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. 12 as the kickoff to the Wildcats’ season — and the start of the Rich Rodriguez era — is only 12 days away.
SCORE: Arizona Wildcats 16, No. 20 ASU Sun Devils 13
DATE: Nov. 23, 1985
SITE: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, 72,345 (largest crowd at a sporting event in Arizona at the time)
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Poor John Cooper. Yes, the former ASU coach guided the Sun Devils to their first Rose Bowl appearance in 1986, but he never beat the Arizona Wildcats in three tries. In the season Cooper and ASU went to the Rose Bowl, the Wildcats dominated the Sun Devils at Arizona Stadium in a 34-17 win. In the season after in Tempe, all the Sun Devils had to do was get a punt off in the waning seconds to beat the Wildcats. The punter fumbled and Arizona tied the game on a field goal to extend “The Streak” to six games without a loss to the Sun Devils. Cooper then left to Ohio State.
The fourth game in “The Streak” — Arizona’s unlikely win in 1985 — happened because of the foot of place-kicker Max Zendejas and the questionable play calling of Cooper (who was in his first season in Tempe).
All the Sun Devils needed was a tie against Arizona to advance to the Rose Bowl after they learned that first-place UCLA lost earlier in the day to USC. ASU, 8-2 and on a six-game winning streak, appeared headed to Pasadena with the game tied at 13-13 and 3:30 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Sun Devils had possession after advancing 12 yards from its 20 to the 32.
Cooper called a running play on first down to eat some more clock. But instead of executing at least two running plays to chew up more clock, Cooper went with the high-risk choices of passing on second and third down. The risk backfired. After quarterback Jeff Van Raaphorst threw an incompletion on second down, Arizona nose guard Stan Mataele sacked Van Raaphorst and caused a fumble, which Mataele recovered at the ASU 20.
That gave Zendejas the opportunity to make a game-winning 32-yard field goal with 1:43 left as the Wildcats prevented their rivals from the Rose Bowl for the second time in four years. ASU also needed at least a tie in 1982 to advance to the Rose Bowl under Darryl Rogers but lost 28-18 in Tucson — the beginning of “The Streak”.