Update: Adds comments from 1981 team member Julius Holt previous story
Think Arizona does not stand a chance against No. 1 Oregon in Autzen Stadium on Friday?
Try telling that to the 1981 edition of the Wildcats, who did the unthinkable: Upset No. 1 USC and Marcus Allen at the Coliseum after trailing 10-0 in the second quarter. The Cats rallied to win 13-10 on Oct. 10, 1981, behind sophomore quarterback Tom Tunnicliffe‘s 293 yards passing and a defense that yielded only 297 yards in total offense, 186 yards under the Trojans’ average.
“We were not afraid or not intimidated by USC,” an emphatic Randy Robbins, a sophomore defensive back with that team, indicated to me this week.
The 1981 team coached by the late Larry Smith – the only team in school history to beat a No. 1-ranked team on the road — and the current group of players and coaches are probably the only people who believe a win is achievable Friday. Other than that, the bandwagon is pretty bare, abandoned by most Arizona fans who cringe at the thought of the beleaguered Cats facing the high-octane Oregon offense after looking pedestrian in consecutive defeats to Stanford and USC.
“We’ve been underdogs since the start of the season,” Arizona cornerback Robert Golden said after the Wildcats lost to USC 24-21 on Nov. 13. “That’s OK. Let people think that way.”
The best way to channel that us-against-the-world mentality? Free-spirited Jay Dobyns, a freshman wide receiver in 1981, has a unique suggestion for the Cats.
“Play like wild men,” Dobyns told me this week when asked what he would tell the current Cats if he had the chance to address the team before the game.
“You wanna be the champ? Then you gotta knock out the guy with the belt. So punch him in the head as hard as you can as many times as possible and live with what happens.”
Dobyns, a former undercover agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, has no fear. He has been shot in the back at point-blank range and he infiltrated the Hell’s Angels.
Beating Oregon on the road is tame compared to that.