Arizona’s season opener against NAU at Arizona Stadium on Sept. 2 is 32 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 28, No. 3 Southern Methodist Mustangs 6
DATE: Oct. 5, 1985
SITE: Arizona Stadium, 52,114 in attendance
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: This one would be ranked higher on this list if Southern Methodist was not on probation, banned from a bowl that season (in which if finished 6-5). In fact, the Mustangs were on probation five separate times between 1974 and 1985. The Mustangs had plenty of talent in 1985, with players such as five-year NFL running back Reggie Dupard, when the Wildcats pulled off the upset.
But we later discovered that some of that talent, including allegedly Dupard, was paid under the table as part of a slush fund and SMU was sentenced to the “Death Penalty” by the NCAA in 1987 and 1988, unable to field a football team those seasons.
Nevertheless, Arizona’s rout of SMU is certainly one for the history books for the Wildcats. The Mustangs, ranked No. 3 in the AP poll entering the game, remain the highest-ranked non-conference opponent to lose to the Wildcats. The 22-point differential is the most for the Wildcats against a ranked non-conference foe in the program’s history.
From the Field — David Adams, former Arizona running back
“What I remember most about that game is our coaches kept talking about how great their running backs were and how we could not compete with them in anyway. It had been a tough year so far for me. I was never 100 percent and I couldn’t get things going as far as rushing was concern. That was my breakout game for that season. I outrushed both of their so called great backs they had just over 100 yards and no touchdowns together I had 136 and one touchdown plus and (expletive) load of catches for more yards. I just outplayed them and was offensive player of the game. The most important thing was they were ranked No. 3 in the country and we killed them 28-6 and my hurt ass was the man!”
Arizona quarterback Alfred Jenkins uncorked what was a dormant offense with three touchdown passes in the upset victory. The Wildcats scored three touchdowns during an 11-minute span in the second quarter to go ahead 21-6. The Mustangs, who entered the game with the nation’s longest win streak of eight games, could never get off the canvas.
Arizona had scored only five touchdowns in its four previous games. SMU had averaged 45.5 points in its first two games in victories over UTEP and TCU. The Wildcat defense clamped down on SMU’s heralded offense, which came into the game as the nation’s total offense leader, second in rushing and third in scoring.
SMU looked impressive early, driving 99 yards for a touchdown in a 14-play drive in its second possession of the game.
The extra-point attempt was blocked by Allan Durden and SMU led 6-0, but that lead was short-lived. After the Wildcats recovered a fumbled punt return, UA tailback David Adams scored on a 6-yard run on the first play of the second period. Jenkins connected on scoring passes of 13 yards to split end Derek Hill and 30 yards to split end Jon Horton in the second quarter.
Arizona led at halftime 21-6. UA coach Larry Smith wanted to head to the locker room with a larger margin but Max Zendejas missed a 60-yard field goal try with 13 seconds left in the half.
Adams, a 5-6, 168-pound tailback, rushed 22 times for 136 yards, outshining Dupard, a Heisman Trophy candidate entering that season. Dupard rushed 17 times for 82 yards, about half his 156.5-yard per game average. Dupard scored the Mustangs’ only touchdown, on a one-yard plunge.
From the Press Box — Jay Gonzales, former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter
“SMU came in heavily favored, but there were under the cloud of the NCAA investigation that would eventually make them the one and only football program to suffer the so-called ‘death penalty.’ Arizona dominated the game from the start and it was delirium in Arizona Stadium. When it was all over and I went to the SMU locker room in the southwest corner of the stadium, the entrance to the stairwell leading to the locker room was a sea of paper money thrown by the fans. The reputation as the highest paid team in college football was not lost on Wildcat fans and they made it known.”
In the third quarter, Jenkins completed a 26-yard touchdown pass to Horton, and Zendejas’ fourth extra point capped the scoring at 28-6.
Arizona capitalized on two fumbles during its second-period outburst, scoring after each. The defense also accounted for two fourth-quarter interceptions off Mustang quarterback Don King. The Wildcats rushed 38 times for 168 yards while holding Southern Methodist, who had averaged 385.8 yards rushing per game, to only 141 yards on 44 carries.
The Wildcats finished 8-3-1 that season, the tie occurring at the Sun Bowl against Georgia, the Wildcats’ first bowl under Smith.
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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.