Dec 15, 2012; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Mark Lyons (2) elevates for the last shot during the second half against the Florida Gators at McKale Center. The Wildcats beat the Gators 65-64. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Wildcats shock Nevada, Florida and everyone altogether in two different sports on same day


Editor’s Note: The events that unfolded on Saturday took me until today to get onto paper, not because I am lazy, but because all of Zona nation and I required a couple days of emotional recovery and reflection before being confident and capable enough to put together a comprehensible string of sentences together attempting to explain what occurred.

Immediately following the game on Saturday, my dad looked at me and said, “you know, I would like to watch the final two minutes of that game again, because I’m not entirely confident I really understand what just happened.” What game is my dad talking about, you ask? Well, it doesn’t really matter–such was the reaction for players and fans in both the Arizona football game in the New Mexico Bowl against Nevada and the Arizona basketball game against then #5 Florida: shocking, unbelievable, indescribable and for those from Florida or Nevada, add the words demoralizing, devastating and dumbfounding. Like my dad and I, Even those that witnessed Saturday’s events from start to end cannot fully explain or comprehend what happened. It went by too quickly.

We all know the basic story by now. Down by 13 points to Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl with less than two minutes left in the game, Arizona scored a touchdown, recovered an onside kick and then scored another touchdown to go ahead by one point with 19 seconds left in a game the Wildcats had no business winning. Eight hours later, down by 6 points to Florida at McKale Center with less than one minute left in the game, Arizona caused three turnovers and scored 7 points to go ahead by one point with 7 seconds left in a game the Wildcats had no business winning. How many other college schools can say that their football and basketball teams won by a single point…scored in the final seconds in critical games…that they shouldn’t have won…on the same day? I dare you to find one other than the University of Arizona.

That is the basic headline, but the details become more complex. Most sports writers generally break down each game by analyzing numbers and searching for answers via statistics, and for most games, that method works. Sometimes, however, you will not find any answers on paper and writing about as much will not provide any insight nor do the game any true justice; sometimes, you cannot explain a game by numbers and must instead use words, or on instances like this one, at least attempt to use them. In rare moments, even words are hard to put down because the event is powerful enough to give each fan or player a one of a kind experience–a unique story of their own, one that is on their own terms and that cannot be fully understood by anyone. Such was the case last Saturday for Arizona (twice), and I have yet to talk to someone who shared the same experience I did.

Dec. 15, 2012; Albuquerque, NM, USA; Arizona Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez hoists the trophy following the game against the Nevada Wolf Pack in the 2012 New Mexico Bowl at University Stadium. Arizona defeated Nevada 49-48. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

For me, the experience was about karma. About watching Arizona’s defense get flagged for targeting Nevada’s quarterback near the goal line, watching their quarterback grovel on the ground as if he were in the pain equivalent to a woman in labor and then pop up, pump his fist and dance around on the sideline like a typical douche bag. By the end of the game, there would no longer be a cute smug on his face, but the look of a stunned idiot, like any teenager from the movie Dazed and Confused.

It was about irony. About missing the last two minutes of the football game so that we could catch my flight back to Tucson for the basketball game, only to find out once we got to the airport the flight was delayed long enough that we could have stayed for the entire thing (every Arizona fan on that flight was in the airport bar pounding back a large beer in agony over that one.). Even the Arizona Pom Line missed it. We would all be rewarded for this later however, nothing impeding our ability to watch the last two minutes of the never-to-forget basketball thriller. It’s not often (or ever) you get to say, “I missed seeing live one of the most epic comebacks in school history so that I wouldn’t miss seeing live another epic comeback in school history later that night.”

It was about catching a break. Before now–and especially for football–Arizona was long overdue for a lucky bounce to go their way. On Saturday, Santa brought the Wildcats two huge lucky bounces as early Christmas presents (a successful onside kick and a missed free throw from a Florida guard who shoots 87% at the free throw line).

It was about so many other things: pure will and determination, hope, relief, validation and confirmation of a new coach with a new program on the rise, re-establishment of a national power house, the usage and non-usage of timeouts, broken curses and broken records, the belief that maybe there is such a thing as a Sports God, complete and utter collapses, the redemption of two different seniors in two different sports, the potential of a future Heisman trophy winner, unlikely heroes and villains, sideline brawls, overcoming adversity, the thought of a much different conversation being had today had either game gone differently, adding two more things to my “Top 10 Arizona Sports’ Moments of the Year,” and on, and on, and on, and on.

And on.

This a small account of my observations, and I couldn’t recount the entirety of my own experience even if I tried–like my dad said at the end of it all, I’m not so sure I entirely understand what just happened. But that’s not what is important, because I know (at least to some extent) my own version of the story. The important question is: what is yours?

(No, but seriously, what is your version of what unfolded Saturday? I’d love for you to leave a comment below sharing with me your experience of a very special moment in Wildcat history).

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Tags: Arizona Wildcats Arizona Wildcats Basketball Arizona Wildcats Football Florida Gators Nevada Wolfpack New Mexico Bowl

  • Bryan Jaret-Schachter

    I was in Las Vegas for a friend’s bachelor party and watched both games from start to finish in the Caesar’s Palace sports book. There were not many people cheering for Nevada and Florida in those games but there were quite a few Arizona fans hanging around during both and I was in Vegas with several fellow alums. With both games nearing the end and the outcomes looking bad I certainly was not in a good mood but what unfolded may have been one of the most exciting experiences I have had watching sports. I don’t know that there was a louder group of people screaming at the end of those games (outside of those who were at each game) than my group at Caesar’s. I’m sure we looked like idiots to anyone not watching the game but we didn’t care. It completely changed my outlook for the day, after being beaten badly at the blackjack tables the night before! I am going to the UA game tonight and surprising my wife with some really good seats and am looking forward to seeing the number 4 team in the country in action.

  • Ted Schmidt

    I have been a Wildcat fan for 43 years. I was there and in person to witness the Cecil interception and 106 yard return against ASU, the “Mc MIracle at McKale,” the overtime victory against Ky to win the National Championship in Basketball. Each event had its own special magic. However of all the exciting sports moments in UA history there was something about Saturday’s inconceivable victories that distinguished the New Mexico Bowl and Florida victories from the others besides the improbable occurrence of both events on the same day.

    The single most significant and unique element of both of Saturday’s victories that I will never forget is the “never give up” WIldcat spirit that made it happen. Were we lucky? Of course. But as Ben Franklin said, “Diligence is the mother of good luck.” We never win either of these games if our teams have the normal and usual human reaction to their predicament and give up, accept the inevitable and go through the motions. Rich Rod and Sean Miller have instilled a spirit of fight, resilience and diligence in our teams that is unsurpassed. This is why we won those games and this is is a lesson for all of us to persevere in whatever we do. Finally, I can honestly say that the emotional lift from these two incredible victories has completely erased the bad taste of the loss to ASU and for me that is just as improbable.

  • Matt Stamp

    I was looking forward to Dec. 15th for a long time but nothing could have prepared me for the magic that took place. I was so happy and fortunate to be able to watch both games with my wife and six-week old daughter in the comfort of our living room. My wife, knowing how excited I was for the day, gave me complete control in dressing our daughter…no matter how goofy she would look. I had her in her new UofA gear from head to toe (she looked AWESOME by the way.)

    As i explain in my blog that will be posted on this site a little later, nothing can beat that feeling, after the Cats win over Florida, when I leaped up and hugged my daughter in joy and excitement. We seriously looked like Grant Jerrett and the little walk-on player that he lifted off the ground and ran around hugging. Haha, so amazing. The Cats little good luck charm came through.

    The best Christmas gift is clearly my family…my healthy, beautiful daughter Railyn and my amazing wife KaiAnn but those two wins by the Cats on Saturday were certainly a close second. And experiencing them with my two favorite people is something very special that I won’t forget.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nick.mueller.169 Nick Mueller

    Saturday was truly an epic day for the Wildcats and will be a building block for the future of both programs. My experience for the day was one of amazing joy and also utter stupidity. I spent the morning watching the football game with my wife at home. I watched every single play of the game like I do for every game that I watch (I believe that one single play can determine a game, so I never want o miss one). But then at the end of the game when we were down late I saw an upset alert at the bottom of my screen that Indiana was in a close game with Butler. I thought in my head “honestly, Arizona is done why don’t I change the channel and watch this “close game” So, I did and we all know what happened. After kicking myself literally in the leg all day I was prepared for our evening game with Florida. This time i was watching with my wife and this time I was not going to miss even a single second. When the unthinkable happened for the 2nd time to our beloved Cats I couldn’t help but think that they bailed me out of my early stupidity.

    I know that it isn’t true but as fans we like to think that we have something to do with the wins and losses when we are there watching. I had an unbelievable moment of clarity when the Cats were down late in that Florida game and for some reason I knew they would come back in that game ( I know sounds stupid). Anyway you look at it it was a magical day and taught me to never ever for any circumstance leave my couch during a game. I’m sure my wife will love that.

  • Heliocracy .

    Now, imagine if you had actually seen both endings live, as I did.