This game story appeared in the Nov. 16, 1998 edition of the State Press, Arizona State University’s student newspaper.
Headline: ‘Bad call’ destroys Cardinals’ 2nd-half rally
By Ed Odeven
No one doubted the heart and playmaking capabilities of Arizona Cardinals quarterback Jake Plummer.
But there were serious doubts about the referees’ non-call on the game’s final play.
With the ball at the Dallas 5-yard line and three seconds left in regulation, All-Pro receiver Rob Moore dashed toward the end zone. He leaped to catch Plummer’s well-timed lob, but had no legitimate chance to snatch it. As television replays clearly showed, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Kevin Smith wall over Moore and could’ve been flagged for pass interference.
Still, the non-call resulted in a 35-28 Cowboys win in front of 71,670 fans at Sun Devil Stadium on Sunday.
Afterward, Plummer gave the referee his biased opinion.
“Step up and make the call!” he said.
Moore agreed the non-call was a bad call.
“They knew it wasn’t a good call,” said Moore, who finished with three receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Cardinals head coach Vince Tobin shared Moore’s lament.
“There have been a lot of controversial calls going against us,” Tobin said. “It bothers me, but you can’t do nothing about that.”
Translation: Moore was robbed of a potential game-tying touchdown and the Cardinals two game-winning streak was halted by the Cowboys.
Arizona fell to 5-5. Dallas improved to 7-3.
Said Arizona Cardinals offensive lineman Lomas Brown: “We don’t want to be in that position where we have to have someone else control our destiny.”
The Cardinals trailed 28-0 with 3:29 remaining in the opening half. Yet despite their rallying efforts, they would have been the proud recipients of a personal interference call and one more shot at the end zone.
“Teams that have won Super Bowls get a few more breaks (from the referees),” Brown said. “It’s sad, but that’s the way it is.”
Plummer, who threw for a career-high 465 yards (31-for-56 passing) and three touchdowns, said the Cardinals once again proved they are not quitters.
“We were definitely not done,” he said, discussing the team’s will to win. “We’re never done.”
Guiding the Cardinals’ newly installed no-huddle offense, Plummer threw for 314 second-half yards to lead the team’s comeback effort. They began the third quarter with a 15-play, 60-yard scoring drive when Dallas superstar defender Deion Sanders was nursing a bruised foot. Ex-ASU standout Mario Bates’ 2-yard touchdown run trimmed the lead to 28-14.
But the Cowboys’ dominating offensive line continued to open holes the size of Mack trucks for running back Emmitt Smith, who scored his third touchdown of the game with relative ease, a 3-yard run. Smith’s run increased the Cowboys’ lead to 35-14 with 3:48 remaining in the third quarter.
Smith finished with 118 yards rushing on 26 carries.
“Emmitt’s a great player,” Tobin said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
The Cardinals were less fortunate — being held to 32 yards rushing on 21 carries. Thus, Plummer was forced to throw. And throw often.
But he was able to do so successfully throughout the second half, leading the Cardinals to 21 second-half points, including TD strikes to Moore (4 yards) and running back Adrian Murrell (7 yards). Murrell’s TD cut the deficit to 35-28 with 3:09 remaining.
And rightfully so, Plummer received a ringing endorsement from Sanders
“The guy is going to be special. If you kept the right personnel around him, he’s a special quarterback,” said Sanders, who picked off one of The Snake’s passes in the second quarter.
“He looked like a young Frank Tarkenton out there. I’ve seen him in film week in and week out make plays. He made some tremendous plays today that not many quarterbacks can make.”
*Plummer’s yardage was the third-most passing ever by a Cardinals quarterback (Boomer Esiason, 522; Neil Lomax, 468).
*Plummer’s passing yardage was the most ever by an NFL player at Sun Devl Stadium and was the second-highest total ever against the Cowboys (Bill Wade, 466 yards vs. Chicago, Nov. 18, 1962).
*Dallas wide receiver Michael Irvin failed to make a catch, snapping his streak of consecutive games with a reception at 117.