SAN DIEGO - It was the weirdest, wackiest play that Arizona State has been involved with since Mike Schuh’s punt went awry in the final moments of a game against Arizona in 1987.
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The Sun Devils could give credit for their first score of the Holiday Bowl on Thursday to the stepson of Texas coach Mack Brown, who came off the sideline to touch a ball in play during the second quarter.
After a video review, Chris Jessie, a member of UT’s football operations staff, was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, denying the Longhorns a big turnover — they recovered a backward pass by Sun Devils quarterback Rudy Carpenter — and giving ASU fourth-and-3 at the 7-yard line.
“I don’t think he touched it,” Brown said after the game. “But it shows you how bad our family wanted to win. He got involved.”
Trailing 21-0, coach Dennis Erickson chose to go for it, and Carpenter hit receiver Chris McGaha with a touchdown pass. That ended the seasonlong scoring drought for McGaha, the team’s leader in pass receptions and yardage.
Jessie was visibly shaken after ASU scored. Asked by an ESPN reporter at halftime if he talked to his stepson, Brown said: “I’m not sure anyone touched the ball, so I didn’t have to talk to anyone.”
Running back Ryan Torain, who suffered a season-ending foot ligament sprain in October, said that he has about two months left in rehabilitation and expects to be ready to participate in an NFL training camp in July.
The 6-foot-1, 213-pounder was unsure if he would be available for scouting functions in the spring. He has been walking for about three weeks after getting around with the aid of a scooter-like device designed to keep his leg elevated.
“I don’t even know the name of that thing, but I hated it,” Torain said.
After saying he was blowing up the depth chart and that the players who performed best in practice would start, Brown made two lineup changes, both on defense. Sophomore Roddrick Muckelroy started at weak-side linebacker over senior Scott Deery, and sophomore Jared Norton played ahead of junior Rashad Bobino at middle linebacker.
ASU radio analyst Jeff Van Raaphorst awoke on Thursday ill and with a weak voice, but he pressed on and worked the broadcast on KTAR (620 AM). Associate athletic director Don Bocchi, a former ASU assistant coach, was on call in case Van Raaphorst’s voice went completely out. …
Texas scored a touchdown only a minute and 21 seconds into the contest, the quickest in Holiday Bowl history that a team has reached the end zone. …
Erickson’s wife, Marilyn, his mother, Mary, and three sisters attended the game as guests in athletic director Lisa Love’s sky box. …
Middle linebacker Morris Wooten, who was suspended due to an unspecified team rules violation and was not part of ASU’s party to San Diego, was seen in the stands.
Did you see that? The stepson of Texas coach Mack Brown came off the sideline to touch an in-play ball, leading to an Arizona State touchdown. UT quarterback Colt McCoy ran for a big gain and fumbled into the end zone, where a teammate recovered the ball for a touchdown. Two passes by Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter bounced off a receiver and were intercepted.
Thumbs up: ASU’s starting wide receivers were productive, as Chris McGaha had nine catches for 79 yards and his first touchdown of the season and Michael Jones collected eight receptions for 107 yards and two scores.
Thumbs down: Punt returner Kyle Williams muffed two kicks, with the second recovered by Texas at the Sun Devils’ 32-yard line in the third quarter. Two plays later, the Longhorns scored a touchdown to take a 35-13 lead.
Injury report: ASU running back Keegan Herring played but was limited due to an ankle injury. However, after gaining 28 yards on a screen pass late in the third quarter, Herring lay on the ground for a few moments and did not return.
Quotable: “I feel bad for Dennis and ASU because they had a great year, and they don’t feel like it right now. ” — Texas coach Mack Brown