clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Arizona-Cal football series is crazy

New, comment

Expect close games and/or wild finishes anytime these schools meet up on the gridiron

California v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats haven’t played the California Golden Bears since 2014, but no one — at least not Arizona fans — will ever forget what happened on that September night in Tucson.

Arizona scored 36 points (!) in the final quarter to erase a 31-13 fourth-quarter deficit en route to a 49-45 victory.

Some crazy things happened, including a successful onside kick and a 47-yard game-winning Hail Mary by Anu Solomon to Austin Hill as time expired.

That victory was instrumental in a magical season for the Wildcats, in which they won 10 games and the Pac-12 South, and played in the Fiesta Bowl.

But while that “Hill Mary” game was especially wild, the Arizona-Cal series is no stranger to mayhem.

Of the 32 games in the series, 22 have been decided by one possession (eight points), including each of the last four contests. Ten games in the series have been decided by a field goal or less.

Easily the worst moment in this series for Arizona was in 1993.

The 10-2 Wildcats fell one win short of their first-ever Rose Bowl, thanks to an improbable comeback by the Bears.

The 5-4 Bears, who had lost four straight entering that game in Berkeley, scored 24 unanswered points to erase Arizona’s 20-0 halftime lead.

Arizona led 20-17 with less than four minutes left, but UA quarterback Danny White threw a pick-six to propel the Bears to victory.

Arizona wound up finishing with the same record as UCLA atop the Pac-10, but UCLA had the tiebreaker, so they earned the Rose Bowl bid instead.

It’s now 2017 and Arizona still has never made it to a Rose Bowl. Thank Cal for that.

Meanwhile, one my favorite moments in the Arizona-Cal series was the 2006 matchup in Tucson.

After trailing No. 8 Cal 17-3 in the third quarter, Arizona tied the game after two touchdown runs by Chris Henry.

Then, with just under 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Antoine Cason stepped in front of a pass from Nate Longshore and took it to the house for a 39-yard pick-six to put Arizona up 24-17.

But wait! Cal would answer with a field goal, and then would re-take the lead on a long 63-yard catch-and-run touchdown by DeSean Jackson.

Or so they thought.

It turns out Jackson stepped out of bounds well before reaching the end zone.

Still, Cal was in Arizona territory with two minutes left, but Ronnie Palmer intercepted Longshore to clinch the upset.

There’s also the ridiculously long 1996 game.

Arizona fell 56-55 in Berkeley in quadruple overtime after failing on a two-point conversion.

That game took so long that the NCAA made a rule change, requiring teams to go for two after the second overtime period.

Fittingly, Arizona won 41-38 in double overtime the very next year.

In all, Arizona leads the all-time series 16-14-2, but Cal leads 8-7-2 in Berkeley.

Arizona has won the last three matchups, but the largest margin of victory was a five-point, 33-28 win in 2013.

Will this Saturday’s game be different? Will one team win comfortably?

Probably not — Arizona is just a three-point favorite. And this is the Arizona-Cal series we’re talking about, after all.


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire