The season ... and night … that catapulted Jake Plummer into the College Hall

Photo courtesy of the Arizona Cardinals

College Hall-of-Famer Jake Plummer recalls the night that led to his … and Arizona State's … most unforgettable season.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: To access the Jake Plummer interview, go to 1:06:15 of the attached interview)

It’s been over two decades since Jake Plummer starred at quarterback for Arizona State University, but few people in and around the Phoenix area fail to remember what he … and the Sun Devils … accomplished on the football field in 1996.

For that matter, few people anywhere fail to remember – one reason Plummer was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019.

Plummer was more than a local hero. He was the star of a team that in 1996 shut out No. 1-ranked Nebraska to end the Huskers’ 26-game winning streak … that won the Pac-10 championship … and that came this close to beating Ohio State in the Rose Bowl before falling 20-17.

Nevertheless, ASU finished fourth in the national polls, with Plummer named the Pac-10’s Offensive Player of the Year and third in the Heisman Trophy voting.

He would go on to play in the NFL for Arizona and Denver, compiling a 40-18 record with the Broncos, before retiring in 2007. But it’s that senior year at Arizona State that people most associate with him, and it’s that senior year that propelled him into the College Football Hall of Fame – an honor that Plummer conceded caught him by surprise.

“I had a dream,” he said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, “and it happened. I’m honored and humbled to be inducted in the Hall of Fame.”

Plummer did almost everything his senior year – including extending an ASU record of scoring by rushing or passing in 34 straight games. But, as he pointed out, he was only as good as his team. And his team was good enough to stun a Nebraska outfit that had buried the Sun Devils 77-28 the year before and that was No. 1 in the country.

In fact, when we asked if there was a special play, game or moment that resonated with him today, it was that game … though it wasn’t exactly the game itself that he mentioned; but the night before.

Let Plummer explain.

“The moment I think that turned the tide during that season,” he said, “would be the night before the Nebraska game. The way they beat us the year before, they were overconfident and coming off a national title. And they just handled us (the year before) in Lincoln.

“As players we knew that we’d put in the work that summer. All of us stayed. Every single one of us was there, working out. We were having fun as a team, and we grew. And that night before the Nebraska game we had a team-only meeting, and everybody just had a chance to kind of say what they felt.

“The general consensus was that … I don’t think even our coaches didn’t think we could beat them … but I know by every individual in that room, each one of us, we knew that we could beat those guys. As players, we knew this. And that was really a special moment because guys had never really ever said much or stepped up and called it like it was – like, ‘Hey, this is our chance.’

“Guys that hardly ever spoke were fired up, and there were some tables turned over and chairs thrown around. We got after it as a team – just a team. And we knew going into that game that it was just us. So, yeah, it was an amazing win, and it kind of catapulted us on to the national scene.”

It also catapulted Plummer to the national scene, with fans recalling the heroics of “Jake the Snake” on the football field and the season that some consider the most unforgettable in recent ASU memory.

“We lost the Rose Bowl,” Plummer said, “and it’s still the season that most people talk about in ASU history. And we ended our season with a loss. It really is remarkable that’s still a talked-about and memorable season.”

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