The Wolfpacker

January 2018

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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106 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY TIM PEELER H alf of NC State's football team flew backwards. That's the way air travel was back in 1960 on the flight char- tered from Raleigh to Tempe, Ariz., for the first-ever meeting between NC State and Arizona State, the Wolfpack's opponent at the 2017 Sun Bowl. The seats alternated directions so that players, coaches and staff were facing each other on the arduous flight to the Southwest. And the old DC-3 turbo-prop plane had to make three refueling stops on its way to the desert, an inconvenience with which the up- perclassmen on the Wolfpack's team were well familiar, since they had taken two trips to Los Angeles and one trip to Birmingham, Ala., over the course of three seasons. This one, however, was a little different. "Arizona State had a really good team," said former All-American quarterback Ro- man Gabriel, who was nearing the end of his junior season in that Nov. 12, 1960, contest. But why was this regular-season game played nearly 50 years ago, when intersec- tional contests were an even bigger rarity than today's made-for-television match- ups? Why would an Atlantic Coast Confer- ence school, following one of the worst seasons in school history, want to travel 2,166 miles to face the defending champi- ons of the Border Conference coming off a 10-1 season? The answer is simple, really. It was a fa- vor between a pair of Pennsylvanians who were building programs far from their roots in College Football Hall of Famer Clarence "Biggie" Munn's coaching tree. NC State head coach Earle Edwards was a Munn assistant at Michigan State when Arizona State head coach Frank Kush was a three-time All-American for the Spartans. That included 1952, when the Spartans were undefeated, won their inaugural trip to the Rose Bowl and were declared col- lege football's national champions. Both Edwards (Huntingdon) and Kush (Windber) were born in southern Pennsyl- vania. Edwards played and was an assistant coach at Penn State, where he earned a de- gree in engineering. Kush, small but fiery even as a player, was recruited by Munn to play on some of the best teams in Spartan history. Edwards jumped to NC State in 1954, one year after the inception of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Michigan State assistant Dan Devine left for Arizona State in 1955, taking Kush with him as an assistant. When Devine left for Missouri after three sea- sons, Kush took over the program and built it into a national power. Before he was fired in 1979 for being too tough on his players, Kush won seven Western Athletic Conference titles, had 19 winning seasons in 22 years and cap- tured six of his seven bowl games. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1995 and died on June 22 of this year at the age of 88. Edwards won five ACC titles for the Wolfpack and, in 1967, led the team to the first bowl victory in school history. The Wolfpack head coach, who at the time was playing no more than three home games a season, was interested in play- ing multiple games with the Sun Devils, a proposition that ended after just one trip to Tempe. "Because of the way Kush allowed his team to play, Coach Edwards cancelled the deal," Gabriel said. "And the officiating in the game was poor." The game was sloppy, played under the stars in front of 27,600 spectators at Arizona State Sta- dium. Both teams entered the con- test with a 6-2 record, with hopes of earning a difficult postseason bid. It was a frustrating game for the favored Wolfpack, which was pe- nalized 60 yards, including three infractions on the game's decisive drive. But Edwards' team didn't help itself, either, fumbling five times in the contest, three of which were recovered by ASU. The Pack jumped out to a 12-0 lead, thanks to a 42-yard run by halfback John Stanton and a one- yard plunge by Gabriel. It added a 27-yard field goal by tackle Nick Maravich, the first of his career, in the second quarter. The Sun Devils tied the game at 15-15 just before halftime, aided by a fumble and an interception. Gabriel scored again on a short run on the first possession of the second half, but the Sun Devils tied the game in the third quarter on a 25-yard return of a Gabriel fumble. The game turned midway through the fourth quarter when ASU returned a punt to the State 22-yard line. A penalty on the play moved the ball to the 11. With nine minutes remaining, the Sun Devils booted a 27-yard field goal for what turned out to be the final margin. "Fumbles cost us the ballgame," Ed- wards said. The two schools did play again, three years after Edwards retired but with Kush still at the ASU helm. A week after beating Penn State at Carter Stadium, Wolfpack head coach Lou Holtz took his 1974 team to Tempe and rolled up a 35-14 victory in the regular-season finale for the Pack. The win gave Holtz's team, which had already been invited to play Houston in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl at the Astrodome, a 9-2 record, just the third time in school history State won nine regular-season games. ■ ■ PACK PERSPECTIVE Student Beat Mentor In NC State's First Game With Arizona State Tim Peeler is a regular contributor to The Wolfpacker. and can be reached at The Wolfpacker is a publication of: Coman Publishing Company, Inc., P.O. Box 2331, Durham, N.C. 27702. Offices are located at 905 West Main St., Ste. 24F, Durham, N.C. 27701. (919) 688-0218. The Wolfpacker (ISSN 0273-8945) is published bimonthly. A subscription is $39.95 for six issues. For advertising or subscription information, call (800) 421-7751 or write The Wolfpacker. Postmaster: Send address changes to: The Wolfpacker, P.O. Box 2331, Durham, N.C. 27702. Periodical mail postage paid at Durham, N.C. 27702 and additional offices. First-class postage is $14 extra per year. E-mail: • Web site: NC State quarterback Roman Gabriel (18) throws a pass to halfback John Stanton. The two accounted for the first two scores in a 1960 game at Arizona State, the first-ever meeting between the two teams. PHOTO BY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS

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