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Bowl-a-rama in Arizona

By Jose Romero - Jan 02, 2016

After Saturday we still weren't done with the bowl games in the state of Arizona. 

The Fiesta Bowl on New Years Day saw two traditional powers face each other, Notre Dame and Ohio State, in a dream matchup for college football fans. A few days earlier, Nevada and Colorado State played in the Arizona Bowl in Tucson. 

Saturday night saw Arizona State "host" West Virginia in the Cactus Bowl. The game, played at the Arizona Diamondbacks' stadium, Chase Field, took place minutes away from the ASU main campus in Tempe and blocks away from the downtown campus. 

Yes, football in a baseball stadium. It worked, because 39,321 fans attended. It was a nice intimate atmosphere with a big crowd and few empty seats in the configuration that was used. That crowd saw a wild game with a lot of offense, won by West Virginia 43-42. 

And we still have one more college football game in the Valley of the Sun. It's the big one, the CFB national championship game between No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Alabama. 

The party will take place in downtown Phoenix, site of the hub of fan activities. The game will be at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. 

The Fiesta Bowl saw Ohio State dominate Notre Dame 44-28 with a punishing ground attack. The best thing about the game was the bands and the traditions, from the iconic Notre Dame fight song to the dotting of the script-I in "Ohio" by the Buckeye band. And of course, the playing of "Hang On Sloopy" and the "Play Like a Champion Today" sign on the Irish locker room door. 

The Cactus Bowl kickoff was delayed 10 minutes, and with the ESPN Alamo Bowl telecast going into triple-overtime, ESPN didn't start airing the game until well into the first quarter. The offenses for both ASU and WVU needed that time to start clicking, though, as the score was 9-3 after one quarter.

The Mountaineers came out west to play. They found success passing the ball in the first half, including a 10-yard fade route from Skyler Howard to Daikiel Shorts with 28 seconds left in the second quarter. That made the score 22-13, and what should have been a 10-point halftime lead was instead 22-15 after the Sun Devils blocked the extra point and Tim White ran it back for two points. 

Then a short kickoff allowed the Sun Devils to start with good field position, and Zane Gonzalez kicked a 35-yard field goal to make the score 22-18, a more manageable deficit for the PAC-12 team.

The West Virginia band, in keeping with the current times, played music from the Star Wars movie series and made a Darth Vader formation on the field. That happened around 10:25 p.m. local time. 

With an extra point early in the third quarter, Gonzalez set the ASU record for career points with 381. He's a junior.

The official replay reviews drew the biggest crowd reaction in the second half, as two plays that seemed sure to be overturned on review were instead upheld and produced two touchdowns, one for each team.

 

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