We've stepped up to the Pac-10, and that means playing with the big-boys," said Arizona State Coach Frank Kush before the Sun Devils' first game ever against No. 2-ranked Southern California. When it was over, the Sun Devils showed that when they stepped up they hadn't stepped out of their class. Final score: Arizona State 20, USC 7.
That night game was a fitting climax to a Saturday filled with disaster and close calls for many of the nation's top-ranked teams. Altogether, half of the Associated Press' Top 20 were losers. Half of the 20 teams had been undefeated; only four of them remained so Sunday morning. Among the latter were No. 3 Penn State and No. 4 Arkansas, both of which had the weekend off. And of the four Top Ten teams that did win, only one, No. 8 Nebraska, had an easy time of it.
Before leaving the WAC to join the Pac-10 this season, Kush had said, "Yeah, it will be nice to be in a bigger puddle. But you run into fewer big wins, hoping maybe to knock off a USC or a UCLA every five years." Clearly, Kush was apprehensive.
The Trojans, on the other hand, were confident. And why not? They had beaten highly regarded Alabama, then dumped Michigan State 30-3, thereby avoiding one of those poll-dropping letdowns after a big game, and were raring to go after a week off. They had brought 3,000 of their fans, plus their 270-piece marching band, to Tempe. Few among them were daunted by Steve Hicks' 40-yard field goal that gave the Sun Devils a 3-0 halftime lead. Surely the swift, massive and talented Trojans would get rolling in the second half.
Surely, they did not. Instead, it was the Sun Devils, directed by junior Quarterback Mark Malone, who were on the move throughout the last two quarters. Backing them up were their rooters, who were scoring their own victory by drowning out the USC fans' "A-S who?" catcalls with chants of "U-S what?"
With 5:48 of the third period gone, Malone capped a 38-yard drive, following Defensive End Bob Kohr's recovery of a Paul McDonald fumble, with a one-yard plunge into the end zone. The kick was good to make the score Arizona State 10, USC 0. Before the third period was over, Malone made it 16-0 by passing 16 yards to John Mistier, and Hicks tacked on the extra point. An interception by Cornerback Kim Anderson, the first of two he made, had set up the score. By the time the game ended, Malone had completed 14 of 22 passes for 167 yards and had rushed 19 times for 139 yards.
Arizona State's defense was equally impressive. In addition to Anderson's interceptions, Kohrs recovered three of USC's four fumbles. So well did Kohrs and his cohorts perform that USC gained only 70 yards. Charles White, who was second in the country in rushing with an average of 152.5 yards a game, struggled to 59 yards in 18 carries.
It was not until late in the fourth quarter, after the Sun Devils had gone ahead 20-0 on another field goal by Hicks, that the Trojans got on the scoreboard. A 31-yard pass from Paul McDonald to Dan Garcia with 33 seconds left enabled USC to stretch its scoring streak to 123 games. That hardly mattered to the state-record crowd of 71,138, which was delighted that Arizona State had proved it could play in a bigger puddle and not come out with mud in its eye.
The week's largest crowd—105,132 at Michigan Stadium—came to see the latest version of one of college football's ever-popular great traditional intrastate rivalries: No. 5 Michigan (4-0) vs. un-ranked Michigan State (1-3).
However, since Coach Bo Schembechler took over at Michigan, that rivalry has paled. After losing to the Spartans in 1969, his first season at the helm of the Wolverines, Schembechler had vowed, "I'll never lose to Michigan State again." Down through the years, Bo made those words stand up. His dominance of the Spartans was so complete that early last week Schembechler dared say, "A pure passing team can't beat us." Summing up the prevailing attitude of the Wolverines were these words from a Michigan official. "It's like the twerp next door dropping by the bully's house for his annual beating, and the whole neighborhood coming out to watch."