UA football: Ranking the Wildcats' all-time bowl wins

2013-12-22T00:00:00Z UA football: Ranking the Wildcats' all-time bowl winsBy Jonathan Gold
Arizona Daily Star
Arizona Daily Star

The Arizona Wildcats do not exactly have an illustrious bowl history.

In the 108 years the Wildcats have fielded a team, they’ve advanced to just 17 bowl games, winning seven.

But the seven include a few special ones. Here, we rank Arizona’s seven bowl wins, from most impressive — the lone Fiesta Bowl shutout — to the least impressive.

1. The Miami Massacre

Facing a powerhouse Hurricanes program that was in a relatively down year, the Arizona football team showed little pity in the 1994 Fiesta Bowl. Heck, an actual hurricane shows more pity. The Desert Swarm defense stung time and time again, leaving Miami embarrassed and humiliated in a 29-0 Arizona win. It would be the only shutout in Fiesta Bowl history. The Wildcats held Miami to 182 yards, picked up four sacks, three interceptions and a fumble and generally wiped the Hurricanes all over the field. Defensive end Tedy Bruschi led a defense that held Miami to 35 rushing yards and offensive MVP Chuck Levy rushed for 142 yards on 17 carries and a score.

2. The San Diego Smackdown

Arizona entered the 1998 Holiday Bowl with a bit of disappointment, as a UCLA loss to Miami robbed the Wildcats of a chance for their first Rose Bowl birth (the Bruins would’ve been in the BCS title game). Facing a Nebraska team that had shared the 1997 national championship, however, got Arizona all frothy and mean. While the Cornhuskers slid back a bit in Frank Solich’s first season at the helm, finishing with a 9-3 regular season record, Arizona entered the game at 11-1, with a loss to said UCLA as the lone blemish. The Wildcats would not overlook Nebraska in a 23-20 win that secured the team’s highest season-ending ranking of No. 4. Arizona held the mighty Nebraska rushing attack to 87 yards and Chris McAlister picked off two passes in a dominant defensive effort.

3. The Honolulu Harassment

With MVP Chuck Cecil leading the way, the Arizona defense dominated North Carolina to take the 1986 Aloha Bowl, 30-21. After a 4-0-1 start the included a surprising tie against Florida State, the Tar Heels entered the game having stumbled down the stretch, with a 3-3 record to close out the regular season. Arizona, meanwhile, was coming off a loss to Stanford in the Coca-Cola Classic in Tokyo to end the year. But the Wildcats got off to 30-0 lead in what would become the team’s first bowl victory, as the defense forced five fumbles, including two by the soon-to-be-named Heat-Seeking Missile, Cecil.

4. The Comeback

Pitting Ka’Deem Carey against Stefphon Jefferson, the 2012 New Mexico Bowl featured the nation’s top-two rushers. The game did not disappoint. Arizona scored twice in the final 42 seconds to secure a 49-48 win in Rich Rodriguez’s first year at the helm. Facing a feisty Wolf Pack squad with a potent offense — and Nevada would actually outgain Arizona, 659-578 (!) after rushing for 403 yards (!!) with nearly a two-to-one time-of-possession advantage (!!!) — the Wildcats were forced to lean on Matt Scott. And lean they did. Scott, the game’s offensive MVP, threw touchdowns to Austin Hill and Terrence Miller with 42 and 19 seconds left in the game, respectively. Carey held up his end of the bargain despite being outgained by Jefferson, 180-172, as he had a three-to-two touchdown advantage.

5. The Sin City Slaughter

Arizona entered its 2008 Las Vegas Bowl matchup with BYU as heavy underdogs. The Cougars were 10-2, ranked No. 16 in the country, and very familiar with the unlikely destination, having appeared in the same bowl the previous three years. Before a loss at TCU in Week 7, the Cougars were ranked as high as No. 9 in the country. Heading into the matchup, a 7-5 Arizona team was almost an afterthought. Then BYU got Tuitama-ed. MVP Tuitama completed 24 of 35 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns and a scoring run, in successive fashion, to lead the Wildcats back from a 14-10 deficit. Oh, and David Hasselhoff sang the national anthem.

6. Home Cookin’

The Wildcats knocked off North Carolina State in 1989 Copper Bowl at Arizona Stadium to kick off a solid run in the Copper-turned-Insight.com-turned-Insight-turned-Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl for the Pac-10. The Wolfpack were a middling ACC team, finishing tied for fourth in the conference, but with the win Arizona bumped up into a season-ending No. 25 ranking, just the third time the team was ranked to end the season. Defensive back and game MVP Scott Geyer found himself in the right place at the right time for the Wildcats, intercepting NC State quarterback Shane Montgomery and taking the return back 85 yards for a touchdown in Dick Tomey’s first bowl win with Arizona.

7. Home Cookin’, Part 2

The 1997 Wildcats were down-and-out for much of the year, starting 1-3 after an early brutal road schedule that included losses at Oregon, Ohio State and UCLA. The Cats were later 3-5, but back-to-back wins over Oregon State and Cal set up a showdown at No. 12 Arizona State, and the Wildcats knocked the Sun Devils off their perch, keeping ASU out of the Fiesta Bowl with a 28-16 road win. When New Mexico headed into town for the first Insight.com Bowl, Arizona was on a roll, and it kept it up. Behind Kelvin Eafon and Trung Canidate’s 172 rushing yards and three touchdowns, the Wildcats took out the Lobos 20-14, despite just 7-of-22 passing and two interceptions.

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