Nov. 28, 1997
Arizona Outlasts Arizona State
TEMPE, Ariz. - The Arizona State Sun Devils, in their final game of the season, fell to the Arizona Wildcats, 28-16, in front of 73,682 at Sun Devil Stadium. The Sun Devils closed the season at 8-3, 6-2 in the Pac-10, while the Wildcats finished at 6-5, 4-4 in the conference.
The Sun Devils lost out on some oppurtunities and fell victim to some bizarre circumstances during the game. The Sun Devils first scoring oppurtunity was squandered when Robert Nycz's 51-yard field goal attempt fell just a foot short of the goalposts. Arizona took the ball from their own 34 and broke into the endzone four plays later on a 37-yard pass from Ortege Jenkins to Rodney Williams.
On the Sun Devils' next drive, they pushed into Wildcat territory, but a bad exchange between Ryan Kealy and J.R. Redmond led to a fumble that was recovered and returned 28-yards by Wildcat safety David Fipp. This led to another Arizona touchdown on an eight-yard pass from Keith Smith to Paul Shields that made the score 14-0 with four minutes left in the first.
Early in the second quarter, ASU's starting quarterback Ryan Kealy fell to a knee injury after an incomplete pass. Kealy was diagnosed with a right knee sprain and sat out the rest of the game.
Later in the second stanza, Arizona took advantage of a misread by the ASU secondary to score again on a 40-yard pass from Jenkins to Dennis Northcutt, who was brought down too late by Courtney Jackson in the endzone. Wildcat kicker Mark McDonald nailed the extra point to make the score 21-0, Arizona.
ASU desparately needed a score to stay in the game and found the chance late in the second quarter. Senior Michael Martin broke through a hole and exploded for a 35-yard run. Three plays later, backup quarterback Steve Campbell hit Ricky Boyer with a touchdown pass lofted over the secondary into the corner of the endzone. Robert Nycz nailed the extra point to make the score 21-7.
In Arizona's next possession, oppurtunity reared its head for the Sun Devils again. Defnesive tackle Ryan Reilly forced the pigskin out of Wildcat running back Trung Canidate's hands and Damien Richardson recovered the fumble.
The Wildcats returned the favor, however, and on the first play of the Sun Devils' possession, Wildcat Jim Sprotte popped the ball out of Michael Martin's hands. Wildcat linebacker Marcus Bell covered the ball to regain possession for Arizona. Arizona took advantage and scored on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Jenkins to Brad Brennan. The score at the half was 28-7, in favor of Arizona.
In the seocnd half, the Sun Devil defense increased their intensity, shutting out the Wildcats for the half. The Sun Devil offense, however, looked tentative without Kealy.
Cornerback Jason Simmons picked off Jenkins as the Wildcats were driving into ASU terrritory, but the offense couldn't capitalize. The defense stifled the Wildcat offense throughout the half, forcing Arizona to punt away on numerous occasions.
The Sun Devils finally scored, late in the third, on a 46-yard field goal by Robert Nycz.
The Sun Devils tried in vain to mount a comeback, but two interceptions thrown by Steve Campbell slowed the Devils down. The Sun Devils had one last chance to gain momentum when they forced Arizona to punt on fourth and long, but lost the blocked punt to Wildcat linebacker Chester Burnett, who scooped up the ball and ran 21 yards for the first down.
ASU scored once more in the early minutes of the fourth quarter. Safety Mitchell Freedman intercepted a tipped pass from Jenkins to open the fourth quarter. ASU took the ball and blew into the endzone on an eight-yard run by J.R. Redmond. ASU went for two and had the pass batted down to make the final score 28-16.