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. 37 as the kickoff to the Wildcats’ season — and the start of the Rich Rodriguez era — is only 37 days away.
SCORE: USC Trojans 48, Arizona Wildcats 41
DATE: Nov. 13, 1982
SITE: Arizona Stadium, 55,110 in attendance
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Although it was a loss for Arizona, this game not only merits a ranking, it has to be considered one of the most exciting games to be played at Arizona Stadium. Think of it this way: How many games have four interceptions returned for a touchdown? USC had three of them off UA quarterback Tom Tunnicliffe, tying an NCAA record. Tunnicliffe still managed to pass for 303 yards and three touchdowns in the wild game that gave the Wildcats the distinction at the time for having the most points for a losing team in Pac-10 history.
The game also had postseason implications for Arizona, which was 5-2-1 and on a four-game winning streak — started with a 16-13 win at No. 9 Notre Dame. USC, 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the conference after the win, was ineligible for postseason play because it was in the first year of a two-year NCAA probation for recruiting violations. The loss to the Trojans followed by an upset 13-7 defeat at previously winless Oregon the following week effectively knocked Arizona out of a potential bowl.
The 48-41 loss to USC also featured four lost fumbles by the Trojans — three in the first quarter — and an interception for a return for a touchdown — also in the first quarter — by Arizona linebacker Steve Boadway. The Wildcats mustered only a 13-3 lead after those four USC miscues, settling for field goals of 19 and 26 yards by Max Zendejas (who also missed from 43 yards). USC’s defense, which ranked in the top five of most of the major national defensive categories, held firm.