Photo courtesy of Arkansas athletics
Bowl season always has its fair share of fantastic games and thrilling finishes.
One of those took place on this day 35 years ago. In the third Holiday Bowl decided by one point in seven years, Arkansas used a late field goal to edge Arizona State, 18-17.
Setting the Stage
Arkansas was 9-2 when it arrived at Jack Murphy Stadium on Dec. 22, 1985. The Razorbacks were ranked No. 18 after ascending to a high as fourth during the season. Arkansas’ two losses had come by just a combined six points.
Led by first-year head coach John Cooper, Arizona State was unranked despite being 8-3. After a 2-2 start, the Sun Devils won six straight games before falling to rival Arizona in the regular season finale.
The Exciting Final Minutes
Through three quarters, the teams had combined for just two touchdowns. The lead would change hands three times over the final 9:37.
Arizona State led 14-7 entering the final 15 minutes. With under 10 minutes to go, Arkansas found the end zone for the first time since the opening quarter.
Bobby Joe Edmonds’ 17-yard touchdown pulled Arkansas to within one before senior quarterback Mark Calcagni converted the 2-point conversion. Arkansas led 15-14, but that advantage would last less than five minutes. With 5:23 to play, kicker Kent Bostrom’s third field goal of the night put the Sun Devils back in front by two.
Arkansas however, would not be denied. A 20-yard strike from Calcagni to Edmonds moved the Razorbacks inside the Arizona State 40-yard-line. After using the ground game to eat clock, kicker Kendall Trainor was sent out to be the hero.
With 23 seconds to play, Trainor calmly knocked through the 37-yard attempt to put Arkansas ahead for good. Bostrom would get one last shot, but his 59-yard try came up well short as time expired.
In the first half, Bostrom kicked field goals of 47 and 22 yards. Those makes were sandwiched around a 9-yard touchdown run by Arkansas’ Derrick Thomas.
Down 7-6, the Sun Devils finally found the end zone in the second quarter when Jeff Van Raaphorst found Aaron Cox for a 16-yard touchdown. Van Raaphorst then hit Vince Amota for the 2-point conversion. Edmonds finished with 135 yards from scrimmage to earn Offensive MVP honors.
The victory gave Arkansas its first 10-win season in six years under second-year head coach Ken Hatfield. Arkansas would finish No. 12 in the final polls.
Despite the loss, Arizona State would finish 8-4 for its best finish in three years. In Cooper’s final two seasons at the helm in 1986 and 1987, the Sun Devils won bowl games both years.
The thrilling contest served as the third Holiday Bowl decided by a single point in seven years, but also began a string of three straight 1-point games at the Holiday Bowl. It happened on this day 35 years ago.