Last night, Stanford beat USC in a wild game in triple overtime, when the Trojans fumbled the ball into the end zone when they were about to score, after Stanford had successfully scored a touchdown and two point conversion to go up 8. That win had huge national title meaning for Stanford, but for our “degenerate gambling hall of fame” purposes, it doesn’t even qualify as the wildest cover in a game involving an undefeated Pac-10 team with a Heisman candidate quarterback playing against USC in a game that went to overtime and was decided by a USC fumble (phew, that’s a mouthful!) in the last 15 years.
In 1996, undefeated Arizona State with Jake Plummer at quarterback played USC. I cannot find any youtube highlights of that overtime from 15 years ago (oddly, the only clip of that game is of USC QB Brad Otton complaining about crowd noise right before overtime), but here is the game summary from the Chicago Tribune.
Let me set the stage for the ridiculousness of this Arizona State cover. I was smitten with the 1996 Arizona State Sun Devils, thanks in no small part to the fact that they actually beat Nebraska early that season, ending Nebraska’s long run at #1, by shutting them out 19-0. The previous week, they had won a dramatic game against UCLA where they scored on a throwback to Jake Plummer. They were undefeated and had that magic working in 1996, and I was rooting for that team with not only Plummer but guys like Pat Tillman and Terry Battle.
My recollection is that I had Arizona State as either a 7.5 or 8 point favorite against the Trojans–I know I couldn’t push with a touchdown, but the Sun Devils had never led the entire game. They tied the game with under two minutes remaining to send it to overtime. The cover seemed long gone, though, once it got to overtime. Then USC scored first in the initial overtime period, and Arizona State responded. Arizona State took their first lead of the entire game when they had the ball first in the second overtime. Then, with USC having the ball, Brad Otton pitched the ball to the sideline trying to throw a forward shovel pass, but the officials never blew it dead and Courtney Jackson picked up the fumble and ran it back 85 yards to end the game, 48-35. I wonder who Brent Musberger had in that one.
Maybe this bit of history repeating itself is a sign, and we’ll get a repeat of the Rose Bowl that year, a fantastic game between the undefeated Sun Devils and John Cooper’s Ohio State Buckeyes.
[photo via Getty]