The Arizona football team begins its 2013 season against Northern Arizona at Arizona Stadium on Aug. 30, which is 40 days away. From now until then, this Web site will count down the days with facts about the Wildcats, their players, coaching staff and opponents. This is not a ranking, only a list of 100 facts and observances related to the 2013 Arizona football team and coach Rich Rodriguez.
As part of the 100 Days ‘Til Kickoff 2013 series, this site will rank the top five games for Arizona against each of their Pac-12 rivals. This installment includes the Wildcats’ best encounters with Washington. Series record: Washington leads 18-10-1. They meet in the Pac-12 opener for both teams on Sept. 28 in Seattle. Four of the top five games listed next were played in Seattle, so circle the date on the calendar.
5. Arizona 16, Washington 13, Husky Stadium, Nov. 5, 1988
On a rainy and cold day in Seattle, Arizona place-kicker Doug Pfaff made a 22-yard field goal with five seconds remaining as the Wildcats rallied from a 10-point deficit to beat the Huskies for the first time in the program’s history.
Pfaff’s kick (his third field goal of the game) was set up by Washington quarterback Cary Conklin’s fumble with 55 seconds left. On third-and-7 from the Washington 18, blitzing UA cornerback Scott Geyer blindsided Conklin, whose fumble was recovered by nose guard Dana Wells on the Washington 5.
After Arizona tried two running plays that gained no yardage, coach Dick Tomey called on Pfaff, whose game-winning field goal gave the UA its first win over Washington in seven games between the two schools.
4. Arizona 48, Washington 41, Husky Stadium, Oct. 27, 2007
Willie Tuitama passed for a school-record 510 yards, including a 27-yard strike to Mike Thomas with 2:02 left to rally Arizona to a stunning come-from-behind win.
Tuitama directed the Wildcats 80 yards in 11 plays, capping the decisive drive with a pass to Thomas in the back of the end zone. Arizona, which trailed 41-26 with 12:32 left, scored 22 points in the fourth quarter.
Tuitama completed 38 of 51 passes and threw for five touchdowns. He topped the previous UA record of 492 yards by Jason Johnson against California in 2002. Arizona snapped a three-game losing streak and took some heat off embattled fourth-year coach Mike Stoops, who used this game as a springboard to lead the Wildcats to the Las Vegas Bowl the following season.
3. Washington 36, Arizona 33, Husky Stadium, Oct. 10, 2009
Washington’s Mason Foster intercepted a deflected pass off the foot of Arizona’s Delashaun Dean and returned the “Immaculate Interception” 37 yards for a touchdown with 2:37 left. It was one of two Washington touchdowns in the final three minutes, stunning the Wildcats, who claimed Nick Foles’ pass hit the ground.
Jake Locker pulled Washington within 33-28 on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Kavario Middleton with 2:55 left. On Arizona’s first play of the next possession, Foles tried to throw a quick screen to Dean that was thrown low and behind Dean.
The officials ruled the ball deflected off Dean’s left foot. Foster hauled it in and ran untouched for the winning touchdown. Locker then hit Jermaine Kearse on the two-point conversion to give the Huskies a three-point lead.
2. Arizona 31, Washington 28, Husky Stadium, Oct. 3, 1998
In the most incredible play by an Arizona player in the history of the program, quarterback Ortege Jenkins scored on a 9-yard run – somersaulting over three defenders into the end zone – with four seconds left for the victory. The Arizona media-relations department gave the play a name: “The Leap by the Lake”.
Arizona, winning for the first time in 10 years in Seattle, drove 80 yards for the winning score. Jenkins, who alternated with Keith Smith as Arizona’s quarterback, scored on a second-down play, going airborne and flipping over into the end zone.
On Arizona’s last-gasp drive, Jenkins was the quarterback for all but one play. On the fourth play, Smith replaced Jenkins at quarterback and passed 22 yards – to Jenkins – for a first down at the Washington 46. The 80-yard drive took 13 plays and went 2 minutes, 48 seconds.
1. Arizona 16, Washington 3, Arizona Stadium, Nov. 7, 1992
Washington was ranked No. 1 with an incredible 22-game winning streak, but anybody who followed college football closely that season knew Arizona belonged on the same field. The Desert Swarm was No. 1 in the nation against the run and No. 4 overall.
The Wildcats played conservatively on offense — using the run in 54 out of 66 offensive plays — and decisively won the ball-control and field-position battle behind their defense and the punting of Josh Miller. Reliable place-kicker Steve McLaughlin made three field goals.
Arizona took control in the fourth quarter with a drive from its 43 and scored the game’s only touchdown on George Malauulu’s 1-yard keeper with 48 seconds remaining. The only drama remaining at that time was Arizona’s crowd trying to rush the field before the game came to an end.
Five greatest games between the Arizona Wildcats and Washington State Cougars
The best Arizona player to wear No. 40, according to TucsonCitizen.com’s Anthony Gimino, is linebacker Marcus Bell (1996-99). He is one of only six UA players with at least 400 career tackles with 405. The others are also former linebackers: Ricky Hunley (566), Byron Evans (552), Obra Erby (529), Jon Abbott (420) and LaMonte Hunley (400).
Last year, this site and TucsonCitizen.com ran a Top 50 Games in the history of Arizona football series. I will relive that list here with less than 50 days to kickoff and add one game to it: Arizona’s improbable 49-48 win over Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl last December. I will keep the ranking of that game secret in the new top 50 list until the day I publish it.
No. 40 — Art Luppino “The Cactus Comet” rockets toward 38 yards per carry and five touchdowns
No. 41 — Fumblerooski enables Arizona to sweep USC, UCLA in L.A. for first time
No. 42 — Sun Devil nemesis Dan White quarterbacks Arizona into Fiesta Bowl with win over ASU
No. 43 — Struggling UA gets improbable win against ’83 Pac-10 champ UCLA
No. 44 — Closing chapter of “The Streak” includes Arizona’s dramatic fourth-quarter heroics
No. 45 — Arizona overcomes rival Texas Tech with unfathomable late-game rally
No. 46 — Dick Tomey, the Desert Fox, does a number on UCLA by changing offense in midseason
No. 47 — “The Streak” reaches three games, UA achieves best Pac-10 finish
No. 48 — Arizona’s first game at Arizona Stadium in 1929, a 35-0 win over Cal Tech
No. 49 — Underdog Arizona’s 2011 thriller over arch-rival Arizona State
No. 50 — Arizona’s first win over arch-rival Arizona State, then known as Territorial Normal
Dropped out — Arizona’s first win in program’s history: 22-5 over Tucson Indians
WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports, TucsonCitizen.com and Sports Illustrated-sponsored site ZonaZealots.com.