Five years ago today, the Arizona Wildcats completed an improbable comeback against the California Golden Bears when Austin Hill hauled in a Hail Mary from Anu Solomon as the clock hit triple zeroes.
The iconic catch sealed a 49-45 win and capped a 36-point fourth quarter scoring outburst after the Wildcats trailed 31-13 through three and 28-6 at the half.
Down 45-30 with 5:21 left, Arizona used a quick touchdown drive followed by a successful onside kick to give them a chance to tie it with 3:30 left.
Solomon, who threw 73 times for 520 yards that night, connected with Cayleb Jones for a 15-yard touchdown to trim the deficit to 45-43 less than a minute later, but Arizona appeared dead in the water after failing the two-point conversation.
Then Cal, led by Rams quarterback Jared Goff, missed a field goal on its ensuing drive and the Wildcats had another shot, taking over at their own 30 with 52 seconds left. That seemed like a reasonable place to start a game-winning drive, but a pass interference penalty pushed the Wildcats back 15 yards.
Arizona could only advance to the Cal 47 with time for one last play, leaving a Hail Mary—or Hill Mary, as it’s famously known now—as the only option.
It turned out OK:
Happy Hill Mary Day! pic.twitter.com/fuWYgdkymB— AZ Desert Swarm (@AZDesertSwarm) September 20, 2019
The victory proved to be a turning point in one of the most successful seasons in Arizona football history. The Wildcats improved to 4-0, and by the end of conference play had captured the Pac-12 South, finishing one game ahead of UCLA, USC, and ASU.
Arizona would lose to Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game, then to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl, but still finished with a 10-4 record, just the third time in program history the Wildcats have reached double-digit wins.
And none of it happens without the Hill Mary.