Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Arizona State Sun Devils

The Arizona State Sun Devil football program, though not your typical "power-house" program, is always great to watch. Obviously the best game of the season for those of us with our hearts stained maroon and gold, is the game for the Territorial Cup - established in 1899.This is the bitter rivalry between our beloved Sun Devils and the wretched University of Arizona Wildcats. The NCAA recognizes the Territorial Cup as the oldest trophy awarded and the rivalry is among the oldest in the nation, dating back to before Arizona was admitted as a state, and was a territory, hence the title. The first game was played Thanksgiving Day, November 30th, 1899 at Carillo Gardens field, in Tucson, Arizona. In front of 300 screaming fans, ASU took home the cup. The whereabouts of the trophy from then until the '80s is a still mystery to this day. In 2001, ASU President Lattie Coor mandated that the cup would be shared with the University of Arizona in the last game of the season. The winner now takes the trophy home for the next year until a new winner is decided. Unfortunately, U of A has command of the series with a record of 45-36-1. Not to worry though, my friends - as though U of A leads this series, ASU still has more success. In six of the last eight seasons we have made it to a bowl game, including four straight, whereas the evil Wildcats have not been in one since 1998.

Our greatest success was the stretch under Frank Kush from 1958-1978 when we went 176-54-1. During this time we won eight conference championships: two while in the Border Conference and six in the Western Athletic Conference, before moving to the Pacific 10 Conference. Arizona State has won the Pacific 10 Conference three times: 1986, 1996 and 2007. January 1st, 1997, under Coach Bruce Snyder and the arm of star Quarterback Jake Plummer, and the defensive leadership of the late Pat Tillman, the big, bad maroon and gold faced the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Rose bowl. The Sun Devils lost a nail-biter 20-17, and with it the hopes of bringing home their first National Championship in football. In the opening period, Ohio State Quarterback Stanley Jackson found true freshman wide receiver David Boston for a nine yard touchdown. Ohio State would end the period up 7-0. Arizona State sent the game into halftime tied at 7-7 with Jake "The Snake" Plummer hitting Ricky Boyer for a 25 yard touchdown strike.

Replays seemed to show Boyer had trapped the ball but also that the defender had interfered with the catch. The touchdown stood and the Sun Devils were looking good. Robert Nycz gave ASU its first lead of the game in the third quarter with a 37 yard field goal - however, OSU responded quickly with a 72 yard touchdown strike after ASU defender Jason Simmons slipped and fell, giving the Buckeyes a 14-10 lead. With just over a minute left in the game, Plummer scrambled 11 yards for what appeared to be the game winning touchdown. It just wasn't to be.

OSU managed a miraculous last minute drive where Boston walked into the end zone with 19 seconds to give OSU the final score of the game. The extra point attempt was blocked and ASU and Plummer had one last chance, being within a field goal. It was unfortunate that time ran out and immortality escaped the high flying '96 Sun Devils. Though it was a sad day to all true fans, I can honestly say it was a great game.