UA’s offense turns it on in last three wins vs. top 10 teams in Tucsonby Javier Morales on Sep. 16, 2010, under Sports
This is the third of a three-part recap of Arizona’s nine victories against AP Top 10 teams who have traveled to Tucson. The 24th-ranked Wildcats host No. 9 Iowa on Saturday, marking the first non-conference top 10 team to play in Tucson since No. 2 Miami, Fla., beat the Cats 36-9 on Oct. 26, 1991.
The theme in Arizona’s first six wins over Top 10 teams in Tucson is Arizona’s suffocating defensive performances under coaches Larry Smith and Dick Tomey. Ironically, the UA under Mike Stoops, a defensive coordinator at Oklahoma when he was hired in 2004, has averaged 40 points a game in its last three wins at Arizona Stadium over top 10 teams UCLA, Cal and Oregon in the last five years.
Defense still played a pivotal role, with UA All-American cornerback Antoine Cason at the forefront of the wins over Cal and Oregon. But the offense finally played a significant part as well.
One other note of interest in these three substantial victories: Arizona entered each game with a losing record.
Arizona 52, No. 7 UCLA 14 (Nov. 5, 2005 — 55,775 attendance)
In this rout of UCLA, freshman Willie Tuitama, in his second college start, threw for two early touchdowns and Arizona rolled for 519 yards against the previously unbeaten Bruins. Arizona (3-6) scored touchdowns on its first four possessions, led 31-7 at the half, then scored two touchdowns in a 53-second span early in the second half to go up 45-7, capped by Syndric Steptoe‘s 63-yard punt return for a TD.
The UA’s points scored (52) and scoring margin (38 points) stand as the most against a top 10 team in Tucson. The Bruins as heavy favorites did not fare so well in Tucson with this game and the 1980 loss when they were about to be the No. 1 team. UCLA is 2-2 as a top 10 team in Tucson.
Arizona 24, No. 8 Cal 20 (Nov. 11, 2006 — 56,021 attendance)
Cason returned an interception 39 yards for a TD to lead the host Wildcats to the upset, effectively ending Cal’s hopes of playing in a BCS bowl game.
With the game tied at 17 early in the fourth quarter, California quarterback Nate Longshore‘s pass to Byron Storer was picked off by Cason, who raced untouched down the sideline to give Arizona (5-5 with the win) its first lead of the game. Longshore threw three interceptions.
The Golden Bears (8-2) answered immediately with Longshore’s 44-yard pass to Lavelle Hawkins, who was alone behind the secondary but stumbled and was down at the Arizona 1. Cal failed to get into the end zone and settled for a 20-yard field goal by Tom Schneider. On Cal’s last possession, Longshore hit DeSean Jackson for an apparent 63-yard touchdown pass with 2:18 to play, but the score was nullified by a video review, which showed that Jackson stepped out at Arizona’s 41.
Arizona 34, No. 2 Oregon 24 (Nov. 15, 2007 — 50,387 attendance)
Cason returned an interception and a punt for touchdowns as Oregon lost its hopes for a national championship. Star quarterback Dennis Dixon was knocked out of the game with a knee injury 10 minutes into the first quarter.
Dixon scored the game’s first touchdown on a 39-yard run, but his absence — and the big returns by Cason — doomed the Ducks (8-2 after the loss). Cason put the Wildcats in front with a 42-yard interception return on the first play of the second quarter, and then returned a punt 56 yards to give Arizona (5-6) a 31-11 lead.
Tuitama and Mike Thomas were a deadly combination against the Ducks, hooking up six times for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Tuitama threw for 266 yards, completing 21 of 39 passes.