Arizona Football

Reliving Arizona Wildcats’ greatest games against USC



5. Arizona 31, USC 24, Arizona Stadium, Oct. 9, 1999

While the No. 22 Trojans were being held to the lowest rushing total in school history, Arizona’s Trung Canidate rushed for 194 yards and the go-ahead touchdown as the Wildcats rallied for the victory.

The Trojans were held to minus-20 yards on 29 carries as quarterback Mike Van Raaphorst — younger brother of former ASU quarterback Jeff Van Raaphorst — was sacked seven times for a loss of 49 yards.

Canidate carried 31 times, including an 11-yard touchdown run that capped an 80-yard, eight-play drive early in the fourth quarter and gave Arizona the lead for good at 24-17 lead. Keith Smith’s 44-yard pass to Malosi Leonard keyed the drive.

Smith completed 15-of-23 passes for 243 yards and one TD, a 17-yard toss to Dennis Northcutt with 41 seconds left in the third quarter that tied the game. Eli Wenick played both offense and defense for Arizona, starting at H-back and defensive end despite the 93-degree heat.

Arizona's defenders knock down a Hail Mary pass attempt by USC in last year's 39-36 win over the Trojans at Arizona Stadium (YouTube still)

Arizona’s defenders knock down a Hail Mary pass attempt by USC in last year’s 39-36 win over the Trojans at Arizona Stadium (YouTube still)

4. Arizona 39, USC 36, Arizona Stadium, Oct. 27, 2012

Arizona forced five turnovers by the Trojans and got 369 yards passing and 100 yards rushing from quarterback Matt Scott to upset the 10th-ranked Trojans in a wild game in Tucson last season. The game featured 1,206 total yards. Arizona won despite USC having 618.

USC, a preseason No. 1-ranked team, was 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the Pac-12 entering the game. The Trojans led 28-13 early in the third quarter after Matt Barkley and Marqise Lee hooked up on a 44-yard touchdown pass, but Arizona roared back behind Scott and running back Ka’Deem Carey.

Scott, knocked out of the game briefly in the fourth quarter after getting hit twice on the head, completed 27 of 50 passes for three touchdowns with one interception. Carey rushed for 119 yards and a touchdown in 28 carries.

Arizona scored 26 unanswered points on a 10-yard run by Scott, a nine-yard pass from Scott to Dan Buckner, a seven-yard run by Carey and a seven-yard pass from Scott to David Richards.

3. Arizona 35, USC 26, L.A. Coliseum, Oct. 20, 1990

The “Fumblerooski Game” in which Arizona beat USC and its former coach Larry Smith, enabled the Wildcats to sweep USC and UCLA for the first and only time in Los Angeles in the same season. It was also the first time Arizona beat the Trojans at the Los Angeles Coliseum since the Wildcats upset the top-ranked Trojans in 1981 (see story below). USC was 5-1 and ranked No. 15 at the time of the 1990 game. It was coming off three consecutive trips to the Rose Bowl under Smith, who coached Arizona from 1980-1986.

Arizona offensive guard Rick Warren, a walk-on transfer from Pittsburg State College in Kansas, ran 28 yards on a fumblerooski in the fourth quarter, setting up what proved to be the winning touchdown. On second down from the 31, center Paul Tofflemire intentionally left the ball on the ground for Warren, who had lined up at left guard. As quarterback Ron Veal faked a handoff into the line and the Trojan defenders looked on bewilderingly, Warren picked up the ball and carried it 28 yards. The fumblerooski took the ball to USC’s 3-yard line. One play later, Veal scored on a 1-yard run to make the score 28-17.

The NCAA banned the fumblerooski two seasons later deeming intentional fumbles to be illegal.

Veal, a reserve, directed four second-half touchdown drives against USC, scoring three himself. Darryll Lewis, a senior and converted running back, set up two of the touchdowns with punt returns and twice intercepted passes thrown by the Trojans’ Todd Marinovich.

2. USC 48, Arizona 41, Arizona Stadium, Nov. 13, 1982

How many games have four interceptions returned for a touchdown? USC had three of them off UA quarterback Tom Tunnicliffe, tying an NCAA record. Tunnicliffe still managed to pass for 303 yards and three touchdowns in the wild game that gave the Wildcats the distinction at the time for having the most points for a losing team in Pac-10 history.

The game featured four lost fumbles by the Trojans — three in the first quarter — and an interception for a return for a touchdown — also in the first quarter — by Arizona linebacker Steve Boadway. The Wildcats mustered only a 13-3 lead after those four USC miscues, settling for field goals of 19 and 26 yards by Max Zendejas (who also missed from 43 yards). USC’s defense, which ranked in the top five of most of the major national defensive categories, was opportunistic.

USC safety Joey Browner returned a 53-yard interception for a touchdown on the final play of the first half, turning a 20-17 Arizona lead into a 24-20 Trojan advantage. With 5:47 left in the game and the Trojans clinging to a 41-34 lead (after having been on top, 41-20), the Wildcats drove to the USC 45. On third and one, Arizona tailback Vance Johnson went 4 yards for a first down, but USC’s Darrel Hopper ripped the ball from his grasp and went 41 yards the other way for the touchdown. It was ruled an intercepted fumble, and it gave USC a piece of the record for most interceptions returned for a touchdown in a game.

Arizona got within a touchdown again and was going to get the ball back in good field position with two minutes left. However, an official made a controversial call that Arizona’s Al “Bubba” Gross threw an elbow at USC punter David Pryor on the play, USC retained possession and ran out the clock.

1. Arizona 13, USC 10, L.A. Coliseum, Oct. 10, 1981

The Wildcats, in only their fourth year in the Pac-10, traveled to Los Angeles to face No. 1 USC, a school with a rich football tradition it had never beaten in nine tries. The Trojans by that time had won nine national titles and eight Rose Bowls. The Wildcats, 24-point underdogs, were 0-7 in Los Angeles.

The Trojans, featuring Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Allen and All-American defensive back Ronnie Lott, was on a 22-game unbeaten streak at the L.A. Coliseum going back to 1977. They were on a 37-3-2 stretch over a four-year period. Arizona did not win more than six games in a season in the same four-year period.

Arizona’s will was tested early as the Trojans took a 10-0 lead after less than eight minutes. Allen broke off a student-body-right play for 74 yards for the first score and Steve Jordan kicked a 21-yard field goal.

Two Brett Weber field goals, one a 47-yarder 30 seconds before halftime and a 25-yarder in the third quarter, cut the lead to 10-6. On Arizona’s last offensive play of the third quarter, Tunnicliffe, a sophomore from nearby Burbank, Calif., hit Vance Johnson, a freshman, with a 13-yard touchdown pass that put the Wildcats ahead for good .

The Wildcats pulled off their greatest upset in the greatest game to date in school history thanks to Tunnicliffe’s 293 yards passing and a defense that yielded only 297 yards in total offense, 186 yards under the mighty Trojans’ average.

* * * * * publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports and


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