Garden State Bowl

1978

 

Arizona State 34

Rutgers 18

Arizona State Fight Song

 

Prior to the Garden State Bowl, there had been only a few attempts to stage a post-season bowl game in the Northeast because of unpredictable weather conditions in mid- or late-December. The Liberty Bowl was started in 1960 in Philadelphia and was staged there through 1964, then moved indoors in Atlantic City in 1965 before going to warmer climates in Memphis, Tenn., in 1966. The Gotham Bowl was held in the Polo Grounds in 1961, with Baylor defeating Utah State, 24-9, and, in its second try in 1962 in Yankee Stadium, Nebraska defeated Miami, 36-34, reportedly in 17-degree weather.

But, on Dec. 16, 1978, the thermometer in Giants Stadium read an unseasonable 40 degrees. And, despite the pre-game hope by the Rutgers squad that it would be much colder as it entertained an Arizona State team accustomed to playing in warm weather, Rutgers was hot at the start.

A two- or three-touchdown underdog to the 8-3 Sun Devils (who had defeated rival Arizona in the regular season finale and also owned a victory over the otherwise undefeated Southern Cal), Rutgers gained possession after an Arizona State punt at its own 32 and moved to the Sun Devil 47 in four plays. David Dorn then went off his right tackle, reversed his field and raced the distance down the left side for the game’s first score. Kennan Startzell’s extra point made it a 7-0 ball game early and the visitors were shocked further when Ed Steward recovered a fumble and Startzell booted his longest-ever field goal to that point in his career. The 46-yarder gave the Scarlet a 10-0 lead.

On the next Arizona State possession, Bob Hynoski intercepted a Mark Malone pass and raced 36 yards to the Sun Devil four-yard line. The count might have gone to 17-0 but Dorn fumbled at the two and the visitors took over.

Unable to add to the lead, Rutgers gave up the ball at the Scarlet 44 with 1:53 remaining in the half and the Sun Devils got on the scoreboard when Malone hit Bob Weathers in the end zone from the 14. A play earlier, Malone was trapped on a fourth and 10 play but shook loose to connect for a first down. Instead of 17-0 or 10-0, it was a 10-7 game at the half.

Malone tossed 26 and 47-yard touchdowns in the third period to MVP John Mistler and Chris DeFrance to give Arizona State a 21-10 lead and ran in from the one early in the final frame for a 28-10 lead.

Lethargic for a period and a half, Rutgers rebounded with 5:49 left in the game when Ted Blackwell scored on a five-yard run and then caught a two-point conversion pass from Ed McMichael.

“They were on their way to a nice, neat orderly finish,” wrote syndicated columnist Jerry Izenberg. “And then, Kennan Startzell kicked the ball. “Mechanically, it was the perfect squibbler. It had been done on a million football fields and when it works the kicking team recovers. The ball bounced off of Arizona State’s Morris Williams...it bounced off of Rutgers’ Mark Freeman...it skidded under the belly of Arizona State’s Henry Pollard and came to rest underneath Rutgers’ Craig Nielsen - in the Arizona State endzone. This is not unlike bunting for a home run.

“One official signaled touchdown - six points for Rutgers. A second apparently signaled touchback, Arizona’s ball on its own 20. A third signaled toward the heavens with outstretched hands, which according to the annotated NCAA Hymnal and Prayer Book means: Why me, O Lord?

“But, back upfield lay a yellow flag. Rutgers was said to have been off-sides on the kickoff and that ruling held. Instead of a 28-24 count and a possible 28-26 ballgame, the score reverted to 28-18 with 4:44 to go. In the game’s final minute, Malone scored on a four-yard run for the closing 34-18 scoreboard count.

The weather had cooperated, the 33,402 fans had had their fill, the ball had nearly bounced in Rutgers’ favor and it was a devil of a day. The Garden State Bowl would continue for three more years and would give way to the current post-season classic format.

 

Weathers scores on pass from Malone.

 

Rutgers' David Dorn on a 47-yard touchdown against Arizona State.

 

Rutgers' Glen Kehler is interviewed prior to the game.

 

Attendance: 33,402

Scoring Summary

First Quarter
RU- Dorn 47 run (Startzell kick)
RU- FG Startzell 46

Second Quarter
ASU- Weathers 14 pass from Malone (Hicks kick)

Third Quarter
ASU- Mistler 26 pass from Malone (Hicks kick)
ASU- DeFrance 53 pass from Malone (Hicks kick)

Fourth Quarter
ASU- Malone 1 run (Hicks kick)
RU- Blackwell 5 run (Blackwell pass to McMichael)
ASU- Malone 4 run (kick failed)
 

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