400 yards of Total Offense. While the Sun Devils were more successful on the ground, Boise State was deadly through the air with three touchdown passes and over 300 yards. Perhaps the biggest statistic ASU had to overcome was turnovers, as they gave the ball away five times to Boise State’s one interception. Despite that, however, the Sun Devils were able to take advantage of a monster special teams effort—with 279 KR Yards and a touchdown—to help claim the advantage in Total Yards.
In terms of Player Stats, Boise State’s quarterback outdueled his Arizona State counterpart, posting a 74% completion rate to the Sun Devils’ 42%. Both teams had a halfback manage over 110 yards on the ground, and receivers on each side had incredible games. Arizona State WR #8’s 5 catches for 146 yards and a score would’ve been quite impressive if not for the 9 catch, 197 yard, 3 touchdown effort by Boise State’s WR #20, who ended up earning Player of the Game honors in a losing effort. In the end, his closest competition for that post-game honor was Arizona State HB #7, who gained 279 yards on 8 kick returns—including a momentum-swinging touchdown late in the third quarter—to help ASU keep good field position all game long.
In the end, I was so very satisfied with how this game turned out. It was very disheartening to fall behind 24-0 in the first quarter, and I must admit that part of me was beginning to consider taking the coward’s way out and “rage-quitting” the game to start over. However, this result is a good reminder of why you should always play a game through all the way to the end, no matter how bleak it may seem. I could’ve just given up in the face of that deficit, but instead I shored up my defense and tried to correct my mistakes on both sides of the ball. This made the final victory all the more meaningful.
Be sure to come back to STAT BOX STORIES tomorrow for a Madden NFL 12 divisional showdown between the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens; with any luck, there’ll be some more guest BOWL BLITZ INVITATIONAL entries to share as well!