No. 38 — Arizona shows signs of life under Stoops with rout over No. 7 UCLAby Javier Morales on Jul. 25, 2012, under Sports
In the 50 days leading up to Arizona’s season-opener against Toledo, on Sept. 1 at Arizona Stadium, TucsonCitizen.com and its affiliate WildAboutAZCats.net will rank the Top 50 games in the history of the football program. The ranking is at No. 38 as the kickoff to the Wildcats’ season — and the start of the Rich Rodriguez era — is only 38 days away.
SCORE: Arizona Wildcats 52, UCLA Bruins 14
DATE: Nov. 5, 2005
SITE: Arizona Stadium, 55,775 in attendance
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: UCLA was ranked No. 7 in the country with eight victories without a loss in 2005. Arizona, meanwhile, under second-year coach Mike Stoops, had only won five games in two seasons in the post-John Mackovic era heading into this game. Some would argue this game deserves to be rated higher in the Top 50 list because UCLA was the highest-ranked team to lose to Arizona since the Wildcats beat No. 1 Washington 16-3 in Tucson on Nov. 7, 1992. The Bruins, however, were not as invincible as their record suggested.
They were 5-0 in the Pac-10, but in four of those games, they won by a combined 17 points, including overtime wins over Washington State and Stanford. The Bruins had come from behind in the fourth quarter to win in three of their previous four games, including erasing a 21-point deficit a week previously against a Stanford team that finished 5-6. UCLA lost 66-19 two weeks later against No. 1 USC for the Pac-10 championship. Arizona also had a significant win before that with Stoops, winning in Tucson against No. 18 ASU 34-27 to end his first season in 2004. The Sun Devils were also not overwhelmingly great, either, losing to USC and Cal by a combined score of 72-7 that season.
The rout over UCLA in 2005 is worth rating at No. 38 because it signaled a rebirth in Arizona football under Stoops, who took over a program that went 11-24 in three seasons under Mackovic and interim coach Mike Hankwitz (who led the Wildcats for the last seven games of the 2003 season after Mackovic was fired).
Arizona, which lost 19 of its previous 21 Pac-10 home games, rushed for 320 yards against the Bruins. Mike Bell had 153 yards in 16 attempts, including an 8-yard touchdown run. Gilbert Harris added a career-best 116 yards in 16 attempts, one of them a 17-yarder for a score. Willie Tuitama, an 18-year-old freshman in his second college start, threw for two early touchdowns and Arizona rolled for 519 yards.
Tuitama was supposed to sit the season as a redshirt, but Stoops decided to activate him after starter Richard Kovalcheck threw 11 interceptions in eight games. The team was 2-0 in Tuitama’s two starts, including the win over UCLA, after that decision. He completed his first seven passes against the Bruins, two of them for touchdowns. His 48-yarder over the middle to Mike Thomas, after checking off the play at the line of scrimmage, put Arizona ahead 21-0 with 1:41 left in the first quarter. Thomas, a freshman, caught five passes for 104 yards. In addition to the 48-yard touchdown catch he had a 17-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
“It’s not an upset,” Wildcats safety Darrell Brooks told reporters after the game. “We knew we were going to do this all along. You can ask anyone in this locker room.”
Arizona, which finished 3-8, would lose its last two games against Washington and ASU, but it was obvious that the Wildcats were turning the corner under Stoops.
No. 39 — Art Luppino “The Cactus Comet” rockets toward 38 yards per carry and five touchdowns (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 40 — Fumblerooski enables Arizona to sweep USC, UCLA in L.A. for first time (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 41 — Sun Devil nemesis Dan White quarterbacks Arizona into Fiesta Bowl with win over ASU (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 42 — Struggling UA gets improbable win against ’83 Pac-10 champ UCLA (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 43 — Closing chapter of “The Streak” includes Arizona’s dramatic fourth-quarter heroics (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 44 — Arizona overcomes rival Texas Tech with unfathomable late-game rally (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 45 — Dick Tomey, the Desert Fox, does a number on UCLA by changing offense in midseason (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 46 — “The Streak” reaches three games, UA achieves best Pac-10 finish (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 47 — Arizona’s first game at Arizona Stadium in 1929, a 35-0 win over Cal Tech (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 48 — Underdog Arizona’s 2011 thriller over arch-rival Arizona State (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 49 — Arizona’s first win over arch-rival Arizona State, then known as Territorial Normal (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 50 — Arizona’s first win in program’s history: 22-5 over Tucson Indians (TucsonCitizen.com)