Arizona Football

Arizona Wildcats Notebook: UCLA’s Missed Late Game-Tying FG Brings Back Memories of 1983 Classic Between Bruins, Wildcats


Thirty-six years after UCLA All-American place-kicker John Lee missed wide right on a 37-yard field goal attempt — failing to tie the game on the last play against Arizona at Arizona Stadium in a nationally-televised game — the Bruins’ J.J. Molson missed a game-tying 39-yard field goal with 34 seconds left in about same spot last night on an ESPN broadcast.

What made Lee’s miss in 1983 even more mystifying — he was impeccable from within 40 yards. He continues to hold the NCAA record for made field goals within 40 yards — 54 out of 56 (96.4 percent).

Arizona celebrates after UCLA’s missed field goal that could have tied the game (Arizona Athletics photo)

Molson’s miss last night came after Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin pulled a fast one — a timeout that is — right before Molson’s initial attempt that went through the uprights. After the timeout, Molson lined up again and missed wide right. Somewhere, Lee, now 55, was probably grimacing.

“You’ve got them in your pocket,” Sumlin said of the timeout. “I can’t take them home and bring them to the next game. But probably the biggest decision was not to use the last timeout on that next kick. That’s all luck of the draw.

“I’ve also had times where I’ve called it and the guy missed it and made the next one. It’s just the opposite comment from you guys (the media) and the fans: ‘What are you doing?'”

“I don’t know how he missed that field goal and I don’t care”

A little background of the significant game in 1983 involving UCLA and Lee and Arizona:

The Wildcats started that season 4-0 and ranked No. 3 in the nation with the likes of Ricky Hunley and Tom Tunnicliffe playing for Larry Smith. The Wildcats, derailed in Week Five by a 33-33 tie at Cal, in which the Golden Bears rallied from a 26-3 deficit in the second half, lost three consecutive games before they played the Bruins.

Arizona fans became restless with Smith, although the Wildcats lost those three straight games by a total of only 19 points to Oregon, Stanford and No. 20 Washington. A crowd of only 42,640 showed up for the 10:30 a.m. kickoff, scheduled that early to accommodate the national television broadcast on CBS.

Arizona Republic clipping of the Arizona’s win over eventual Pac-10 champ UCLA in 1983.

Those who attended were thankful they did not stay home because the finish was as good and improbable as any that has occurred at Arizona Stadium. The Wildcats survived against a UCLA team quarterbacked by Rick Neuheisel that had won five straight games (after starting the season 0-3-1) and needed only a tie to punch its ticket to the Rose Bowl.

Arizona wide receiver Jay Dobyns caught an 8-yard pass from Tunnicliffe for the decisive touchdown with 61 seconds left. Arizona’s 69-yard drive culminating on Tunnicliffe’s touchdown pass to Dobyns in the back of the end zone was one of the best drives engineered by a Wildcat quarterback in a pressure situation.

Jay Dobyns celebrates his winning touchdown against UCLA in 1983 (Dobyns photo of Tucson Citizen front page)

Tunnicliffe completed all four of his passes in the drive that started with 3:28 remaining. Among them, he connected with running back Chris Brewer for 11 yards on a third-and-7 situation and receiver Jon Horton for 12 yards on a third-and-2 play. He then completed a 32-yard reception to receiver Brad Anderson to the UCLA 3. After an offsides penalty that moved the ball back to the 8, Tunnicliffe connected with Dobyns for the go-ahead touchdown.

Neuheisel managed to drive UCLA in position for Lee’s attempted game-tying field goal, but the reliant Lee became unreliable for the Bruins at the right time for Arizona.

“I don’t know how he missed that field goal and I don’t care,” Smith told reporters after the game. “He missed it. Our guys deserved this win.”

Back to Schooler …

Schooler, a junior, had two tackles for loss, giving him 39 in only 29 games in his career. With 1.5 more, he’ll reach the Arizona top 10 and tie Chris Singleton.

He is four shy of tying Marcus Bell for the most by a linebacker in school history. Bell had 43 from 1996-99.

Colin Schooler has 39 tackles for loss in only 29 games in his career at Arizona (Arizona Athletics photo)

Arizona Career Tackles-For-Loss Leaders

No.TFLPlayerPos.Years
1.74.5 Tedy BruschiDE1991-95
2. (tie)49.0 Dana WellsDT1985-88
2. (tie)49.0 Joe TafoyaDE1997-00
4.45.0 Bill McKinleyDE1968-70
5.43.5 Joe Salave'aDT1994-97
6.43.0 Marcus BellLB1996-99
7. (tie)42.0 Scooby Wright IIILB2013-15
7. (tie)42.0Mike DawsonDT1972-75
9.41.0 Rob WaldropDT1990-93
10. (tie)40.5Colin SchoolerLB2017-19
10. (tie)40.5Chris SingletonLB1986-89

“I love the way we played tonight,” Schooler said last night. “All phases of the game, we had guys stepping up, switching positions, doing everything right and just executing the game plan.”

Arizona’s Pass Defense Strong Again

Arizona continues to lead the nation in interceptions after cornerback Lorenzo Burns recorded his third of the season last night, giving the Wildcats nine.

Arizona averages 2.25 interceptions a game, topping Florida (1.80).

Jace Whittaker and Lorenzo Burns have contributed to Arizona’s productive defensive secondary (Arizona Athletics photo)

Arizona Career Passes Broken-Up Leaders

No. PBUPlayerPos.Years
1.44 Michael JolivetteCB2000-03
2.38 Chuck CecilS1984-87
3.35 Kelly MalveauxCB1994-97
4. (tie)32 Antoine CasonCB2004-07
4. (tie)32 Devin RossCB2006-09
6.31Jace WhittakerCB2015-19
7. (tie)30 Shaquille RichardsonCB2010-13
7. (tie)30 Lynnden BrownS1981-84
9.29 Brandon SandersS1992-95
10. (tie)28 Trevin WadeCB2008-11
10. (tie)28 Randy RobbinsCB1980-83

Burns and Jace Whittaker are tied for the national lead with 11 other players with their three interceptions each.

Whittaker also had a pass broken up giving him 32 in his career, tying him at fourth in school history with Devin Ross and Antoine Cason. The Wildcats recorded seven passes broken up against the Bruins.


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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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