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Sept. 13, 1997

ASU Earns Respect with Win at Miami

Kenny Mitchell photo
Kenny Mitchell. (Click photo for larger version)

MIAMI, Fla. -- Respect. It is the measure of success for many college coaches. It is what remains after all the smoke has cleared from the field and one team stands victorious. It is the least that head coach Bruce Snyder and his Arizona State Sun Devils deserved after dispelling all their naysayers by defeating the 13th-ranked Miami Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl, 23-12 in front of 42,219 astonished fans.

"A lot of people in the East believe you don't play football west of the Mississipi," tailback J.R. Redmond said. "We proved them wrong."

The game was an up and down affair, with both teams threatening several times in the red zone, but neither team being able to capitalize. Much of the action came from the officiating crew, having to call 14 penalties on ASU for 95 yards while also calling seven penalties on Miami for a total loss of 62 yards.

ASU's one-two punch of J.R. Redmond and Michael Martin each rushed for more than 100 yards with Redmond gaining 105 on 12 carries and Martin earning a workman-like 103 on 26 touches. This is the first time Miami has given up more than 100 yards rushing to two players since 1979 when Syracuse's Bill Hurley (124) and Joe Morris (114) turned the trick in 1979. The last time two ASU players have rushed for more than 100 yards in the same game was back in 1996 versus Oregon State. Terry Battle rushed for 190 yards and current starting flyback Jeff Paulk ran for 114.

Ricky Boyer photo
Ricky Boyer. (Click photo for larger version)

Redshirt freshman Ryan Kealy showed poise beyond his years in completing 18 of 26 passes for 239 yards. In only his second start as a Sun Devil, Kealy has proven his ability to keep control of a young and potentially wild offense and stay cool in the pocket.

"Several times he [Kealy] yelled, 'Let's go out and have some fun,'" noted receiver Kenny Mitchell.

ASU's defense also rose to the challenge, limiting Miami to two field goals as the Hurricanes lone touchdown came on a fumble recovery. The Hurricanes netted only 68 yards on the ground as senior Pat Tillman led the Sun Devils with seven tackles. Sixteen different ASU defenders registered tackles and ASU's pass defense limited Miami starting QB Ryan Clement to 175 yards on 14 of 28 passing.

Kendrick Bates photo
Kendrick Bates. (Click photo for larger version)

Scoring was sparse in the first half. Kickers Robert Nycz of ASU and Andy Crosland of Miami fought through the first half to try and bring their respective teams into the second half with the lead. Nycz's first field goal of the game, a 34-yarder to gave ASU a 3-0 lead. Crosland would come back to knot the score with a 20-yard field goal attempt in the second, but it was Nycz who would have the final word in the first half. With five seconds to go, Nycz set up and booted a 33-yard field goal to give ASU the lead going into halftime.

After a lackluster first half for both teams, Miami drove the ball to ASU's 20-yard line. Miami quarterback Ryan Clement was sacked the next play by defensive tackle Jeremy Staat for a 13-yard loss, bringing a fourth and long situation. Crosland calmly walked onto the field and, with the wind behind him, booted a 50-yard field goal to tie the score. ASU would drive back down the field later in the third quarter to take the lead again on a 17-yard pass from Kealy to receiver Ricky Boyer, who tight-roped down the sideline for the touchdown.

The scoreboard. (Click photo for larger version)

"There was nobody there," Boyer said. "When I turned around after I caught the ball, I saw how open I was. I almost ran out of bounds."

Robert Nycz would later kick 27-yard field goal to give ASU a comfortable 16-6 lead.

Playing a little more conservatively, ASU utilized their talented running backs to move the offense to Miami's 16-yard line before coughing up the ball on a Martin fumble. The fumble resulted in an 85-yard return for a touchdown by Miami's Nick Ward. Responding to adversity, ASU turned it up once again, blocking the extra point attempt. The Sun Devils then drove 67-yards in nine plays for a touchdown and final score of the game by J.R. Redmond from one-yard out.

The key to ASU's win was their indomitable running game and suffocating run defense. ASU rumbled 232 yards while holding Miami's running backs to only 68 yards on the ground. ASU's attack was led by Redmond, who averaged 8.8 yards per carry, including a 50-yard scurry in the fourth quarter. Redmond also had 46 yards receiving and 103 yards in returns on special teams.

Head coach Bruce Snyder offered his thoughts after the game.

"Courageous. That's the single adjective I can think of to describe my team right now," Snyder said. "We weren't particularly smart. We set a world record for penalties, but boy, we showed a lot of courage."

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