Arizona Baseball

Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat: Some memorable Arizona comeback victories





Eddie Smith led a comeback win over ASU after the UA trailed by seven points with 37 seconds left in 1985

Eddie Smith led a comeback win over ASU after the UA trailed by seven points with 37 seconds left in 1985

Arizona snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in its football and basketball games Saturday.

Where do other UA finishes rank among the greatest comebacks? Are there any greater than the 49-48 win over Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl after trailing 45-28 entering the fourth quarter or the 65-64 triumph over Florida after trailing by as many as 11 points?

The football team’s triumph ties the school record for largest deficit overcome for a victory. The Wildcats trailed the Wolf Pack by 21 points at one point (21-0 in the first quarter), which is the same margin they trailed Hardin-Simmons in 1950 before winning 32-28 and San Diego State before winning 31-28 in 1997.

The Wildcats trailed 21-0 in the second quarter in both of those games.

A few basketball games stand out since the Wildcats joined the Pac-10 in 1978.

Eddie Smith was the catalyst for Arizona on Jan. 5, 1985, in a 61-60 thriller over ASU in Tempe. The Wildcats trailed 60-53 with only 37 seconds remaining without a shot clock and a three-point line.

After a Morgan Taylor jumper with nine seconds left cut the lead to 60-58, Smith stole the inbound pass and made a layup while being fouled to tie the game. His free throw gave the Wildcats the improbable win.

Damon Stoudamire's performance in a double-overtime comeback thriller at Washington State is one for the history books.

Damon Stoudamire’s performance in a double-overtime comeback thriller at Washington State is one for the history books.

Another memorable UA hoops comeback is when the Cats overcame an 11-point deficit at Washington State with 1:40 remaining in regulation on March 2, 1995. Damon Stoudamire was the hero of that game for Arizona, scoring 11 of his 40 points in the second overtime of a 114-111 win over the Cougars.

The unlikely win over Houston (after trailing by 10 with 52 seconds left in regulation) in 2008 — with the infamous step on Chase Budinger’s face — comes to mind as another memorable comeback. Budinger, unable to play for the Timberwolves for three months because of a knee injury, was at the Florida game Saturday.

In football games, one moment for me is when Arizona tied ASU in 1987. Like former UA coach Dick Tomey said: “All ASU had to do was punt the ball.”

The Sun Devils, trying to snap a six-game losing streak to the Cats, led 24-21 with 13 seconds remaining. ASU punter Mike Schuh mishandled the snap and Chuck Cecil recovered the ball at the ASU 13-yard line. Gary Coston made a 30-yard field goal two plays later in front of a stunned Sun Devil Stadium crowd.

That’s about as close a tie could be to win. Snatch a tie from the jaws of defeat?

Dave Shermet's two-out, two-strike home run that beat Maine in the 1986 College World Series capped the school's most memorable comeback win

Dave Shermet’s two-out, two-run home run that beat Maine in the 1986 College World Series capped the school’s most memorable comeback win

The greatest comeback in Arizona baseball history — and the athletic department overall — is the classic win over Maine in the 1986 College World Series. Dave Shermet hit a two-run, two-out home run in the bottom of the ninth, capping a comeback from a 7-0 deficit as the Cats won 8-7. The UA ultimately won the CWS title that year.

Maine led 7-0 before Dave Rohde broke up the shutout in the seventh with an RBI double. Arizona made it 7-5 in the eighth on two-run homers by Gar Millay and Gary Alexander. In the pivotal ninth inning, after the leadoff batter reached on a walk, a wild pitch and a single by Mike Senne made it 7-6 before Shermet hit his fourth homer of the year to dramatically win the game.

Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner

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