House of Sparky is sharing its Top 12 Plays of Christmas series to commemorate the best moments from the Arizona State Sun Devils’ 2016 football season. Follow along as we reveal a new play every day leading up to No. 1, which will be unveiled on Christmas Day.
Our No. 10 Moment of the ASU Football Season: Tim White’s 70-yard punt return touchdown vs. Washington State
At first, It was a play that looked like 5-yard punt return.
Talked to a few people about this play from last Saturday. Look for it in today's practice report. pic.twitter.com/o8bamtH9wH— Doug Haller (@DougHaller) October 25, 2016
“You see a wall of guys in front of you and you’re just like, ‘I can’t get tackled right here,’” said senior kick/punt returner and wide receiver Tim White.
On his own 30 yard line, White gathered the ball on a hop and accelerated five yards down the field like a rocket straight into five Cougar defenders.
“Just cut it back and try to be the play maker. You know you are back there for a reason,” White said.
And that is exactly what the Santa Clarita, CA native did.
With all of his momentum traveling forward, White skipped past one red and white jersey, dogged another and quickly realized he was on the wrong side of the field.
He escaped the curtain of Cougar defenders and traversed from the old east bleachers to the newly done west seats in a matter of seconds.
With a football field being 53 and 1⁄3 yards wide, White traveled about 40 yards along his own 30-yard line before finding the room to move forward.
From there, it was all blocks.
Arizona State freshman Manuel Harris knocked Colton Teglovic down to the ground to give White some space.
Senior Ellis Jefferson shoved WSU junior Garrett McBroom away from White at the 35 yard line as the return man turned the corner finally running south.
White broke across midfield and into Washington State territory.
The only barrier in his way was the massive 6-foot-5, 319 pound Cole Madison of Washington State. Somehow, the small-sized 5-foot-9, 188 pound Chad Adams sent him tumbling into the grass.
From then on, White had himself a 40-yard cake walk into the end zone.
White may have been the star of the play, but it was him and the ten other Sun Devils who put up six points and filled the dark Sun Devil Stadium sky with fireworks. After the extra point, ASU was down only eight points, 37-29.
“Really just my teammates effort. They busted their butts on that play and you can see it when I’m running into the end zone you know they were beating me to the end zone.”
Who will replace White next year?
Unfortunately, White has to leave. Whether he takes football or track or his degree to the next level, White will not be on the field in Maroon and Gold.
Behind USC’s Adoree Jackson who averaged 15.9 yards per punt return, White was the Pac-12’s second-best with an average of 12.7.
Also, seniors like Matt Haack, who was third best in punting in the Pac-12, and Zane Gonzalez, who was arguably the nation’s best kicker will also be departing from the Sun Devils’ special teams that ranked 24th best in the country by ESPN.
White returned 20 of the 22 returnable punts kicked to ASU this season. Against UTSA, when White was sidelined, two punt returns gained a total of minus six yards.
On kick returns, Ballage looks like the most likely replacement for White as he returned 18 this season for 409 yards averaging 22.7 yards per return which ranked him sixth best in the Pac-12.
The electric speed of White and reliability of ASU’s special teams will be missed next season. At the moment, Ballage seems like the best fit to replace White, but for the rest of special teams, there are still many questions to be answered.