SAN DIEGO: Leave it to the Holiday Bowl — and with a hand from Texas coach Mack Brown’s stepson — to produce a strange play like this.
Chris Jessie, a member of his stepfather’s football operations staff, was a few feet on the field and reached out to touch a live ball in the second quarter Thursday night, taking away what would have been a huge turnover for the Longhorns and setting up a touchdown for Arizona State.
Trailing 21-0 and with the ball at the Longhorns’ 15, ASU’s Rudy Carpenter was sacked by linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy and the ball went squirting toward the Longhorns’ sideline.
Jessie was about a yard onto the field and motioning toward a player when he reached down and appeared to touch the ball. Texas defensive tackle Roy Miller slapped the ball away from the sideline and defensive end Aaron Lewis recovered around midfield.
After review, officials ruled that Jessie touched the ball, which is an unsportsmanlike act. Texas was penalized half the distance to the goal, giving the Sun Devils fourth-and-3 at the 7. Carpenter then threw a touchdown pass to Chris McGaha.
The Holiday Bowl has a history of crazy plays and wild finishes.
The best-known play was Jim McMahon’s desperation 41-yard heave that Clay Brown caught in a crowd of defenders with three seconds left to give BYU a 46-45 win in 1980 after the Cougars trailed by 20 with less than three minutes to play.
In 1989, Penn State defensive back Gary Brown — later a running back in the NFL — stripped BYU quarterback Ty Detmer and rumbled 53 yards for a touchdown with 45 seconds left to seal a 50-39 win for the Nittany Lions.
Before he was a Super Bowl MVP and NFL Hall of Famer, Steve Young was a triple threat for BYU in 1983. He ran for a score, threw a touchdown pass and then caught the game-winning throw, a 14-yarder from Eddie Stinnett with 23 seconds left to give BYU a 21-17 win over Missouri.
Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington caught an 18-yard TD pass from wide receiver Keenan Howry in the 2000 game, a 35-30 win over Texas.
In 2001, Texas scored 27 points in the fourth quarter, including Ivan Williams’ 3-yard run with 38 seconds left for a 47-43 win over Washington.