Best College Football Moments in Arizona State History
Head coach Todd Graham has rejuvenated a stagnant Arizona State football program and has created a winning atmosphere in Tempe over the last two years.
The Sun Devils are currently in first place in the Pac-12 South, and are set up to make a run at their first conference title in a long time.
While Sun Devil fans have been on a rollercoaster of emotions over the past decade, they can hang their hats on Arizona State's storied football history.
The Sun Devils have won five Fiesta Bowls, a Rose Bowl and almost brought home a national title in 1996. ASU has also had its fair share of legendary coaches and players as well.
Players like Pat Tillman, J.D. Hill, Curley Culp, Terrell Suggs and many more have donned the Maroon and Gold, while coaches such as Frank Kush and Bruce Snyder helped to build Arizona State into the football program it is today.
Much like any big-time football program, ASU has had many moments that have shaped its future.
Now, let's take a look at the top moments in Arizona State football history.
Joining the Pac-12 Conference
In 1978, the then Pac-8 became the Pac-10 with the additions of Arizona and Arizona State.
This move made sure ASU would be a major player in the college football landscape for years to come. Without moving to the Pac-10, now Pac-12, Arizona State would have been stuck in conference limbo.
The Sun Devils were previously in the WAC conference, and it hurt them with national recognition.
Being in the Pac-12 has afforded Arizona State many opportunities in regards to television contracts and recruiting that they wouldn't have had if they didn't make the move.
Moving to the Pac-12 secured ASU's place in big-time college football, and earns a spot on this list.
In April 2011, Arizona State rebranded its athletic program under the slogan "It's Time"
The pitchfork got flashier, the jerseys got a Nike overhaul and ASU got their own font for lettering and numbers.
The rebranding effort makes this list because it helped propel ASU into the modern era of college football.
Today, fans expect their teams to have flashy, new helmets each week and unique uniforms that stand out from the crowd.
Arizona State did all of that with its rebranding.
The new pitchfork, as seen in the video above, became more modern, while the addition of a black uniform allowed ASU to increase its jersey options and create "Blackout" games for its fans.
The new look of ASU athletics allowed the program to contend with other Pac-12 programs in regards to attracting recruits with its new uniforms and gear.
The new pitchfork looks so good on the Sun Devils' helmets, it's hard to imagine just a few years ago ASU was using Sparky.
Adoption of Sparky as the Mascot
Before Sparky, Arizona State's mascot was a bulldog.
That's correct, it was the ASU Bulldogs.
It's hard to imagine a packed Sun Devil stadium cheering on the Arizona State Bulldogs. Therefore the adoption of Sparky the Sun Devil as ASU's official mascot makes this list as one of the best moments in ASU football history.
Sparky has had many facelifts over the year.
Recently, Arizona State unveiled a modernized Sparky that looked more like a bumblebee than a Sun Devil.
The biggest takeaway from this experience however, was how the administration listened to the backlash and allowed fans to vote for what they wanted Sparky to look like.
Sparky is the face of Sun Devil athletics, even though he has taken a backseat to the new pitchfork logo on the football helmets since the rebranding.
Sparky is one of the most recognizable mascots in college football and ASU wouldn't be the same without him on the sidelines.
James Brooks Two Blocked Field Goals
The 2010 season wasn't terribly kind to the Sun Devils.
The year saw Arizona State lose a heartbreaker in Madison to the Badgers on a blocked extra point and the Sun Devils got thumped by Cal 50-17.
Down the stretch, Arizona State dropped games to USC and Stanford but had a surprising victory over UCLA before their annual meeting with the University of Arizona for the Territorial Cup.
This game was one of Brock Osweiler's first real games at the helm and was one of the most exciting games in Territorial Cup history.
It truly was everything a fan could want in a rivalry game.
The game came down to the wire, when Nick Foles connected with David Douglas for what most thought would be the game-winning score with 27 seconds left in the game. James Brooks had different plans though.
Brooks lept into the Tucson sky to block the point after attempt and the game went to overtime.
Both teams exchanged field goals in the first overtime, and Arizona State scored a touchdown to start the second.
Douglas ran into the endzone on U of A's possession and most thought the game was destined for a third overtime, but again Brooks came to ASU's rescue.
As seen in the video above, Brooks blocked his second field goal of the night giving ASU the win in Tucson.
This game made fans forget about the Devils' mediocre season and was one of the most dramatic wins in Territorial Cup history, therefore earning a spot on this list.
The 1970 Season
As Brad Denny and Joe Healy of azfamily.com write, the 1970's were the glory days of ASU football:
As a decade, the 1970’s undoubtedly stand as the most prominent and dominant era Sun Devil football has ever witnessed and the first year of that decade set a distinct tone for the years to come. That season, ASU enjoyed a perfect 10-0 regular season record, a Western Athletic Conference (WAC) championship and most importantly, the program’s first postseason berth in 20 years
The teams of that decade really paved the way for the future of Sun Devil football.
More specifically however, the 1970 team really put Arizona State on the football map. It was the first time ASU went to a bowl game in 20 years and they emerged victorious. ASU also won the WAC title that year.
The Sun Devils also finished the season with a perfect record.
Since ASU was in the WAC at the time, they didn't garner enough attention to win a national title.
The 1970 season however, really announced ASU as a football program that would compete with the best for decades to come.
That's why it earns a spot on this list as one of the best moments in ASU football history.
Recruitment of Pat Tillman
It's hard to imagine Arizona State football without Pat Tillman.
As seen in the picture above, Tillman leads the team onto the field each home game as the Sun Devils run through the Tillman Tunnel and Tillman's passion and fire fuels the team even to this day.
Tillman garnered numerous All-American honors during his Sun Devil career and when it was all said and done he graduated as one of the best Sun Devils on and off of the field.
The ultimate sacrifice Tillman made for his country is something everyone can admire and has helped shape what the Sun Devil football program stands for.
He has become the unofficial mascot for the football team and head coach Todd Graham has really helped the current players understand just how important Tillman was to ASU.
Bringing Pat Tillman to ASU can't be narrowed down to one moment, but the ever-lasting affect on the program has been immeasurable.
That is why he is near the top of this list.
Beating Nebraska in 1996
The Sun Devils lost to Nebraska the year before in Lincoln 77-28, but head coach Bruce Snyder had his team prepared to make up for that in 1996.
All the stars aligned on that fateful September night.
Sun Devil Stadium's field was dedicated to legendary coach Frank Kush and key players like Jake Plummer and Derrick Rodgers played the game of their lives.
As seen in the video above, Rodgers got pressure in the Cornhuskers backfield on a consistent basis and the Sun Devils had arguably the best defensive performance in the school's history.
Nebraska was the class of college football before that night, coming into the game riding a 26-game wining streak.
The Sun Devils didn't just win this game though, they shut out Nebraska winning 19-0.
That win was one of the biggest wins in ASU football history, and is more than worthy of a spot on this list. Only the hiring of Frank Kush and the 1987 Rose Bowl victory top it.
Hiring Frank Kush
Frank Kush and Sun Devil football go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Kush recorded a 176-54-1 record in his 22 years at ASU and had a 6-1 bowl record with wins in the iconic 1970 Peach Bowl and 1975 Fiesta Bowl.
He holds ASU records for games coached, wins and years coached.
Sun Devil football wouldn't be what it is today without Frank Kush, plain and simple.
During Kush's tenure, enrollment at ASU increased over 300 percent and 128 players Kush coached went on to play professional football as well.
He also won 16 of his 21 meetings against U of A, something that makes every Sun Devil proud.
The hiring of Frank Kush allowed ASU to become a nationally recognized football program, and his time at ASU set the program up for longterm success.
Therefore, the hiring of Frank Kush ranks as the second biggest moment in ASU football history, second only to ASU winning the 1987 Rose Bowl.
Winning the 1987 Rose Bowl
This was Arizona State's first appearance in the Rose Bowl, and their only victory in Pasadena in school history.
As seen in the video above, it was nearly a home game for the Maroon and Gold and they made it hard on the Wolverines all day.
The atmosphere was truly electric.
ASU's defense was stout all day and senior quarterback Jeff Van Raaphorst ended his career by being named the Rose Bowl MVP.
The real story of this game was how the Sun Devils roared back.
ASU was down 15-3 in the second quarter, but didn't give up and didn't let Michigan score again.
This was the biggest bowl victory in Sun Devil history, bar none. It's also the biggest moment in ASU football history.
This game was the pinnacle for Arizona State football.