Devils Den Blog

Top 5 Moments in Sun Devil Stadium History: #4: Arizona State defeats Florida State in the Inaugural Fiesta Bowl

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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 second post of this five-part weekly series. 

The Arizona State Sun Devils came into 1971 with a little momentum. They had beaten North Carolina 48-26 in the Peach Bowl the December before to finish at No. 6 in the Associated Press poll and No. 8 in the Coaches’ poll.

The introduction of a new bowl game, to be housed in Sun Devil Stadium, did nothing but add to that momentum.

In 1968, ASU President G. Homer Durham started talking about a Phoenix-area bowl game, to be played between the champion of the Western Athletic Conference and an at-large team. Much of this talk came because the champion of the WAC in 1968, the Wyoming Cowboys, did not receive a berth in a bowl game. The same would be true the next year, when Arizona State came out of the WAC on top.

Many Phoenix-area journalists and businesspeople got on board with Durham’s idea, and in 1971, the Fiesta Bowl was born.

The Sun Devils worked through the regular season in 1971 only losing once, to the Oregon State Beavers, 24-18.

A 10-1 record put the Sun Devils in the Fiesta Bowl, and their opponent came to Tempe all the way from Tallahassee, Fla., in the form of the 8-3 Florida State Seminoles, led by head coach Larry Jones.

Frank Kush led the Sun Devil team on that late December day, and had a team built for success around him, with Danny White at quarterback, Woody Green at running back, and Junior Ah You at defensive end.

The Sun Devils opened the scoring in the first quarter when White hit wide receiver Calvin Demery with a 21-yard touchdown pass. After the extra point by kicker Don Eckstrand, the score stood at 7-0 ASU.

FSU would respond and tie the game up later in the quarter when running back Paul Magalski ran in for a touchdown from one yard out.

The Seminoles would take the lead with a 30-yard field goal by Frank Fontes. At the end of the first quarter, the score stayed there, 10-7 FSU.

The score would not say low for long, as the second quarter would see 32 points scored.

The scoring barrage began as the lead came back to the Sun Devils when Green had a one-yard touchdown run of his own to make it 14-10 in favor of the Sun Devils.

Florida State responded by driving down into field goal range, where Fontes hit a 25-yarder to make the score 14-13. Florida State would then take the lead on a trick play on their next possession, when wide receive Rhett Dawson caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Kent Gaydos. The Seminoles would go for two and make it, as Dawson caught a pass from quarterback Gary Huff, making the score 21-14.

The Sun Devils would tie it when White hit wingback Steve Holden with a 55-yard touchdown pass.

The Seminoles would respond when Huff hit Dawson with a 10-yard touchdown pass to make the score 28-21 FSU, a score they would take to halftime.

The Sun Devils would score first after halftime, when Eckstrand hit a 34-yard field goal to bring ASU within four, 28-24. The Sun Devils would then grab the lead later in the third quarter when Green ran in for his second rushing touchdown of the day, this time from two yards out. That score made it 31-28 Sun Devils.

FSU would tie the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter when Fontes hit a 42-yard field goal.

The Sun Devils wouldn’t let the Seminoles hold the lead for long, as they took hold of it when Steve Holden returned a FSU punt 58 yards for a touchdown to make it 38-31.

The Seminoles did not give up, as they would tie the game again. Huff completed another touchdown pass to Dawson, this time from 25 yards out.

The Sun Devils were determined to protect their home turf and not lose the first Fiesta Bowl, and the winning score would happen when Green ran in for his third touchdown of the day, and his second two-yard rushing touchdown. The score stood at 45-38 after that score and it would remain there for the duration of the game.

Many of the Sun Devils and Seminoles who took part in the 1971 would game would call it one of the greatest games they ever took part in, no matter the level. This game is the 4th highest scoring Fiesta Bowl of all time, and started the tradition that would lead to this game becoming one of the greatest bowls during the bowl season, and led to it being selected as one of the BCS bowls and as one of the six games that will rotate as semifinal hosts in the College Football Playoff that will begin next season (the Fiesta Bowl, now housed at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., will host its first semifinal in 2016).

After the victory, the Sun Devils would finish exactly where they did in 1970. No.6 in the AP poll and No. 8 in the Coaches’. This win helped solidify Kush’s status as an ASU legend and still stands as one of the greatest wins in ASU history.

 

 

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.

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