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Rare video: Arizona’s Art Luppino — the ‘Cactus Comet’ — from 1954 and 1955

Art Luppino

Now you can get a good look at Art Luppino, who led the nation in rushing in 1954 and 1955.

Chances are, you’ve seen only a couple of highlights of one of the greatest football players in Arizona Wildcats history.

Now, you can see a lot more of running back Art Luppino, known as the Cactus Comet.

Courtesy of the University of Idaho library, which digitized a collection of 16mm film from Vandals games and posted them on YouTube, we can now watch seven Arizona-Idaho games spanning 1951 to 1964.

Included among those are games from the 1954 and 1955 seasons in which Luppino led the nation in rushing.

I spent most of Thursday afternoon watching these games, doing additional research and coming up with something of a guide that will help you navigate through these new treasures of Arizona football history.

Here are the seven Arizona-Idaho games on YouTube (all played at Arizona Stadium). Clicking the link will take you to the YouTube video.

Nov. 17, 1951 — Arizona 13, Idaho 6

I don’t have much additional information on this game, as UA records are sketchy for this time period. Notice the extensive use of the T-formation, which remains a staple for several years.

Oct. 16, 1954 — Arizona 35, Idaho 13

The Wildcats are in the dark jerseys, and you see Luppino, No. 22, as a running back and as a safety … and he’s the guy kicking the extra points.

Some things to note:

At about the 7:37 mark, you’ll see a big Arizona gain on a nifty jump pass that would make Tim Tebow proud.

As for Luppino, he scores around the 22:50 mark on a 1-yard plunge, has a interception and a 42-yard return at 23:59 and scores on a 25-yard run on a pitch around left end at 31:04.

Also, at 13:55, Arizona’s Bill Codd picks off a pass and returns it 20 yards for a touchdown.

There are a couple of gaps late in this video, which is a shame, because you don’t see the Cats’ final score. That must have been Luppino’s 22-yard interception return for a touchdown, completing the now-rare offense-defense scoring feat.

Luppino rushed 23 times for 178 yards in this game, also catching two passes for 22 yards.

Oct. 1, 1955 — Arizona 47, Idaho 14

Arizona is wearing the white jerseys this time, as Luppino rushed 16 times for 129 yards and a 5-yard touchdown. That scoring run around right end comes at the 12:16 mark of the video.

Oct. 25, 1958 — Idaho 24, Arizona 16

This video is darker than the rest, and I ended up skipping through most of it.

Nov. 5, 1960 — Arizona 32-3

This video is shown in slight slow motion, providing a long look at one of the greatest backfields in Arizona history.

No. 12 Eddie Wilson would become a second-round NFL pick in 1962, the highest-drafted UA quarterback ever, and he had the Touchdown Twins in the backfield behind him. No. 35 is “Jackrabbit” Joe Hernandez. No. 24 is Bobby Lee Thompson, the school record holder for rushing yards per attempt (7.6).

Hernandez had a long touchdown run vs. the Vandals, a 53-yarder that begins up the middle. Hernandez bumps into an official about 10 yards up field, bounces off and races untouched into the end zone. The play starts at the 12:14 mark.

You will notice a thick stripe running down the middle of Arizona’s white helmets. This is described in the UA media guide from that year as a one-inch red stripe, bordered by half-inch blue stripes.

Nov. 3, 1962 — Idaho 14, Arizona 12

Take note of this play for the Wildcats: At the 5:30 mark, quarterback Bill Brechler throws a screen to Flowing Wells High graduate Jim Faulks, who cuts and darts his way through the defense to a 43-yard touchdown. Good stuff.

Nov. 7, 1964 — Arizona 14, Idaho 7

I didn’t dive much into one. The video, shown in slow motion, is dark at times with the camera switching for sunlight to shadows. The winning touchdown comes at the 1:39:48 mark, but you can’t see it in any detail.

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