Streaks to celebrate: Arizona's greatest athletic accomplishments

Streaks to celebrate: Arizona's greatest athletic accomplishments

By Anthony Gimino / Special for Tucson News Now

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Arizona Wildcats' recent Hail Mary against Cal overshadowed everything else - and rightfully so - but it's time to acknowledge the end to a great run of running.

In the 49-45 victory on Sept. 20, quarterback Anu Solomon passed a school-record 73 times, which didn't leave much time for starting running back Nick Wilson, or fourth-quarter replacement Terris Jones-Grigsby, to hit a triple-digit yardage total on the ground.

Arizona's streak of 20 consecutive games with a 100-yard rusher came to an end.

The question we had is: How does that rank with the greatest streaks, in any sport, in UA history?

So we took a vote.

The panel included myself, KOLD sports director Damien Alameda, sports anchors/reporters Dave Cooney and David Kelly, director of digital media Sean Fitzpatrick and digital content executive producer John Ames.

Which streaks are the winners? Does the run of 100-yard rushers make the list?

Let's count them down ...

10. Excellence in the pool

The legacy of former coach Frank Busch: The Arizona women's swimming team has a current streak of 10 consecutive top five finishes (and 23 consecutive top 10 finishes) at the NCAA meet. The UA men's team has a current streak of 16 consecutive top 10 finishes.

9. 20 consecutive games with a 100-yard rusher

So much of this came from the never-tiring legs of Ka'Deem Carey, but he had help. First of all, Rich Rodriguez's zone-read, hurry-up attack is friendly to running backs. Carey got the streak started by setting a Pac-12 record with 370 (!) rushing yards against Colorado on Nov. 10, 2012. When Carey was suspended for the 2013 season-opener, Daniel Jenkins kept the young streak alive with 139 yards. With Carey gone this season, Jones-Grigsby (in the opener) and Wilson (in the first three games) hit 100 yards as Arizona tied the longest streak of 100-yard rushers since Nebraska set the mark in 1996.

8. Softball's run at No. 1

In one of several streaks that show coach Mike Candrea's rule over college softball, the Wildcats were ranked No. 1 at some point of the season for 18 consecutive years. That streak ended in 2009.

7. Men's hoops in the polls

With a streak that spanned 18-plus seasons, Lute Olson's Wildcats were ranked in an NCAA record 312 consecutive regular-season AP polls. It began with the first regular-season poll of the 1987-88 season and ended on Dec. 19, 2005, when Arizona (5-3 at the time) went from 24th to unranked. Including preseason polls, Arizona had been in 329 of 331 polls since the start of the 1987-88 season, missing only in the 1995 and 2002 preseason rankings.

6. McKale winning streak

The men's basketball team won 71 consecutive games at McKale Center from 1987 to 1992, the 10th-longest home streak in NCAA history. It ended with an 89-87 loss to UCLA on Jan. 11, 1992, as Darrick Martin made a running 12-foot shot over freshman Damon Stoudamire with 0.3 seconds left in the game.

It was the only home loss for UA guard Matt Othick, who talked about that game this spring.

"It's the only game I didn't finish the game. That was tough. I had foul trouble in the game, but it was the last play of the game. I had four fouls, and I was like, what difference does it make on the last play of the game?" he said.

"Damon was a great on-ball defender, and I know why Coach had him in - to stay in front of him. But Darrick Martin was my rival, and I was big enough where he couldn't shoot over me. Maybe he would have gotten by me, I don't know. Damon stopped Darrick from getting by him; he just shot over Damon and hit it.

"I just have always wished that I was in."

5. 16 consecutive appearances in the Women's College World Series

The Wildcats reached the eight-team World Series every year from 1988 to 2003, winning titles during that stretch in 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997 and 2001. Arizona's streak of World Series appearances ended in 2004, when the team, under interim head coach Larry Ray while Mike Candrea was coaching the U.S. Olympic team, shockingly lost twice on the same day in an NCAA regional at Hillenbrand Stadium. Arizona went on to make each World Series from 2005 to 2010, so this streak was nearly 23 seasons.

4. Softball's NCAA-record winning streak

Arizona went unbeaten from April 28, 1996, to March 22, 1997, a span of 47 games, which stands as an NCAA record. The streak included 15 victories over ranked teams, including No. 1 Washington in the championship game of the 1996 Women's College World Series.

3. Jennie Finch's 60 consecutive victories

Finch was the losing pitcher against Arizona State on April 21, 2000, as the Wildcats fell 3-1. (By the way, that ended another remarkable UA softball streak - 38 consecutive wins over the Sun Devils, spanning parts of 10 seasons.) Finch would not lose again for almost two years, until April 7, 2002, in a 6-5 defeat to top-ranked UCLA. Finch's 60 consecutive victories are 10 more than any pitcher has ever had in NCAA softball.

2. 'The Streak'

Arizona football went nine years without losing to Arizona State, creating some of the most enduring highlights in school history:

- Tom Tunnicliffe's 92-yard touchdown pass to Brian Holland in 1982.

- Max Zendejas' last-play 45-yard field goal in 1983.

- Arizona intercepting Jeff Van Raaphorst five times in 1984.

- Dana Wells' forced fumble against Van Raaphorst, setting up Zendejas' winning 32-yard field goal in 1985.

- Chuck Cecil's 106-yard interception return in 1986.

- James DeBow stuffing Channing Williams on fourth-and-goal at the 1 in 1986.

- ASU punter Mike Schuh dropping a punt snap in the final minute in 1987, allowing Gary Coston to make a 30-yard field goal for a 24-24 tie that felt like a win.

- Ronald Veal's 55-yard Hail Mary to Derek Hill at the end of the first half in 1988.

- ASU's "bunch of bananas" all-gold uniforms in 1989.

- Bobby Roland intercepting Paul Justin in the end zone in the final minute to preserve a 21-17 victory in 1990.

Credit coach Larry Smith, who started The Streak and prevented the Sun Devils from going to the Rose Bowl in 1982 and in 1985.

1. 25 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament

That's quite a silver anniversary for the Wildcats, with a quarter century of NCAA Tournament appearances, stretching from 1985 to 2009. The first 23 came under Lute Olson, with the Cats eking out two more appearances after his medical leave/retirement under interim head coaches Kevin O'Neill and then Russ Pennell.

(Note that the 1999 and 2008 appearances were later vacated due to NCAA sanctions, but it's not like they didn't happen.)

Olson and the Wildcats turned the NCAA Tournament into the holy days of the Tucson sports calendar, the community's coming-together moments during those 25 years: 65 NCAA tournament games, 41 victories, 12 Sweet 16s, four Final Fours, two national championship games, one title.

It's as ex-Cat Eugene Edgerson once told me: "Arizona not in the NCAAs? That would be like eating Easter Bunny stew. It's just not right. It's just not supposed to happen."

* * *

Other streaks considered (perhaps one of your favorites is on this list):

- Baseball's Jake Thrower with a hit in 11 consecutive at-bats in 1997.

- Softball's 70-game winning streak at Hillenbrand Stadium.

- Baseball's Brian Anderson (2003) and Jason Donald (2006) with UA-best 26-game hitting streaks.

- Softball's Amy Chellevold with a school-record 30-game hitting streak.

- Softball producing an All-American pitcher in 18 consecutive seasons.

- Caitlin Lowe stealing 56 consecutive bases.

- Football's 214-game scoring streak (the second-longest in the nation at the time), ending in the 1990 Aloha Bowl.

- Baseball's Chip Hale playing in a school-record 255 consecutive games.

- Basketball's 81-game winning streak at Bear Down Gym (1945-51), the fifth-longest home winning streak in NCAA history.

- Max Zendejas making at least one field goal in 18 consecutive games, a Pac-10/12 record.

- Sean Elliott scoring in double figures in 108 consecutive games.

Anthony Gimino has covered University of Arizona athletics for more than two decades, including as the football beat writer for the Arizona Daily Star and the columnist for the Tucson Citizen.

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