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Arizona football: 2007 Thursday night upset of Oregon sparked Wildcats for two years

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A Thursday night upset defined a season of being on the brink of bigger things

Arizona v USC Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Editor's note: This week at SB Nation, we're taking a look back at the craziness that was the 2007 college football season. Arizona's role in it was a Thursday night victory over No. 2 Oregon. Our Jason Bartel wrote about that game and what it meant for the program moving forward.

The year was 2007. The Arizona Wildcats were entering the fourth year under Mike Stoops, and Stoops’ job was in a little bit of jeopardy with the program still mired in mediocrity.

Arizona hadn’t been to a bowl game since the 1998 Holiday Bowl. This ended up being the school’s longest postseason drought since the 1970s, but in 2007, it was obvious the streak would soon come to an end.

This became clear on a crisp Thursday night in Arizona Stadium.

Thursday college football games were still a relatively new phenomenon, and were certainly unheard of in a place like Tucson, where Thursdays were reserved for basketball.

But on Thursday, November 15, the No. 2 Oregon Ducks made the long trip south with BCS National Championship aspirations surrounding the program. Dennis Dixon also had the Heisman Trophy on his mind.

All they had to do was get through a 4-6 Arizona team.

Well, they couldn’t do that.

In the first quarter, Dixon’s career changed forever. For the rest of my life, I will never be able to erase this moment from my memory.

With Oregon up 8-7 and driving toward the south endzone in Arizona Stadium, Dixon attempted to roll left out of the pocket. As he was being pursued, his knee gave way. He went down to the grass untouched and was unable to get up.

Sitting in the southeast corner of the stadium, I had a perfectly clear view of his knee going in the completely wrong direction and immediately felt that would probably end Dixon forever.

With Ryan Leaf’s younger brother, Brady, now behind center for the Ducks, there was a sense of confidence at 6th and Cherry that hadn’t really been felt for nearly a decade.

In the second quarter, Antoine Cason turned that confidence into arrogance.

Cason sandwiched a long Willie Tuitama touchdown pass to Mike Thomas with interception and punt return TDs of his own, putting the Wildcats up 31-11 at the time. A 20-point lead over the No. 2 team in the country? OK.

Arizona failed to find the endzone again that night, but hung on for a stunning 31-24 victory over Oregon, dashing the Ducks’ BCS dreams while also revitalizing an Arizona fanbase.

The Wildcats were now within a game of being bowl eligible with a trip to Tempe on the docket. No. 13 ASU took that game 20-17 to complete a 10-2 regular season, but there was still a new sense of hope in Tucson.

As everyone knows the bowl drought ended the next season, and Arizona has only missed the postseason twice (2011 and 2016) since then.

Even though making a bowl has certainly become a watered down accomplishment and the non-conference schedules in recent years have made it easier to finish with winning records, the Wildcats have basically only come on hard times for about two years in the nine seasons since that Oregon game.

2007 was weird, but a late-season Thursday night game giving Arizona a little momentum behind its football program is up there in the weirdness of it all.