Problem is, the Sun Devils have always played at night because of the heat. Evening kickoffs keep pigskin devotees from ever seeing anything besides "Night" or "Later" next to Arizona State on the scoreboard shows. Also, because most Sun Devil games aren't over until midnight Central time, 1 a.m. Eastern, newspapers back East don't get the score, much less the stats, in the Sunday papers. And because the NFL hogs Monday's sports pages, most people never find out how Arizona State fared.
"If they kicked off at one, it would make all the difference," says Carlson.
Beyond that, Arizona just seems so remote to the East—a place where you might fake a moon landing. Yet Arizona State has begotten Reggie, John Jefferson, Curly Culp, Charley Taylor and, more recently, Danny White, Gerald Riggs and Mike Haynes. This is the school that has 21 alums in the NFL, but has had only eight consensus All-Americas since 1970. This is the school that is 5-2 versus USC, 1-0 versus Oklahoma and 1-0 versus Nebraska, and is having its 28th winning season in 32 years.
This is the team that's 8-0-1 and has made the Rose Bowl for the first time since joining the Pac-10 in 1978. The team that has defeated five opponents that have appeared in the Top 20. The team that became the first ever to beat UCLA and Southern Cal in Los Angeles in the same season.
Unfortunately, such accomplishments don't pull much rank in our leading time zones. "I was watching Arizona win the national baseball title [last June] on ESPN," says Arizona State athletic director Charles Harris, "and the announcers said ' Arizona State' as often as ' Arizona.' " Even the Sun Devils' quarterback, Jeff Van Raaphorst, was Temperarily bereft. "When they recruited me, I couldn't have told you what city the school was in," he says.
To be fair, Arizona State itself is partly at fault for the current state of affairs. The Sun Devils choked on Roses in 1982 and 1985, when they were upset by Arizona in the final game of each season. So when Cal failed to win one for the zipper on Saturday in Tempe, the fans were understandably confused about just what to do. Two-thirds of them were gone by the end of the game, and the other third were having a dickens of a time dislodging the north goalpost. They took five minutes to figure out that you can't have people pulling down from opposite ends. Practice, you know.
Part II: Name-Dropping.
Anyway, none of this would have happened without the offensive line, a.k.a. the Home Boys, all of whom were bred in-state. How would you like to check into this Arizona Built-More: Danny (Pancho) Villa, tackle, 6'6", 293 pounds and one of the meanest hombres in the country; Jim (Chief) Warne, tackle, 6'7", 300 and the son of a full-blooded Sioux Indian; Randall (Amana) McDaniel, guard, 6'5", 261 and an occasional fullback; Todd ( Hewlett-Packard) Kalis, guard, known for his continual cross-examining of coaches with the question, "What if..."; and center Kevin Thomas, the runt at 6'3", 260. It may be the best offensive front in the country. Indeed, against Washington, thanks to the Home Boys, Arizona State surpassed the Huskies' 60-yards-per-game rushing defense average on its first touchdown drive. By the end of the night, the Run Devils had piled up 273 yards on the ground, and Washington coach Don James was saying, "That may be the best line I've ever seen."
Says Van Raaphorst, "I can take a can of beans, some cooking utensils, whip up a meal and still get off the pass."
Of course, once upon a time, even with that much protection, Van Raaphorst would still get in the soup. Billed as Danny White and Mike Pagel rolled into one, Van Raaphorst is a generic quarterback, suitable for everyday use, but he's no Testaverde. What made some folks think differently was his 532-yard game as a sophomore against Florida State in 1984. That stuck with people. That the Sun Devils lost 52-44 didn't. Nor did the five interceptions that Van Raaphorst threw in the season finale. After a decent junior year, he came into '86 trying to complete two passes for every one attempt. "I was trying to please everybody," he says. He pleased nobody. He looked uncomfortable in the first two games and threw five interceptions in the third, a forgettable 21-21 tie with Washington State.