The game winner (Photo: ASU)
One of the more thrilling and aggravating aspects of football is that the ultimate team game can often come do to the performance of a single kick. A key make can immediately bestow hero status (see Vinatieri, Adam) or going wide right can forever make one a hated villain.
The biggest game in Arizona State's most heralded season came down to just such a situation.
Frank Kush's Sun Devils had stormed through most of the 1975 season, and they traveled down to Tucson on November 29th to battle the Wildcats with a perfect season on the line. Unlike most of the prior games, which ASU had dominated, this Territorial Cup battle was a hard fought affair, with ASU escaping with a 24-21 win.
The 11-0 Sun Devils then had a date with Big 8 co-champion Nebraska. In the eyes of many around the nation, ASU was just the best of an inferior conference, and the mighty Cornhuskers would surely wipe the floor with them.
The game was a hard fought defensive battle, with Nebraska holding a 14-6 edge heading into the fourth quarter. The hope of an ASU comeback took a major hit when Sun Devil quarterback Dennis Sproul left the game with an injury, but Fred Mortensen did what any quarterback would do--throw it to John Jefferson. He did that on his second play, and the end result was a 10-yard touchdown. Mortensen then hit Larry Mucker for the game-tying two-point conversion.
On the next possession ASU's defense held, and the Sun Devils drove down the field. With just 4:50 left in the game, Danny Kush--Frank's son--lined up to attempt a 29-yard field goal. The snap...the hold is down...the kick is up...
It was good.
A Nebraska fumble ended any threat of losing that lead. ASU had done it. 12-0. A final ranking of No. 2 in the nation.
Said Coach Kush after the game, "From the players' standpoint, this was probably the most important game since I have been here. Not only was the game important for the recognition this team will receive, but it also helps gain recognition for the great teams and players we have had here in the past."
He was right.