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Florida Shuffles to the No. 1 Spot

College football: Gators top AP poll as Arizona St. rides upset to No. 6.

September 23, 1996|CHRIS DUFRESNE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Conga line dances continued through the streets of Tempe, Ariz., and Gainesville, Fla., on Sunday as Arizona State and Florida celebrated Nebraska's ouster as the nation's top-ranked college football team.

Doing what Florida could not do nine months ago--defeat Nebraska in Sun Devil Stadium--Arizona State shocked the top-ranked Cornhuskers, 19-0, Saturday night and lifted the Gators, belatedly, to a No. 1 ranking.

With the victory, Arizona State jumped 11 spots in this week's Associated Press poll, from 17th to sixth, while Florida (3-0) moved from No. 4 into the top spot after defeating No. 2 Tennessee, 35-29, in Knoxville.

Florida (3-0) received 52 first-place votes and leapfrogged new No. 2 Florida State (2-0) despite the fact the Seminoles, ranked third last week, easily defeated unranked North Carolina State, 51-17, Thursday.

Penn State (4-0) moved up one spot to No. 3, while Ohio State (2-0) and Notre Dame (3-0) round out the top five. The top five positions were identical in the CNN/USA Today coaches' poll. But the coaches were not as impressed with Arizona State, ranking the Sun Devils 12th.

Arizona State (3-0) has not been ranked in the top 10 by AP since finishing fourth in the final 1986 poll. Michigan (3-0) is No. 7, followed by Nebraska (1-1), Tennessee (2-1) and Miami (3-0).

After Arizona State ended Nebraska's 26-game winning streak and handed Coach Tom Osborne only his second regular-season shutout defeat since 1973, Sun Devil fans tore down the goal posts and carried them through downtown Tempe, as the police merrily looked on.

"I'm out of breath," Arizona State Coach Bruce Snyder said afterward. "I'm just so proud of this team and my staff. We did a great job of planning what we needed to do, and the kids believed in it. This might be the biggest win I've ever been involved in."

The victory was shocking in that the Cornhuskers had embarrassed the Sun Devils last year in Lincoln, winning, 77-28, with Nebraska amassing 686 total yards.

This time, Arizona State dominated, as the defense took advantage of junior quarterback Scott Frost's inexperience in recording three safeties.

Frost, a transfer from Stanford taking over at quarterback for the incomparable Tommie Frazier, was largely untested in the Cornhuskers' 55-14 opening victory against Michigan State on Sept. 7.

But Frost was rattled by the crowd noise and the Sun Devil defense, completing 10 of 28 passes for 35 yards.

"We were going in to make Scott beat us," Arizona State defensive coordinator Phil Snow said from Tempe on Sunday. "Not because he's a bad player, but because he's new to the system. We planned everything to beat him."

Snow said a boisterous crowd of 74,089 was also a factor.

"It was the whole setting here," Snow said. "It was really loud, and they do most of their running game [calls] at the line of scrimmage. We were trying to disguise things and make the quarterback check into some bad plays."

Arizona State returned to practice Sunday as coaches tried to avoid a post-Nebraska letdown.

Players arrived to signs that read "Beat Oregon." The Sun Devils host the Ducks next weekend.

Senior quarterback Jake Plummer was already trying to downplay the huge victory.

"It's not the Rose Bowl, it's not a Pac-10 game," Plummer said. "But it was a really important game. I'm glad we won."

Florida fans watching the Arizona State-Nebraska game in a Knoxville sports bar Saturday started the chant "We're No. 1" when it became clear Nebraska was going to lose.

Of course, being ranked No. 1 in late September is a little different than in January.

Last Jan. 2, No. 1 Nebraska thrashed No. 2 Florida, 62-24, in the Fiesta Bowl.

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