Ballage's big return came after Duke (9-4) took a 31-30 lead on receiver Jamison Crowder's 12-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Blakeney with 5:03 left.
On the kickoff, Ballage took the ball near the goal line and went straight up the right hash for about 15 yards before picking up a block and cutting to his right. He was pushed out of bounds at the four-yard line.
On the next play, Demario Richard took a shovel pass from Taylor Kelly and bulled his way over the left side and into the end zone. Kelly was stopped on the two-point conversion try.
Duke drove to the 14 on its final drive, but Anthony Boone's third-and-10 pass was intercepted by Kweishi Brown in the end zone with 45 seconds left.
Richard, a freshman, was selected the game most valuable player. He scored four touchdowns for the Sun Devils (10-4) and tied a Sun Bowl record for points with 24. Richard carried seven times for 41 yards and two scores, and caught five passes for 22 yards and two more touchdowns.
Duke cut it to 30-24 with 10:10 left in the fourth on Boone's 14-yard pass to Johnell Barnes.
Richard opened the scoring with a nine-yard run in the first quarter and gave the Sun Devils, who scored the first four times they had the ball, a 20-3 lead on a one-yard run midway through the second.
Duke rallied with two touchdowns in a 1:55 span — Boone's 14-yard pass to Shaquille Powell and Crowder's 69-yard punt return — to cut it to 20-17 at the half.
Kelly threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Richard in the third and Zane Gonzalez added a 47-yard field goal with 2:23 left in the quarter to push Arizona State's lead to 30-17.
Kelly was 24 for 34 for 240 yards in his final game for the Sun Devils. The senior said he felt as healthy as he had at any point since injuring his foot against Colorado early in the season.
Jaelen Strong, leaving early for the NFL, led Arizona State in receiving with seven catches for 103 yards. It marked his 12th 100-yard receiving game, tying him for second in program history. D.J. Foster had 11 carries for 79 yards and caught three passes for 42 yards.
Still, this game belonged just as much to Arizona State's freshmen, who earned two of the game's three MVP awards. In addition to Richard, Ballage was the special teams MVP, and senior defensive lineman Marcus Hardison the MVP lineman. Hardison had with 13 tackles, including one for a loss.
Boone was 15 for 31 for 193 yards. Powell ran for 117 yards on 29 carries and had three catches for 52 yards, and Crowder had seven receptions for 102 yards.
Penn State 31, Boston College 30 (OT): Christian Hackenberg hit Kyle Carter for a 10-yard touchdown pass in overtime and the Nittany Lions kicked the extra point that the Golden Eagles could not, lifting Penn State to a win in the Pinstripe Bowl in New York. The Nittany Lions (7-6) played in a bowl game for the first time since January 2012 after the NCAA lifted the most severe sanctions levied against the program in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Penn State's Sam Ficken used retired New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter's locker and some of his clutch postseason play appeared to rub off on the kicker. He sent the game into overtime with a 45-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in regulation and won it with his extra point.
South Carolina 24, Miami 21: Dylan Thompson threw for 294 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score in the Gamecocks' victory over the Hurricanes in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl at Shreveport, La. Pharoh Cooper was Thompson's favorite target, catching nine passes for 170 yards, including a spectacular 25-yard grab on what proved to be the decisive drive late in the fourth quarter. Thompson completed 22 of 34 passes. South Carolina (7-6) has won a school-record four straight bowl games. Miami (6-7) ended the season on a four-game losing streak and hasn't won in the postseason since 2006.
Virginia Tech 33, Cincinnati 17: J.C. Coleman ran for 157 yards and a touchdown, and the Hokies harassed and ultimately injured Bearcats quarterback Gunner Kiel while rolling to a victory in the Military Bowl at Annapolis, Md. Virginia Tech (7-6) knocked Kiel out of the game in the third quarter during a play that virtually assured the Hokies a 22nd consecutive winning season.