We are in Game Week — three days — until the tailgate season is upon us when the Arizona Wildcats kick off their 2018 campaign under new coach Kevin Sumlin. The season begins when Arizona hosts BYU on Saturday at Arizona Stadium.
To get ready for the upcoming season, All Sports Tucson has offered another countdown, which includes 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.
The season marks some substantial anniversaries. It is the 40th anniversary since the Wildcats left the WAC to join 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 catch up on the countdown — which included in-depth analysis and reader polls on The Great Debate of which team was better — 1993 or 1998 — click on this: Arizona Wildcats 2018 countdown to kickoff.
Top 25 developments in Pac-10/12 era
Over the last part of the countdown we are ranking the top 25 developments of Arizona’s Pac-10/12 existence that started in 1978 when it arrived with ASU from the WAC. The ranking will include player highlights, team accomplishments, coaching moves and other off-field developments. If a player is involved, the ranking includes happenings only during the course of that athlete’s time at Arizona.
The ranking up to now:
Desert Swarm Defense
One of the best units in college football history, the Desert Swarm gave Arizona an identity transitioning from the Larry Smith era to the Dick Tomey era. The Wildcats led the nation and set a Pac-10 record with 33 rushing yards allowed per game in 1993, when Arizona led the nation in total defense. That mark also was the best in the nation in 30 years. All six leading tacklers as part of the “Double Flex Eagle” defense would end up in the NFL. The defensive line was anchored with two college football Hall of Famers in Tedy Bruschi and Rob Waldrop. The 1992 run led by the Desert Swarm is legendary when Arizona nearly upset No. 1 Miami on the road, falling 8-7 as the last-second field goal went just wide right and then they reeled off five straight wins, including a victory over No. 1 Washington 16-3 in Tucson.
“The legacy of that team is the ferocious way that they played,” Dick Tomey said in an interview with thepostgame.com. “Sometimes coaches will say ‘we really played hard’, but our scheme was so simple. We knew what we were doing and you had to beat us. We rarely made mistakes, too. I was the head coach, but our defensive coaches did a fabulous job. They were the right guys and they put Arizona on a national stage.”
The best to wear No. 3 …
The best to wear No. 3 in Arizona history? That honor goes to one of the cogs of the Desert Swarm Defense, safety Tony Bouie, who played from 1991 to 1994. Bouie was a key member of the Wildcats’ 10-2 team that defeated the Miami Hurricanes in the Fiesta Bowl. He was recognized as a consensus All-American and first-team All-Pac-10 selection at defensive back following his senior season in 1994. He also played for the Arizona Wildcats baseball team, and was a member of the Wildcats’ Pac-10 championship baseball teams in 1992 and 1993. Bouie graduated from the UA with a Bachelor of Arts degree in media arts. He was inducted into the UA Sports Hall of Fame in 2000, and his name is included among other Wildcats football greats in the Ring of Honor on the facade of Arizona Stadium.
Wearing No. 3 now …
Wearing No. 3 now is third-year sophomore safety Jarrius Wallace, who played in all 13 games with three starts at free safety last season. He recorded 27 tackles, one interception and three pass breakups on the season.
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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.