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.