By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
TEMPE Ÿ As kicker Jon Prasuhn's field goal sailed through the uprights with 22 seconds left in Friday night's game, everything was forgotten.
The Arizona football players were not thinking about how they finished 0-4 against ranked opponents or how they failed to reach a bowl game for the first time in five years. All that mattered to them was that the 36-yard field goal found its mark and they defeated rival Arizona State 31-28.
"This was a great win for us, probably the best one we've had in many, many years," UA head coach Dick Tomey said. "It's made even sweeter considering all this team went through this season."
But the most important aspect might be that Tomey sends one of his most talented classes out with a winning season.
"This is the most fitting way for me to end my career at Arizona," said UA senior defensive end Tedy Bruschi, whose 21/2 sacks tied him with Alabama's Derrick Thomas (1985-88) for the NCAA career record of 52. "To tie the record and beat Arizona State, nothing is more sweet than this."
But this game was not all roses for the Wildcats. In fact, many of the Arizona faithful Ÿ and there were quite a few among the 67,606 that attended the game at Sun Devil Stadium Ÿ had given up hope with just over seven minutes left to play and the Wildcats down 28-14. Arizona had been dominated all game and committed four turnovers. But to a team that had been in a similar situation earlier in the season against Georgia Tech, it could not give up.
And for Bruschi, it was not tough to see how the team found the heart to come back.
"I feel I can speak for the whole team as to where our motivation was, and that was the 'DT' on our jersees and Damon (Terrell) in the sky," he said. "We've understood this from the beginning."
"We have always been a team that goes to the line, and we usually find a way to pull it out," senior UA quarterback Dan White said. "This team has a lot of pride and we knew when we got the ball that something was going to happen."
That "something" was a 27-yard pass from White to receiver Richard Dice, setting up a 6-yard touchdown pass to senior Cary Taylor that cut the ASU lead to 28-21.
It was then the Desert Swarm made its final encore. After the Wildcats kicked off, a penalty landed the Sun Devils on their own 11-yard line. UA senior nose guard Chuck Osborne then made the shot heard 'round Arizona when he crushed ASU quarterback Jake Plummer. But to the Sun Devils' dismay, the ball hit the ground before Plummer did, and UA lineman Joe Salave'a picked it up and rumbled for six points.
"When I saw the ball, I didn't feel nothing. I felt I could run a 3.8 40 (yard dash) Ÿ I knew no one was going to catch me," Salave'a said.
After another three-and-out series by ASU, Arizona worked its late-game magic and beat its rivals for the third straight year.
But the unsung hero for the Wildcats in this game was White. While he did have an interception and a fumble, he was instrumental in their fourth-quarter charge. With 289 yards and three touchdowns Saturday, he continued his dominance over ASU, finishing his career with nearly a 70-percent completion percentage against the Sun Devils.
"Dan White is a heck of a quarterback, someday somebody will realize that," Tomey said. "He's not perfect, but he's a fine quarterback and such a tough guy."
But the seniors were not the only bright spot for the Wildcats. Junior Rodney Williams and freshman Scooter Sprotte increased their stock by making big plays in the Arizona State game.
Williams caught a key 39-yard touchdown reception and finished with nine receptions for 121 yards. Sprotte rushed for 29 yards, most of them coming on Arizona's final drive for the game-winning field goal.
"The veterans were not the only ones that played well for us," Tomey said. "It was a team effort and many other guys helped us win this one."
But the seniors were still the men of the hour, with the founders of Desert Swarm ending on a good note. Bruschi and Osborne combined for six sacks and managed to put pressure on the previously untouchable Plummer.
"ASU had done a good job all season of protecting Plummer, but this game we just won that battle," Tomey said.
And while the defensive line did the dirty work to cause the final turnover, senior linebacker Charlie Camp was the motivator.
"Charlie Camp brought us in the huddle before the snap and said that we hadn't knocked the ball out all game, but we were going to make something happen on this play," Bruschi said. "I don't know, maybe he's psychic, but we went out and created the score."
And could anyone write up a better script for the final game of the UA's Desert Swarm?
"I'm not sure Desert Swarm went out," Tomey said. "We still plan on playing defense next year."
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