In the 50 days leading up to Arizona’s season-opener against Toledo, on Sept. 1 at Arizona Stadium, TucsonCitizen.com and its affiliate WildAboutAZCats.net will rank the Top 50 games in the history of the football program. The ranking is at No. 36 as the kickoff to the Wildcats’ season — and the start of the Rich Rodriguez era — is only 36 days away.
SCORE: Arizona Wildcats 28, Arizona State Sun Devils 18
DATE: Nov. 25, 1988
SITE: Arizona Stadium, 56,978 in attendance
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Entering this final game of the year against arch-rival ASU, Arizona quarterback Ron Veal — who split time with SMU transfer Bobby Watters — had one touchdown pass all season. Veal equaled that with one miraculous throw in the last play of the first half — a 55-yard Hail Mary pass to receiver Derek Hill, who snagged the ball out of teammate Melvin Smith’s hands and darted into the end zone as time expired.
The touchdown pass was one of three for Veal and it gave the Wildcats a 21-18 lead — an advantage the Wildcats would not relinquish. Running back Alonzo Washington also scored twice, catching one of Veal’s touchdown passes, as “The Streak” reached seven games against ASU. At that point, the Wildcats were 6-0-1 against ASU since 1982, when “The Streak” began with another 28-18 victory in Tucson.
The “Hail Mary” pass to Hill (at the 2:00 mark of the accompanying YouTube video) is one of the signature plays of “The Streak”. Hill, 44, died in January of an apparent heart attack. He led the UA in receptions in three of his four yeas with Arizona from 1985-88. Joe Tofflemire, 46, an All-American center who was a captain of the 1988 team, also passed away within the last year, on Sept. 27, 2011, because of heart failure.
The Wildcats finished the 1988 season on a three-game winning streak and 7-4 overall record. They tied for third in the Pac-10 at 5-3. The Sun Devils ended the season 6-5 and 3-4.
Veal played one of his most efficient games with Arizona although he completed only 6 of 15 passes for 148 yards. The Wildcats increased their lead to 28-18 on the first play of the fourth quarter, as Veal connected with Washington on an 11-yard scoring pass to cap a 20-play, 82-yard drive. Veal also completed a touchdown of 47 yards to Hill in the first half. Washington, whose first score came on a 10-yard run, carried 24 times for 150 yards.
Arizona’s Brett Holley pinned the Sun Devils on their 3-yard line with 4:07 remaining with a 46-yard punt. Then on a fourth-and-2 play, Wildcat defenders batted away Paul Justin’s pass to seal the victory. ASU scored first to lead, 6-0, and also led 12-7 and 18-14 before Arizona, Veal and the Wildcat defense took control.
No. 37 — USC outlasts Arizona 48-41 in one of most wild games played in Tucson (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 38 — Arizona shows signs of life under Stoops with rout over No. 7 UCLA (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 39 — Art Luppino “The Cactus Comet” rockets toward 38 yards per carry and five touchdowns (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 40 — Fumblerooski enables Arizona to sweep USC, UCLA in L.A. for first time (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 41 — Sun Devil nemesis Dan White quarterbacks Arizona into Fiesta Bowl with win over ASU (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 42 — Struggling UA gets improbable win against ’83 Pac-10 champ UCLA (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 43 — Closing chapter of “The Streak” includes Arizona’s dramatic fourth-quarter heroics (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 44 — Arizona overcomes rival Texas Tech with unfathomable late-game rally (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 45 — Dick Tomey, the Desert Fox, does a number on UCLA by changing offense in midseason (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 46 — “The Streak” reaches three games, UA achieves best Pac-10 finish (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 47 — Arizona’s first game at Arizona Stadium in 1929, a 35-0 win over Cal Tech (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 48 — Underdog Arizona’s 2011 thriller over arch-rival Arizona State (TucsonCitizen.com)
No. 49 — Arizona’s first win over arch-rival Arizona State, then known as Territorial Normal (WildAboutAZCats.net)
No. 50 — Arizona’s first win in program’s history: 22-5 over Tucson Indians (TucsonCitizen.com)