Last Saturday’s game against Oregon was one heck of a college football game. But how good was it? You could argue that it was the best game at Arizona stadium in the last 30 years.
But just what are the best games in Arizona Stadium over the past three decades? There have certainly been a lot of good games, but not all of them would have been entertaining to the neutral observer (i.e. Arizona’s 16-3 win over No. 1 Washington).
My main criteria was entertainment level regardless of outcome, but I also factored in the importance of the game and the ending.
In the end a dynamic dozen join Saturday’s game as the top games in the “Gray Old Lady”.
Arizona 43, Stanford 38, Oct. 17, 2009
This one should still be fresh in Wildcat fans’ minds. Trevin Wade made the huge stop in the endzone to seal the win. The Wildcats take the lead when an injured Nic Grigsby returns to the game and breaks off a 57-yard run with less than 3:00 to play. The Wildcats score 17 of the final 24 points to earn the win.
Arizona 23, Utah 17 Sept. 14, 2002
A game ripe with controversy. The apparent game winning score is wiped out when officials rule the Utah receiver was out of bounds. To this day the replays are not conclusive. Utah was enraged over the call, but should never have been in that position. Two plays prior the Wildcats recovered what should have been a fumble, only the officials mistakenly ruled the Utah ball carrier was down.
41, Arizona 34 Oct. 27, 2001
Before the game John Mackovic asked Pete Carroll to trade players, but a the end of the game he should have asked to trade for better officials. Tied at 34 late in the fourth quarter the officials rule that Bobby Wade stepped out of bounds on a punt return that he took to the house. Replays show that his foot was at least six inches away from the sideline. A few plays later USC defensive back Kris Richard picks off Jason Johnson and takes it all the way for the game winner.
Arizona 53, Washington State 47 3OT Oct.r 14, 2000
In a game withouth a lot of defense, it was defense that won the game for Arizona. Michael Jolivette had an interception to send the game to overtime and Antonio Pierce had a goal line pick to seal the win. In between it was Leo Mills’ finest hour in a Wildcat uniform, rushing for 129 yards and two overtime scores. Arizona trailed 19-7 in the first half but Arizona battled back and actually led 33-19 before letting the Cougars tie the game and send it to the overtime.
Oregon 44, Arizona 41 Oct. 23 1999
A familiar score for Arizona and Duck fans, but this one did not go to overtime. Oregon scored the first nine and the final 10 points of the game, including the game winner with 1:04 to play. Arizona marched the length of the field in the final minute but Mark McDonald missed a 45 yarder with just two seconds to play. The two teams combined for almost 1,000 yards, with Arizona amassing 552 yards, including 282 on the ground.
Arizona 50, ASU 42 Nov. 27, 1998
It was one of the best offensive exhibitions Arizona Stadium has ever seen. Trung Canidate had 288 yards rushing and three scores, but Arizona could never shake a pesky Sun Devil team. The Devils’ Ryan Kealy threw for 511 yards and four scores. Canidate had scoring runs of 80, 66 and 48 yards and Brad Brennan auled in a 72-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. The Wildcats earned their Holiday Bowl birth with the win, while ASU was eliminated from bowl consideration.
Arizona 41, Cal 38 2OT Nov. 15, 1997
Another great offensive show at the “Gray Old Lady”. Arizona amassed 550 yards of total offense, nearly 200 more than the Cal but needed a Mark McDonald field goal in the second overtime to win. Arizona led 31-21 heading into the fourth quarter but the Bears scored the final 10 points of regulation, including a field goal with eight seconds left to force overtime. Keith Smith hit Denis Northcutt for a 5-yard score in the first overtime, but Tarik Smith answered with a three-yard run. Cal had to settle for a field goal attempt in the second overtime, but missed a 40-yarder, allowing McDonald to be kick the winner.
Arizona 28, ASU 27 Nov. 25, 1994
Arizona rallied after Ontiwaun Carter is taken off the field in an ambulance. The Wildcats trailed in the fourth quarter when the Wildcats’ leading rusher hurt his neck and was carted off. Arizona battled back to take the lead and then used a defensive stand in the final seconds to hold on for the win.
Arizona 6, #6 Oklahoma 3 Sept. 16, 1989
Offense? Who needs offense? It was Dick Tomey’s dream game as it came down to defense and field position. Oh yeah, that and a pair of field goals.
Arizona 22, #20 Washington 23 Nov. 5, 1983
The 20th ranked Huskies came to town and handed the Wildcat their third straight loss, setting up a game the next week against…
Arizona 27, UCLA 24, Nov. 12, 1983
The Cats snapped a three-game losing streak with a win over the Bruins. UCLA’s All-American kicker missed a game tying field goal in the waning second and the Cats won their home finale. The Cats would go on to beat ASU two weeks later but missed a bowl despite finishing 7-3-1,
Arizona 23, #2 UCLA 17 Nov. 1, 1980
Tom Tunnicliffe’s legend begins to grow as the Wildcats knock off the second ranked Bruins. It was the third time in four games that the Wildcats hosted a team ranked second in the nation. No, 2 UCLA won 27-10 on October 11, then No, 2 Notre Dame came to Tucson and handed the Wildcats a 20-3 kiss. Seven days later the Cats pulled the upset, snapping a three game losing streak in the process.
Missing the cut: Oregon State 19, Arizona 17 (2008), Arizona 16, BYU 13 (2006), #15 Oregon 28, Arizona 21 (2005), Washington State 20, Arizona 19 (Gilbert Harris fumble game) (2004), UCLA 27, Arizona 24 (2000), Arizona 31, USC 24 (1999),