Editor’s note: During the coronavirus shutdown, Arizona Daily Star staffers and contributors are answering burning sports questions.
Today’s question: What’s the most memorable game you’ve watched?
BRUCE PASCOE, UA basketball reporter
The best thing about this job is that such a question is difficult to answer. There are so many. But I’d probably go with Arizona’s 96-95 double-OT win over Gonzaga in second round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament at Salt Lake City.
A lot of times you think of overtime games as “classics,” when they were actually not that good until the final minutes and/or overtimes, but this one was really well played throughout. Both teams shot well and didn’t turn over the ball. Then the overtimes were simply wild.
Every second was compelling. When it was over, I just remember how players on both sides literally collapsed on the floor. That wasn’t just because of the high altitude. They gave everything. You don’t always see that, even in the tournament.
MICHAEL LEV, UA football/baseball reporter
So many to choose from. I’m narrowing it down to two and limiting it to games I covered as a sportswriter.
The first was the infamous “Tuck Rule Game.” I was in my second year as the NFL reporter for The Orange County Register. I flew across the country to cover the Raiders-Patriots Divisional Playoff Game. The contest had everything: a relenting snowstorm, a bizarre controversy and late-game drama. When the Raiders went up 13-3 late in the third quarter, a colleague and I agreed the Patriots were done. But they had a resourceful young QB named Tom Brady, who benefited from a rule no one had heard of before that night. And they had a clutch specialist named Adam Vinatieri, whose knuckleballing, 45-yard tying field goal in wretched conditions remains the greatest kick of all time.
About 15½ years later, I sat alongside colleague Greg Hansen in the press box at Colorado’s Folsom Field. Little did we realize we were about to witness history. Arizona sophomore QB Khalil Tate came off the bench and set college football abuzz. He rushed for a record 327 yards. He completed 12 of 13 passes. He flat-out dominated. It was utterly breathtaking.
MICHAEL SCHMELZLE, sports producer
UA pick: Arizona 70, North Carolina 52, 1988 basketball. The magic of my first year of basketball in Tucson looked to come crashing down in the Elite Eight as UA trailed the Tar Heels by two at halftime in Seattle. No worries: Tom Tolbert and UA dominated the second half to beat UNC 70-52 and clinch its first trip to the Final Four in Kansas City while improving its record to an incredible 35-2. I vaguely remember the rap “Wild about the Cats” and “Kansas City” playing on the radio approximately 3,000 times over the next few days.
My overall pick? Notre Dame 31, Miami 30, in the 1988 “Catholics vs. Convicts” football game. Payback from the 58-7 rout in 1985 … A failed 2-point conversion by the defending champion Hurricanes with 45 seconds left … The smug look knocked off Jimmy Johnson’s face … Tony Rice with his hands raised in victory after the “1812 Overture” plays as the final seconds tick off … the greatest game ever in the House that Rockne Built … all those things, plus the fact it was in my sports wheelhouse (I was 11) easily make this my most memorable. Bonus points because Miami players and fans still complain about a controversial fumble that went against the Hurricanes, conveniently forgetting four or five other calls that went their way because there was no instant replay at the time.
GREG HANSEN, sports columnist
It was a bitterly cold winter night in Logan, Utah, on February 8, 1965. My mom and dad were in a bowling league, so I didn’t have a ride to that night’s basketball game — Denver at Utah State.
So I walked about two miles from our house — through the haunting Logan Cemetery — to the Nelson Fieldhouse on the USU campus. I had not missed a home game since I was in the fifth grade.
It was a night I’ll never forget. Aggie senior Wayne Estes, the nation’s leading scorer and a first-team All-American, put up 48 points against Denver. It gave him 2,001 for his career. I waited by the KVNU radio booth and watched Estes return for a post-game interview. He patted me on the shoulder.
The next morning, my mom awakened me for school. She was crying. “Wayne died,” she said.
She told me that Estes had stopped to help a driver injured in a car accident near campus shortly after the game. The power line had been severed when the car hit a lightpole. It dangled about 6½ feet from the ground. Estes, who was 6 feet 6 inches tall, did not see the wire. He walked into it. He was killed instantly.
It has been 55 years since Estes died. I wipe away tears as I type this.
RYAN FINLEY, sports editor
Arizona’s 2012 College World Series championship win over South Carolina. I had spent two weeks in Omaha — a sneaky-great city, by the way — covering the Wildcats’ run at a national title. Needing to win just one of two remaining games against the two-time defending champions, the Wildcats delivered in the ninth inning.
Brandon Dixon’s one-out RBI double gave the UA a one-run lead, and Trent Gilbert’s two-run single put things out of reach. The win, in front of 23,872 college baseball-crazy fans at TD Ameritrade Park, capped the most incredible postseason run I’ve ever witnessed. Arizona went a perfect 10-0 in the regionals, Super Regional and World Series, and never trailed once.
CAITLIN SCHMIDT, sports enterprise reporter
The Colts victory over the New England Patriots in the Jan. 21, 2007 AFC Championship game was one of those moments in life I’ll never forget. I had just moved into a new apartment after vacating the house I shared with my soon-to-be ex-husband, and my mom was in town for a visit.
We went to Applebee’s to watch the game, and I was in good company in terms of the number of customers who were also hoping for a Patriots loss. It was a narrow win, after the Colts fought back from a 21-3 deficit, and a Patriots’ lead with less than 4 minutes left. As if to add insult to injury, my team ended the game by intercepting Tom Brady, master of the fourth-quarter comeback win. And it was particularly sweet since the Patriots had knocked the Colts out of the playoffs twice in the three previous years.
As if to mark the improbable win, it snowed later that night in Tucson. After all, my ex-husband used to tell me it would take hell freezing over for the Colts to beat the Patriots in the AFC Championship.
JUSTIN SPEARS, sports producer
The Arizona Wildcats football team hosted ninth-ranked Cal in 2006, and my parents scored tickets from neighbors up the street. We sat in the southwest corner of Arizona Stadium, behind the Cal bench. Cal’s offense was loaded with running backs Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett, quarterback Nate Longshore and some guy named DeSean Jackson, who was supposed to be the bee’s knees. Jackson returned a punt for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass in the first half and Cal led UA by two touchdowns at the beak.
One of the best features about an Arizona football games during the day is how the sun lights the grass after 4 p.m. The entire north side of the stadium is shaded while a sliver of sunshine lights the field from about the 30-yard line to the end zone. With the UA and Cal tied at 17, Arizona cornerback Antoine Cason returned an interception for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter and Arizona Stadium was rocking!
The comeback. The packed stadium. The upset win over one of the best teams in the Pac-10. The fans rushing the field. A moment I’ll never forget.
ALEC WHITE, sports producer
The 2017 National League Wild Card game between the D-backs and Rockies is probably the best game I’ve been to. It was my first time going to a playoff game of any kind, and the game was fantastic. Paul Goldschmidt hit a three-run home run in the first inning and relief pitcher Archie Bradley hit a two-run triple in the seventh, and Chase Field went insane for both.
Honorable mention goes to the 2017 basketball game between Arizona and UCLA where ESPN’s “College GameDay” came to town. Yes, Arizona lost, but going to both the morning “GameDay” show and the game itself later in the day was just a crazy experience.
PJ BROWN, contributor
Arizona’s 2019 WNIT championship game win over Northwestern. Actually, it was Arizona’s whole WNIT run, the confidence of the Wildcats and the look in their eyes. I sensed they would win the whole thing just from their mentality. I’ve never seen anything like that.
Who could forget cutting down the net? That image of Dominique McBryde on the ladder singing “We Are the Champions” is forever etched in my memory.
BRETT FERA, contributor
The game of the year in college basketball, circa 2004. The Arizona men, ranked 12th in the nation, seemed to be showing cracks for the first time some two decades in to the Lute Olson era. But the Wildcats were on The Farm with a legitimate shot at burying No. 2 Stanford, which entered 19-0 and with national title aspirations of its own.
The ancillary pieces made the stakes feel bigger. An afternoon start on national broadcast television. Brent Musberger and Dick Vitale on the call for ABC. Tiger Woods and his entourage sitting front row at Maples Pavilion. I was covering the UA team for the student paper, The Daily Wildcat, so I naturally had the worst seat in the building for most of it.
But late in the second half, as Arizona’s lead and chance for the upset started to evaporate, I made my way down closer to the court. Cardinal senior Nick Robinson, gliding straight toward where I was now standing, drained a 35-foot runner at the buzzer to send Stanford to 20-0, and Tiger himself to the bottom of the on-court dogpile.
JOHN MCKELVEY, contributor
There have been quite a few. I covered a high school state championship basketball game that was won on the final shot, which was incredible. But the most memorable has to be the 2017 Women’s College World Series Championship Series, Game 1.
You could argue it was the two best teams in the history of the sport, with Florida and USA national team ace Kelly Barnhill facing off against Oklahoma’s Paige Parker, a four-time All-American, and Paige Lowary, eventual No. 1 pick in the National Pro Fastpitch draft.
The game went to 17 innings, and I gave up on making my deadline after the 10th. A total of eight runs were scored in extra innings, as neither team wanted to give in. Somebody could write a book about that game on its own.