Friday, December 13, 2002
1971 - Arizona State 45, Florida State 38
By Alex Laracy
With stars such as Woody Green, Danny White, Mike Haynes and Sam Johnson, the early '70s were glorious years for Arizona State football.
The rise of the Sun Devils coincided with that of the Fiesta Bowl. Three years after Arizona State President G. Homer Durham proposed the idea, the first Fiesta Bowl took place on Dec. 27, 1971, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. The partisan crowd of 51,809 went home happy, as ASU edged Florida State 45-38.
Under head coach Frank Kush, the Sun Devils went 43-4 from 1970-1973. Running back Green led the way on offense, thrice rushing for over 1,000 yards. In 1971 the two-time consensus All-American ran for 1,209 yards and nine touchdowns for an offense that averaged 37.9 points a game.
Green explains that making it to the maiden Fiesta Bowl had special meaning for the hometown Sun Devils (10-1).
"We were proud because this was the first game to be played in the Fiesta Bowl," he said. "It was in our home field, and it was basically our bowl, and you're supposed to protect your home field. You go out there with a little more in your heart, because it's not just like a regular game."
The first score in Fiesta Bowl history came in the opening quarter, when White hit wide receiver Calvin Demery for a 21-yard touchdown pass. Florida State (8-3) answered with a touchdown on its next drive, and the offensive shoot-out began to take shape. At the half, the Seminoles led 28-21.
The first half had not gone well for Green, who fumbled three times. He remembers returning to the sidelines in tears after his third turnover.
"Coach Kush walked up to me and said, 'Woody, you just got to help us out.' And I said, 'I'm trying.' So I just tried to help the team rather than fumbling," said Green. "The way he woke me up about it made me want to do something about it."
Green would later get his chance for redemption.
With the game tied at 38 and under a minute left in the fourth quarter, Arizona State had the ball on the Florida State two-yard line. As the crowd, coaches and players tensed, Kush called in the play to White.
"I knew the signs, and when Danny talked to the sidelines, I knew what the play was going to be -- he was going to be giving the ball to me. I said, 'Whatever I do, I better not fumble.' The next thing I knew I was in the end zone," said Green.
The touchdown and extra point gave Arizona State the seven-point margin of victory. At the time, the 83 points scored represented the largest total in modern bowl-game history. Green finished the game with 24 carries for 101 yards and three touchdowns.
Arizona State won the next two Fiesta Bowls, largely on the strength of Green's rushing. In 1972 the Sun Devils beat Missouri 49-35, as Green romped for 202 yards and four touchdowns (both remain ASU bowl records). He capped off his college career in the 1973 game with 131 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-7 thrashing of Pittsburgh. Green's three-year Fiesta Bowl totals: 74 rushes, 434 yards, 10 touchdowns.
Arizona State and Florida State each received $168,000 in the first Fiesta Bowl. In contrast, the payout this January is expected to be around $12 million per team. The Fiesta Bowl has indeed grown since the days when Green and the Sun Devils reigned supreme.
"We were starting something brand new," said Green, who later spent three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, "but I didn't know it would blossom like it has."