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. 26 as the kickoff to the Wildcats’ season — and the start of the Rich Rodriguez era — is only 26 days away.
SCORE: Arizona Wildcats 28, No. 12 ASU Sun Devils 16
DATE: Nov. 28, 1997
SITE: Sun Devil Stadium, 73,682 in attendance
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Talk about a reversal of fortunes: ASU was playing at home with a five-game winning streak, ranked No. 12 in the nation with an eye on a Fiesta Bowl bid with a victory over an Arizona team on a nine-game road losing streak. The Cats were 5-5 overall, including 1-4 against ranked teams. The Wildcats dominated from the start, however, in what turned out to be one victory in the middle of a 16-1 run from 1997 to 1998 for the Wildcats — the best stretch in the program’s history. The Sun Devils regressed to a 5-6 record the following year.
Ortege Jenkins, a redshirt freshman who started the 1997 season as a wide receiver, threw three first-half touchdown passes and linebacker Chester Burnett made two key plays in the fourth quarter in Arizona’s upset victory at Sun Devil Stadium. Arizona, which beat New Mexico in the Copper Bowl to end the season, stunned the Tempe crowd by taking a 21-0 lead.
Jenkins threw for 182 of his 194 yards in the first half, leading the Wildcats to a 28-7 advantage. Keith Smith also tossed a touchdown pass in the first half.
“In the first half, we were just rolling,” Jenkins told reporters. “I had great protection. Any quarterback who has five or six seconds to throw the ball can make completions.”