The Pac-12 Networks will air a special on Arizona’s 1992 win over top-ranked Washington tonight, followed by a replay of the game.
It’s part of the network’s Classic College Football series, and the look back starts at 11 p.m.
The special will feature new interviews with Arizona players Rob Waldrop, Tony Bouie and Heath Bray, as well as coach Dick Tomey, in addition to Washington players. The Arizona Daily Star’s Greg Hansen was also interviewed for the special.
I covered that 16-3 victory for the Daily Star, and the atmosphere was as electric as any I have felt at Arizona Stadium in the past 25 years or so.
Dave Silver of KGUN-9 hosted a half-hour special before the ABC telecast, and he had me on as a guest. He asked if I thought Arizona would win. I believe I hedged my bets and said, “I don’t see any reason why they can’t.”
I have written about this game a few times in the years since, for the Daily Star and the Tucson Citizen.
Here is how I started a story for the Star in 1995:
The pillow hit Heath Bray in the face at 3 a.m. It was merely the night before the biggest game of his football career, and apparently his roommate, George Malauulu, couldn’t sleep.
Bray and Malauulu sat up in their beds at the Plaza Hotel, talking when they should have been sleeping. They were seniors, two of three captains on the miracle that had become the Arizona football team. Who could rest when the Wildcats had come this far, this improbably close?
“Hey, bro,” said Malauulu, wide-eyed and alert. “We’re going to win this game tomorrow.”
Bray stared at Malauulu. Into the darkness he whispered back: “I know. I know.”
I talked to Bray last week about how the game has held up in his memories.
“There are a lot of moments that we had in college where the memories get grander and grander as you get older,” he said.
“But, to tell you the truth, that day is hard to overstate how awesome it was. It would be hard to emebellish that story in a way that was better than the one that actually took play. That one was such a perfect day.”
And here is part of a story I wrote in 2010 when I revisited the game for TucsonCitizen.com:
By the time Arizona played Washington in 1992, the defense recently had been named the Desert Swarm, although everything was still so new that sideline reporter Jake Arute referred to it as “Desert Storm” during the ABC broadcast.
In a span of several weeks, the Wildcats had transformed themselves from a rag-tag outfit with an embattled sixth-year coach, Dick Tomey, to one of the nation’s most fearsome teams.
It’s not revisionist history nearly 20 years later to say that Arizona knew it was going to win that day. Not could win. Would win. That team, at that time, had the vibe. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric, probably unmatched since.
“I had just been voted team captain that week,” recalled Heath Bray, who was a backup quarterback that season after injuries forced him to give up defense, where he had played defensive back and linebacker.
“When the refs came into the locker room before the game to call for captains for the coin toss, it was like balloons fell from the ceiling. Everything was in the air — helmets, pads, cups. Everybody was screaming and yelling. It was like a party. You wouldn’t have expected that. …
“We walked out of the locker room that day, and there was not an empty seat in the house. You could tell from the coin flip, we were just going to win that game.”
The game was, as advertised, ruled by the defense. Well, that and special teams. If there was a game that personified Tomey’s “preserve your right to punt” philosophy, this was it. The game’s MVP was Arizona’s Josh Miller, who punted eight times for an average of 47.4 yards.
Other than that, the Desert Swarm of Rob Waldrop, Tedy Bruschi, Sean Harris, Jim Hoffman, Brant Boyer, Darryl Morrison, Keshon Johnson, Brandon Sanders, Tony Bouie and so much more just lined up with extreme confidence and hit the Huskies in the mouth over and over.
That was exactly what defensive coordinator Larry Mac Duff had been preaching.
“I remember Coach Mac Duff was just talking about hitting them and hitting them hard, and letting them know we weren’t going anywhere,” Bouie said.
“It all starts on the first series of the game on offense or defense. You have to establish who you are going to be in that game. I would tell them the team this year that you have to punish them, punish them every time they have the ball.”
At one point, here is how Arizona stuffed Washington’s star running Napoleon Kaufman on consecutive runs — no gain, loss of 1 yard, another loss of 1 yard (with a fumble), yet another loss of 1 yard, and then a loss of 2 yards.
“We didn’t luckily win that ball game,” Bray said. “Let’s be very blunt about this: We beat their ass.”