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. 3 as the kickoff to the Wildcats’ season — and the start of the Rich Rodriguez era — is only three days away.
SCORE: No. 16 Arizona Wildcats 29, No. 10 Miami Hurricanes 0
DATE: January 1, 1994
SITE: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, 72,210 in attendance
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Arizona capped a season with a more impressive record (12-1) following a victory against Nebraska in the 1998 Holiday Bowl. But the 1993 team — with the Desert Swarm playing at its maximum — not only won a major bowl on New Year’s Day for the first time, they routed big, bad Miami in the process.
Arizona’s triumph in the Fiesta Bowl was not a surprise given the Cats’ near-upset (an 8-7 loss) of the top-ranked Hurricanes the previous season in Miami. The way the Wildcats (who finished ranked No. 9 with a 10-2 record) handled the mighty “U”, as Miami is called, was unexpected factoring the national stature and bowl history of both programs.
The Hurricanes had on their roster defensive tackle Warren Sapp, linebacker Ray Lewis and defensive tackle Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Arizona had on its roster more of a will to win.
The Wildcats — who never finished a season in the Top 10 — humbled the Hurricanes, who previously won four national championships. Arizona had only one bowl victory in its history, a 1986 triumph over North Carolina in the Aloha Bowl.
“They just kicked the living heck out of us,” Miami coach Dennis Erickson was quoted as saying by the Miami Herald. “We never could get anything going.”
While the Wildcats achieved their most successful season at that time with a 10-2 record, the Hurricanes (9-3) completed their worst season since an 8-5 record under Jimmy Johnson in 1984. Miami was shut out for the first time since 1979 (snapping a streak of 168 games with a score). The Hurricanes, who finished with a No. 15 ranking, finished outside the top 10 for the first time since 1985.
The Desert Swarm, Arizona’s famed defense, sacked Frank Costa and Ryan Collins four times for 41 yards of lost yardage. The defense played to form — it was ranked No. 1 against the run and second overall entering the game — while Miami’s offense that averaged more than 30 points a game did not answer the call.
As good as the defense played, limiting Miami to 182 yards in total offense, the Wildcats’ offense was similarly impressive.
Junior tailback Chuck Levy, the Fiesta Bowl Offensive MVP, rushed for 142 yards and one touchdown, scoring once from 68 yards out on a breakaway run out-sprinting Miami’s secondary. Troy Dickey, a senior receiver, caught touchdown passes of 13 and 14 yards from sophomore quarterback Dan White, in his first season with the Cats after transferring from Penn State.
In a sign of what was to come, Arizona took the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards on eight plays against the best defense in the Big East Conference. White capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Dickey.
Steve McLaughlin, a junior kicker whose 51-yard attempt missed wide right in the 1992 loss at Miami, added field goals of 39, 31 and 21 yards.
“We’re thrilled with the victory, but we’re not surprised,” Arizona coach Dick Tomey is quoted as saying by the Associated Press. “Every time we played this year we expected to win. This was just our day and I don’t think we were going to be denied.”
Arizona’s defense embodied that characteristic for most of the season. The Wildcats lost to only UCLA and Cal that season and was ranked as high as No. 7 in the country, largely because of the Desert Swarm. The defense — led by All-American nose guard Rob Waldrop and defensive end Tedy Bruschi — was responsible for three interceptions and a fumble by Miami.
The Hurricanes crossed midfield four times, never getting closer than the Arizona 40. After two Collins interceptions, Erickson replaced him with Costa. The change in quarterbacks seemed to unsettle Miami, especially against the Desert Swarm. Waldrop, Bruschi (the Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP), defensive tackle Jimmie Hopkins (two sacks), and linebackers Sean Harris and Brant Boyer were too much.
“They took us lightly last year,” Arizona defensive back Brandon Sanders told the AP. “I don’t think they really believed in the Swarm.”
Miami rushed for only 35 yards on 22 carries. Arizona dominated the time-of-possession in the game: 37:20 for the Wildcats compared to only 22:40 for the Hurricanes.
Miami 0 0 0 0 – 0
Arizona 9 7 6 7 -29
UA-Troy Dickey 13-yard pass from Dan White (kick failed)
UA-Steve McLaughlin 39-yard field goal
UA-Chuck Levy 68-yard run (McLaughlin kick)
UA-McLaughlin 31-yard field goal
UA-McLaughlin 21-yard field goal
UA-Dickey 14-yard pass from White (McLaughlin kick)
UA: Levy 17-142, TD; Carter 17-63; G. Taylor 6-41; Johnson 3-8; White 3-(-8).
Miami: Stewart 7-35; Bennett 6-32; Jones 1-5; Collins 5-(-30); Costa 1-(-7).
UA: White 12-24-138-2, 2 TD; Batten 1-1-14-0.
Miami: Costa 10-29-97-1; Collins 5-15-50-2.
UA: Dickey 4-62, 2 TD; Vaughn 2-41; Levy 2-(-8); Lewis 1-13; Lt. Lovett 1-18; L. Harris 1-12; Libman 1-14.
Miami: C. Jones 6-98; Stewart 2-3; Tellison 2-13; Bennett 2-(-3); Chambers 1-12; L. Jones 1-9, Harris 1-15.
UA: Peyton 5-180, 36.0, 3 inside 20.
Miami: Crissy 10-370, 37.0, 1 inside 20.
No. 4 — ASU smells roses but through broken nose as Cecil, DeBow lead Cats (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 5 — Zendejas returns after hastily leaving UA at halftime, makes 48-yard FG to beat Notre Dame (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 6 — 1982 upset win keeps Sun Devils from Rose Bowl, starts “The Streak” (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 7 — “Leap by the Lake” most amazing individual play in UA history gives Cats win over Huskies (WildAboutAZCats.com)
No. 8 — UA loses heartbreaker to ASU wondering: “The Catch” really a catch? (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 9 — Arizona (12-1) achieves best record, highest ranking to end season with 1998 win over Nebraska (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 10 — UA wins 1926 game after McKale delivers Salmon’s “Bear Down” line (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 11 — The Desert Swarm is born in 1992 near-upset of top-ranked Miami at the Orange Bowl (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 12 — Zendejas’ 57-yard FG ties UA record, keeps ASU out of Rose Bowl again (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 13 — Arizona blows 20-point lead and shot at the Rose Bowl with 1993 collapse at California (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 14 — UA upsets No. 2 UCLA in 1980 when Bruins appeared ready to be No. 1 (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 15 — L.A. Times reporter: Arizona shows “fight of wildcats” in 1914 game vs. Occidental (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 16 — UA leads UCLA late in third quarter but loses big in 12-1 season (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 17 — Unranked Arizona upsets Ohio State, Woody Hayes in Buckeyes’ 1967 opener in Columbus (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 18 — Arizona and hasty coach Mudra lose Ultimatum Bowl to ASU in 1968 (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 19 — Arizona keeps “The Streak” without loss to ASU alive in ’87 with bizarre finish that ends in tie (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 20 — Arizona fit to be tied with Cal despite leading 26-3 in third quarter (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 21 — Zendejas’ last-second 45-yard FG vs. ASU generates momentum for “The Streak” to endure (WildAboutAZCats.net)
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)