1980 - 84 Sun Devils
(Authentic Reproduction)





Darryl Rogers was named the new head coach after a successful run at Michigan State where he won the Big Ten title in 1978. Rogers had earned his spurs as the head coach at Fresno State and San Jose State before stepping up in competitive level at MSU. With the introduction of a new head coach came a new helmet design, as Rogers outfitted the sunflower shell with a one-inch maroon center stripe, one-half-inch white flanking stripes, and a second set of one-half-inch flanking stripes in maroon. The distinctive sunburst logo was removed from the sides of the helmet and replaced with “Sparky”, a maroon Sun Devil with pitchfork design that was outlined with a white border for greater contrast on the helmet shell. Rogers 7-4 debut in Tempe, with a close two-point loss to USC was welcomed as QB Mike Pagel threw for 2025 yards, much of it to All PAC John Mistler who led the conference in receptions and then went on to the Giants and Bills. Running behind big OT John Meyer, Willie Gittens led the squad in rushing with 759 yards but dazzled with 626 yards on kickoff and punt returns. FB Gerald Riggs was solid. The defense stood out as LB Vernon Maxwell used his 4.5/40 speed to earn All Conference honors but if it was speed that anyone wanted, All American track champion Ron Brown was the guy and he grabbed seven interceptions. DB Mike Richardson added eight INT’s to the team total making for a formidable secondary. Punter Mike Black was a terrific addition. 1981 was a great 9-2 season with the Sun Devils’ offense the nation’s leader with a huge 5486 total yards. QB Pagel, FB Riggs, and RB Robert Weathers were the key ingredients with Pagel, the All PAC 10 and Honorable Mention All American throwing seven TD passes against Stanford. His lengthy tenure in the NFL with the Colts, Browns, and Rams made many forget that his .320 batting average and forty-four RBI’s on an excellent ASU baseball team made him a two sport standout. Riggs too was an Honorable Mention All American pick, All PAC on his six yards-per-carry average and he became the Falcons first round draft choice, playing as their key weapon through ’88 and finishing his fine career with the Redskins in 1991. With huge OT Meyer to once again run behind, they had an advantage. The kicking game was the best in the conference with punter Black repeating as the All Conference choice and Luis Zendejas of the well-known kicking family, handing the placekicking chores. The defense was keyed by All PAC Vernon Maxwell and fellow LB Joey Lumpkin who had two productive seasons with the Bills, and DE Jim Jeffcoat. Quietly LB Darren Comeaux played well with the better known starters and almost as quietly had a ten season pro career. Consensus All American DB Mike Richardson was the key to the secondary with great help from Kendall Williams in what was a very well balanced team.


1982 was another 9-2 season and it was followed by a Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma. This 10-2 overall mark proved to be the high point in Rogers’ tenure at ASU. The offense again was potent but surprisingly, it was the “Cactus Crunch” defense that ranked tops in the nation. Seven opponents were limited to ten points or less with Jeffcoat, Maxwell, Richardson, and Williams an unstoppable group. DE Jeffcoat was an All American who completed his career with twenty sacks and was the number-one pick of the Cowboys, playing from 1983 through ’97, the final three seasons with the Bills. The speedy LB Maxwell had a solid NFL career with the Colts, Lions, and Seahawks while Richardson became one of the key players in the Bears Super Bowl defense of ’85, playing with them from 1983 through ’88 and finishing his pro stint with San Francisco. Kendall Williams, very often underrated with the abundance of talent around him joined Maxwell on the Colts for the ’83 season. The offense played second fiddle in ’82, a real change for ASU. Not that fill-in QB Todd Hons was shabby as he passed for 2336 yards, utilizing Ron Brown, who had moved from DB to WR and was a sprinter on the 1984 U.S. Olympic Team as well as a three-time track All American to catch nineteen of his tosses. Brown proved to be more than just “a track guy” as he was drafted by the Browns and then enjoyed eight-seasons as a contributor, seven with the Rams and one with the Raiders. HB Darryl Clack rushed for 606 yards as a freshman and the Sun Devils were as per usual, dangerous with the ball and had the advantage of three-time All PAC punter Mike Black, a future Detroit Lion and place kicker Zendejas to fall back on.


1983 was a major disappointment as the team faded late in the season to finish 6-4-1 behind the QB play of Horis. RB Clack was great, the number-two rusher in the PAC-10 with 932 yards and once again, Zendejas was a deadly kicker and honored as an All American. The LB crew of Jimmy Williams, Greg Battle, and Brian Noble complemented Frosh Safety David Fulcher who rang up 110 tackles and four INT’s. If ’83 was a disappointment, the inconsistency shown in ’84 that resulted in a 5-6 mark was downright catastrophic to boosters who observed the young talent on the squad. Soph QB Jeff Van Raaphorst whose father starred as a kicker at Ohio State and with the Chargers in the 1960’s took charge with seven games remaining and rang up 2062 passing yards for seventeen TD’s. Clack again was the primary rusher, gaining 1052. LB’s Williams, Battle who later had a lengthy career in the CFL, and Noble, who played with the Packers from ’85 through 1993 had the luxury of Dan Saleamua at NG. Safety Fulcher, larger than many teams’ linebackers at 6’3” 230 pounds, again made more than 100 tackles. Zendejas remained a potent weapon and played for a number of teams in the USFL and NFL. When Coach Rogers took the opportunity to become the Detroit Lions head man, hope was high that the new coach would better utilize the available stock of talent.

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