"We thought we could get outside Houston with the option, but now we can't even do that," Kush said. "I don't want Danny to get hurt any more than he is. And he can't throw the passes that can beat Houston, the hooks and curls about 15 yards out. You have to drill the ball on those, and he can't."
"What are you going to do?" someone asked him jokingly. "Give up?"
"We've got one chance," Kush said. "We'll throw three sets of backs against them. Two sets at least. We'll try and sustain a big running game by keeping our backs fresh. And we'll have Danny throw some short action passes. He can dump those. We'll send our receivers deep until Houston discovers he can't throw the ball that far. Maybe that will keep them honest for a while. It's not much, but it's the best we can do."
And so in the cool of evening (92�) Arizona State, boots pulled up, and Houston, Veer in gear, take the field, the nation's two offensive giants. So naturally at the end of the first quarter the score is 0-0. State's one drive ends with a fumble, something that happened 33 times last year, and the Houston machine can gain only 14 yards in nine plays, failing to make a single first down. But early in the second quarter Houston converts an intercepted pass into a touchdown, and by the end of three quarters the visitor's lead is up to 17-7. It hardly seems to matter when Houston's Sandy McCrea just misses a 32-yard field goal. In this defensive struggle, surely 10 points is enough.
Then, with the Cougars again on the move in the final period, Junior Ah You gets to pluck his grape. He slams into Quarterback Gary Mullins, forcing a fumble that teammate Richard Gray happily recovers at the Houston 36. Cranked up, Arizona State scores in two plays, a 29-yard White-to-Joe Petty pass and Brent McClanahan's twisting seven-yard scramble. White tacks on two points with a pass to Steve Holden, and suddenly it is 17-15. A few moments later Arizona State gets the ball and zips to a fourth and one at the Houston 21. In comes field-goal kicker Don Ekstrand, a 27-year-old Army veteran. Oops. Out goes Ekstrand. The ball is handed to Woody Green, who goes nowhere, and Houston takes over. There is less than six minutes to play.
Arizona State gets one more chance. Houston runs the clock down to 2:52 but then has to punt. The Sun Devils have the ball on their own 24. Eight plays later, with a minute to go, they are at the Houston 19. Arizona State jumps offside. They are at the 24 with 56 seconds left. Arizona State jumps offside. They are at the 29 with 53 seconds to play.
Kush sends in a special play, the 100-triple X, which when translated from football terminology means, the next guy that jumps offside I'll kill. Then, after White throws one last incomplete pass, and with only 19 seconds and no timeouts left, Kush sends in Ekstrand. This time he stays in.
When the ball leaves his foot at the 36 it is mush; a dying quail, low, wobbly, line-drive slice. At the goal line the ball seems to shudder and go on, like an old man climbing a steep hill. At the crossbar, it sighs, inches itself over and drops dead. Arizona State wins 18-17. Welcome, Sun Devils, forever to the land of Notre Dame and Texas and Nebraska. Or at least for a while.