Woody Green scores the 1971 game winner with 34 seconds left (Photo: ASU)
The recent trend of conference realignment, with teams from "lower" conferences jockeying for acceptance among the major conferences is hardly anything new to college football. Before Boise State became "Boise State", there was Arizona State.
A perennial power in the WAC under Frank Kush, the Sun Devils of the late 1960s were among the elite teams in the west. The team went 8-2 in 1967, 1968 and 1969, notching a WAC title in that final season of the decade. But being from the "lesser" WAC, no bowl bids came their way.
In 1970, the Sun Devils were an undefeated 10-0 but were forced to accept a bid to the Peach Bowl when no major bowl came calling. Finally fed up with the constant slights, the WAC helped create the Fiesta Bowl, with the first game set to be played in 1971.
Sure enough, the Sun Devils found their way in to that inaugural game thanks to a 10-1 record and another WAC title. Facing them would be the No. 20 Florida State Seminoles. With this new western bowl game in place, the two teams put on an appropriately wild show.
The game became an offensive showcase. Leading the 'Noles was quarterback and eventual game MVP Gary Huff, who threw for 347 yards and two touchdowns. FSU held a 28-21 halftime lead, but legendary Sun Devil running back Woody Green took over in the second half. His two-yard touchdown put ASU ahead 31-28 in the third quarter. Later, the electric Steve Holden returned an FSU punt 68 yards for a key fourth quarter touchdown. However, Huff tied the game with a touchdown pass with under five minutes to go. But that was more than enough time for ASU quarterback Danny White, who led his squad methodically down the field, and Green scored the game-winning touchdown from a yard out with just 34 seconds left.
Such drama would be impossible to top, but that wouldn't lessen ASU's glory in the coming years.
Another WAC title found it's way to Tempe in 1972, and the Sun Devils once again were Fiesta Bowl bound, this time against Missouri. From the get go, ASU dominated this game on the ground, behind the talents of Green and Brent McClanahan. Green ran for 202 yards and four touchdowns, with McClanahan adding 171 yards and another score, all part of ASU's staggering 452 yards on the ground.
The Sun Devils ran their way to a 28-7 halftime lead, but the Tigers did mount a comeback, scoring 28 of their own in the second half. However, they never closed to within a touchdown, and the Sun Devils had their Fiesta Bowl repeat.
Why stop at two when you can get three? That's exactly what the 10-1 Sun Devils were looking for when they found their way into a third-straight Fiesta Bowl in 1973. Facing them this time would be Tony Dorsett and Pittsburgh.
A Danny White fumble early in the game set up Dorsett's touchdown run in the game's first minute. Green answered back with a three-yard scoring run later in the quarter before the defenses dug in, as a Danny Kush field goal for ASU was the only scoring over the next two quarters.
But the fourth quarter belonged to White, Green and the maroon-and-gold. White threw a touchdown pass and Green ran for two more in ASU's 28-7 victory to cap off the three-peat.
See the previous entries on House of Sparky's 100 day countdown here