Rivalry Week Flashback: 'The Catch'

It was before the Internet and massive television coverage. While much of the nation slept or ignored, Arizona and Arizona State played a classic in the darkeness of the desert. For many of those in attendance it still ranks as one of the best games of all time.

In 1975 Jim Young brought his 9-1 Wildcats into Tempe to face an undefeated Sun Devil squad. With quarterback Bruce Hill leading the Cats to a first half lead. What happened next has become one of the greatest pieces of "did he, didn't he?" lore in the history of college football. If it happened in an Ohio State/Michigan game ESPN would show the highlight every November. It happened to occur between to WAC team's in the middle of the night before the advent of 24-hour cable networks.

Ask most people about the "catch", and they'll tell you about Joe Montana and Dwight Clark. Ask an Arizonan and they'll tell you about 1975 and John Jefferson. Wildcat fans claim that it wasn't a catch and that the Cats' were robbed. Ask a Sun Devil and he'll swear there was no way there wasn't a catch.

It was late in the first half and the Devils could not shake the Wildcats. The Devils were driving and they tried a shot at the endzone. The ASU quarterback heaved the ball into the back of the endzone and Jefferson dove for the ball. The future All-Pro stretched out and had the ball in his hands when he hit the earth.

Here is where the debate ensues. Many claim the ball hit the ground when he landed, others claim his hands were clearly underneath. Grainy replays are inconclusive. The referee raised his hands over his head and the momentum propelled the Sun Devils to the win. They finished the season undefeated and ranked second in the nation.

Unfortunately there is just one camera angle. An inconclusive still photo of the outstretched Jefferson has a prominent place in the ASU press box. Even upon close inspection it is still inconclusive. The only thing that is conclusive is that it was another classic game in this crazy rivalry.


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