I know, I know, another ASU post. But for me, this is a special time. We all remember my post last year about sports hate, and it’s that time of year again. The big game, ASU vs UA, The Duel in the Desert. As we go into this years version on the traditional day after Thanksgiving, I thought it’d be appropriate to give thanks to those Sun Devil teams that have destroyed, shocked, and otherwise humiliated those pathetic teams from down south. So, without further ado, I give you the top 5 wins (for me) for ASU over UA.
5. 1899 – Yup, the first one. The Devils started off this rivalry the right way back before we even had college sports or the forward pass…or a traditional scoring system: ASU won this game by the odd score of 11-2. Obviously this game was played so long ago that all we have is newspaper accounts of the circumstances surrounding the game. The game was played in Tucson in front of about 300 fans on Thanksgiving that year, and from all accounts the “Tempe Normal School” had bigger and faster players. The rivalry wasn’t heated back then, as the university players welcomed their guests and shared Thanksgiving dinner with them after the game.
4. 2007 – Arizona State had a strong start to this season, but had fizzled out a bit late in the season, losing to Oregon and USC. ASU still had strong BCS bowl hopes that year, but couldn’t get the offense going. This game featured one of the most amazing catches you’ll ever see by a wide receiver, as Chris McGaha leaped to catch a high lofted throw from quarterback Rudy Carpenter. McGaha somehow managed to grip the very back tip of the ball as he tumbled to the ground to give ASU a first and goal at the 1 yard line. ASU finished at 10-2 after the 20-17 victory and Arizona finished at 5-7 to keep head coach Mike Stoops and quarterback Willie Tuitama out of a bowl and home for the holidays for the 10th straight year. See below for McGaha’s incredible catch.
3. 1975 – You want high Stakes? (mmm steak) An undefeated #8 ASU team facing off against a 9-1 #12 ranked UA team with a berth in the Fiesta Bowl high enough for you? This is one of the games that started to show the country that those “little” teams from Arizona could compete with the big boys of the country, and was a pivotal in the schools’ acceptance to the Pac 10 (at the time). ASU started slowly in this game, being down 14-3 at the tail end of the first half. The Sun Devils got inside the UA 10 yard line with a chance to get at least a field goal before half time. Then, this happened:
Quarterback Dennis Sproul threw a slant pattern to all-everything wide receiver John “JJ” Jefferson and seemed to miss him badly but JJ stretched out to dive literally horizontal to the ground and made an amazing grab, known today merely as “The Catch.” That catch gave ASU some much-needed momentum into the half to eventually beat UA 24-21. ASU went on to the fiesta bowl to shock #6 Nebraska 17-14 to finish the season with a #2 ranking and (in some media outlets) a National Championship.
**UPDATE*** Video is now available for “The Catch”
2. 2010 – “IT’S BLOCKED!” Times two.
I must admit, I am a little biased to the more recent games. Having attended the majority of ASU vs UA games since I started college, (since 2003 I’ve only not attended in 2004, ‘06 and ’10) I feel that I have a connection to the players and the rivalry in the past decade. But this game would be at the top of anyone’s list. For the entire season, ASU had found ways to lose, whether it was getting an extra point blocked (Wisconsin AND USC) or turning the ball over 7 times (Oregon), ASU found a way to blow it, and this game seemed to be going that same way. ASU scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to take a 6 point lead, thanks largely to a TD pass to Mike Willie. Arizona responded by scoring a tying touchdown with 27 seconds left before “The James Brooks Block Party” began. All UA had to do was kick the extra point to give UA the lead and most likely the victory, but Brooks “jumped out of the gym” in order to block Alex Zendejas’ try. The teams traded scores in the first and second OT before the block party continued to end the game. For your viewing pleasure:
And the second one:
Unfortunately I wasn’t at this game, but the restaurant I was at went absolutely insane. People were hugging strangers, throwing beer in the air and cheering as loudly as possible. The game was so unexpected and memorable with so many highs and lows that it has to be near the top.
1. 1996 – Any debate about the greatest wins comes down to whether you factor in dominance vs excitement. My #2 choice was probably the most exciting game in the rivalry, but #1 is the most dominant by ASU. Everything about that ’96 season was dominant: A 19-0 shutout of #1 Nebraska, an undefeated regular season, and to finish it out, a 56-14 beat down of the Wildcats in Tucson. ASU dominated their will in every facet of the game, gaining over 650 yards of offense to UA’s 170 and blocking two UA kicks. All American Jake Plummer threw three TDs and Scored another 3. Even third string running back Marlon Farlow got in the act scoring two TDs in the fourth quarter, while ASU was just pounding the ball up the middle trying to kill the clock. The game was really summed up with this picture:
After catching a TD pass in the second quarter to extend the lead to 14, ASU wide receiver Keith Poole was hit late by UA corner back Chris McCallister. Knowing retaliation would start a fight and possibly penalize the team, Poole decided to just celebrate his touchdown…right in McCallister’s face. Arizona pulled out all the stops for that game, and was simply blown away by a much better ASU team.
God I miss those days, let’s hope Friday is a repeat of that domination.