Arizona’s season opener against NAU at Arizona Stadium on Sept. 2 is 24 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, California Golden Bears 45
DATE: Sept. 20, 2014
SITE: Arizona Stadium, 45,595 in attendance
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Anu Solomon threw a Hail Mary pass that was answered. He was also one of the saviors Arizona’s offense called upon in an improbable comeback win.
Solomon’s 47-yard Hail Mary pass to Austin Hill as time expired gave the Arizona Wildcats a 49-45 victory that deserves a ranking among Arizona’s top 25 games in history. Arizona outscored California 36-14 in the fourth quarter after trailing 28-6 at halftime.
According to ESPN, the 36 fourth-quarter points ties the FBS record for a team winning after trailing heading into the final period. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez told the Pac-12 Networks that he never won on a Hail Mary pass before in his 13 years as a head coach.
By halftime, Solomon, a redshirt freshman, had more interceptions (two) than he had in the first three games (one). Solomon completed 18 of 33 passes for 149 yards.
In the second half, Solomon completed 29 of 41 passes for 371 yards with five touchdown passes and no interceptions. His 520 passing yards broke the school record of 510 held by Willie Tuitama at Washington on Oct. 27, 2007, when Cal coach Sonny Dykes was Arizona’s offensive coordinator.
The most yards thrown by an Arizona quarterback at Arizona Stadium previously was 446 by Tuitama against New Mexico in 2007.
Hill finished with eight catches for 127 yards. Big target Cayleb Jones hauled in 13 passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns.
Solomon completed 43 of 77 passes, both of which are also school records.
“We were able to calm ourselves down and be consistent for Anu,” Hill told the Pac-12 Networks after the game.
One significant reason why Arizona has yet to qualify for a Rose Bowl is its poor starts in the conference season.
California, a 1-11 team a year ago, looked like it would continue its progression under Dykes and add to Arizona’s woes when it took a 22-point lead at halftime.
Before Saturday night, Arizona was 1-9 in conference openers played at home dating to 1992. The Wildcats are now 2-9 with both wins against Cal. Arizona beat the Golden Bears 10-9 in 2010.
Arizona’s dramatic comeback overshadowed the Wildcats’ shortcomings, including the end of a 20-game streak with a 100-yard rusher. Solomon led the Wildcats with 46 yards on 16 carries. Leading rusher Nick Wilson, a freshman who did not play in the fourth quarter because of an injury, gained only 33 yards on 11 carries. Terris Jones-Grigsby returned after missing two games with a foot injury and had 28 yards on five carries.
The Golden Bears, known for their “Air Raid” passing offense, gained 193 yards on the ground compared to only 107 for Arizona. Entering the game, Arizona averaged 268.3 yards rushing compared to 184.5 for Cal.
With Cal’s potent offense and improved defense, the Golden Bears could have competed with anybody in the nation Saturday.
Arizona had the resolve, behind Solomon’s will, to overcome its problems for the miraculous comeback.
“We had a comedy of errors but we hung in there and made the big plays,” Rodriguez told the Pac-12 Networks. “I’m really proud of our guys. They never quit. They never panicked.”
Cal fans now know how Arizona’s felt in 1983 and 1993 when the Golden Bears overcame significant second half deficits to win both games. Arizona was No. 3 in 1983, the program’s highest ranking, when it blew a 26-3 lead in the third quarter in a 33-33 tie. The 1993 team needed to hold on to its 20-0 halftime deficit to have the inside track to the Rose Bowl. Cal prevailed 24-20. Both of those games are also in this Top 50 countdown.
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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.