Arizona Football

Rivalry Week: Top 15 Arizona victories over ASU (Nos. 6-4)

Arizona faces ASU in the latest chapter of the Territorial Cup on Saturday in Tempe. This site will publish this week in the days leading up to the game Arizona’s top 15 victories in the series. Make sure to catch up on the series by clicking on this link: Top 15 Arizona wins over ASU.

NO. 6

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.

Arizona Daily Star clippings of Arizona’s 17-15 win over ASU in 1983 in Tempe.

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.

Max Zendejas made this game-winning 45 yarder at ASU as time expired in 1983

UA place-kicker Max Zendejas sets up for his game-winning 45-yard field goal against ASU in 1983 (Click on photo to access YouTube video)[/caption]

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.

NO. 5

SCORE: Arizona Wildcats 24, ASU Sun Devils 24

DATE: Nov. 28, 1987

SITE: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, 70,839

WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Arizona had three ties in 1987, including this zany outcome in Dick Tomey’s first season with the Wildcats in which the Wildcats were 4-4-3. The program had 33 ties overall before the NCAA instituted overtime in 1996. Some of Arizona’s most memorable games were ties, including this game, the 33-33 outcome with Cal in 1983, the 13-13 game with Georgia in the 1985 Sun Bowl and 14-14 sister-kisser at Nebraska in 1961.

Arizona Daily Star clipping of Arizona’s tie with ASU in 1987 that kept the Wildcats’ unbeaten streak against the Sun Devils alive.

As the accompanying YouTube video (2:25 mark) suggests, all ASU had to do was punt the ball late in the game and the Sun Devils most likely would have won. But the craziest thing happened. ASU punter Mike Schuh fumbled the snap and then was flagged for an illegal kick (trying to kick the ball on the ground) and All-American safety Chuck Cecil recovered.

The NCAA rule back then was a fumbled snap on a punt could not be recovered and advanced. If today’s rule was enforced, Cecil could have returned Schuh’s fumble for a touchdown and the Wildcats likely would have won.

The ball was placed at the ASU 13 on the penalty and Gary Coston nailed a 30-yard field goal as time expired to tie the game for Arizona. The Cats celebrated on the Sun Devil Stadium turf as if they were victorious. The outcome ended the UA’s winning run in “The Streak” but the Wildcats remained undefeated in the historic 1982-1990 stretch against their arch-rivals.

“A tie is like kissing your sister only if she’s good-looking,” ASU coach John Cooper told the media. “They might be celebrating in the other locker room, but I can tell you our players are taking it as a heartbreaking loss.

“It’s hard to take because we thought we had it won. But the lesson we learned is the game’s not over until it’s over.”

The Sun Devils took a 24-21 lead on Alan Zendejas’ 40-yard field goal with 2:45 remaining. ASU cornerback Eric Allen appeared to seal the victory with an interception at the Sun Devil 30 with 1:21 left. But Schuh, a junior who handled 161 previous snaps without a fumble in his career, dropped this one with 13 seconds left and Cecil recovered at the Sun Devil 25-yard line.

The ball was moved half the distance to the goal on the penalty in which Schuh unsuccessfully tried to kick the ball forward while it was on the ground during the bizarre play. Coston made his field goal two plays later before a stunned, standing-room-only crowd of 70,839 at Sun Devil Stadium and a national television audience.

ASU, the defending Pac-10 champs that season, finished the regular season 6-4-1 overall. Arizona’s 4-4-3 record helped it avoid the school’s first losing season since 1980, when the Wildcats went 5-6.

“I don’t like ties, but we’ll take this one. It’s a moral victory if nothing else,” Tomey said afterward. “This is our third tie this year and I wish we could play them all off. But this tie is the best of them.”

It was the first tie in the Arizona-ASU series, which started in 1899. It also was the fifth time in the last 10 meetings that a field goal in the last minute decided the rivalry game.

NO. 4

SCORE: Arizona Wildcats 16, No. 20 ASU Sun Devils 13

DATE: Nov. 23, 1985

SITE: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, 72,345 (largest crowd at a sporting event in Arizona at the time)

WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Poor John Cooper. Yes, the former ASU coach guided the Sun Devils to their first Rose Bowl appearance in 1986, but he never beat the Arizona Wildcats in three tries. In the season Cooper and ASU went to the Rose Bowl, the Wildcats dominated the Sun Devils at Arizona Stadium in a 34-17 win. In the season after in Tempe, all the Sun Devils had to do was get a punt off in the waning seconds to beat the Wildcats. The punter fumbled and Arizona tied the game on a field goal to extend “The Streak” to six games without a loss to the Sun Devils. Cooper then left to Ohio State.

Arizona Republic clipping of Arizona’s upset win over ASU in 1985.

The fourth game in “The Streak” — Arizona’s unlikely win in 1985 — happened because of the foot of place-kicker Max Zendejas and the questionable play calling of Cooper (who was in his first season in Tempe).

All the Sun Devils needed was a tie against Arizona to advance to the Rose Bowl after they learned that first-place UCLA lost earlier in the day to USC.

ASU, 8-2 and on a six-game winning streak, appeared headed to Pasadena with the game tied at 13-13 and 3:30 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Sun Devils had possession after advancing 12 yards from their 20 to the 32.

Cooper called a running play on first down to eat some more clock. But instead of executing at least two running plays to chew up more clock, Cooper went with the high-risk choices of passing on second and third down. The risk backfired. After quarterback Jeff Van Raaphorst threw an incompletion on second down, Arizona nose guard Stan Mataele sacked Van Raaphorst and caused a fumble, which Mataele recovered at the ASU 20.

That gave Zendejas the opportunity to make a game-winning 32-yard field goal with 1:43 left as the Wildcats prevented their rivals from the Rose Bowl for the second time in four years. ASU also needed at least a tie in 1982 to advance to the Rose Bowl under Darryl Rogers but lost 28-18 in Tucson — the beginning of “The Streak”.

“Would I go for a tie this time? Yes, sir, I’m smarter now,” Cooper was quoted as saying by The Los Angeles Times following the 1985 season. “It was a good ballgame, and we played pretty well. But people around here say you’ve got to do two things — beat the U of A and go to the Rose Bowl.”

In the 1985 game, ASU had averaged 42 yards punting against Arizona, which was ineffective on offense that evening. The Wildcats finished with only 186 total yards on offense, compared to ASU’s 362. The Wildcats had only 10 first downs to the Sun Devils’ 23. The UA’s special teams accounted for all 16 points in the game. Playing close to the vest — instead of passing on second and third down — was the wise choice for ASU with the Rose Bowl in the balance.

Other mistakes — and Arizona’s opportunistic defense and special-teams plays — also cost ASU.

— On their final drive of the first half, the Sun Devils advanced from midfield to the Arizona 17. With eight seconds left, Cooper did not elect to try a 34-yard field goal. Instead, a Van Raaphorst pass was intercepted. The game remained tied 3-3 at the half.

Arizona Daily Star clipping of Arizona’s upset win over ASU in 1985.

— With ASU leading 13-3 in the third quarter, the Sun Devils’ Anthony Parker elected to catch and run a punt from the ASU 16-yard line instead of calling for a fair catch or letting the punt go potentially to the end zone for a touchback.

Instead, Parker was stripped of the ball by Arizona linebacker Byron Evans on the return. The ball bounced into the ASU end zone and Don Be’Ans recovered for the touchdown, cutting the ASU lead to 13-10. A fair catch by Parker would have secured ASU’s 13-3 lead over an Arizona team that ran the ball 39 times for only 44 yards.

The Parker fumble and Arizona touchdown was sweet justice for Evans, who is from Phoenix and wanted to play at ASU but was not recruited by the Sun Devils. Evans never lost to ASU while at Arizona.

— At the start of the fourth quarter, ASU drove the ball from its 20 to the Arizona 5, setting up a 22-yard field-goal try for freshman kicker Kent Bostrom. He missed the kick that would have given ASU a 16-10 lead.

— Zendejas missed a 52-yard field goal attempt later in the fourth quarter, but the left side of the Wildcat line moved just before the snap. The dead-ball foul nullified the miss and made it mandatory to penalize the Wildcats five yards. Arizona coach Larry Smith did not hesitate to allow Zendejas to try again from 57 yards out with 5:29 remaining.

Zendejas tied a school record with the 57-yard attempt, easily clearing the cross bar by at least 10 yards. The kick, dead center, tied him with Lee Pistor for the longest field goal in Arizona history. It also tied the game with ASU at 13 and set up Zendejas’ game-winner from 32 yards with 1:43 remaining in the game. In 1983, Zendejas made a 45-yard field goal as time expired to give the UA a 17-15 victory in Tempe.

“I’m pretty sure they hate me here,” Zendejas was quoted as saying by The Arizona Republic. “I’m just glad I got the opportunity. It’s something I dream about. I’m always looking for glory.”

The Wildcats’ win gave them consecutive victories against ASU at Sun Devil Stadium for the first time. Arizona beat ASU at Goodwin Stadium, the previous Tempe venue, on consecutive times in 1953 and 1955.

Arizona and ASU finished tied with UCLA for first place in the Pac-10 with two losses. The conference played an uneven schedule back then as UCLA finished 6-2 and Arizona and ASU were 5-2. UCLA won the tie-breaker because it beat ASU and Arizona in head-to-head competition. ASU lost 18-17 to Arkansas in the Holiday Bowl while Arizona tied Georgia 13-13 in the Sun Bowl to close out the season.

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! 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, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, 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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