4. UCLA (8-0, No. 7) vs. Arizona (2-6)
Nov. 5, 2005
As had been the case with recent seasons, Arizona entered the 11th month of 2005 with little to play for other than pride. The Cats were 2-6, and though they had just toughed out a win in Corvallis over Oregon State, hopes were gone for snapping the UA’s seven-year absence from the postseason. To make matters worse, undefeated, top-10 UCLA arrived in Tucson averaging 43 points per game, while the Wildcats had failed to reach the 20-point plateau with any regularity.
Despite the seemingly insurmountable hurdle ahead, it was homecoming in Tucson, and a capacity crowd was on hand for a mid-afternoon game that would start under the sun and end under the lights.
The performances on the field were day and night as well, and nobody could have envisioned what took place over the four hours that followed.
The game was one long party.
The Wildcats scored on their first drive of the game. Then their second. And their third. And their fourth. By the 10-minute mark of the second quarter, Mike Thomas had tallied a rushing and receiving touchdown, Willie Tuitama connected with an embarrassingly wide-open tight end, Brad Wood, for another score, and running back Gilbert Harris ran through a gaping hole in the Bruin defensive line for an untouched 18-yard crowd-igniter. The Zona Zoo bounced and swayed with each successive big play, as excited shoves and high-fives flew in every direction with the uncontrollable elation of the frenzied crowd.
The Cats led 31-7 at halftime, but the fun wasn’t over.
The second half saw even more thrilling plays than the first, including a Mike Bell flip-dive into the endzone, Syndric Steptoe’s 63-yard punt return for a score, and lastly, in a play indicative of the type of game it was for UCLA, Marcus Hollingsworth recovered a backward Bruin pass behind the goal line, extending Arizona’s lead to 52-7.
By the time the final whistle sounded, much of the monstrous sea of red had already made its way onto the sidelines, and within seconds of the clock striking triple zeroes, the entire field disappeared under one enormous wave of cardinal delight.
It was Arizona’s first win over a top-10 in the new millennium; one that initiated a string of huge November upsets for the Wildcats. And the joy of that victory still resonated six months later, when, during the UA’s spring commencement ceremony in McKale Center, a student honoree took to the podium and induced boisterous cheers by reminding the crowd, “Because of this year, we’ll always remember the numbers 52 to 14.”
Six years later, it’s hard to argue with that.
Eric W. Kay is a regular contributor to Wildcat Sports Report. Read his game week features on Arizona football and basketball this fall.