We are in Game Week — two 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:
One of the most monumental stretches of Arizona football, the Wildcats did not lose to their archrival ASU from 1982 to 1990, a glorious 8-0-1 stretch for them for nine years. The significance of “The Streak” is that it turned the tide from ASU’s domination beginning in the Frank Kush era. He was fired in Tempe only three years before this stretch started.
The games included triumphs over two potential Rose Bowl-bound teams for Arizona State — in 1982 when the Sun Devils were ranked No. 6 and in 1985 (two late Max Zendejas field goals thwarted the Sun Devils’ plans). Zendejas was an ASU killer, also beating the Sun Devils on a last-second field goal in Tempe in 1983.ASU
Wild plays such as ASU whiffing on a punt and Chuck Cecil recovering the fumble, leading to a game-tying field goal in 1987, made “The Streak” even more special. Cecil made the biggest play in Arizona history during “The Streak” — his 106-yard interception return for a touchdown in 1986 against Rose Bowl-bound ASU at Arizona Stadium.
Larry Smith started “The Streak” and Dick Tomey saw it through for four more years after taking over in 1987. The late Smith told The Arizona Daily Star that his most important win was against ASU in 1982, when “The Streak” started against the favored Sun Devils, whose fans brought roses with them to the game, only having to throw them away after.
“People always asked me what my greatest victory was, and after we beat Notre Dame (in ’82) I had a game ball painted with `The Greatest Win’ put on the side,” Smith said. “That was the most prestigious win we had at Arizona, but the most important win was that ’82 game against Arizona State.
“That turned the tide within the state, something that had been a negative factor in Arizona football for 20 or 30 years. And it wasn’t just a one-game thing. We were able to maintain our edge from that game and keep it. In terms of how valuable a game was, that was the one.”
The best to wear No. 2 …
The honor of the best to wear No. 2 goes to one of the best tailbacks Arizona has featured, David Adams, a Sunnyside grad who was part of “The Streak” with the Wildcats from 1984-86. Adams is the most extreme example of a Wildcat who answered quite emphatically those critics who claimed he was too small to succeed. The Atlanta Constitution-Journal described Adams as a “waif with wings” before the Wildcats played Georgia in the 1985 Sun Bowl. He was listed at 5’6″ and 165 pounds during his Wildcat career. He arguably is pound-for-pound the biggest badass the program has produced. He deserves legitimate consideration to be in the school’s hall of fame.
Former Arizona coach Larry Smith found promise in Adams where others did not. “He keeps his nose to the grindstone,” the late Smith often said about Adams during the tailback’s career. “One of the main things that motivated me was people saying I couldn’t do it,” Adams said. “I wanted my mom (Clarice Adams) to be proud of me and football was what I was best at.” Adams, who led the Pac-10 in rushing his senior season in 1986 with 1,175 yards on 238 attempts, made believers out of his opponents. Former Oregon safety Anthony Newman, whose team allowed Adams to rush for 130 yards in a 41-17 loss in 1986, told the Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard: “David Adams is very hard to tackle … He is so quick, yet he’s still willing to run over you and strong enough to do it.”
“One of the main things that motivated me was people saying I couldn’t do it. I wanted my mom (Clarice Adams) to be proud of me and football was what I was best at.” — Arizona tough-as-nails running back David Adams
Wearing No. 2 now …
Third-year sophomore cornerback Lorenzo Burns, with star potential, wears No. 2 now. He started all 13 games at the “boundary” cornerback position last season and was named to College Football News’ All-Pac-12 first team. He tied for the Pac-12 lead and ranked second nationally among freshmen with five interceptions. He also was second on the team with seven pass breakups. He totaled 81 tackles, including 59 solo stops, while registering 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack. He recorded six solo tackles and notched his first career sack against Purdue in the Foster Farms Bowl.
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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.