No. 17 Arizona State 19, No. 1 Nebraska 0
Shutouts of No. 1 Team In Associated Press Poll (AP Poll Archives)
September 21, 1996
Sun Devil Stadium
Weather: 91 degrees, clear
The collegiate football machine that is Nebraska calmly walked into Sun Devil Stadium to face upstart Arizona State, 263 days removed from perhaps the most dominating gridiron performance ever witnessed. On that day, the Cornhuskers claimed their second straight national championship on this same field, thoroughly dismantling an unbeaten and visibly shaken Florida team in the Fiesta Bowl.
Many thought this return venture to Tempe could get just as ugly, just as out of hand. It did.
But when the nation collectively rose Sunday morning, put on its bathrobe, shuffled to the front door and picked up its morning paper, it was the Sun Devils who walked off the field with their index fingers raised high.
ASU pulled the biggest shocker of the decade, defeating top-ranked and two-time defending national champion Nebraska 19-0 in front of 74,089 delirious, field-storming fans at Sun Devil Stadium.
It wasn't a good day to be a Husker. Or a goalpost, for that matter.
The Sun Devils moved to 3-0 for the first time since 1982. NU fell to 1-1 and had a number of phenomenal streaks snapped in the process. Consider that the Cornhuskers had:
- Won 26 straight games
- Won 37 straight regular season games
- Held the top spot in the rankings for 12 straight weeks
- Scored in all but one of Tom Osborne's 283 games as head coach
And also consider that these same Huskers lit up the scoreboard for 77 points against ASU in last year's laugher in Lincoln. It all made for a memorable night for head coach Bruce Snyder and his squad.
"I'm out of breath," Snyder said after the game. "I'm just so proud of our team and our staff. We did a great job of planning what we needed to do to win this game and the kids believed in it.
"This might be the biggest win I've ever been involved with."
A jubilant ASU lockerroom would agree.
"I knew we were going to win. Everybody else had their doubts, but we never did," senior defensive tackle Shawn Swayda said. "I am totally tired but it's the best feeling I've ever had."
One notion among the media was that Arizona State was pulling out all the emotional stops in hopes of somehow springing a miracle win. Tonight was Frank Kush Night, honoring the legendary Sun Devil coach of 22 seasons. The field was dedicated to Kush, a statue of Kush was unveiled and 200 of his ex-players showed up.
But, truth be told, the Sun Devils didn't seem to need any added emotional lift. And they seemed to squelch the emotion right out of Nebraska from the first gun.
ASU won the toss and, instead of deferring, opted to take the ball right away. Not a bad move, considering Nebraska ran 65 yards for a touchdown on the opening play from scrimmage last year.
The Sun Devils looked sharp by land and by air. Tailback Michael Martin zipped around the right side for 14 yards. Sophomore Lenzie Jackson gained 11 yards on a slant. Tailback J.R. Redmond lined up in the flat and hauled in a 31-yard catch on a fly pattern. Then Martin for a couple of seven-yard jaunts. Nebraska was retreating.
After a sack, ASU quarterback Jake Plummer dropped back and found NU All-America defensive end Grant Wistrom coming right at him. "The Snake" ducked under Wistrom, slithered to his left and found his favorite target, senior wideout Keith Poole, all alone in the middle of the end zone. The Sun Devils led 7-0 and the stadium was deafening.
"The first touchdown was a big confidence boost for our offense," said Plummer, who completed 20-of-36 for 292 yards. "We told them that we weren't scared and that we were going to play with them."
But Nebraska twice trailed Florida in the first quarter back in January and still rolled up 62 points. The Husker offense trotted onto the field. It was time for the oft-maligned ASU defense to step up.
Nebraska started off in uncharacteristic fashion, with two penalties - one for a false start, the other a hold - on its first three plays. The Huskers faced a 2nd-and-24 for their own six-yard line. Quarterback Scott Frost, a junior transfer from Stanford, ran option right and pitched the ball to tailback Ahman Green. Green bobbled the ball in the end zone, creating a frenzied scramble for the pigskin. The ball squirted out of bounds. Safety ASU. The lead was now 9-0 and the national champs apperaed frazzled.
But Nebraska regrouped, intercepted Plummer and methodically rushed down to the ASU 5-yard line. But Frost again ran the option to the right and got sandwiched - free safety Mitchell Freedman from the front, defensive end Albrey Battle from the back. Freedman knocked the ball loose and linebacker Scott Von der Ahe fell on the loose ball.
Nebraska continued to pound the ball up the gut but went three-and-out and its next two possessions. ASU's plan was working.
"We knew a lot about their offense coming into the game," Snyder said. "But the one thing we didn't know about was Scott Frost. Maybe he was the next (ex-NU quarterback) Tommie Frazier, we didn't know. But we decided that we wanted to take everything else away and see if Scott Frost could beat us."
Frost, it turns out, could not. He finished six-of-20 for 66 yards and was sacked on three occasions.
Meanwhile, the Sun Devils were mixing the run and pass to perfection and were controlling the clock. A 27-yard field goal by Robert Nycz made it 12-0. Six minutes later, Frost, operating out of the shotgun at his own 20, saw the center snap fly right past him into the end zone. The Sun Devils had their second safety and a roundabout route to a 14-0 lead. ASU took the ensuing kick and marched to the NU 27, where Nycz booted a 44-yarder to give ASU a 17-0 lead heading into the lockerroom.
Nebraska still couldn't get going in the second half, going three-and-out three times and coughing the ball up twice more. There was even a school-record third safety, when junior defensive end Derrick Rodgers got loose and buried Frost in the end zone.
"I don't think I've ever been involved in a game with three safeties," Snyder said.
All in all, the game marked a precision-like performance by the offense and an historic night for the defense, especially Rodgers and Freedman. Rodgers finished with three tackles, seven assists, that one sack and was consistently roaming uninvited in the Nebraska backfield. Freedman forced three fumbles, recovered one and had three tackles, all with his right hand in a cast. ASU, which held NU to 226 total yards, was ranked last in every defensive category in 1995. Three games into 1996, the Sun Devils were leading the Pac-10 in total defense.
"We worked extremely hard to put a defensive plan together, the players bought into it completely and the players just let it loose," Snyder said. "That was the significant part of the win. Obviously, if the other team doesn't score, you can't lose."
Despite the upset, there was no rest for the weary. Oregon loomed ahead, the next hurdle in ASU's quest for Pasadena.
"There are just as many problems with success as with failure," Snyder said. "We have Oregon coming up and we've got to figure out a way to put this behind us.
"But I may take a few hours to enjoy this one."Game Notes
- ASU moved to 3-0 for the first time since 1982.
- ASU's three safeties was a school record.
- Jake Plummer moved past Danny White into first place on the Sun Devils' all-time passing yardage list.
- ASU jumped from 17th to sixth in the AP Poll, the second-biggest leap of the season. North Carolina had moved from 24th to 12th two weeks earlier. The Sun Devils were 12th in the USA Today/CNN Coaches' Poll.
Game Notes:Nebraska streaks which ended with loss to Arizona State include:
- 37-straight regular-season wins (dating back to 19-10 loss at Iowa State on Nov. 14, 1992)
- 26-straight wins overall (dating back to 18-16 loss to Florida State on Jan. 1, 1993 in Orange Bowl
- 12 straight weeks being ranked No. 1 by AP, last seven in 1995, first five in 1996
- 14-game non-conference win streak, since 29-14 loss at Washington Sept. 19, 1992
- ASU's three safeties is a record by an opponent vs. Nebraska. The previous record was 1 by several, most recently at Washington, Sept. 19, 1992 (it also betters season record vs. NU, previously two in 1948.)
- Nebraska trailed 17-0 at halftime and 17-0 after three quarters ... the last time Nebraska was sut out at halftime was a 13-0 deficit in the 1992 Orange Bowl vs. Miami (Miami won 22-0, NU trailed 22-0 after three quarters). The last time Nebraska trailed by 17 or more points was 20-0 (prior to a 20-7 halftime deficit) against Florida State in the 1993 Orange Bowl (FSU won 27-14) ... The last time NU trailed in any game was 10-6 after one quarter in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl to Florida (NU won 62-24) ... The last time NU trailed in a regular season was against Washington State in 1995 (7-0, NU won 35-21) ... The last time NU trailed in a regular season game by more than one TD was a 14-point deficit (21-7) in Lincoln against Wyoming (NU won 42-32) ... The last time Nebraska was shut out in a game was the 22-0 loss to Miami in the 1992 Orange Bowl ... the last time Nebraska was shut out in the regular season was a 27-0 loss to Oklahoma in the season finale of Osborne's first season as a head coach, Nov. 23, 1993 in Norman ... Osborne has only been shut out twice in 24 years as a head coach.
Game Quotes:ASU Head Coach Bruce Snyder:
- "I'm out of breath. I'm just so proud of this team and my staff. We did a great job of planning what we needed to do, and the kids believed in it. This might be the biggest win I've ever been involved in."
- "I don't think I've ever been involved in a game with three safeties. That was awfully good but the touchdown was good too."
- "We knew a lot about their offense, but the one thing we didn't know about was Scott Frost. Maybe he was the next Tommie Frazier, we didn't know. But we decided that we wanted to take everybody else away and see if Scott Frost could beat us."
- "The key issue was whether we could run the ball against one of the best defenses in America. We wanted to run some but we also wanted to get the ball in the hands of our receivers, and I think we did a great job. Michael Martin is a load, and he runs with such power and J.R. Redmond figures out a way to make an impact every game. Tonight's job by the offense was a pick-and-shovel job, but we got the job done."
- "Our staff worked extremely hard in putting a defensive plan together. But the really important thing is that the players bought into it completely and they just let it loose out there. Our defense was a significant part of the win, because obviously if the other team doesn't score, you can't lose."
- "There are just as many problems with success as with failure. We've got Oregon coming up and we've got to figure out a way to put this win behind us. But I may take a few hours to enjoy it."
- "ASU's defense played well. We just couldn't move the ball.
The turnovers, two or three, hurt. The one safety was like a turnover.
And we had poor field position."
- "The story of the game was they just whipped us. And we didn't
move the ball when we had to. In the fourth we needed a big play and we
didn't make it."
- "Credit a very fine ASU team. Plummer's a very good passer."
- "We didn't generate a good enough running game. We had to rely
on the pass and we didn't protect the passer. They put a lot of heat on
our quarterbacks. We can't afford to be 2nd-and 8 all night."
- "We needed a big play and we wondered who was going to make it.
We just didn't convert."
- "We did the best we could in practice. We don't want to make
excuses, but if we could have played one more time we would have been better."
- "They lined up the way we saw them, they just played very well and they mixed some plays up."
- "Our defense was stellar and our offense were the best. This
is the best win (in my career) by far. We won this as a team. We played
hard the whole game."
- "Our defense shut them out."
- "Now we have to take on Oregon. Nebraska was a nonconference
game. Oregon is for the Pac-10 - its for the Rose Bowl."
- "On February 5, 1993 I decided to come to Arizona State. I've
had some tough times, but I've always believed we can do it."
- (On Grant Wistrom, Nebraska): "He came at me every single play."
- (On the large number of Husker fans): "It fired us up. We wanted them to know this is Sun Devil Stadium, not Husker Stadium."
- "I'd like to thank our great coaching staff. Coming into this
game we believed we could win."
- (On Nebraska): "They're a great team. Every year they reload.
We proved we can play with anybody. We wanted to dare Scott Frost to pass.
That's what we did."
- (On ASU's offseason conditioning): "It payed off today. We were
able to play physical."
- (On the win): "It was a fabulous win. We played to our potential.
- "This was amazing. We played our guts out. The D-line gave everything."
- "It will definitely make other teams take notice of our defense.
We shut out the No. 1 team in America. If you want to play against us,
you've got to come in here and knock us off.
- "It's a very big victory. Last year we went into their stadium
and they embarrassed us real bad. Nobody gave us a chance to win this game;
I think even the coaches had their doubts. On Friday night, we (ASU players)
said, 'hey, everyone's doubting us, we're the only one who know we can win
this game.' And we did.
- "I want to give credit to the coaches because their the ones
that came up with something because they (Nebraska offensive players) did
nothing to us. The coaches obviously had something or some idea because
they got nothing on us; we didn't break down the whole game."
- "I knew we were going to win. Everybody else had their doubts,
but we never did."
- "I am totally tired-but it's the best feeling I've ever had."
- "The fans, everybody, they were great. We showed everybody what
we can do."
- "This win puts us on the map nationally."
- "It shows we can obviously play with the big boys."
- "We frustrated them big time."
- "What can you say, the evidence was out there on the field.
We just played football the way we practiced this week and that's exactly
- "We watched film all week on Nebraska's offensive line and we played exactly the way we expected to play. We did a good job."
- "This is huge, especially on this wonderful occasion, celebrating
Frank Kush night."
- "This win will clearly have a tremendous impact on this university, this athletic program, and this terrific football team."
- "We're number one. Everybody has to give us respect now. We're
on top now."
- "To me, we are the national champs."
- "We shut them out. Tonight we'll celebrate. Tomorrow, we'll get ready for Oregon. Our real goal is to make it to the Rose Bowl."
- "We're number one. We were good enough to win tonight."
- "There's no way you can win when you come into our house."
- "We gave our all tonight, 150%."
- "The fans were great. The made a lot of noise. They were real
loud, louder than Nebraska and through the whole game. They made the difference."
- "Despite the broken hand, I knew I had to play and give it my
all. And I'm still going to give my all to this team. Nothing is going
to stop me, or us."
- "We play through the heat and humidity. It's the best thing we got going for us. When it heats them-that's when we have to keep pounding them and completely wear them out."
- (About the first touchdown) "It was a great heads-up play by
Keith and I'm just glad I was able to see him."
- "The first TD was a big confidence boost for our offense. We
told them that we're not scared and that we were going to play with them."
- "With their rush, we knew we had to get out quick and that's
what we did.
- "We won the game. We shut them out. With all the expectations
we had on our shoulders and the way we responded. We have a lot of heart
and a lot of toughness."
- "It's not the Rose Bowl, it's not a PAC-10 game, but it was a
really important game. I'm glad we won."
- "The defense took a lot of pressure off our offense."
- "I could care less about the record. (passing Danny White's career
passing record) I'm here to take this team to the Rose Bowl. Anything else
- "The halftime score didn't matter. We knew they were going to give us a full game."
|ASU- Keith Poole 25-yard pass from Jake Plummer (Nycz kick) Drive: 10 plays, 80 yards, 3:22|
|ASU- Ahman Green forced out of the endzone for a safety|
|ASU- Robert Nycz 27-yard field goal. Drive: 11 plays, 54 yards, 3:44|
|ASU- Scott Frost tackled in end zone by Pat Tillman for a safety|
|ASU- Robert Nycz 44-yard field goal. Drive: 7 plays, 35 yards, 1:49|
|ASU- Scott Frost tackeld in end zone by Derrick Rodgers for a safety.|
|Total First Downs
|Third Down Efficiency||3-16 (19%)||6-20 (30%)|
|Total Net Yards||226||401|
|Total Offensive Plays||69||88|
|Net Yards Rushing||130||109|
|Total Yards Passing||96||292|
|Punts- Number and Average||8-45.9||9-42.7|
|Penalties- Number and Yards||5-32||4-56|
|Fumbles- Number and Lost||6-3||0-0|
|Time of Possession||23:32||36:28|