Arizona’s season opener against NAU at Arizona Stadium on Sept. 2 is 50 days away. To go along with the countdown to kickoff, this site will publish the Top 50 games in Wildcat football history.
SCORE: Arizona Wildcats 32, Texas Tech Red Raiders 28
DATE: Oct. 18, 1975
SITE: Arizona Stadium, 39,854 in attendance (capacity was listed at 40,000 at the time before the expansion of the east-side upper-level seating the following season)
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Imagine the odds: Arizona, 2-22 in its series with nemesis Texas Tech (considered at that time the Wildcats’ most loathed rival behind ASU), without timeouts with 2:46 remaining in the game after the Wildcats’ controversial two-point conversion attempt failed, allowing the offensively potent Red Raiders to stay atop 28-27. Texas Tech had 25 first downs and 522 total yards against a UA defense that did not yield a touchdown in its 4-0 start heading into the game.
Tucson Citizen beat reporter Steve Weston wrote that fans headed to the exits after UA quarterback Bruce Hill, masterful in the Wildcats’ comebacks from 21-13 and 28-21 deficits in the fourth quarter, was sacked on the two-point try. Arizona coach Jim Young did the unthinkable, going for the victory instead of the tie, after consulting with the players following Hill’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Theopolis “T” Bell.
A first down by Texas Tech would have ended the game because the Cats were without timeouts. Arizona’s defense, riddled all night by Texas Tech’s triple-option offense, stuffed the Red Raiders on three straight rushing attempts up the middle. forcing the Red Raiders to punt.
Hill was presented the challenge of leading the UA to victory starting at the Wildcats’ 43-yard line with 43 seconds remaining. He drove the UA to the Texas Tech 24 yard-line with 11 seconds left, highlighted by an 18-yard pass to Bell. On came 18-year-old freshman placekicker Lee Pistor, a Phoenix product who opted to play for Arizona rather than ASU, for the game-winning 41-yarder.
Pistor nailed it, putting the Wildcats ahead 30-28. On the ensuing kickoff, Texas Tech’s Billy Taylor was tackled in the end zone for a safety by the UA’s Ken Creviston to end the game. Arizona players jumped on each other in celebration and fans rushed the field.
Tucsonan Lee Shappell, an Amphi graduate who went on to cover Arizona for the Arizona Daily Star and Arizona Republic, wrote to me on Facebook this interesting detail leading up to Pistor’s game-winning kick:
“Because UA was out of timeouts and had no way to stop the clock as it marched in the closing seconds, Coach Young requested a measurement, which the officials were obligated to give him. While the officials were bringing out the chains, Coach Young sent out the field goal team and got it set, knowing the officials would start the clock once the chains were set back on the sideline after the measurement. It didn’t matter whether the Wildcats made a first down or not, or even how close they were. The chains were set, the clock was started, the ball was snapped and the winning kick was good. One of the most brilliant pieces of coaching I’ve seen.”
Tucson Citizen associate sports editor Jack Rickard wrote that the game was “a collector’s item” especially because of how the Wildcats scored a touchdown, field goal and safety within the last three minutes for the final margin. On top of that, it was only the UA’s third victory against Texas Tech in 25 tries.
Two weeks later, the UA notched its first win over a team ranked in the AP Top 20, against No. 13 San Diego State 31-24 on the road. Young, a former Michigan assistant, made Arizona football relevant again in his third season in Tucson. Players like Hill, Bell, Jim Upchurch and Pistor were Tucson’s heroes before players like Ricky Hunley, Max Zendejas, David Adams, Chuck Cecil and Tedy Bruschi came along.
“Boy!” the young Pistor exclaimed to reporters after the win over Texas Tech. “I’m trying to be relaxed but I’m still a little nervous.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.