Arizona Wildcats notebook: Ranking best road wins - Tucson News Now

Arizona Wildcats notebook: Ranking best road wins

(Source: Twitter.com/AZAthletics) (Source: Twitter.com/AZAthletics)
Anthony Gimino Anthony Gimino

By Anthony Gimino / Special for Tucson News Now

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Arizona Wildcats will bask in the glow of their 31-24 win over Oregon, with coaches taking the long weekend to recruit, national pundits singing their praises, and ex-UA star Tedy Bruschi actually singing on national television.

The ESPN analyst appeared on a SportsCenter loop Friday morning, belting out "Bear Down, Arizona."

It's self-evident that a victory over the second-ranked Ducks in Autzen Stadium is a great win. How great? Let's count down the biggest Arizona triumphs on the road in the Pac-10/12 era.

5. Arizona 31, Washington 28 (1998)

This is the Ortege Jenkins' Leap by the Lake game. His last-second dash and flip into the end zone provided the margin of victory. The win pushed Arizona to 5-0 heading into a home showdown against UCLA. The Wildcats, until Thursday night, hadn't been 5-0 since then.

4. Arizona 16, Arizona State 13 (1985)

The 20th-ranked Sun Devils just needed a tie to advance to the Rose Bowl, but Arizona denied them for the second time in four seasons. The game is well-remembered for Byron Evans stripping the ball from punt returner Anthony Parker, with Don Be'Ans recovering for a touchdown, and for Max Zendejas' fourth-quarter field goals - 57 yards with 5:29 to play and from 32 yards with 1:43 left.

3. Arizona 16, Notre Dame 13 (1982)

The Wildcats further cemented their giant-killer reputation under Coach Larry Smith when, a week after tying No. 8 UCLA 24-24 in Pasadena, Zendejas kicked a last-play 48-yard field goal to stun the ninth-ranked Fighting Irish.

2. Arizona 31, Oregon 24 (2014)

The Scooby strip, the running attack, Anu Solomon's poise, a hard-hitting defensive effort - all while in the Thursday night national spotlight - well, you can see the highlights and read all about it here.

1. Arizona 13, USC 10 (1981)

The Wildcats were 24-point underdogs - nearly identical to the oddsmakers' line from Thursday night - but ended USC's 22-game home winning streak. USC's Marcus Allen rushed for 211 yards - his fifth consecutive game with more than 200 - but Arizona allowed the Trojans to cross midfield only once in the second half ... and then the Cats recovered a fumble. Tom Tunnicliffe and Vance Johnson connected on a 13-yard score late in the third quarter for the winning points as UA rallied from a 10-0 hole.

'THEY BEAT UP OREGON, REALLY'

Bruschi, in his SportsCenter appearances Friday morning, said he called Coach Rich Rodriguez in the wee hours of Friday morning to congratulate him on the victory.

Bruschi noted on TV how the Wildcats took advantage of a banged-up Oregon offensive line by being "constantly in the backfield, penetration, disrupting that high-powered Oregon offense."

He added: "You can have all the bells and whistles that you want; you can have a Heisman hopeful quarterback, you can have speed at the receiver position. But if you can't block up front, you're going to lose. And that's what Arizona proved last night. ... They beat up Oregon, really."

Bruschi has been a vocal Rodriguez supporter since the coach was hired in November 2011.

"Rich Rodriguez has done a great job with that program," Bruschi said. "The kids are believing now that victories like this are possible."

NOTING THESE NUMBERS

Won't hear much complaining about Arizona's 3-3-5 odd stack defense this week. The Wildcats have held Oregon to an average of 20 points per game in the past two seasons. The Ducks have averaged 48.1 points against everyone else in that span.

Oregon freshman running back Royce Freeman praised Arizona's "physicality."

"When we gain tempo, we continue to put teams down and grind it out, but they held their ground when we started to get tempo," Freeman said. "I give them a lot of credit because they are a very physical team as well."

THREE POINTS

1. Don't overlook the contribution of Dan Pettinato. The Arizona senior defensive lineman had the game of his career, with seven tackles and a sack/forced fumble of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. That stopped a potential scoring drive after the Ducks had reached the Arizona 33 late in the half. "We stayed together as a team," Pettinato said after the game. "I can't tell you how proud I am about our defense. We really stuck together."

2. Oregon is toast. Not just because of the loss, but because that offensive line is only going to get incrementally healthier, which isn't enough.

3. Anu Solomon can handle anything. Arizona's quarterback might have a moment or two every game when you say, "Oh, yeah, I can tell he's a freshman," but he already has the most epic fourth-quarter in school history against Cal, and a win over the second-ranked team in the loudest stadium on the West Coast. The stage will never be too big for him.

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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