We're moving along briskly on our countdown to kickoff with 100 reasons to love Sun Devil football. Coming in at No. 87: the dynamic Malone brothers.
Under Frank Kush, the offensive gameplan for Arizona State was not hard to figure out. The Sun Devils were going to run, run a lot, and run very well. To do so, the team needed quality backs. Thankfully, the Malone family helped out in a big way in this effort.
Ben Malone Sr. and his wife Izora moved the family from Tyler, Texas to little Eloy, Arizona in 1958, the same year Kush took over at ASU. Older brother Art soon attended Santa Cruz high school and was as standout on both the gridiron and the track, earning a scholarship to play for Kush at ASU.
A strong and speedy 190-pound runner, Malone first saw action in 1967. He ran for 448 yards and five touchdowns in a reserve role behind starter Max Anderson. However, with Anderson gone in 1968, the burden fell to Malone and he responded in a big time way.
Malone got stronger as the season went on, topping 100-yards in six of the last seven, including five straight, a school record. His eight 100-yard games are still tied for the school record, and he was held under 96 yards just once.
Malone's month of November that season was the stuff of legend. He ran for 239 yards against New Mexico, a total that was just four shy of the ASU single-game record. The next week against Utah, he ran for 200. That 439 yards in consecutive games is still a school record. For good measure, he ended the year with 186 yards in ASU's win over Arizona.
In helping ASU to an 8-2 record, he earned first-team All-WAC honors. His 1,431 yards in 1968 are still the third-highest total in school history, as are his 15 rushing scores that year. Oregon State head coach Dee Andros said of Malone, "We probably feared Art Malone as much as any back we faced all last season." Considering OSU faced O.J. Simpson, that's high praise indeed.
In 1969, he teamed with the speedy David Buchanan to form a potent duo that combined for 1,710 yards that powered ASU to another 8-2 finish. He also earned a second-team All-American spot. Malone finished his ASU career with 2,649 yards (7th all-time) and 28 touchdowns (recently passed by Cameron Marshall for 5th).
The following April, he was drafted in the 2nd round (39th overall) by the Atlanta Falcons. He played seven seasons in the NFL, five in Atlanta and two with the Philadelphia Eagles, finishing with 2,457 yards and 19 touchdowns rushing, and was effective as a receiver, catching 161 passes for 1,465 yards and six touchdowns.
1970 would see no Malone make a mark on the field for the Sun Devils, but that would change a year later.
Art's younger brother Benny followed in his footsteps as a football and track star at Santa Cruz and also earned a scholarship to ASU.
While 1971 stands out, rightfully so, as the beginning of Woody Green's illustrious and record breaking run in the Sun Devil backfield, it also began Benny's productive career.
That first year, while Green ran for 1,310 yards and 10 scores, the younger Malone tallied 917 and four touchdowns. Included in that total was a terrific 191-yard, two-touchdown effort against Air Force.
A rough 1972 paved the way for a great senior year in 1973. Malone and Green ran through defense after defense, and both topped 1,000 yards on the season--Green with 1,313 and 12 touchdowns and Malone with 1,186 and a team-high 15 scores. The 2,499 yards is still the standard for any Sun Devil duo.
But that wasn't the only place in the record book that Benny Malone's name can be found. On October 27th, against Oregon State, Malone ran for 250 yards and five touchdowns, which are both, to this day, ASU's single-game records.
In the 1974 NFL Draft, Green was drafted in the first round by Kansas City, but it was Malone, drafted in the second round by the Miami Dolphins, who had the more productive pro career.He lasted four and a half seasons in Miami, including his best season in 1976 when he made 12 starts and ran for 797 yards and four scores. He finished his career as a Redskin, with 2,693 and 19 touchdowns on his NFL resume.
See the previous entries on House of Sparky's 100 day countdown here