Arizona Football

Rivalry Week: Top 15 Arizona victories over ASU (Nos. 12-10)


Arizona faces ASU in the latest chapter of the Territorial Cup on Saturday in Tempe. This site will publish this week in the days leading up to the game Arizona’s top 15 victories in the series. Make sure to catch up on the series by clicking on this link: Top 15 Arizona wins over ASU.

NO. 12

SCORE: Arizona Wildcats 28, ASU Sun Devils 10

DATE: Nov. 25, 1989

SITE: Sun Devil Stadium, a record 74,926 in attendance

WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Arizona State’s players looked like bananas, dressed in all yellow as a motivational ploy, but to Arizona, the Sun Devils were ripe for the picking.

The Wildcats continued their mastery of ASU in “The Streak”, extending their unbeaten run against their arch-rivals to eight games. The game was played in front of the largest crowd (74,926) to watch an Arizona-ASU game at Sun Devil Stadium. It also increased Arizona’s unbeaten streak in Tempe to four games (3-0-1), the longest such streak for the Wildcats at Sun Devil Stadium.

ASU's Paul Justin could not back up his bold prediction to beat Arizona in the 1989 Territorial Cup game despite the all-yellow uniforms

ASU’s Paul Justin could not back up his bold prediction to beat Arizona in the 1989 Territorial Cup game despite the all-yellow uniforms

David Eldridge scored twice on one-yard plunges in a 1:18 span of the third quarter to enable the Wildcats to pull away. Arizona, headed for the inaugural Copper Bowl in Tucson that year against North Carolina State, finished the regular season at 7-4 overall. Arizona State (6-4-1) had its three-game winning streak halted and was 0-7-1 against the Wildcats since 1982. It was the Sun Devils’ worst loss to Arizona since a 30-6 defeat in 1964 at Tucson.

Trying to change ASU’s luck in the series, Sun Devils coach Larry Marmie had his team swap its traditional maroon jerseys for new gold ones before the game. The move backfired as it got the Wildcats fired up.

“I remember in 1989 when they came out in warm-ups in maroon jerseys and no shoulder pads,” former Arizona linebacker Donnie Salum told the Tucson Citizen’s John Moredich in 2005. “We were wondering if they just weren’t taking us too seriously. Once the game started, they came out in their yellow uniforms, which (ESPN broadcaster) Chris Berman called their ‘banana uniforms.’

“They were the ugliest uniforms you will ever see,” Salum said. “And in that game I think they were, like, a 12-point favorite, and we put it to them. We came out of the locker room with everybody holding up eight fingers to show how the streak was going to go.”

Eldridge’s one-yard plunge 3:29 into the third quarter capped a 71-yard drive in nine plays to put Arizona ahead to stay, 14-10. Wildcat defensive tackle Reggie Johnson then sacked Arizona State’s Paul Justin on a first-down play, stripping the ball from him and recovering it at the Sun Devil nine. Three plays later, Eldridge dove over from the one-yard line to make it 21-10 with 10:08 left.

Arizona Republic clipping from Arizona’s 28-10 win over all yellow-clad ASU in 1989

Michael Bates’ three-yard touchdown run with 7:10 left made it 28-10 and capped an 80-yard, 18-play drive — all on the ground — that took 8:59 off the clock. Bates (Amphitheater) and Eldridge (Pueblo) were from Tucson high schools. Eldridge finished with 104 yards in 25 carries as Arizona, the conference’s rushing offense leader with a 236.5-yard average, controlled the football for 41 of the game’s 60 minutes and had 285 of its 366 yards of total offense on the ground.

The Sun Devils had 350 yards of total offense — 307 of it passing as Justin completed 17 of 34 attempts but was sacked four times.

The crowd at Sun Devil Stadium topped the previous record of 74,911 at the Jan. 2 Fiesta Bowl game between Notre Dame and West Virginia for the 1988 national championship. The record was broken on Nov. 9, 1996, when 74,963 attended ASU’s 35-7 win over Cal.

NO. 11

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!”

Arizona's Eddie Wilson (12), Bobby Thompson (24) and Bobby Garis (50) hold the game ball after the 22-13 win over ASU in 1961 (Tucson Daily Citizen photo)

Arizona’s Eddie Wilson (12), Bobby Thompson (24) and Bobby Garis (50) hold the game ball after the 22-13 win over ASU in 1961 (Tucson Daily Citizen photo)

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.”

Tucson Citizen clipping of a photo of Arizona coach Jim LaRue carried on the shoulders of his players after the Wildcats 22-13 win over ASU in 1961.

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.

NO. 10

SCORE: Arizona Wildcats 27, ASU Sun Devils 24

DATE: Nov. 24, 1979

SITE: Sun Devil Stadium, 70,947 in attendance

WHY IT MADE THE LIST: This game signaled an awakening in the Arizona football program with its series against Arizona State, which was without the late Frank Kush as its head coach for the first time since 1957.

Kush was dismissed five games into the 1979 season for interfering with the school’s internal investigation into allegations from punter Kevin Rutledge that Kush had punched him in the mouth after a bad punt in an Oct. 28, 1978, game against Washington.

The Sun Devils were 3-2 when Kush was dismissed. They finished 6-6 but had to forfeit five of the games after the conclusion of the season because of the use of ineligible players. Their record changed to 1-10.

Arizona Republic clipping of Arizona’s 27-24 win at ASU in 1979.

Thanks to Arizona freshman place-kicker Brett Weber, who nailed a 27-yard field goal with no time left, there was no need for Arizona to beat the Sun Devils by forfeit.

A roughing-the-kicker penalty gave Weber a second chance for the victory. Weber, a barefooted kicker who was not listed on the Arizona pre-printed roster for the game, missed the first attempt from 38 yards. The roughing-the-kicker penalty enabled him to try again from 27 yards and he nailed it. An interception by Arizona’s Jack Housley off a Mark Malone pass set up the final sequence with Weber, who coach Tony Mason used as a replacement for regular kicker Bill Zivic. Mason made the switch after Zivic missed a 39-yard field goal earlier in the fourth quarter.

It was the Wildcats’ first win at Sun Devil Stadium since 1961, ending a losing streak of eight games in Tempe. The Wildcats accepted an invitation to return to Sun Devil Stadium to play in the Fiesta Bowl, in which it played Dan Marino and Pittsburgh. The Wildcats lost that game 16-10.

The end of the Kush era proved to be significant to the rivalry. Arizona held a 23-8 series advantage over ASU when Kush became the Sun Devils’ head coach in 1958. During Kush’s 21 years at ASU (1958-79), the Sun Devils turned the table on the Wildcats, owning a 16-5 record in that period. ASU won a record nine straight games against the UA from 1965 to 1973. Without Kush, ASU has gone 15-19-1 since against Arizona, which went nine years without a loss against their rivals from 1982-90.

Arizona Daily Star clipping of Arizona’s victory over ASU in 1979.

Three fumbles by ASU enabled Arizona to take a 24-10 lead in the third quarter of the 1979 game, but the Sun Devils rallied to tie the game with 13:06 left in the game.

The Wildcats, who achieved their first winning record of 6-5-1 under Mason (in his third and final season in Tucson), were led by fullback Hubert Oliver’s 93 yards on 23 carries against ASU. Tailback Larry Heater also had 88 yards rushing for Arizona.

Arizona’s game against Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl was Mason’s last as he was fired amid alleged NCAA recruiting violations that ultimately led to the Wildcats serving a two-year probation in 1983 and 1984.

New Mexico coach Bob Davie, the former Notre Dame head coach and college football announcer for ESPN, was the linebackers coach for the Wildcats in the 1979 game. When Davie prepared Notre Dame to face ASU in 1998 at Sun Devil Stadium, he recounted driving back to Tucson with former Arizona assistant Ron Turner, now the quarterback coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and celebrating the victory over the Sun Devils while on I-10.


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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.

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