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. 13 as the kickoff to the Wildcats’ season — and the start of the Rich Rodriguez era — is only 13 days away.
SCORE: California Golden Bears 24, No. 13 Arizona Wildcats 20
DATE: Nov. 13, 1993
SITE: Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, Calif., 35,000 announced attendance
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: If Arizona and the “Desert Swarm” defense wins this game — the Cats were ahead 20-0 at halftime against a Cal team on a four-game losing streak — the UA smells roses for the first time. The Rose Bowl drought for Arizona would continue, however, as Cal scored 24 unanswered points in the second half, 17 of them in the fourth quarter, to pull off the upset.
Cal safety Eric Zomalt returned an interception thrown by UA quarterback Dan White for 35 yards for a score with 3:38 left and then broke up a last-second desperation pass from from White to Terry Vaughn into the end zone as the Golden Bears, 6-4 overall, pulled out the upset over the Wildcats (8-2).
Before the 24-point outburst in the second half, the Golden Bears went eight quarters without scoring.
“When you’re ahead most of the game, that’s the toughest one to lose,” White is quoted as saying in an Associated Press article. “A few mistakes here and there killed us.”
Lindsey Chapman’s one-yard touchdown run finished a seven-play, 58-yard drive that brought Cal to within 20-17 with 4:42 left. Arizona, which alternated White and Chuck Levy at quarterback, ran two plays and was facing second and eight from its 28 when White threw a pass that Zomalt turned into the deciding points.
The pass went to Vaughn, but the ball popped into the air after a hit by Ike Booth, and Zomalt caught the deflection in stride, running untouched down the left sideline for the score.
“I threw the ball and I thought he (Vaughn) caught it. Then I saw the guy running the other way,” White said in the AP article.
“They made the plays at the end. We didn’t,” Arizona Coach Dick Tomey is quoted as saying by the AP. “They deserve credit for coming back from a sizable deficit.”
Arizona’s “Desert Swarm” defense kept Cal in check as it took a 20-0 lead by scoring three touchdowns in the final 7:53 of the first half, two after Cal turnovers. Golden Bears quarterback Dave Barr, however, overcame nine sacks to throw for 263 yards in his first full game since suffering a shoulder bruise five weeks previously.
Tomey lamented a year later with Tucson Citizen columnist Corky Simpson about not sticking to the run late in the fourth quarter and allowing the “Desert Swarm” to win the game instead of passing and allowing Zomalt to put the Bears ahead with the interception.
“You don’t want to throw an interception deep in your own territory,” Tomey told Simpson. “If you’ve got a great defense, you want to kick it and play defense and try to win.
“If you’ll remember, last year at Cal we threw it … and they intercepted, scored a touchdown and won the game.”
The Wildcats beat ASU (34-20) and Miami (29-0) in the Fiesta Bowl to close out a 10-2 season, their first with at least 10 wins in a season. Cal (which had a 9-3 record) finished strong, beating Stanford (46-17) and Hawaii (42-18) on the road before routing Iowa (37-3) in the Alamo Bowl.
No. 14 — UA upsets No. 2 UCLA in 1980 when Bruins appeared ready to be No. 1 (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 15 — L.A. Times reporter: Arizona shows “fight of wildcats” in 1914 game vs. Occidental (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 16 — UA leads UCLA late in third quarter but loses big in 12-1 season (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 17 — Unranked Arizona upsets Ohio State, Woody Hayes in Buckeyes’ 1967 opener in Columbus (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 18 — Arizona and hasty coach Mudra lose Ultimatum Bowl to ASU in 1968 (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 19 — Arizona keeps “The Streak” without loss to ASU alive in ’87 with bizarre finish that ends in tie (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 20 — Arizona fit to be tied with Cal despite leading 26-3 in third quarter (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 21 — Zendejas’ last-second 45-yard FG vs. ASU generates momentum for “The Streak” to endure (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 22 — Arizona wins its first bowl behind “Heat-seeking Missile” Chuck Cecil (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 23 — Collapse vs. Utah after leading 27-0 in fourth quarter changed the face of UA football (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 24 — UA shuts out ASU, Kush during dominating run for Sun Devils coach (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 25 — Arizona’s defense and Doug Pfaff’s last-second FG enough to upset sixth-ranked Oklahoma (WildAboutAZCats.com)
No. 26 — UA upsets ASU from Fiesta Bowl consideration in program’s best stretch (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 27 — Trung Canidate rushes for record 288 yards and three long TDs in ’98 shootout against ASU (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 28 — UA dominates No. 3 SMU, highest ranked non-conference foe to lose to Cats (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 29 — Arizona stuns second-ranked Oregon in most significant victory in Mike Stoops era (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 30 — Arizona win on last-second FG over ASU ends Kush dominance in series (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 31 — Arizona reaches its zenith under Stoops with victory over Brigham Young in Las Vegas Bowl (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 32 — Arizona owed Cal a couple, knock Bears out of BCS title, Rose Bowl run (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 33 — Arizona’s 10-9 loss at Oregon in 1994, derailing its Rose Bowl hopes, still hurts (WildAboutAZCats.net)
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)