No. 17 — Unranked Arizona upsets Ohio State, Woody Hayes in Buckeyes’ 1967 opener in Columbus

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. 17 as the kickoff to the Wildcats’ season — and the start of the Rich Rodriguez era — is only 17 days away.

SCORE: Arizona Wildcats 14, Ohio State Buckeyes 7

DATE: Sept. 30, 1967

SITE: Columbus, Ohio, 77,468 in attendance (largest crowd to attend an Arizona game at that time)

WHY IT MADE THE LIST: This was a benchmark game for the program in that it showed Arizona could compete on a national basis against a team from a power conference — the Big Ten. The Wildcats, from the WAC, were coming off a humbling 36-17 loss to Wyoming two weeks previously in Tucson. Ohio State, coached by the legendary Woody Hayes, had not lost a home opener to an unranked opponent in the program’s history. All indications pointed to a potential rout by the Buckeyes, even though Ohio State was coming off a 4-5 season in 1966.

In a story published by ArizonaWildcats.com in 2007, former UA linebacker Olden Lee recalled the motivation the Wildcats drew from watching a television interview with Hayes the day before the game was played at the famous horseshoe-shaped stadium in Columbus.

“We came in to Columbus on Friday evening before the game,” Lee told ArizonaWildcats.com. “And it isn’t hard to remember the thing that sticks out the most from that trip. We were sitting around the hotel watching television and pretty soon they were interviewing Woody. He was talking about the tradition Ohio State had, of winning its first game each season.

“The interviewer said something like, ‘Well, Coach, do you tend to schedule a weaker opponent for the opener?’ And Woody didn’t necessarily confirm it — but he didn’t do a lot to dispel it, either.”

The front page of the Arizona Republic the day after Arizona upset Ohio State in Columbus in 1967

Ohio State, it appeared, did not get motivated from some fighting words from UA coach Darrell Mudra before the game.

“If I were Woody Hayes, I wouldn’t be too excited about playing us,” Mudra was quoted as saying by Sports Illustrated.

With the score tied at 7, Mudra sent in a power-play to the right side, with Wayne Edmonds, who had scored the first UA touchdown, carrying the ball. But after breaking the huddle, reserve UA quarterback Bruce Lee — substituting for ineffective starter Marc Reed in the second quarter — whispered “bootleg” to Edmonds.

Bruce Lee took the snap, faked to Edmonds and put the ball on his hip. Split end Tim DeWan blocked the only Ohio State player between Bruce Lee and the goal line, and the UA quarterback darted into the end zone. Arizona led 14-7 and the Wildcats were on their way to victory as the defense stifled Ohio State following a first-quarter score by the Buckeyes.

“We did not run well at all,” Hayes was quoted as saying by The Arizona Republic. “Our inability to run the ball against their defense is what beat us … the middle of the Arizona defense was darned good. They outplayed us and deserved to win.”

Mudra, in the Arizona Republic article, said: “Our guys blitzed a good deal. We watched last year’s films of Ohio State’s games and ran the same way Washington did (in a 38-22 win at Columbus). We expected to win here.”

The game was played in front of the biggest crowd (77,468) to see a Wildcat game as well as providing the school with its biggest paycheck ($62,000 after expenses).

Former Tucson Citizen sports columnist Corky Simpson wrote in 1997 about an episode with Hayes and a member of the media after the game.

Fuming from the defeat, Hayes was asked a question by Citizen sports editor Carl Porter that drew the coach’s ire.

Simpson wrote: ”What kind of (bleeping) question is that?” roared the Ohio State coach, drawing back a fist (probably similar to what he showed in the accompanying YouTube video in the 1978 Gator Bowl, which led to his firing).

Porter braced himself “but scrawny little (UA sports information director) Frank Soltys jumped in between us and calmed Woody down,” Porter said. ”That typified Frank. He wasn’t afraid of his own athletic department, and he darn sure wasn’t afraid of Woody Hayes.”

Hayes was feeling the heat from Buckeye fans. Following the losing season in 1966, the season-opening loss to Arizona and 2-3 start in 1967 created some restlessness in Columbus. Ohio State media to this day compare the loss to Arizona as something similar to Michigan losing its season opener to Appalachian State in 2007 because the Wildcats were in the WAC.

The Buckeyes won their last four games in 1967 to finish 6-3 while Arizona stumbled with only two more wins and inexplicably finished 3-6-1 under Mudra, in his first season.

The game program of Ohio State’s home opener in 1967, spoiled by the Arizona Wildcats

“You know, you remember a lot of things from your college days,” Olden Lee told ArizonaWildcats.com, “and most of them are good. But what bothered me the most from the time I was at UA was, we didn’t have a winning season.

“So the Ohio State win was big, but it’s hard to say you did something special when you didn’t have a winning football season. Great as that victory was, we’d rather have won it in the Western Athletic Conference.”

Arizona’s win over Ohio State is significant when factoring the Wildcats’ lack of success against teams from the Big Ten region before that game. Furthermore, the Buckeyes, with many of the same players, went undefeated the following season and were crowned national champions.

The Wildcats ventured to Notre Dame, Marquette and Big Ten locales 10 times before 1967 and were 0-9-1. They were outscored 322-61 in games against Marquette (four times), Notre Dame, Michigan State (twice), Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa. Those games were the easternmost Arizona had traveled to that point. Michigan State also played Arizona in Tucson in 1949 and dealt the Wildcats their worst loss in school history 75-0.

The countdown:

No. 18 — Arizona and hasty coach Mudra lose Ultimatum Bowl to ASU in 1968 (TucsonCitizen.com)

No. 19 — Arizona keeps “The Streak” without loss to ASU alive in ’87 with bizarre finish that ends in tie (WildAboutAZCats.net)

No. 20 — Arizona fit to be tied with Cal despite leading 26-3 in third quarter (TucsonCitizen.com)

No. 21 — Zendejas’ last-second 45-yard FG vs. ASU generates momentum for “The Streak” to endure (WildAboutAZCats.net)

No. 22 — Arizona wins its first bowl behind “Heat-seeking Missile” Chuck Cecil (TucsonCitizen.com)

No. 23 — Collapse vs. Utah after leading 27-0 in fourth quarter changed the face of UA football (WildAboutAZCats.net)

No. 24 — UA shuts out ASU, Kush during dominating run for Sun Devils coach (TucsonCitizen.com)

No. 25 — Arizona’s defense and Doug Pfaff’s last-second FG enough to upset sixth-ranked Oklahoma (WildAboutAZCats.com)

No. 26 — UA upsets ASU from Fiesta Bowl consideration in program’s best stretch (TucsonCitizen.com)

No. 27 — Trung Canidate rushes for record 288 yards and three long TDs in ’98 shootout against ASU (WildAboutAZCats.net)

No. 28 — UA dominates No. 3 SMU, highest ranked non-conference foe to lose to Cats (TucsonCitizen.com)

No. 29 — Arizona stuns second-ranked Oregon in most significant victory in Mike Stoops era (WildAboutAZCats.net)

No. 30 — Arizona win on last-second FG over ASU ends Kush dominance in series (TucsonCitizen.com)

No. 31 — Arizona reaches its zenith under Stoops with victory over Brigham Young in Las Vegas Bowl (WildAboutAZCats.net)

No. 32 — Arizona owed Cal a couple, knock Bears out of BCS title, Rose Bowl run (TucsonCitizen.com)

No. 33 — Arizona’s 10-9 loss at Oregon in 1994, derailing its Rose Bowl hopes, still hurts (WildAboutAZCats.net)

No. 34 — ASU ripe for picking in banana uniforms for “The Streak” to reach eight (TucsonCitizen.com)

No. 35 — Arizona tries risky fake PAT to beat California but loses in epic 4 overtime game (WildAboutAZCats.net)

No. 36 — Veal to Hill “Hail Mary” pass highlights “The Streak” reaching seven games against ASU (WildAboutAZCats.net)

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)

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