Arizona Wildcats 2018 countdown to kickoff: 25 days

We have reached 25 days until the Arizona Wildcats kick off their 2018 campaign under new coach Kevin Sumlin. The season begins 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.

The season marks some substantial anniversaries. It is the 40th anniversary since the Wildcats left the WAC to join 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.

To catch up on the countdown — which included in-depth analysis and reader polls on The Great Debate of which team was better — 1993 or 1998 — click on this: Arizona Wildcats 2018 countdown to kickoff.

Top 25 developments in Pac-10/12 era

Over the last part of the countdown we will rank the top 25 developments of Arizona’s Pac-10/12 existence that started in 1978 when it arrived with ASU from the WAC. The ranking will include player highlights, team accomplishments, coaching moves and other off-field developments.

No. 25

Darryll Lewis’ 1990 season

Lewis, who started his career at Arizona in 1987 as a running back, established himself as one of Arizona’s all-time greats at cornerback, earning the Jim Thorpe Award (given to the nation’s top defensive back) in 1990. He was also a unanimous All-American as a senior that year. He was chosen the Pac-10 co-Defensive Player of the Year, with Washington defensive tackle Steve Emtman.

“He was a spectacular competitor,” former Arizona coach Dick Tomey said in a Tucson Citizen article. “He made play after play.”

Lewis made a highlight-reel play with against UCLA in 1990 with a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown in the final minute, lifting the Wildcats to a 28-21 win in Pasadena. Lewis’ overall performance in the third game of the season was even more remarkable. He intercepted two passes, returning one 52 yards for a touchdown, and made the game-saving tackle in a 22-17 victory over Oregon.

Darryll Lewis reacts to stopping Oregon quarterback Bill Musgrave at the goalline in 1990, prserving the Wildcats’ lead in a close victory (YouTube video capture)

On a fourth-and-goal play from the 1, Ducks quarterback Bill Musgrave rolled to his right and made a dash for the corner of the end zone. Lewis came from the back of the end zone, and leveled a hit on Musgrave that turned the quarterback sideways and out of bounds inside the 1.

“It’s absolutely the last play of the game, it’s absolutely do or die … I mean, what a play,” Tomey said.

Lewis led the Pac-10 with seven interceptions that season, also ranking fourth in punt returns with a 10.0-yard average. His 14 career interceptions rank fifth in school history. He was the second first-team AP All-American in school history.

A look back at No. 25

— The best Wildcat to wear No. 25 was Tucson’s own Ka’Deem Carey, who set records at tailback for the Wildcats in 2011 to 2013 after starring at Canyon del Oro. In 13 games of his sophomore season in 2012, he rushed for 1,929 yards on 303 carries with 23 touchdowns, which broke the Arizona single-season record for both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. On November 10, 2012 Carey set the Pac-12 record for rushing yards in a game with 366 against Colorado. On Dec. 11, 2012 Carey was named a 2012 consensus All-American at the running back position. In 2013, he finished the season with 1,885 yards on 349 carries and 19 touchdowns and was a consensus All-American for the second straight season. He holds the Arizona career rushing record with 4,239 yards despite playing on three years before foregoing his senior season for a shot at the NFL. His 48 rushing touchdowns is also a school record.

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Wearing No. 25 now

Fourth-year junior running back Anthony Mariscal is wearing No. 25. He has played 11 games in his Arizona career as a “spur” safety before switching this season to the offensive side of the ball.

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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.

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