Derrick Rodgers takes down Scott Frost (Photo: ASU)
On one side, you have Nebraska: the two-time defending national champions, the current No.1 ranked team in the nation, owners of a 26-game winning streak (37 straight in the regular season) and led by the legendary Tom Osborne.
On the other, you have Arizona State, a team that had gone 6-5 the season before, including a 77-28 destruction at the hand of the Cornhuskers.
Given those factors, it was to no one's surprise that the Sun Devils entered their Week 3 match-up with Nebraska as 23-point home underdogs. Surely it was merely a formality that the 'Huskers' streak would soon reach 27.
But here a few factors that the oddsmakers failed to realize: Jake Plummer. Pat Tillman. Juan Roque. Derrick Rodgers...and those guys were mad.
"We were ticked off," the consensus All-American left tackle Roque remembers. "We drove up into the old ICA and were in enemy territory. There were maybe 100 people sitting there with Nebraska garb on. We felt that our fans had sold us out. We were going to show them."
Before the game, the Sun Devil locker room was a place full of young men ready to do battle and with one mindset.
"No one said a word. You could here a pin drop. By that time, the time for talking was done," said Roque. "We had made the decision earlier in the week that we were not going to lose to those guys. We knew we were better than them."
The Sun Devils wasted no time in making a statement. Early in the first quarter, Plummer found his favorite target Keith Poole for a 25-yard touchdown to open the scoring.
"The first touchdown was a big confidence boost for our offense," said Plummer. "We told them that we're not scared and that we were going to play with them."
Later in that first quarter, Nebraska running back Ahman Green bobbled the ball and it was knocked out of the endzone for an ASU safety and 9-0 lead.
ASU's defense remained stout, shutting down the vaunted Nebraska option attack, and they scored another safety when Tillman took down quarterback Scott Frost. The Devils' defense also shut down a serious Nebraska threat, when they forced and recovered a fumble when the Cornhuskers had driven to the ASU five-yard line. Meanwhile, the offense managed a pair of second quarter field goals to send ASU into halftime with a stunning 17-0 lead.
The Sun Devils continued to stifle the Nebraska ground game, daring Frost to beat them through the air, something he could not do, finishing just six of his 20 attempts for 66 yards. As a scoreless third quarter gave way to the final frame, the crowd was in a frenzy. They were starting to taste victory.
Halfway through the fourth quarter, Nebraska had the ball deep in their own end and hopes of a comeback were still alive. Derrick Rodgers saw fit to dash them quickly.
That's the ball game, folks.
The win was led by a Sun Devil defense that held Nebraska to just 130 yards on the ground and 221 overall and Plummer's masterful and determined performance, shaking off six sacks to throw for 292 yards. Arizona State had made a major statement on the national scene.
While that win would be the springboard to the magical ride of 1996 and still stands today as one of the major shockers in the game over the last generation, some don't consider it an upset.
"People were like 'You just beat the No. 1 team in the country.' No, we beat a team we were better than," Roque said.
"They were ranked No. 1, but we were better."
See the previous entries on House of Sparky's 100 day countdown here