Arizona Wildcats’ comeback against Nevada No. 38 in Top 50 games list



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The Arizona football team begins its 2013 season against Northern Arizona at Arizona Stadium on Aug. 30, which is 38 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.

Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat: Some memorable Arizona comeback victories
Survival Saturday: Wildcats scratch their way back in two one-point victories on national television

Arizona showed a never-say-die-attitude in last season’s New Mexico Bowl win over Nevada, unlike any other victory in this site’s Top 50 games in UA history list.

The Wildcats trailed 21-0 in the first quarter and 45-28 to start the fourth quarter before prevailing late, 49-48 over the stunned Wolf Pack.

Arizona trailed by at least 10 points in eight of the games in the Top 50 list. The largest deficit before the improbable win over Nevada was in Arizona’s 24-20 win in 2006 over No. 8 California, which was riding an eight-game winning streak.

The Wildcats trailed 17-3 in the third quarter before the Wildcats rallied to win in the 32nd-ranked game in UA history.

Arizona went ahead 24-17 early in the fourth quarter when cornerback Antoine Cason returned an interception 39 yards for a touchdown. The Wildcats held on, benefiting from a 63-yard touchdown pass getting reversed because the officials ruled a Cal receiver stepped out of bounds with 2:18 to play.

The Wildcats also trailed by two touchdowns (14 points) when they miraculously tied ASU 24-24 in 1987. That game is ranked No. 19 on the list.

Arizona’s victory over Nevada was part of the Wildcats’ legendary “Survival Saturday” on Dec. 15, in which the UA’s football and basketball teams experienced comeback wins over Nevada in the afternoon and against Florida in McKale Center later that night.

Ranking is what game is listed among Arizona’s Top 50 games by WILDABOUTAZCATS.net

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The Arizona Athletics’ YouTube page provided last week a video version (at the top of this blog) of how WILDABOUTAZCATS.net described “Survival Saturday”, matching each game in comparable time frames. The blog at this site was published the day after Arizona’s dramatic victories in Albuquerque and Tucson. Here’s a reprint:

Scratch-Back Saturday, Standup Saturday, Solution Saturday … call it what you want, but the bottom line is Arizona’s football and basketball teams survived unlike any other day in the school’s history.

Call it: Survival Saturday. The football and basketball teams led by a combined total of 1 minute and 44 seconds in their victories over Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl and No. 5 Florida in a marquee college hoops matchup in front of a national television audience on ESPN.

The football team, which trailed 21-0 in the first quarter, did not lead until the last 19 seconds in the 49-48 win over the Wolf Pack. The basketball team, down by as many 11, rallied back because of its defensive pressure in a 65-64 thriller over the stunned Gators.

Mark Lyons makes the game-winning shot against Florida with seven seconds remaining

Mark Lyons makes the game-winning shot against Florida with seven seconds remaining

Matt Scott completes two touchdown passes in the final 46 seconds to lead the Wildcats to victory

Matt Scott completes two touchdown passes in the final 46 seconds to lead the Wildcats to victory

“It’s a great day for us,” senior forward Solomon Hill was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. “Both teams looked ugly at times, we both made our share of bad plays, but we kept staying in there and fighting.”

The whirlwind two-minute drill for both games:

1:53 remaining

— Nevada tailback Nick Hale rushes for no gain to make it fourth-and-6 at the Arizona 7. The Wolf Pack call timeout. They lead 45-35, already a two-possession lead. A field goal will make it a two-touchdown lead.

— Florida has possession, leading 64-58, after Kevin Parrom misses a three-pointer. The Gators take their time and Arizona does not go into foul mode yet.

1:48 remaining

— Nevada place-kicker Allen Hardison makes a 25-yard field goal to put the Wolf Pack ahead 48-35, culminating a 10-play, 30-yard drive, that took 4:27 off the clock.

— Florida runs their motion offense still up 64-58. Billy Donovan knows if the Gators convert, they would have a commanding three-possession lead.

56 seconds remaining

— A pass interference call against Nevada safety Duke Williams gives Arizona a first-and-goal situation at the Nevada 2 with the Wolf Pack ahead 48-35.

— Florida still has not scored since 2:35 remained, missing two three-point attempts and turning the ball over once. Kevin Parrom converts on two free-throw attempts to cut the Gators’ lead to 64-60.

46 seconds remaining

Austin Hill caught a 63-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and also a crucial reception in the Wildcats' final scoring drive

Austin Hill had a 63-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and also a crucial reception in the Wildcats’ final scoring drive

Matt Scott completes a two-yard touchdown pass to Austin Hill and John Bonano converts the extra-point attempt to cut Nevada’s lead to 48-42.

— Florida guard Mike Rosario, who played mostly flawlessly leading the Gators with 16 points, commits two turnovers against Arizona’s suffocating full-court press in two seconds. The first one led to Parrom’s free throws and the second set up the next scoring play with …

44 seconds remaining

Solomon Hill makes an aggressive drive to the basket and lays the ball in to cut Florida’s lead to 64-62.

— Bonano’s onside kick bounces off Williams’ chest and is recovered by the Wildcats’ Marquis Flowers — the Defensive MVP of the game — at the Arizona 49.

Sophomore receiver Tyler Slavin made some huge catches, including the game-winning two-yard strike from Matt Scott

Sophomore receiver Tyler Slavin made some huge catches, including the game-winning two-yard strike from Matt Scott

26 seconds remaining

— After another turnover against Arizona’s press, this one by senior Kenny Boynton resulting in a steal by Nick Johnson, Grant Jerrett is fouled and goes to the line for two free throws. Jerrett, an 81.8-percent free-throw shooter, misses the first try but makes the second to cut Florida’s lead to 64-63.

“We just wanted to stay with it,” Johnson said to the press afterward. “Coach (Sean Miller) told us to come out and win the war and that’s what we did. We got out on the break and hit shots.”

— Scott completes a 21-yard pass to Hill to give Arizona a first-and-goal at the 2. That completion follows Scott’s 26-yard connection with Garic Wharton, who makes a difficult catch while getting hit hard by a Nevada defender from behind.

21 seconds remaining

Brandon Ashley tracks down Boynton and fouls him to force the senior to convert at the free-throw line, where he was 27 of 30 (90 percent) heading into the game. Boynton’s attempt on the one-and-one attempt bangs off the rim and Johnson makes the rebound.

— Scott takes the snap, looks to his right toward Tyler Slavin cutting into the end zone …

19 seconds remaining

— Scott completes the quick read to Slavin for a two-yard scoring strike and Bonano converts the extra-point attempt to put Arizona ahead for the first time 49-48. The Wildcats trailed Nevada 45-28 entering the fourth quarter, mounting their greatest comeback win of the season. They trailed USC 28-13 in the third quarter before prevailing 39-36 on Oct. 27.

“I mean, it’s improbable,” Rich Rodriguez said to the media afterward. “Certainly, I’ve had some games come down to that end. But to have everything, the defense making the stop, to the field goal, Matt leading the quick drive down there, getting the onside kick … and then Matt leading down again. It just doesn’t happen very often.”

— After Boynton’s miss, Mark Lyons takes the ball and without hesitation weeds by Florida center Patric Young, who because of the frantic pace of the game was matched against the UA’s point guard.

7 seconds remaining

Mark Lyons celebrates with fans after the Wildcats complete a 65-64 comeback over No. 5 Florida (YouTube, click on picture to access video)

Mark Lyons celebrates with fans after the Wildcats complete a 65-64 comeback over No. 5 Florida (YouTube, click on picture to access video)

— Lyons makes a running one-hand bank shot, sending McKale Center into a frenzy, as the Wildcats take their first lead — 65-64 — since the 17:31 mark of the first half.

“I’ve been a confident guy since I walked in thanks to my teammates,” Lyons, a senior transfer from Xavier, said afterward to the press. “They have given me the confidence, and I feed off them. They made great plays all game and I just finished it for us.”

— Flowers intercepts a pass by Nevada’s Cody Fajardo and returns it four yards to the Nevada 42 with six seconds showing on the clock.

No time remaining

— Florida does not solve Arizona’s defense near midcourt, as Rosario trips over his own feet and a wild three-pointer bangs off the backboard. The Wildcats survive 65-64. Arizona’s players rush onto the floor along with some students. Miller and athletic director Greg Byrne embrace.

“We always talk about finishing a game,” Miller said in the post-game press conference. “One thing I like about our team is that each of our players has taken turns. Even when one of our guys has an off night, the team as a collective group is able to make up for that.”

— Scott takes a knee and openly celebrates as the UA finishes off the Wolf Pack 49-48. The Wildcats douse Rodriguez with Gatorade and celebrate with plenty of hugs and dancing on the field. They finish 8-5 for the third time in the last five years and build momentum going into Rodriguez’s second season.

“It’s incredible just to go out and end my career — and the career of the seniors — like that and get this program going in the right way,” senior center Kyle Quinn told Anthony Gimino of TucsonCitizen.com. “Eight wins in year one with Coach Rod has been amazing. It’s indescribable almost.”

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The best Arizona player to wear No. 38, according to TucsonCitizen.com’s Anthony Gimino, is running back Kelvin Eafon (1996-98). He started as a UA basketball player, but he turned into the emotional leader of the 1998 team that went 12-1. He rushed for 16 TDs that year.

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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, which lands as No. 38 on the list. Note, after clicking on the link, you will notice last year’s ranking. The list on this page is the current ranking.

No. 39 — Arizona shows signs of life under Mike Stoops with rout over No. 7 UCLA

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

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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.


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