TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State Coach John Cooper was in tears Saturday night after his fifth-ranked Sun Devils routed California, 49-0, to clinch the Pacific 10 Conference football championship and a Rose Bowl berth.
"I'm almost at a loss for words," Cooper said. "This is the most emotional I've ever been in my life. My mother came out here from Tennessee, and it was the first time she's ever seen me coach. It's fantastic. I'm tickled to death. I've got to be the luckiest guy in the world right now."
Senior flanker Bruce Hill scored three touchdowns--one on a 96-yard kickoff return to open the second half--as Arizona State won its first Pac-10 crown since joining the conference in 1978.
A standing-room crowd of 70,239 watched the homecoming game at Sun Devil Stadium on the desert campus. Fans stormed the field after the final play and tore down one of the goal posts in a wild celebration.
The Sun Devils, 8-0-1 overall and 5-0-1 in the conference, were put into position to win the title earlier Saturday when second-place UCLA lost to Stanford, 28-23.
"I'm going to send (Stanford Coach) Jack Elway a bunch of these roses the first thing Monday morning," Cooper said. "Stanford made it possible. Everything fell into place for us. We've been waiting a long, long time to get to the Rose Bowl."
UCLA and Stanford are both 4-2 in the Pac-10, but Arizona State has only one conference game remaining--Nov. 22 at Arizona.
"They're a very good football team," said Cal Coach Joe Kapp, who last Wednesday was fired, effective at the end of the season. "They'll represent the Pac-10 well. . . . They'll be an NFL franchise in a couple of years."
The Sun Devils held a 28-0 halftime lead over Cal (1-8 overall and 1-6 in the Pac-10.)
Jeff Van Raaphorst, who threw for three scores, hit tight end Jeff Gallimore on a five-yard touchdown pass 5:37 into the game and then found Hill on an eight-yard scoring strike seven minutes later.
Channing Williams' three-yard run made it 21-0 on the fourth play of the second quarter, before Hill hauled in a 62-yard bomb from Van Raaphorst with 4:07 left in the first half.
Hill took the second-half kickoff and raced untouched along the sideline for a 35-0 lead.
Backup quarterback Dan Ford's five-yard pass to Stein Koss with 14:54 remaining made it 42-0, and Ford closed out the scoring on a three-yard run with 1:34 left.
Van Raaphorst completed 11 of 14 passes for 141 yards and 1 interception. It was the first interception he has thrown in six games.
"We didn't have to have something happen (to anybody else)," Van Raaphorst said. "It was our destiny--we didn't wait for anybody else. Tonight, we went out in the first quarter, took it to them and snatched the roses."
Cal had six turnovers, five on interceptions. The Bears were held to just 23 yards rushing and 221 yards in total offense.