Arizona’s season opener against NAU at Arizona Stadium on Sept. 2 is 26 days away. To go along with the countdown to kickoff, this site will publish the Top 50 games in Wildcat football history.
SCORE: Arizona Wildcats 17, ASU Sun Devils 15
DATE: Nov. 28, 1983
SITE: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, 70,033
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: In the battle of the Zendejas brothers — ASU’s Luis Zendejas and UA’s Max Zendejas — Arizona got the maximum out of its place-kicker and received the push it needed to generate “The Streak” — the Wildcats’ nine-year unbeaten run against ASU.
Max Zendejas kicked a dramatic 45-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Sun Devils in front of a hostile crowd in Tempe. The Wildcats wilted the Sun Devils’ Rose Bowl hopes a year before with a 28-18 win in Tucson. Zendejas’ game-winner in 1983 not only gave the UA consecutive wins over ASU for the first time since 1961 and 1962, it provided the momentum for the Wildcats to prolong “The Streak” with the next game in Tucson, which Arizona won 16-10.
From there, the dominoes fell until 1990.
Luis Zendejas, Max’s older brother, kicked field goals of 33, 23 and 36 yards, giving him 28 for the season and tying the single-season NCAA mark set by West Virginia’s Paul Woodside.
He also established most points scored by kicking in a season (112) and three seasons (295). But Max stole the show in the end (at the 3:13 mark of the accompanying YouTube video).
Trailing 14-6 at halftime, ASU went ahead 15-14 on a Todd Hons’ touchdown pass with 13:18 remaining. A two-point conversion attempt failed. The Sun Devils got the ball at their 20 with 5:38 left but could not run time off the clock as they quickly went three downs and out against an Arizona defense anchored by All-American linebacker Ricky Hunley.
Behind the leadership of senior quarterback Tom Tunnicliffe, the Wildcats drove from their 37 with 4:44 remaining to the ASU 28. Arizona coach Larry Smith called a timeout on third-and-1 with three seconds left to set up Max Zendejas’ heroics.
Arizona finished 7-3-1, its first season with at least seven wins since 1975. ASU dropped to 6-4-1 under Darryl Rogers.
The Wildcats started the 1983 season 4-0 and ranked No. 3 in the country but went 3-3-1 the rest of the season after tying California 33-33 at Berkeley, Calif., despite leading 26-3 in the second half.
“We set our goals high, so some people have said we’ve fallen flat on our faces,” Smith told the media after the victory over ASU.
Smith disagreed with that assessment and was proud the Wildcats won their last two games in 1983 against UCLA and ASU following a three-game losing streak to Oregon, Stanford and Washington.
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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.