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. 32 as the kickoff to the Wildcats’ season — and the start of the Rich Rodriguez era — is only 32 days away.
SCORE: Arizona Wildcats 24, No. 8 California Golden Bears 20
DATE: Nov. 11, 2006
SITE: Arizona Stadium, 55,519 in attendance
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Arizona fans and its players on the 1983 and 1993 teams must have really enjoyed this one in Tucson. Those were the years Cal rallied at home to force the Wildcats off the road toward a prosperous finish, including a trip to the Rose Bowl. This was Arizona’s turn to derail the Golden Bears, who had a BCS title and Rose Bowl appearance in their sight.
The Golden Bears tied Arizona 33-33 in 1983 despite trailing 26-3 early in the second half. The UA was 4-0 and ranked No. 3 in the nation heading into that game. The Wildcats finished 7-3-1. Ten years later, Cal upended the UA — ironically by the same 24-20 score — effectively knocking the Cats (atop the Pac-10 at 5-1 entering the game) out of their most serious Rose Bowl run in the program’s history. The UA finished the season with a 29-0 drubbing of Miami in the Fiesta Bowl, but a Rose Bowl trip would have been much sweeter.
California, on an eight-game winning streak after losing the season-opener at Tennessee, was 8-1 overall and 6-0 in the Pac-10 when it came to Tucson late in the 2006 season. A showdown for the Pac-10 title loomed a week later against USC for Cal but Arizona, 4-5 overall and 2-4 in the Pac-10, had other plans. The Wildcats, who upset No. 25 Washington State in Pullman a week prior to the game, were shutout against the Golden Bears in the two previous meetings. They were outscored 66-0 in those games. Arizona coach Mike Stoops and the Wildcats ended their frustrations against Cal in front of a regional TV audience.