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Arizona State Football: 10 Best Bowl Game Victories in School History

Brad DennyContributor IDecember 17, 2016

Arizona State Football: 10 Best Bowl Game Victories in School History

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    This season marks the return of the Arizona State Sun Devils to postseason play after an untimely three-season absence.

    However, their December 22nd Las Vegas Bowl matchup against No. 7 Boise State isn't exactly the kind of game the Sun Devils expected when the season began with Pac-12 South division title aspirations and Rose Bowl dreams.

    Despite the disappointment, ASU will be looking for the 13th bowl victory in program history in the final game of the Dennis Erickson era.

    In preparation of that game, here now are the 10 biggest bowl wins in Sun Devil history.

1978 Garden State Bowl

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    Under Frank Kush, ASU was a very consistent winner.

    In 1978, they went 8-3 in the regular season, yet finished a disappointing fourth in the conference, after having won six of the previous nine titles.

    Yet that was still good enough to land them a spot in the first-ever Garden State Bowl, logically facing Rutgers.

    The Devils trailed 10-0 late into the second quarter before quarterback Mark Malone took over. He fired a touchdown pass to Robert Weathers before the half then added two more in the third quarter as ASU built a commanding 21-10 lead.

    Malone wasn't done, adding two rushing scores in the fourth to ice a 34-18 Sun Devil victory.

    Despite the win, ASU was unable to crack the season-ending Top 20 AP rankings. 

2004 Sun Bowl

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    Since coming over from Boise State three seasons prior, ASU head coach Dirk Koetter had only compiled a 17-20 record, with a Holiday Bowl loss in 2002 as his only postseason appearance.

    That seemed to change in 2004, when his high-powered Sun Devil offense led by record-setting quarterback Andrew Walter led ASU to an 8-3 mark and a berth in the Sun Bowl against Purdue.

    However, the Devils' chances looked bleak, as an injury to Walter kept him out of the game and allowed Sam Keller to make his first career start at quarterback.

    The game was a snoozer in the first half, with ASU holding a 3-2 lead at the half. But things soon got interesting, thanks to the brilliant showing by Keller.

    He finished with three touchdown passes in the second half, including two in a wild fourth quarter, as the Sun Devils got their first bowl win since the 1997 Sun Bowl.

    The victory allowed ASU to finish 19th in that season's AP poll.

1997 Sun Bowl

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    Coming off their close loss to Ohio State just 11 months prior that would have won the national title for ASU, many expected the Devils to take a large step backwards as they lost a lot of key players to the draft.

    Someone forgot to tell that to Pat Tillman.

    The Pac-10's Defensive Player of the Year, ASU's playmaking linebacker led a tough defense that keyed a strong team that won eight games and secured a berth in the Sun Bowl against Big Ten-power Iowa. It was the first time in 10 years that ASU had played in consecutive bowls.

    The Tillman-led defense was terrific, with Jeremy Staat registering three sacks in an effort that kept the Hawkeyes off the scoreboard for three quarters. The offense was led by Michael Martin's 169 rushing yards and his third-quarter touchdown capped the Sun Devils' 17-7 win.

    The 9-3 record and bowl win was good enough for ASU to finish No. 14 in the nation.

1972 Fiesta Bowl

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    The 1972 Sun Devil football team capped the best four-season run in school history with an exciting shootout victory in the Fiesta Bowl over the Missouri Tigers.

    After an 11-1 season the prior year, the team was strong but found themselves at 5-2 after a loss to Air Force on October 28th. However, a season-ending four-game winning streak in which the offense averaged 51 points landed the Devils in the Fiesta Bowl for the second straight year.

    Two Woody Green touchdowns highlighted a powerful first half for ASU as they ran out to a 28-7 lead at the break. 

    However, two Tiger touchdown passes closed the gap to 28-21 as the fourth quarter began. But as they had all year long, the Devils were saved by Green. Two more touchdown runs in the final quarter, coupled with a touchdown pass from Danny White, held off a furious rally by the Tigers as ASU held on for the 49-35 win.

    The 10-2 season earned ASU a No. 13 ranking to end the season.

1973 Fiesta Bowl

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    Despite a second-place finish in the WAC, the 1973 Devils were one of the greatest teams in school history and they capped their terrific season with their third straight Fiesta Bowl victory.

    A close loss to Utah was the only blemish on the season, as a 10-1 record earned the Devils their shot at freshman sensation Tony Dorsett and the Pitt Panthers.

    After ASU's Danny White fumbled on the game's first snap, Dorsett made them pay, scoring a three-yard touchdown in the game's first minute. ASU's Woody Green answered soon after with a rushing score of his own, and then the teams entered into a defensive struggle for the better part of the next two quarters.

    A field goal by Danny Kush late in the third gave ASU a slim 10-7 lead entering the final 15 minutes. It was then that the Devils broke it open, scoring three touchdowns, including two by Green. Despite missed extra points on all three attempts, it was more than enough as ASU cruised to the 28-7 victory.

    The victory was enough to lift the Sun Devils to a finish inside the Top 10, finishing as the AP's No. 9 team.

1983 Fiesta Bowl

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    Coming off probation and making their first national television appearance since 1980, the Sun Devils were primed for their first 10-win season since 1975.

    Standing in their way were the mighty Oklahoma Sooners, ranked 12th in the AP poll.

    A pair of Stanley Wilson touchdown runs were enough to offset an ASU safety and Luis Zendejas' three first-half field goals to give the Sooners a 13-11 halftime lead.

    The teams traded lead changes in the third quarter, before ASU sealed the win with a 14-0 fourth quarter, highlighted by Todd Hons' 52-yard touchdown pass to Ron Brown.

    The 32-12 win capped a great season for ASU with a No. 6 ranking.

1971 Fiesta Bowl

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    It has been said that the rise of the Sun Devil football program coincided with the creation of the Fiesta Bowl, so it's no surprise that ASU's thrilling victory in the inaugural game earns a lofty spot on the list.

    The 1970 team went 11-0 , so expectations were sky-high for the Sun Devils in 1971 and they delivered. Shaking off a midseason loss to Oregon State, ASU reeled off six straight wins to end the season.

    They faced a strong Florida State team that came in 8-3 and ranked No. 20 in the UPI poll. Led by the passing of Gary Huff, the Seminoles possessed a potent passing attack.

    The game was a back-and-forth offensive show that featured a then-bowl-record 83 points.

    An explosive second quarter by both teams gave the 'Noles a 28-12 lead at halftime.

    Led once again by the dynamic running of Woody Green and the passing proficiency of Danny White, ASU stormed back to put themselves in a position to win the game.

    Tied 38-38, ASU took possession with just 4:44 left and drove downfield to the Seminole 2-yard line. Green then took a handoff and ran straight ahead for the game-winning touchdown with just 34 seconds left to give ASU the victory.

    The 11-1 Sun Devils were rewarded with a No. 8 spot in the final AP rankings.

1970 Peach Bowl

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    In a raging blizzard, the 1970 Sun Devils capped off the first undefeated season under Frank Kush in memorable fashion.

    After storming through the first nine games with relative ease, the Sun Devils escaped with a narrow 10-6 win over Arizona to earn their Peach Bowl berth against a solid North Carolina squad.

    The Devils raced out to a 14-0 lead behind two Bob Thomas touchdown runs, but the Tar Heels exploded for 26 second-quarter points, including three rushing scores from All-American running back Don McCauley. A 67-yard J.D. Hill touchdown reception kept ASU close as they trailed 26-21 at the half.

    As the snow came down in torrents, the Sun Devils shone through. The offense was able to score four rushing touchdowns, while the defense rebounded from their atrocious second quarter to post a second-half shutout.

    When the final gun sounded, ASU had won 48-26. Their 11-0 mark earned them a No. 6 national ranking, but more importantly, national respect.

    "This game is going to mean a lot to us in the future," said Kush. "I think that we've proven now that we can go on a football field with anyone in the nation."

1975 Fiesta Bowl

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    Before 51,396 partisan fans at Sun Devil Stadium, Arizona State completed the finest season in team history.

    A disappointing 7-5 finish in 1974 ended a run of four straight 10-win seasons for Frank Kush's Devils, but they used that as motivation on a perfect run in 1975.

    The Sun Devils capped off their undefeated regular season with a close victory in Tucson against Arizona, the second time that happened under Kush. Meeting them in the Fiesta Bowl were the Nebraska Cornhuskers, a Top Five for much of the season before a loss to Oklahoma in the regular-season finale dropped them to No. 6.

    Danny Kush, Frank's son, connected on two first-half field-goal attempts, but a Monte Anthony touchdown was enough to give the 'Huskers a 7-6 halftime lead.

    Another Anthony touchdown was the third quarter's only score and gave Nebraska a 14-6 lead. ASU was able to finally find the end zone early in the third quarter, when John Jefferson caught a 10-yard pass from Fred Mortensen—Mortensen's only completion of the day. A successful two-point conversion tied the game.

    With under five minutes left in the game, ASU drove into field-goal range as Kush lined up for a 29-yard attempt. His kick was true and ultimately proved to be the difference in the Devils' 17-14 victory.

    Their 12-0 record and victory over one of the marquee teams in the nation was enough for the Sun Devils to finish ranked No. 2—the best ranking in school history to this day.

1987 Rose Bowl

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    January 1st, 1987 was without question the high point in the program's history.

    Despite a loss to Arizona in the season finale, the Sun Devils had already punched their ticket to Pasadena with their first-ever Pac-10 title.

    Awaiting them was one of the elite teams in the country, the Michigan Wolverines. Led by quarterback Jim Harbaugh, the Wolverines came into the game ranked No. 4 in the nation.

    Michigan jumped out to an early 8-0 first-quarter lead on a Jamie Morris touchdown run and subsequent two-point conversion, and Harbaugh's 29-yard scoring scamper was enough to give the Wolverines a 15-13 halftime lead.

    The lead was short-lived. ASU took the opening kickoff of the second half and marched 80 yards, with quarterback Jeff Van Raaphorst finding Bruce Hill for a one-yard touchdown to take the lead.

    It was then that the Sun Devil defense took control of the game. 

    They shut out Michigan for the entire second half, and another Sun Devil field goal completed the 22-15 win.

    Van Raaphorst was named the game's offensive MVP on the strength of his two touchdown passes.

    ASU finished the season ranked No. 4 in the nation.

    Follow me on Twitter @BDenny29 for the latest ASU news and insight

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