We have reached the 50-day mark until the Arizona Wildcats kick off their 2018 season under new coach Kevin Sumlin.
The season kicks off when Arizona hosts BYU on Sept. 1 at Arizona Stadium.
To get ready for the upcoming season, All Sports Tucson offers another countdown, which will include memories from former Wildcats, history notes and a look ahead to the season. Think of it as a way to keep Arizona football on the mind in the summer months leading up to fall camp in early August and then kickoff against the Cougars marking the start of the Sumlin Era.
To catch up on the countdown click on this: Arizona Wildcats 2018 countdown to kickoff.
1993 vs. 1998
The season marks some substantial anniversaries. It is the 40th anniversary since the Wildcats joined the Pac-12 (went from the Pac-8 to the Pac-10 then) and also the 20th anniversary of the 1998 team with the best record in school history, 12-1, and the 25th anniversary of the 1993 team that went 10-2 with a win over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.
A debate among Arizona followers has developed in recent years over which team was better — the 1993 team that brought the program the famed Desert Swarm defense (one of the top units in the history of college football) or the 1998 team that finished No. 4 in the nation and came basically a half away against UCLA from going unbeaten.
My colleague Anthony Gimino wrote about this debate for the Tucson Citizen in 2013.
Both teams were coached by Dick Tomey.
Let’s dive right into this debate with polls dealing with positions. First up: Offensive lines.
1993 offensive line: LT Mu Tagoai, LG Pulu Poumele, C Hicham El-Mashtoub, RG Warner Smith and RT Joe Smigiel. Notes: Three of the linemen have sadly passed away — Tagaoi, Poumele and Smith. … Smith was a first-team All-Pac-10 selection in 1994 … El-Mashtoub was a second team all-conference pick in 1994 and was selected in the sixth round of the 1995 NFL draft by the then Houston Oilers.
Key stats: 2,281 yards rushing on 569 carries (average of 4.0 yards per carry) with 18 rushing touchdowns. Allowed 17 sacks in 12 games.
1998 offensive line: LT Edwin Mulitalo, LG Steven Grace, C Bruce Wiggins, RG Yusuf Scott and RT Manu Savea. Notes: Mulitalo was a second team All-Pac-10 choice in 1998. He was drafted in the fourth round by Baltimore in 1999. He recently became the first former UA football player to become a head coach at the college level at Southern Virginia. … Grace was a second team all-conference pick in 1999. … Wiggins was also a second-team choice. … Scott was a 1998 Football News second-team All-American and an Associated Press third team All-American. He won the Pac-10 Morris Trophy in 1998 as the league’s best offensive lineman. He was a first team All-Pac-10 pick that year. He was also selected in the fifth round of the NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals. … Savea was taken in the seventh round by the Cleveland Browns.
Key stats: 2,561 yards rushing on 523 carries (4.9 yards a carry) with 34 rushing touchdowns. Allowed 21 sacks in 13 games.
A look back at No. 50
— With it being the 50th day until kickoff, the best player to wear No. 50 for Arizona? That can be answered in a couple of ways. In terms of most decorated, center Paul Hatcher (1954-56) was a two-time All-Border Conference selection and is a member of the Arizona Hall of Fame. In terms of a player who has meant the most to this community — and was a contributing force on the field especially in Arizona’s memorable 1982 season — that has to be former defensive tackle/linebacker Julius Holt.
Holt is the director of Tucson Youth Football (TYF), which helps the community’s youth mature and prosper in a competitive setting. He played on the 1982 team that upset No. 9 Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., and No. 6-ranked ASU, preventing the Sun Devils from reaching the Rose Bowl. That team also tied No. 8 UCLA and nearly beat No. 16 USC in a 48-41 thriller. This was done under the cloud of an NCAA probation that would be served in 1983 and 1984 for violations from the previous staff.
Another good No. 50 — Bill Nemeth (1966-67), who was All-WAC in 1966, All-Academic in 1967 and graduated from Arizona’s medical school.
A look ahead to 2018
Wearing No. 50 this year is sophomore offensive lineman Josh McCauley, who saw action as a reserve in three games last season.
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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.