No. 22 — Arizona wins its first bowl behind “Heat-seeking Missile” Chuck Cecilby Javier Morales on Aug. 10, 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. 22 as the kickoff to the Wildcats’ season — and the start of the Rich Rodriguez era — is only 22 days away.
SCORE: Arizona Wildcats 30, North Carolina Tar Heels 21
DATE: Dec. 27, 1986
SITE: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii — 26,743 in attendance
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Arizona capitalized on big defensive plays in the Aloha Bowl to coast to its first victory in a bowl game in school history after 65 years and five tries. The Wildcats were 0-4-1 in bowls before this game. The tie — a 13-13 standoff with Georgia in the Sun Bowl — occurred a year earlier.
The game was also the last at Arizona for seven-year coach Larry Smith, who accepted the head coaching position at USC. Ironically, his replacement, Dick Tomey, coached Hawaii at the very stadium Smith ended his Wildcat stint. Smith, who passed away at age 68 in 2008, became the first and last UA coach to win his final game as a Wildcat coach since 1951 when Bob Winslow’s team capped a 6-5 season with a 32-21 win over — you guessed it — Hawaii.
Seven coaches led the Wildcats between Winslow and Smith. Winslow, by the way, was a star defensive end for USC. He was forced out at Arizona after three brief years because his team lost 61-14 at ASU earlier in the 1951 season and other off-the-field matters, including a chicken-stealing incident involving a player.
All-American free safety Chuck Cecil, the MVP of the Aloha Bowl in 1986, led a defense that forced five fumbles against North Carolina. Senior tailback David Adams finished his career with 81 yards rushing and a touchdown and three receptions for 77 yards. Offensive MVP Alfred Jenkins completed 12 of 28 passes for 187 yards and a score.
A Jim Birmingham fumble recovery led to a 31-yard Gary Coston field goal to begin the scoring. Later, Boomer Gibson partially blocked a punt, and the Cats put seven more on the board with an Adams one-yard run. Danny Lockett’s sack of Mark Maye caused a fumble, and the Cats cashed in with another Coston field goal for a 13-0 halftime lead.
Arizona’s Jeff Valder booted a 52-yard field goal to set an Aloha Bowl record in the third quarter. Then Cecil clobbered Jonathan Hall, and Jerry Beasley recovered the fumble at the Tar Heel 30. Jenkins found Jon Horton from 13 yards out for the quick score. Another Tar Heel fumble led to Art Greathouse’s 5=yard scoring run, and the Cats were in control 30-0.
The Tar Heels rallied for three touchdowns in the second half, but the UA defense held firm in the last nine minutes.
“At the half, we had controlled the game,” Smith told reporters. “Then the guys must have started thinking about bikinis.”
Former Arizona assistant coach Duane Akina recounted a story with TucsonCitizen.com’s Anthony Gimino about Cecil in the Aloha Bowl while Akina was working with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. Akina scouted Adams in the Aloha Bowl and Cecil caught his eye.
“Chuck had some great hits. I remember sitting in the stands going, ‘God, I wonder who that kid is?’” Akina told Gimino after Cecil was chosen to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Cecil was directly responsible for two fumbles against the Tar Heels. A three-time Pac-10 All-Academic selection as a safety, Cecil was given the nickname “Heat-Seeking Missile” by a North Carolina assistant coach afterward because of his bone-jarring tackles.
No. 23 — Collapse vs. Utah after leading 27-0 in fourth quarter changed the face of UA football (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 24 — UA shuts out ASU, Kush during dominating run for Sun Devils coach (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 25 — Arizona’s defense and Doug Pfaff’s last-second FG enough to upset sixth-ranked Oklahoma (WildAboutAZCats.com)
No. 26 — UA upsets ASU from Fiesta Bowl consideration in program’s best stretch (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 27 — Trung Canidate rushes for record 288 yards and three long TDs in ’98 shootout against ASU (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 28 — UA dominates No. 3 SMU, highest ranked non-conference foe to lose to Cats (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 29 — Arizona stuns second-ranked Oregon in most significant victory in Mike Stoops era (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 30 — Arizona win on last-second FG over ASU ends Kush dominance in series (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 31 — Arizona reaches its zenith under Stoops with victory over Brigham Young in Las Vegas Bowl (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 32 — Arizona owed Cal a couple, knock Bears out of BCS title, Rose Bowl run (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 33 — Arizona’s 10-9 loss at Oregon in 1994, derailing its Rose Bowl hopes, still hurts (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 34 — ASU ripe for picking in banana uniforms for “The Streak” to reach eight (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 35 — Arizona tries risky fake PAT to beat California but loses in epic 4 overtime game (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 36 — Veal to Hill “Hail Mary” pass highlights “The Streak” reaching seven games against ASU (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 37 — USC outlasts Arizona 48-41 in one of most wild games played in Tucson (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 38 — Arizona shows signs of life under Stoops with rout over No. 7 UCLA (TucsonCitizen.com)
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)