Arizona Football

No. 39 — Art Luppino “The Cactus Comet” rockets toward 38 yards per carry and five touchdowns

In the 50 days leading up to Arizona’s season-opener against Toledo, on Sept. 1 at Arizona Stadium, and its affiliate will rank the Top 50 games in the history of the football program. The ranking is at No. 39 as the kickoff to the Wildcats’ season — and the start of the Rich Rodriguez era — is only 39 days away.

SCORE: Arizona Wildcats 58, New Mexico A&M Aggies 0

DATE: Sept. 18, 1954

SITE: Arizona Stadium

WHY IT MADE THE LIST: The “Cactus Comet”, as Arizona Sports Hall of Famer Art Luppino was called, came on to the college football scene in a big way gaining 228 yards on only six carries in his first collegiate start at halfback. Luppino, 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, ran for five touchdowns, four of them from scrimmage in the season-opener for the Wildcats. He also returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown to start the second half. He could have rushed for more yards but sat most of the second half because of the disparity of the score.

Art Luppino led the nation in rushing, scoring, all-purpose running and kickoff returns in 1954

Luppino, whose No. 22 jersey was retired during a halftime ceremony in 1999, held the single-game rushing record of 228 yards for 19 years until Jim Upchurch gained 232 yards against UTEP in 1973. Luppino’s 38 yards per rush against New Mexico A&M (now New Mexico State) remains a school record. His 21 rushing touchdowns in 1954 and 44 in his career remain school records. He also holds the UA school record with the 32 points against New Mexico A&M in the 1954 game and 166 points that season.

Luppino, a sophomore in 1954 from La Jolla, Calif., was also quite the sportsman. He in fact was awarded the Swede Nelson Award for sportsmanship in 1954, which is one of the most memorable seasons for a UA football player in the program’s history. Luppino was selected for the award by a panel of coaches for his sportsmanship exhibited against Texas Tech in a 28-14 loss. A Texas Tech lineman delivered a forearm to Luppino’s face, an illegal play, and Luppino lost a tooth and bled openly from the mouth. Instead of retaliating, Luppino motioned to the restless crowd to take a seat and he carried about his business.

The countdown:

No. 40 — Fumblerooski enables Arizona to sweep USC, UCLA in L.A. for first time (

No. 41 — Sun Devil nemesis Dan White quarterbacks Arizona into Fiesta Bowl with win over ASU (

No. 42 — Struggling UA gets improbable win against ’83 Pac-10 champ UCLA (

No. 43 — Closing chapter of “The Streak” includes Arizona’s dramatic fourth-quarter heroics (

No. 44 — Arizona overcomes rival Texas Tech with unfathomable late-game rally (

No. 45 — Dick Tomey, the Desert Fox, does a number on UCLA by changing offense in midseason (

No. 46 — “The Streak” reaches three games, UA achieves best Pac-10 finish (

No. 47 — Arizona’s first game at Arizona Stadium in 1929, a 35-0 win over Cal Tech (

No. 48 — Underdog Arizona’s 2011 thriller over arch-rival Arizona State (

No. 49 — Arizona’s first win over arch-rival Arizona State, then known as Territorial Normal (

No. 50 — Arizona’s first win in program’s history: 22-5 over Tucson Indians (


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