In the 50 days leading up to Arizona’s season-opener against Toledo, on Sept. 1 at Arizona Stadium, TucsonCitizen.com and its affiliate WildAboutAZCats.net will rank the Top 50 games in the history of the football program. The ranking is at No. 33 as the kickoff to the Wildcats’ season — and the start of the Rich Rodriguez era — is only 33 days away.
SCORE: Oregon Ducks 10, Arizona Wildcats 9
DATE: Oct. 29, 1994
SITE: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Ore., 36,760 in attendance
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen, who is as knowledgeable as anyone about the history of UA football since the Wildcats joined the Pac-10 in 1978, summarized the magnitude of this game this way in 2009: “How can you tell the difference between a Big Game and a Really Big Game That’ll Still Make You Whine 50 Years From Now? You measure it by the hurt. The most hurtful words in UA football history arrived at Oregon’s Autzen Stadium on Oct. 29, 1994. Don Essig, the Ducks’ PA man said: ‘Please, fans, do not run onto the field at the conclusion of the game.'”
Hansen went on to write that the “Oregon victory put a haze over the entire Desert Swarm era.” The Wildcats — predicted by Sports Illustrated before the season to win the national title — were ranked No. 11 in the country 6-1 overall and 4-0 in the Pac-10. Oregon was 5-3 and 3-1. With a victory, the Wildcats would have been in prime position to earn their first Rose Bowl berth. The Ducks, however, held Arizona without a touchdown, and steamrolled their way to the Rose Bowl by winning their last six Pac-10 games.
This game would have a higher ranking on this list but the UA also lost at USC two weeks later and finished the season losing three of its last five games. The Wildcats ended the season with a forgettable loss to Utah in the Freedom Bowl.
Oregon’s Danny O’Neil threw 15 yards to tight end Josh Wilcox for the game’s only touchdown early in the fourth quarter in the comeback win. The Ducks made history instead of the Wildcats, earning their first 4-1 start in conference play since 1970.
The Wildcats led 9-0 at halftime on three Steve McLaughlin field goals. It was a defensive battle throughout with Oregon’s “Gang Green” matching the “Desert Swarm” every possession. The play of the game was a pass interference call against the UA’s Mike Scurlock on a fourth-and-5 at the Arizona 27 that helped set up O’Neil’s touchdown pass to Wilcox a play later with 12:17 left in the game.
It took the Wildcats about three years to recover from that Oregon loss and demoralizing finish to the 1994 season. They had a 20-18 record over that span before finishing 12-1 in 1998.
No. 34 — ASU ripe for picking in banana uniforms for “The Streak” to reach eight (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 35 — Arizona tries risky fake PAT to beat California but loses in epic 4 overtime game (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 36 — Veal to Hill “Hail Mary” pass highlights “The Streak” reaching seven games against ASU (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 37 — USC outlasts Arizona 48-41 in one of most wild games played in Tucson (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 38 — Arizona shows signs of life under Stoops with rout over No. 7 UCLA (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 39 — Art Luppino “The Cactus Comet” rockets toward 38 yards per carry and five touchdowns (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 40 — Fumblerooski enables Arizona to sweep USC, UCLA in L.A. for first time (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 41 — Sun Devil nemesis Dan White quarterbacks Arizona into Fiesta Bowl with win over ASU (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 42 — Struggling UA gets improbable win against ’83 Pac-10 champ UCLA (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 43 — Closing chapter of “The Streak” includes Arizona’s dramatic fourth-quarter heroics (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 44 — Arizona overcomes rival Texas Tech with unfathomable late-game rally (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 45 — Dick Tomey, the Desert Fox, does a number on UCLA by changing offense in midseason (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 46 — “The Streak” reaches three games, UA achieves best Pac-10 finish (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 47 — Arizona’s first game at Arizona Stadium in 1929, a 35-0 win over Cal Tech (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 48 — Underdog Arizona’s 2011 thriller over arch-rival Arizona State (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 49 — Arizona’s first win over arch-rival Arizona State, then known as Territorial Normal (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 50 — Arizona’s first win in program’s history: 22-5 over Tucson Indians (TucsonCitizen.com)