Marcus Dupree, Oklahoma's okay freshman tailback, rushed 239 yards today, but Arizona State prevailed, 32-21, in the Fiesta Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium.
This was the first victory ever on New Year's Day for the Sun Devils, who had been banned from postseason competition the last two years because of Pacific-10 Conference and NCAA probation.
The game had been billed as a contest between Dupree and the Sun Devil defense, which this season led the nation in fewest yards allowed, 229 yards a game. From that point of view, no one was disappointed.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Dupree was marvelous, with nonscoring runs of 56, 56 and 48 yards among his 17 carries from scrimmage. He broke the Fiesta Bowl's rushing record of 202 yards set by ASU's Wood Green in 1972.
The Sooners had 457 yards total offense but lost four fumbles, had a punt blocked and yielded a safety on one fumble they recovered.
ASU quarterback Todd Hons, eight for 22 for 90 yards passing in the first half, completed nine of 13 passes for 239 yards after intermission. His 52-yard touchdown pass to Ron Brown with 9:23 remaining finished the Sooners.
"We came in to throw the football," ASU Coach Darryl Rogers said. "We felt Oklahoma would be difficult to run against. Their defensive front is extremely difficult and their linebackers run like crazy. So we thought we'd lay the ball off in a few places. When we finally settled down, we became more proficient."
In the first half, Dupree briefly left the game with bruised ribs then left for good early in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury. Still, his performance normally would have been good enough to produce a victory.
"It didn't matter about me having a good game," said Dupree. "We just wanted to win."
Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer claimed Dupree weighed 240 pounds, 12 pounds over his normal playing weight, and blamed that for Dupree's being caught from behind on long runs. "If Marcus weighs 228 instead of 240, he probably shakes them and gets in," Switzer said.
But Dupree denied he was that heavy, saying he weighed 232.
"The turnovers contributed to their winning," Switzer said. "We gave the ball back to them too many times."
Leading, 13-11, at the start of the third quarter, Oklahoma moved to the ASU six. But quarterback Kelly Phelps fumbled and ASU defensive end Bryan Caldwell recovered.
After Oklahoma matched a Sun Devil touchdown to put the Sooners ahead, 21-18, Phelps fumbled away the ball again on the ASU 47. ASU moved to what proved to be the winning score, a one-yard run by Alvin Moore with 14 1/2 minutes remaining.
On the Sooners' second possession of the game, Dupree found a huge hole on the right side and ran 56 yards to the Sun Devil five, setting up the first Oklahoma touchdown that came with 5:25 left in the first quarter. But Dupree had to leave the game after falling on the football and bruising his ribs. Dupree's absence at once inspired the Sun Devils and caused the Oklahoma offense to stall.
A blocked punt by ASU safety Mike Richardson gave the Sun Devils the ball at the Oklahoma 39, leading to Luis Zendejas' 32-yard field goal with 14:11 left in the half.
Oklahoma led, 7-3. The Sooners were still stuck in neutral, but so were the Sun Devils. Mike Black punted for the Sun Devils and the kick was downed at the Sooners' three. On the very next play, Phelps lost control of the ball, picked it up, and was tackled in the end zone for a safety and Oklahoma's lead was trimmed to 7-5.
Immediately afterward, Scott Kegan's 36-yard free kick return, plus a 15-yard personal foul penalty, led to Zendejas' second field goal, from 22 yards, that gave the Sun Devils an 8-7 lead.
With Dupree back in the game, the Sooners moved 84 yards in 11 plays to go ahead, 13-8, with 3:43 left in the first half, Stanley Wilson scoring his second one-yard touchdown. A try for two points failed.
Near the end of the half, Oklahoma drove from its 20 to the Sun Devil 27. But then a key play: Phelps' pass was tipped by defensive end Walt Bowyer and intercepted by nose guard Mitch Callahan at his 38.
Three straight passes took ASU to the Oklahoma 37 and Zendejas kicked a 54-yard field goal as time ran out in the half. That kick bettered by four yards the Fiesta mark set by Uwe von Schamann of Oklahoma in 1976.