Arizona Football

Arizona Wildcats 2018 countdown to kickoff: Ricky Hunley’s top three games

Now in the eighties, we stand at 89 days until the Arizona Wildcats kick off their 2018 season under new coach Kevin Sumlin.

When Arizona hosts BYU on Sept. 1, it will mark the 40th anniversary since the Wildcats joined the Pac-12 (went from the Pac-8 to the Pac-10 then) and also the 20th anniversary of the 1998 team with the best record in school history, 12-1, and the 25th anniversary of the 1993 team that went 10-2 with a win over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.

To get ready for the upcoming season, All Sports Tucson offers another countdown, which will include memories from former Wildcats, history notes and a look ahead to the season. Think of it as a way to keep Arizona football on the mind in the summer months leading up to fall camp in early August and then kickoff against the Cougars marking the start of the Sumlin Era.

To catch up on the countdown click on this: Arizona Wildcats 2018 countdown to kickoff.

A look back

— With it being the 89th day ’til kickoff, the best player to wear No. 89 for Arizona? That would be the greatest to play for the Wildcats — Ricky Hunley, who starred at linebacker from 1980 to 1983. The two-time consensus All-American continues to be the school’s career tackle leader (566). He is atop the record book in unassisted tackles (323) and assisted tackles (243).

A College Football Hall of Famer, he also had 12 interceptions in his career, which leads all Wildcat linebackers. He had seven interceptions in 1983, which topped the Pac-10.

He was picked seventh overall by Cincinnati in the 1984 NFL draft, the highest drafted Wildcat in history.

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Top 3 Hunley performances at Arizona

3. As a true freshman in 1980, Hunley was selected the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against No. 2 UCLA in a 23-17 upset win for the Wildcats. The Bruins appeared ready to be No. 1 after top-ranked Alabama lost earlier that day.

Hunley registered 14 tackles, seven unassisted, and got to UCLA quarterback Tom Ramsey for losses three times. One of those sacks, a 12-yard loss, occurred on a third-down play early in the fourth quarter that took the Bruins out of field goal range and forced them to punt.

2. Hunley registered 20 tackles against ASU in the 28-18 upset of the Sun Devils in 1982 that knocked Arizona’s rivals out of Rose Bowl contention. Twelve of the tackles were unassisted and one went for loss.

“If there was ever a true All-American, he is one,” the late Larry Smith said. “He’s an All-American on the field and off the field. He’s a great kid. He deserves anything he gets.”

1. In another upset of UCLA, which needed a win to clinch the Pac-10 title in 1983, Hunley stood up the Bruins in the 27-24 win at Arizona Stadium. The game was nationally televised on CBS with a kickoff time of 11 a.m.

Hunley was a essential on a goal-line stand after the Bruins took the ball to the Arizona 1 in the fourth quarter. After UCLA was penalized for delay of game on first down, Hunley ripped through the line twice to tackle a runner near the line of scrimmage. The Bruins gained only one yard on those two plays. UCLA quarterback Rick Neuheisel then overthrew a receiver in the end zone, resulting in UCLA having to attempt a field goal.

“All I have to do is get clear,” Hunley told reporters after the game. “Then they can’t block me. I can run to them and make the tackle. It’s easy.”

Hunley finished with 11 tackles and a fumble recovery.

“It was something special, it was a great feeling,” Hunley said. “I don’t know how it compares to our victories over Notre Dame and USC, but it’s got to be great because everybody in the country had a chance to see us.

“I think they liked what they saw.”

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