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After 49 days of ranking Arizona’s top games in the program’s history, we’ve come to No. 1, a new No. 1.
Here it is:
SCORE: No. 11 Arizona Wildcats 42, No. 13 ASU Sun Devils 35
DATE: Nov. 28, 2014
SITE: Arizona Stadium, 56,083 in attendance
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: So much drama and it was not only on the field at Arizona Stadium.
For No. 11 Arizona to claim its first outright title since joining the Pac-10 in 1978, the Wildcats not only had to beat No. 13-ranked ASU but hope that Stanford somehow upset Pac-12 South front-runner UCLA.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez didn’t want the score of the UCLA-Stanford game to be displayed inside Arizona Stadium, nor did he want updates to leak to the sideline.
His focus was on defeating rival Arizona State in the Territorial Cup — an achievement that eluded him in his first two years with the Wildcats.
The Football Gods were on Arizona’s side — for once — as both objectives, heck, dreams, came true: The Wildcats overcame the Sun Devils and the Cardinal upset the Bruins.
The Wildcats claimed the outright Pac-12 South title and the right to face Oregon in the Pac-12 title game the following week.
True freshman running back Nick Wilson ran for 178 yards and three touchdowns to lift the Wildcats to victory and bury arch-rival ASU’s hopes for a repeat Pac-12 South title.
“Right after the game when I was walking out to shake Coach (Todd) Graham’s hand, I think either my wife or my son said: ‘Did you know UCLA lost?’ ” Rodriguez told the media afterward. “That made me bounce a little more in the air.”
Arizona, 10-2 overall and 7-2 in the Pac-12, emerged as champions of the South with big plays and tough defense when it needed it the most.
Redshirt freshman Anu Solomon, slowed by an ankle injury most of the second half of the season, threw for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Samajie Grant. Wilson burst to a 72-yard touchdown run in the second half after running for 218 yards in the previous week at Utah.
Arizona’s opportunistic defense scored on the game’s third play (Anthony Lopez’s 25-yard fumble return after All-American linebacker Scooby Wright sacked and stripped starter Taylor Kelly), made a goal-line stand and forced a turnover on downs after Arizona State started its final drive near midfield. The Sun Devils’ hopes ended at the 40-yard with back Mike Bercovici unable to lead one last charge.
“This is what you live for,” said Arizona safety Jourdan Grandon, who had a key interception late.
What makes Arizona’s win over ASU last November stand above the Wildcats’ upset over No. 1 USC in 1981 or the Desert Swarm’s dominance over top-ranked Washington in 1992? Continue on the slideshow to read the Top 5 reasons why. Click “Next” at the right:
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— Anthony Gimino compiled Arizona’s best player by jersey number while with TucsonCitizen.com three years ago. The best No. 1 according to Gimino is quarterback Bruce Hill (1973-75): He led the 1-2-3 offense, with Willie Hamilton (No. 2) and Jim Upchurch (No. 3) as split backs behind Hill.
— Arizona’s players who wear No. 1 this season are junior receiver Cayleb Jones and junior safety Tellas Jones (unrelated). Cayleb played in 14 games last year and started 13. He was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention. He finished as Arizona’s leading receiver with 1,019 yards, good for nine touchdowns and a long of 85 yards. He totaled 73 receptions and averaged 14 yards per catch and 72.8 yards per game. His career long catch of 85 yards came on his first play as a Wildcat and scored Arizona’s first TD at UTSA. His career game high of 186 yards and 13 receptions vs. California earned him Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors. He also returned an on-side kick for a score at Washington State. … Tellas Jones played in all 14 games with the secondary and on special teams. He totaled 18 tackles, 2.0 tackles for a loss of nine yards, one sack and a blocked kick. He recorded his first career tackle for lost yardage at UTSA.