Merry Christmas to Sun Devil Nation!
The Sun Devils were often invited to new bowl games, and their appearance in the 1978 Garden State Bowl was no exception to that trend. On December 16, 1978, ASU flew across the country to play the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in their home territory in front of 33,402 fans at Giants Stadium.
ASU's season was a success up to that point, going 8-3 in their first season of Pac-10 conference play. In previous years, they were a member of the WAC, but their inclusion into a premier conference was a nod to the dominating performance of the Sun Devils throughout the 1970's.
Arizona State's only losses came at the hands of Washington, Wazzu and Stanford. Their biggest win was a signature victory over then-undefeated Southern Cal, a season-defining win that ended up leaving USC in second place of the AP Poll when the final votes were tabulated.
The Garden State Bowl was supposed to be a nightmare for the boys from the desert, and the weather was expected to be frosty cold. Unfortunately for Rutgers, the temperature held steady at around 40 degrees, and the Sun Devils were able to keep lighting up the scoreboard in a 34-18 victory.
Rutgers started the game with a 10-0 lead, but ultimately were unable to control the football, fumbling the ball several times as the Devils took a 28-10 lead in the fourth. The game was much closer than the box score indicated, as the Scarlet Knights nearly scored on several occasions only to turn the ball over in dramatic fashion.
The Devils wouldn't play in another bowl for five seasons, so ending their 1970s run of success on a high note was essential. Tomorrow, we discuss the 1983 Fiesta Bowl.