Territorial Cup rewind 25 years ago: Arizona State 56, Arizona 14

Jeff Metcalfe
Arizona Republic

Arizona State’s first Rose Bowl team slipped up in the Territorial Cup, suffering its only loss of the 1986 season.

A decade later, with the Sun Devils already assured of Rose Bowl No. 2 going into the rivalry game in Tucson, they took care of business in a big way, winning 56-14 for an undefeated regular season.

Coming off three straight losses to UA in the Jake Plummer quarterback era, No. 4-ranked ASU made sure to put Ohio State and the Rose Bowl on the back burner. The Sun Devils outgained the Wildcats 651 yards (450 rushing) to 170 for their largest Territorial Cup margin of victory since 1958 (47-0).

ASU quarterback Jake Plummer had a rough game in the 1995 Territorial Cup. But that loss was motivation for the Sun Devils winning the Pac-10 in 1996 and challenging for the national title.

“The Sun Devils aren’t supposed to come down here and do what they did,” wrote Arizona Republic columnist David Casstevens. “Not in this stadium, not in front of this crowd, not on this field with “BEAR DOWN” proudly painted in one end zone and “ARIZONA” in the other. ASU erased every letter in “BEAR DOWN” except “OW.”

Plummer threw for 201 yards and three touchdowns (he was intercepted twice) and ran for 60 yards. His favorite receiver Keith Poole caught two TD passes, and the photo of him hands raised celebrating one of those in the face of UA defensive back Chris McAllister remains an indelible image in Territorial Cup history.

“It’s difficult to describe my feelings, I’m so happy,” ASU coach Bruce Snyder said after his 100th career head coaching win. “We beat our archrival at their place, and we’re going to the Rose Bowl undefeated. I’m going to vote us No. 1. I’ve not seen a better team.”

Emotions ran high in the fourth quarter. Five players, three from ASU, were ejected and overall there were eight personal foul penalties. ASU fans unsuccessfully tried to bring down the south goalpost.

“The uprights were the only thing ASU didn’t take,” Casstevens wrote.

Arizona, in between its 1993 and 1998 peaks under coach Dick Tomey, finished 5-6.

ASU came within seconds of winning the Rose Bowl and what would have been its first national title, instead losing 20-17 to Ohio State for an 11-1 season and No. 4 Associated Press final ranking.

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