WRITER’S NOTE: I was watching the 1995 Arizona-Arizona State game on ESPN Classic on Tuesday night, which reminded me of this column I wrote for the print edition of the Tucson Citizen in 2008. I thought it would be a good time to bring it back to the light, as the message still stands. So here it is, from the archives:
Kids today don’t know. The current Arizona football players wouldn’t know Rob Waldrop from Chuck Osborne, Ontiwaun Carter from Chuck Levy.
They know Tedy Bruschi from the “old days” but that’s because he’s an NFL stalwart and a multiple Super Bowl champion.
Other than that, most of the other Wildcats from more than a decade ago are such ancient history that they might as well have worn leather helmets.
A shame, really.
If I could get in front of the Cats and talk about Arizona-Arizona State, I would tell them about two guys from about 15 years ago who displayed all the toughness and heart that a rivalry game demands.
I would tell them to play like these two guys – guys they’ve probably never heard of.
Quarterback Dan White and receiver Richard Dice.
Arizona fans of a certain age know what I’m talking about, because anyone who was following the team from 1993-95 can’t forget White’s fourth-quarter brilliance or Dice’s amazing performance while playing with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
And then there was his one-finger salute to the ASU fans in Sun Devil Stadium.
Maybe not so classy, but absolutely classic.
Let’s start with White, who was 3-0 against the Devils, beating ASU quarterback Jake Plummer each time, and no quarterback in the series has ever been more clutch.
White directed a 34-20 victory in 1993 as UA overcame a small second-half deficit.
In 1994, he led UA back from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to win 28-27. He played with a injured throwing shoulder that required a shot during the game.
In 1995, the Cats were down 14 halfway through the final quarter, but rallied to win 31-28 on a last-second field goal.
White was impeccable when it mattered most. King Clutch. He was 21 of 26 for 284 yards and five touchdowns in the fourth quarters of those games.
“I can’t pinpoint why that happened,” White said Thursday from San Diego, where he is a financial adviser.
“People talk about being in the zone. Who knows why? I know I always enjoyed those situations. . . . You do what it takes to prove you can win the ballgame.”
Who knows why, but White saved his best for ASU. He completed 66 percent of his passes in three years against the Sun Devils. Against everybody else, he completed 50 percent.
“He was a Sun Devil killer,” Dice said.
If White is still remembered for his cool under pressure against Arizona State, Dice is remembered for his fire, a never-say-die player who wouldn’t be deterred by a torn left ACL in 1995.
He put off late-season surgery, and the swelling had gone down enough by game time to allow him to play.
“Obviously, I was young and didn’t care about consequences,” Dice said from Los Angeles, where he works in concrete demolition.
“In my mind, any time I stepped on the field, I thought I could make a play. And I just had a lot of respect for the guys I played with who were seniors. I wanted to do everything possible to give our team the best chance to win.”
More than a one-legged decoy, Dice caught a touchdown pass before halftime, then helped fuel the comeback with three receptions in the fourth quarter.
His leaping grab in traffic at the ASU 6, coming down with a toe inbounds, would be his last play of the game.
As he limped to the UA sideline, he raised a finger – not his index finger – to the crowd.
“It was just one of those things,” Dice said. “As I was walking off, they weren’t clapping for me by any means.”
Said White: “If there was one guy who could use the word ‘hatred’ for ASU, it was him. I think he disliked the whole idea of ASU . . .
“Him gimping around on that knee, barely able to walk, that was one of those things that raised everybody else up.”
Dice suffered a torn ACL in his right knee a year later, and the bad knees scuttled a chance at a pro career. He isn’t sure if playing against ASU contributed to longer-term knee problems (but we thank him anyway).
“Looking back, I don’t know if I would have done the same thing,” he said.
“Do I regret it? No. If we would have lost, I would have regretted it.”
What White and Dice have are 3-0 records when they played against ASU. What they don’t have are regrets.
They’re UA-ASU legends.
Pass the word. Tell your kids. Always remember.