Top 20 moments in Sun Devil Stadium history

10-23-08 Football Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith (22) holds three fingers up for his three Super Bowl victories Sunday as Jay Novacek (84) pats him on the head at Super Bowl XXX in Tempe, Ariz in 1996. Cowboys defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17 to win their third Super Bowl title in four years and their fifth overall. (Eric Schlegel/DALLAS MORNING NEWS)
Published On:
Thursday, October 23, 2008
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1. Fiesta Bowl: ASU beats Nebraska 17-14 (1975)

After a thrilling victory against UA in their final regular season game, the Sun Devils staged another comeback win in their fourth Fiesta Bowl victory.

Trailing 14-6 after three quarters, ASU took a 17-14 lead with a 29-yard field goal by Dan Kush late in the fourth quarter and then clinched the win when the defense forced a fumble by Nebraska fullback Tony Davis on the Huskers’ next and final possession.

ASU finished the 1975 season as the only undefeated team in the country (12-0) and ranked No. 2 in the national polls.

2. ASU blanks No. 1
Nebraska, 19-0 (1996)

In what many call the greatest win in program history, the Sun Devils shocked the two-time defending national champion Huskers, 19-0, en route to their second Pac-10 championship and Rose Bowl appearance.

Quarterback Jake “The Snake” Plummer connected with a wide open Keith Poole in the back of the end zone on the Sun Devils’ first drive, and the defense forced a record three safeties in the shutout to snap Nebraska’s 26-game winning streak.

3. Super Bowl XXX: Dallas Cowboys beat Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17 (1996)

Two of the NFL’s most storied franchises squared off in the only professional football postseason game to be played at Sun Devil Stadium.

While the Cowboy teams of the mid-1990s were known for Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, it was cornerback Larry Brown who earned MVP honors after notching two interceptions that the Cowboys converted into touchdowns.

With the victory, the Cowboys became the first team to win three Super Bowls in four years and tied the San Francisco 49ers for most Super Bowl wins by a team with five.

4. Pope visits the House of Heat (1987)

Sun Devil Stadium was one of the stops on Pope John Paul II’s 1987 trip to the U.S. He spoke to an above-capacity crowd of 75,000 as part of his tour throughout the country.

5. Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Ohio State beats No. 1 Miami 31-24 in double OT (2003)

This game had it all: drama, controversy, clutch plays by both teams and an upset special in the first overtime national title game in history.

Miami entered the game as the defending national champions on a 34-game win streak, but kicker Todd Sievers had to nail a 40-yard field goal as time expired to tie the game at 17 and send it into overtime.

In the first overtime, a controversial Miami pass interference call on fourth down gave the Buckeyes a second chance near the goal line, and quarterback Craig Krenzel snuck the ball in to force a double overtime.

OSU running back Maurice Clarett gave the Buckeyes the lead in the second extra period, only to watch Miami drive the ball down to the one-yard line. But Hurricane quarterback Ken Dorsey could not complete a touchdown pass on fourth down, and the Buckeyes won their first national title in more than 30 years.

6. Fiesta Bowl: ASU beats Florida State 45-38 (1971)

In the first Fiesta Bowl, 51,809 fans watched ASU protect its home turf by defeating the Seminoles in the game’s final minute. With the game tied at 38, running back Woody Green got a handoff from quarterback Danny White and took the ball into the end zone from two yards out for his third touchdown of the game.

The Sun Devils finished 11-1 that season under coach Frank Kush.

7. Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Penn State beats No. 1 Miami 14-10 (1987)

In a game that featured two undefeated teams vying for the national title, Penn State came from behind to beat Miami in front of 73,000 fans at Sun Devil Stadium.

With the Hurricanes leading 10-7 early in the fourth quarter, Penn State linebacker Shane Conlan picked off Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde and returned the interception to the Miami 5-yard line. Two plays later, Nittany Lion running back D.J. Dozier pounded the ball into the end zone to give his team a 14-10 lead.

Testaverde appeared to be leading the Hurricanes on a game-winning drive in the game’s final minute, but PSU linebacker Pete Giftopoulos notched his second interception of the game on the goal line to preserve the win.

PSU won its second national championship in five years, while Miami finished second in the AP poll.

8. Arizona Cardinals beat San Diego Chargers
16-13 (1998)

For a franchise haunted by futility and losing seasons since its move to the Valley, this was one of the bright spots for the Cardinals in Arizona.

After leading 13-3 in the third quarter, the Cardinals watched the Chargers score 10 straight points to tie the score at 13 late in the game. But quarterback Jake Plummer, who completed 20 of 41 passes for 274 yards in the game, led the Cardinals on one of his classic final drives, and Chris Jacke nailed a 52-yard field goal to seal the win and the final NFC wild card spot for the Cardinals on the final day of the regular season.

Arizona then went on to pound the Dallas Cowboys, 20-7, on the road to capture its first playoff win since 1947.

9. ASU beats Cal 49-0 to clinch first Pac-10 title (1986)

Led by players like quarterback Jeff van Raaphorst and offensive linemen Randall McDaniel and Danny Villa, the Sun Devils went on to beat Michigan 22-15 in Pasadena to finish the season 10-1-1 under coach John Cooper.

10. John Jefferson’s “The Catch” against UA (1975)

While Jefferson made plenty of big plays during his illustrious ASU career, this is the moment he will forever be remembered for.

With the Sun Devils trailing UA late in the first half, Jefferson took a dive toward the back of the end zone and hauled in a touchdown catch while his stretched-out body was literally horizontal in the air and parallel with the ground. That catch helped ASU to a 24-21 victory and preserved a perfect 11-0 regular season.

11. Fiesta Bowl: No. 1 Nebraska beats No. 2 Florida 62-24 (1996)

In one of the most lopsided national title games in history, the Huskers demolished the Gators to clinch their second straight perfect season and national championship.

Nebraska amassed 629 total yards, including 524 yards on the ground. Quarterback Tommy Frazier added three touchdowns by nearly executing the option attack to perfection.

Additionally, the Husker defense, dubbed the “blackshirts,” held the Gators to —28 yards on the ground, sacked quarterback Danny Wuerffel seven times and notched three interceptions in the game.

Nebraska was named the first unanimous national champion since 1956 and is generally regarded as one of the greatest college football teams of all time.

12. ASU beats USC 20-7 to notch first conference win as member of Pac-10 (1978)

After a very successful run in the Western Athletic Conference, ASU joined what is now known as the Pac-10 in 1978.

On Oct. 14 of that year, a USC team that was ranked No. 1 in the UPI poll and featured future NFL Hall of Famers Marcus Allen and Ronnie Lott came into Sun Devil Stadium, and it was widely expected that the Trojans would roll over the home team.

They didn’t.

Led by quarterback Mark Malone’s 167 yards passing and 139 yards rushing, the Sun Devils pounded the Trojans in front of a then-record crowd of 71,738. The Sun Devils finished 9-3 that season, while USC went on to win a share of the national title.

13. Fiesta Bowl: No. 1 Notre Dame beats No. 3 West Virginia 34-21 (1989)

In another game that determined the national champion, Notre Dame won its 11th crown by cruising past a West Virginia team that was a surprise in the regular season.

The Fighting Irish jumped out to a 16-0 lead in the first half and never looked back. Notre Dame quarterback Tony Rice completed 7 of 11 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns in the win.

14. Fiesta Bowl: No. 1 Tennessee beats No. 2 Florida State 23-16 (1999)

Tennessee waited until the year after Peyton Manning graduated to win its first national title in almost 50 years.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Volunteers got a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 14-0 lead and hung on for the win.

Tennessee receiver Peerless Price tallied 199 receiving yards in the game, including a 79-yard touchdown grab in the fourth quarter that put the Volunteers up 20-9 and sealed the game.

15. ASU beats USC 48-35 in double overtime to stay unbeaten (1996)

While the win against Nebraska is the standout game of the 1996 ASU football season, that magical run would not have been possible without the comeback win against the defending Pac-10 champion Trojans.

ASU running back Terry Battle, who rushed for 184 yards, scored his fourth touchdown of the game in the second overtime to give the Sun Devils their first lead of the game. USC fumbled the ball on its next possession, which cornerback Courtney Jackson picked up and ran into the end zone to add some style points.

The win raised ASU’s record to 7-0 and put the Sun Devils in sole possession of first place in the Pac-10, which they would never relinquish.

16. Insight Bowl: Texas Tech beats Minnesota 44-41 in overtime (2006)

In the first Insight Bowl ever played at Sun Devil Stadium, Texas Tech pulled off the greatest comeback in NCAA Division I-A postseason history.

After trailing 38-7 in the third quarter, the Red Raiders tied the game at 38 when kicker Alex Trlica drilled a 52-yard field goal as time expired to force overtime. After Minnesota could only muster a field goal on its overtime possession, Texas Tech running back Shannon Woods took the ball into the end zone from three yards out to seal the nearly impossible win for the Red Raiders.

17. First Arizona Cardinals game at Sun Devil Stadium (1988)

The Cardinals moved from St. Louis to the Valley in 1988 and played their first home game at Sun Devil Stadium, a 17-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

The Cardinals would continue to play their home games at Sun Devil Stadium through the 2005 season before moving to University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

18. First Game at Sun Devil Stadium (1958)

The ASU football team moved its home from Goodwin Field to Sun Devil Stadium on Oct. 4, 1958. The Sun Devils beat West Texas State 16-13 in their first game at the new venue that held just 30,000 fans at the time.

19. Rolling Stones Concert (1981)

One of the greatest rock bands of all time played a show at Sun Devil Stadium as part of its 1981 tour, which was filmed and released on video, “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” in 1983.

20. Sun Devil Stadium hosts Chargers-Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football (2003)

Wildfires in southern California forced the game to be moved from San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium, and Sun Devil Stadium picked up the contest.

Tickets to the game were free, and donations were collected to help families affected by the fires. The Dolphins beat the Chargers, 26-10.

Reach the reporter at gina.mizell@asu.edu.