1981 Arizona Wildcats football
ConferencePacific-10 Conference
1981 record6–5 (4–4 Pac-10)
Head coach
Home stadiumArizona Stadium
Seasons
← 1980
1982 →
1981 Pacific-10 Conference football standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   T     W   L   T
No. 10 Washington $ 6 2 0     10 2 0
No. 16 Arizona State 5 2 0     9 2 0
No. 14 USC 5 2 0     9 3 0
Washington State 5 2 1     8 3 1
UCLA 5 2 1     7 4 1
Arizona 4 4 0     6 5 0
Stanford 4 4 0     4 7 0
California 2 6 0     2 9 0
Oregon 1 6 0     2 9 0
Oregon State 0 7 0     1 10 0
  • $ – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll

The 1981 Arizona Wildcats football team represented the University of Arizona in the Pacific-10 Conference (Pac-10) during the 1981 NCAA Division I-A football season. In their second season under head coach Larry Smith, the Wildcats compiled a 6–5 record (4–4 against Pac-10 opponents), finished in a tie for sixth place in the Pac-10, and outscored their opponents, 253 to 205.[1][2] The team played its home games in Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona.

A memorable highlight of the season occurred in October when Arizona upset #1 USC, which was Arizona's first win over a top-ranked opponent in school history. It was also the Wildcats’ first win over the Trojans in program history. A loss to rival Arizona State was a factor that prevented the Wildcats from going to a bowl game.

The team's statistical leaders included Tom Tunnicliffe with 1,420 passing yards, Vance Johnson with 654 rushing yards, and Bob Carter with 427 receiving yards.[3] Linebacker Ricky Hunley led the team with 121 total tackles.[4]

Schedule

DateOpponentSiteTVResultAttendance
September 12No. 12 UCLACBSL 18–3549,311
September 19California
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
KZAZL 13–1440,096
September 26Cal State Fullerton*
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
KZAZW 37–1636,279
October 3Stanford
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
USAW 17–1341,110
October 10at No. 1 USCABCW 13–1056,315
October 17at OregonW 18–1424,264
October 24No. 16 Washington State
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
ABCL 19–3450,265
October 31UTEP*dagger
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
KZAZW 48–1553,782
November 14at Oregon StateW 40–718,339
November 21Fresno State*
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
KZAZL 17–2338,107
November 28at No. 18 Arizona StateUSAL 13–2472,445
  • *Non-conference game
  • daggerHomecoming
  • Rankings from AP Poll released prior to the game

Personnel

1981 Arizona Wildcats football team roster
Players Coaches
Offense
Pos. # Name Class
WR 81 Brad Anderson So
G 60 Frank Kail Sr
QB Tom Tunnicliffe So
Defense
Pos. # Name Class
CB 3 Danny Copeland Jr
LB 89 Ricky Hunley So
Special teams
Pos. # Name Class
Head coach
Coordinators/assistant coaches

Legend
  • (C) Team captain
  • (S) Suspended
  • (I) Ineligible
  • Injured
  • Redshirt

Game summaries

UCLA

In the home and season opener, the Wildcats hosted UCLA. Arizona upset the Bruins in the previous year that prevented UCLA from earning the top ranking. This time, UCLA (who was ranked 12th) got vengeance, and defeated the Wildcats to avenge the loss.[5]

USC

See also: 1981 USC Trojans football team

Arizona visited top-ranked USC in the Wildcats’ first road game of the season. After the Trojans took an early 10–0 lead, the Wildcats scored 13 unanswered points to shock college football for a huge upset victory. It was Arizona’s first win over a top-ranked team in program history and it was their biggest win since joining the Pac-10 in 1978.[6] After returning to Tucson after the game, the team was met by a crowd of raucous fans for a wild celebration.[7] It was the second straight year that Smith’s Wildcats upset a top-5 team, as they defeated UCLA (the other Los Angeles school), who was ranked second at the time, in the previous season.[8]

Arizona State

See also: Arizona-Arizona State football rivalry

In the season finale, Arizona went to Tempe to face Arizona State (ranked 18th) in the rivalry game. On a rainy night, the Wildcats struggled and lost to ASU yet again, perhaps denying the Wildcats a chance to earn a bowl bid.[9][10] Also, the loss extended ASU’s dominance in the rivalry dating back to 1949, with the Wildcats losing for the 24th time in 33 meetings.

Season notes

References

  1. ^ "1981 Arizona Wildcats Schedule and Results". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  2. ^ "Arizona Football 2016 Media Guide" (PDF). University of Arizona. 2016. p. 107. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  3. ^ "1981 Arizona Wildcats Stats". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  4. ^ 2016 Media Guide, p. 86.
  5. ^ "Revenge: UCLA tops Arizona, avenges 1980 loss". Los Angeles Times. September 13, 1981.
  6. ^ "A Wild Upset! Cats stun top-ranked Trojans at Coliseum". Arizona Daily Star. October 11, 1981.
  7. ^ "Tucson celebrates UA's big win over USC". Tucson Citizen. October 11, 1981.
  8. ^ "Smith, Wildcats have now upset both LA schools in two seasons". Arizona Daily Wildcat. October 12, 1981.
  9. ^ "ASU bests UA again". The Arizona Republic. November 29, 1981.
  10. ^ "ASU denies Wildcats' bowl chances in the rain". Arizona Daily Star. November 29, 1981.