Devils Den Blog

The Top 5 Moments in Sun Devil Stadium History: #3: Arizona State Tops Nebraska in the 1975 Fiesta Bowl


With Sun Devil Stadium about to go under major renovations, ASU Devils Den has decided to take a look back at the top moments the Sun Devil football team has experienced at Sun Devil Stadium as we know it now, as decided by the staff. This is the third post of this five-part weekly series. 

The first time that the Cornhuskers and the Sun Devils met on the gridiron was on the day after Christmas in 1975, when the teams met in the fifth Fiesta Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium.

The Huskers came into the game with a six-bowl winning streak on the line, but had lost their last game to the then No. 7 Oklahoma Sooners, and the Sun Devils came in with a chip on their shoulders, as they were viewed as a lesser team, even though they were undefeated.

The Sun Devils were part of the Western Athletic Conference at the time, and if anyone remembers all of the arguing that surrounded Boise State when they were a part of the WAC, then hearing that the WAC was viewed as lesser by the rest of the country should really come as no surprise.

But, the Sun Devils did come in with the higher ranking, No. 6 to Nebraska’s No. 7. And on this day, the Sun Devils, led by head coach Frank Kush, quarterback Dennis Sproul, and wide receiver John Jefferson, who made such a fantastic catch in the Sun Devils’ last game against the Arizona Wildcats that fans still speak of it to this day and Devils Den’s Bill Slane dedicated a post in this series to it, would not be denied.

Arizona State was able to take the lead in the first quarter, when kicker Danny Kush, son of the future ASU legend, knocked one through from 27 yards out.

The Sun Devils would take that lead to the second quarter, when Nebraska would respond.

Sophomore running back Monte Anthony would give the Huskers a 7-3 after running the ball in for a touchdown from one yard out. ASU would make it close, after Sproul led the team down the field in just over a minute, and Kush hit another field goal, this time from 33 yards out, right at the end of half to make it 7-6.

Anthony sunk the hearts of Sun Devils fans again after the break when he took the ball at the ASU four-yard-line and ran it in for another touchdown. After the extra point was made by Mike Coyle, the Huskers had gained a 14-6 advantage.

Going up against the Husker defense, famously called the Blackshirts, was no easy task during the tenure of head coach Tom Osborne. And being down by eight in the fourth quarter, it did not look good for the 11-0 Sun Devils.

But they did not let the Cornhuskers intimidate them. Early on in the fourth quarter, ASU faced a 4th down and one situation in field goal range. Trying to get as many points as he could on the board, Frank Kush sent his son and the rest of the field goal team onto the field. Sproul was having none of that, and called a time out, where he convinced his head coach to go for it.

Sproul called a quarterback sneak and gained two yards on the play, enough for the Sun Devil first down.

But, Sproul would be injured on the play, and backup Fred Mortensen was called on in relief to lead the Sun Devils to victory. The next play, Mortensen hit Jefferson in the endzone for a 10-yard touchdown. That pass was only the second passing touchdown allowed by Nebraska in the 1975 season.

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 4.55.05 PM

The Sun Devils went for two to try and tie the game up, and were successful after Mortensen hit wingback Larry Mucker for the score.

The score would stay that way until just under five minutes remained in the game, and the Sun Devils again had a fourth down in field goal range. Instead of going for it, this time, Dan Kush was allowed to stay on the field and attempt a 29-yarder that would give the Sun Devils the lead.

Kush hit the field goal and ASU took the lead, 17-14. They would hold that lead for the remainder of the game, and finish as the only undefeated team in the country and Fiesta Bowl champions for the fourth time.

Frank Kush 1971

While many of the lesser polls around the country, including Sporting News and the National Championship Foundation, put the Sun Devils at No. 1 after the Fiesta Bowl victory, being in the WAC hurt the team in the polls that count.

Both the Associated Press and the Coaches gave the national championship to the only other team to defeat Nebraska, the Oklahoma Sooners, who finished as co-champions in the Big 8, considered the nation’s toughest conference at the time, 11-1 and as Orange Bowl champions, after a 14-6 victory over the No. 5 Michigan Wolverines.

This team was one of the greatest in the history of Arizona State football, and a victory over Tom Osborne’s Nebraska Cornhuskers only helped to confirm that. Their case for best ever is solidified when one considers that this team is the only Sun Devil team to ever finish undefeated. Even the 1986 Rose Bowl champion ASU team lost to Arizona and tied Washington State. Being the only Sun Devil team to have 12 wins also helps them, too.

In the end, beating the No. 7 team in the country in the Fiesta Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium  in front of a then-record crowd of 51, 396 will be something that Sun Devil fans will never forget, and is the third greatest moment in Sun Devil football history at Sun Devil Stadium, as we know it now.

Pictures are courtesy of University Archives, ASU Libraries

About Jeff Vinton

Jeff Vinton is a sophomore journalism and mass communication major at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He was born and raised in Fort Collins, CO and graduated in 2012 from Fort Collins High School.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login