Arizona’s season opener against NAU at Arizona Stadium on Sept. 2 is 38 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 22, ASU Sun Devils 13
DATE: Nov. 25, 1961
SITE: Sun Devil Stadium, 40,164 in attendance
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: The caption of one photo in the Tucson Daily Citizen after this historic victory read: “Comeback Cats do it again!”
The Wildcats overcame a 13-3 deficit in Tempe amid a strong wind and rain storm to triumph 22-13, capping one of the best seasons in Arizona history at 8-1-1. Legendary quarterback Eddie Wilson threw a 31-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter and scored on a 5-yard run in the fourth quarter to put Arizona ahead 16-13.
Halfback Bobby Thompson later zig-zagged his way to a 67-yard touchdown run. Arizona overpowered a tiring ASU defense as the game went on with its use of its trio of fullbacks, sophomores Ted Christy and Walter Knott and junior John Carney, opening up big plays by Wilson and Thompson.
The three-headed fullback monster gained 80 yards on 20 carries in the second half against ASU beleaguered defensive front.
“We knew with their depth they could stay fresh throughout the game,” ASU coach Frank Kush told the Tucson Daily Citizen. “It showed up mostly in the second half from the way we were beat down.
“We were fortunate they didn’t score more.”
Former Tucson Citizen sports editor Carl Porter wrote it this way: “After nearly three quarters of soaking up punishing blows from Arizona State’s bruising Wing-T attack, the Wildcats suddenly straightened toe-to-toe and began throwing handfuls of straight-forward fullback smashes of their own. In a matter of minutes, the Sun Devils’ eyes were glassy and their knees wobbly.”
The Wildcats gained 249 yards on the ground, highlighted by Thompson’s 67-yard scoring run that put the Sun Devils away with 5:46 left in the game. He spun away from several tacklers at the line of scrimmage before sprinting to the end zone.
“It was a counter play and Howie (guard Howard Breinig, the former legendary Sahuaro High School coach) had a good block but two guys were shooting the gap,” Thompson told the Citizen. “I just put my shoulder down and hit one of them and spun off — and that’s the last thing I can remember until I was clear.”
Arizona’s only loss that season was an upset to West Texas State 27-23 at Canyon, Texas. Its tie was a 14-14 struggle at Nebraska.
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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.