In the 50 days leading up to Arizona’s season-opener against Toledo, on Sept. 1 at Arizona Stadium, TucsonCitizen.com and its affiliate WildAboutAZCats.net will rank the Top 50 games in the history of the football program. The ranking is at No. 21 as the kickoff to the Wildcats’ season — and the start of the Rich Rodriguez era — is only 21 days away.
SCORE: Arizona Wildcats 17, ASU Sun Devils 15
DATE: Nov. 28, 1983
SITE: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, 70,033
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: In the battle of the Zendejas brothers — ASU’s Luis Zendejas and UA’s Max Zendejas — Arizona got the maximum out of its place-kicker and received the push it needed to generate “The Streak” — the Wildcats’ nine-year unbeaten run against ASU.
Max Zendejas kicked a dramatic 45-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Sun Devils in front of a hostile crowd in Tempe. The Wildcats wilted the Sun Devils’ Rose Bowl hopes a year before with a 28-18 win in Tucson. Zendejas’ game-winner in 1983 not only gave the UA consecutive wins over ASU for the first time since 1961 and 1962, it provided the momentum for the Wildcats to prolong “The Streak” with the next game in Tucson (which the UA won 16-10).
From there, the dominoes fell until 1990.
ASU’s Luis Zendejas, Max’s older brother, kicked field goals of 33, 23 and 36 yards, giving him 28 for the season and tying the single-season NCAA mark set by West Virginia’s Paul Woodside. He also established most points scored by kicking in a season (112) and three seasons (295). But Max stole the show in the end (at the 3:13 mark of the accompanying YouTube video).
Trailing 14-6 at halftime, ASU went ahead 15-14 on a Todd Hons’ touchdown pass with 13:18 remaining. A two-point conversion attempt failed. The Sun Devils got the ball at their 20 with 5:38 left but could not run time off the clock as they quickly went three downs and out against a UA defense anchored by All-American linebacker Ricky Hunley.
Behind the leadership of senior quarterback Tom Tunnicliffe, the Wildcats drove from their 37 with 4:44 remaining nto the ASU 28. UA coach Larry Smith called a timeout on third-and-1 with three seconds left to set up Max Zendejas’ heroics.
UA finished 7-3-1, its first season with at least seven wins since 1975. ASU dropped to 6-4-1 under Darryl Rogers. The Wildcats started the 1983 season 4-0 and ranked No. 3 in the country but went 3-3-1 the rest of the season after tying California 33-33 at Berkeley, Calif., despite leading 26-3 in the second half.
“We set our goals high, so some people have said we’ve fallen flat on our faces,” Smith told the media after the victory over ASU.
Smith disagreed with that assessment and was proud the Wildcats won their last two games in 1983 against UCLA and ASU following a three-game losing streak to Oregon, Stanford and Washington.
No. 22 — Arizona wins its first bowl behind “Heat-seeking Missile” Chuck Cecil (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 23 — Collapse vs. Utah after leading 27-0 in fourth quarter changed the face of UA football (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 24 — UA shuts out ASU, Kush during dominating run for Sun Devils coach (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 25 — Arizona’s defense and Doug Pfaff’s last-second FG enough to upset sixth-ranked Oklahoma (WildAboutAZCats.com)
No. 26 — UA upsets ASU from Fiesta Bowl consideration in program’s best stretch (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 27 — Trung Canidate rushes for record 288 yards and three long TDs in ’98 shootout against ASU (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 28 — UA dominates No. 3 SMU, highest ranked non-conference foe to lose to Cats (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 29 — Arizona stuns second-ranked Oregon in most significant victory in Mike Stoops era (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 30 — Arizona win on last-second FG over ASU ends Kush dominance in series (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 31 — Arizona reaches its zenith under Stoops with victory over Brigham Young in Las Vegas Bowl (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 32 — Arizona owed Cal a couple, knock Bears out of BCS title, Rose Bowl run (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 33 — Arizona’s 10-9 loss at Oregon in 1994, derailing its Rose Bowl hopes, still hurts (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 34 — ASU ripe for picking in banana uniforms for “The Streak” to reach eight (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 35 — Arizona tries risky fake PAT to beat California but loses in epic 4 overtime game (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 36 — Veal to Hill “Hail Mary” pass highlights “The Streak” reaching seven games against ASU (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 37 — USC outlasts Arizona 48-41 in one of most wild games played in Tucson (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 38 — Arizona shows signs of life under Stoops with rout over No. 7 UCLA (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 39 — Art Luppino “The Cactus Comet” rockets toward 38 yards per carry and five touchdowns (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 40 — Fumblerooski enables Arizona to sweep USC, UCLA in L.A. for first time (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 41 — Sun Devil nemesis Dan White quarterbacks Arizona into Fiesta Bowl with win over ASU (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 42 — Struggling UA gets improbable win against ’83 Pac-10 champ UCLA (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 43 — Closing chapter of “The Streak” includes Arizona’s dramatic fourth-quarter heroics (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 44 — Arizona overcomes rival Texas Tech with unfathomable late-game rally (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 45 — Dick Tomey, the Desert Fox, does a number on UCLA by changing offense in midseason (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 46 — “The Streak” reaches three games, UA achieves best Pac-10 finish (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 47 — Arizona’s first game at Arizona Stadium in 1929, a 35-0 win over Cal Tech (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 48 — Underdog Arizona’s 2011 thriller over arch-rival Arizona State (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 49 — Arizona’s first win over arch-rival Arizona State, then known as Territorial Normal (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 50 — Arizona’s first win in program’s history: 22-5 over Tucson Indians (TucsonCitizen.com)