Tricky Devils: Plummer, Redmond break down the legendary trick play vs UCLAPosted: Updated:
It was a season full of moments that quickly made the move from memorable to legendary.
The last-second field goal to beat Washington, the safety to seal the win over No. 1 Nebraska, and Keith Poole’s touchdown pose are, among others from that magical 1996 season, all hallowed parts of the Sun Devil canon.
Certainly the most creative entry to that group happened on the afternoon of Oct. 12 when 5-0 Arizona State, ranked No. 4 in the polls, traveled to Pasadena to battle UCLA.
The Bruins had jumped all over ASU early, running out to a 28-7 lead in the second quarter. A trio of touchdown passes from Sun Devil quarterback Jake Plummer had brought ASU to within six points in the fourth quarter, but time was running out.
UCLA had possession with 7:24 left in the game when running back Skip Hicks fumbled the ball, and ASU safety Damien Richardson swiftly made the recovery at the Bruin 16-yard line. The Sun Devils had a new lease on life.
They opened the drive with a run for no gain by true freshman running back J.R. Redmond, who unexpectedly found himself as the team’s lead back after injuries to Michael Martin and Terry Battle earlier in the game.
Just a year after making plays for nearby Carson High School, Redmond was now called upon to make a critical play in a game with potential national title implications in the most famous stadium in the sport.
"I was just excited to be in the game,” Redmond remembers.
It was then that ASU offensive coordinator Dan Cozzetto then reached into his bag of tricks.
“I knew that that was a play that we worked on, but I didn't think it was something that would be called, especially not in a critical part of the game,” said Redmond.
"We had repped it and practiced it and wanted to call it,” Plummer said. “Coach Cozzetto was always a little nervous to pull it out and call it, but he finally did.”
The play was a halfback pass designed to find Plummer open along the sidelines for the go-ahead touchdown. While that was the best-case scenario, Redmond was just hoping not to screw it up.
“When they made the call, the only thing I could think was 'Don't throw an interception. Don't throw an interception,’” Redmond admitted.
Plummer took the snap, pitched the ball to Redmond on the right, and took off down the field to the left. After catching the pitch, Redmond committed himself to the ruse.
“As I got the ball and started off to the right, I really wanted to sail the toss,” said Redmond. “As I gave ground, I didn't want to look too early, so I waited to look back. You could tell I was going to throw the ball, you just couldn't tell I was going to throw back across the field. My thing was to not give away where I was throwing the ball.”
Once he did turn around, Redmond saw a Bruin defender bearing down on him. He had to act quickly.
“I waited until the last minute to look, and as soon as I looked, the only thing I saw was his (Plummer’s) legs,” Redmond said. “I couldn't see his body, so I threw it to a spot.”
Due to the pressure, the pass was underthrown. While that may have ruined the play in most cases, this time, it saved it.
“J.R. got a little pressured and the ball was a little underthrown,” said Plummer. “Had he not done that, I would have just gotten smashed.”
As the ball neared Plummer, a Bruin defender that had reacted to the play was running to cut off the route. However, with the underthrown pass, he overshot Plummer, who now cut inside looking for a path to paydirt.
“The fact that he underthew it, I came back to the ball, and there was just, I don't want to call it a Yellow Brick Road, but there was a seam there,” Plummer remembers. “Everybody was pursuing, and I made a few cuts.”
What followed was a wild series of cutbacks, jukes, and finally, a signature Plummer dive into the endzone for the touchdown.
“I didn't know what I was doing,” said Plummer of his run. “When I watch that play, I still can't understand what I was thinking or doing. It was just playground ball.”
Plummer may not understand the craziness of the play, but Redmond knows exactly what happened.
“He did his 'Jake the Snake' thing."
The touchdown gave ASU a lead that they would never relinquish. Plummer later added a touchdown run in ASU’s 42-34 win that kept their perfect season intact.
After having authored one of the season’s marquee moments, Plummer had a prophetic message for his team as they left Pasadena.
"Leaving that stadium, I stopped the bus,” Plummer remembers. “I asked the bus driver to stop, I stood up and got everyone to look back at that stadium and I said, 'We're coming back there this year. Put that right now in your heads. We're playing in the Rose Bowl.’”
The rest is history.
Video via JediASU YouTube page