Arizona’s season opener against NAU at Arizona Stadium on Sept. 2 is 43 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 49, Nevada Wolf Pack 48
DATE: Dec. 15, 2012
SITE: University Stadium, Albuquerque, N.M., 24,610 in attendance
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Arizona showed a never-say-die-attitude in the 2012 New Mexico Bowl win over Nevada, unlike any other victory you will read in this site’s Top 50 games in school history list. The Wildcats trailed 21-0 in the first quarter and 45-28 to start the fourth quarter before prevailing late, over the stunned Wolf Pack.
Arizona’s victory over Nevada was part of a legendary “Survival Saturday” on Dec. 15, in which the Wildcats’ football and basketball teams experienced wild comeback wins over Nevada in the afternoon and against Florida in McKale Center later that night.
The Arizona Athletics’ YouTube page provided a video version of how ALLSPORTUCSON.com 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.
MEMORABLE ARIZONA FOOTBALL COMEBACKS
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“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 minutes for both games:
— 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.
— 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
— 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.
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
— 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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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.