Arizona’s season opener against NAU at Arizona Stadium on Sept. 2 is 31 days away. To go along with the countdown to kickoff, this site will publish the Top 50 games in Wildcat football history.
SCORE: No. 7 Arizona Wildcats 50, ASU Sun Devils 42
DATE: Nov. 27, 1998
SITE: Arizona Stadium, 57,953 in attendance
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: The best rushing performance by an Arizona player (before Ka’Deem Carey’s record-breaking game against Colorado in 2012) occurred when the Wildcats completed the best regular season in school history.
Trung Canidate shattered Arizona’s single-game rushing record with 288 yards on 18 carries, including touchdown runs of 80, 66 and 48 yards, as the seventh-ranked Wildcats (11-1 with the win) held off a pesky Arizona State team that finished its season 5-6.
“I knew I had to run somebody over or put a move on,” Canidate told reporters afterward. “I put some moves on and I got into a flow and went to the house. The (offensive) line told me they would give me 14 inches of daylight. That’s all I needed.”
The 92-point shootout was the highest-scoring game in the intense intrastate rivalry.
Canidate, who held the Arizona record with 18 games with at least 100 yards rushing before Carey eclipsed that with 23, broke the single-game record of 232 yards at the time, set by Jim Upchurch against Texas-El Paso in 1973.
From the Press Box — Brad Allis, Wildcat Sports Report editor
“I remember that game was crazy. Although Arizona was always in control, they could never shake ASU. Every time Arizona made it a two possession ball game, the Devils would score. Trung was unreal. Although Carey’s game against Colorado was statistically better, this was the best game I have ever seen an Arizona offensive player have.”
Carey topped that with the 336 yards he gained against Colorado. Canidate held the career rushing mark at Arizona with 3,824 yards on 604 attempts from 1996-1999 before Carey gained 4,239 from 2011-2013.
In the 1998 game against ASU, Arizona had to wait until the following weekend to see if Pac-10 champion UCLA — which gave the Wildcats their only loss that season — won at Miami and advanced to the national championship game at the Fiesta Bowl.
If that happened, the Wildcats would have been a leading candidate for what would have been their first Rose Bowl berth. The Bruins lost to Miami 49-45 — squandering a 45-35 lead with less than seven minutes left in the fourth quarter — and went to the Rose Bowl. Arizona was invited to the Holiday Bowl to face Nebraska.
Arizona State’s Ryan Kealy completed 33 of 56 passes for 511 yards, third most in Sun Devil history. Four of his passes went for touchdowns, including two to Todd Heap. Kealy threw a 17-yard scoring pass to Heap on fourth and 10 with 5:55 to play to cut the lead to 43-35 and a 23-yard scoring pass to Lenzie Jackson with 1:52 remaining to cut the lead to 50-42.
In between, Canidate, a junior who grew up in Phoenix just a few miles from the Arizona State campus, dashed 48 yards down the right sideline to put the Wildcats ahead, 50-35, with 4:02 left. Canidate’s 16 yards per carry stands as a UA record with at least 10 attempts in a game. Art Luppino — “The Cactus Comet” — is the overall record-holder with 38 yards per rush in six attempts against New Mexico State in 1954.
After Kealy’s last touchdown pass, Arizona’s Brad Brennan recovered Arizona State’s onside kick. Arizona punted the ball away with less than a minute to play, then Kealy drove the Sun Devils from their 20 to the Arizona 28, but Kelvin Hunter knocked down the final pass in the end zone to save the victory.
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Arizona’s two-headed quarterback monster — Keith Smith and Ortege Jenkins — combined for 233 yards on eight completions in 19 attempts. Smith was 5-of-8 for 173 yards. Jenkins rushed 64 yards on 10 carries, including a 13-yard touchdown run that gave Arizona a 33-22 lead early in the third quarter.
All-American cornerback Chris McAlister, who had an interception in the game, blocked a punt that set up Jenkins’ touchdown scamper. Dennis Northcutt, a 10-year NFL receiver, caught four passes for 71 yards for the Wildcats.
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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.