1985 Arizona Wildcats football
Sun Bowl, T 13–13 vs. Georgia
ConferencePacific-10 Conference
1985 record8–3–1 (5–2 Pac-10)
Head coach
Home stadiumArizona Stadium
← 1984
1986 →
1985 Pacific-10 Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team W   L   T W   L   T
No. 7 UCLA $ 6 2 0 9 2 1
Arizona 5 2 0 8 3 1
Arizona State 5 2 0 8 4 0
Washington 5 3 0 7 5 0
USC 5 3 0 6 6 0
Oregon 3 4 0 5 6 0
Washington State 3 5 0 4 7 0
Stanford 3 5 0 4 7 0
Oregon State 2 6 0 3 8 0
California 2 7 0 4 7 0
  • $ – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll

The 1985 Arizona Wildcats football team represented the University of Arizona in the Pacific-10 Conference (Pac-10) during the 1985 NCAA Division I-A football season. In their sixth season under head coach Larry Smith, the Wildcats compiled an 8–3–1 record (5–2 against Pac-10 opponents), finished in second place in the Pac-10, tied with Georgia in the 1985 Sun Bowl, and outscored their opponents, 252 to 146. The defense gave up an average of 12.2 points per game, the sixth best average in Division I-A.[1][2] The team played its home games in Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona.

Arizona was eligible for a bowl game this season, as their postseason ban was lifted following NCAA sanctions that were received in 1983 as a result of recruiting violations. However, they were still on probation and were barred from having games aired live on television.[3]

A major highlight of the season occurred in early October, when the Wildcats upset SMU, who was ranked third at the time.

The team's statistical leaders included Alfred Jenkins with 1,767 passing yards, David Adams with 511 rushing yards, and Jon Horton with 685 receiving yards.[4] Linebacker Byron Evans led the team with 196 total tackles.[5]

Before the season

The Wildcats concluded the 1984 season with a 7–4 record (5–2 in Pac-10) and defeated Arizona State in their rivalry matchup. Due to NCAA violations, the team was ineligible for a bowl game (as was in 1983) and got banned from both playing on live television and being in the rankings. The bowl ban was lifted prior to the 1985 season, though the TV ban continued as well as the ban from the rankings, regardless of how many games Arizona would win during the year. The Wildcats entered the season with hope that they would finish with a winning record.[6]


September 7Toledo*W 23–10
September 14Washington State
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
W 12–7
September 21at CaliforniaW 23–17
September 28Colorado*
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
L 13–14
October 5No. 3 SMU*
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
W 28–6
October 19San Jose State*
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
W 41–0
October 26at StanfordL 17–28
November 2at Oregon StateW 27–6
November 9No. 14 UCLAdagger
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
L 19–24
November 16Oregon
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
W 20–8
November 23at Arizona StateW 16–13
December 28vs. Georgia*CBST 13–13
  • *Non-conference game
  • daggerHomecoming
  • Rankings from AP Poll released prior to the game


1985 Arizona Wildcats football team roster
Players Coaches
Pos. # Name Class
Pos. # Name Class
Special teams
Pos. # Name Class
K Max Zendejas Sr
Head coach
Coordinators/assistant coaches

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

Game summaries


At home against third-ranked SMU, the Wildcats dominated the Mustangs in an upset that shocked the college football world in front of a packed Arizona Stadium crowd.[7] Two years later, SMU would be punished with death penalty in the wake of a massive slush fund scandal that would damage their program.[8] It was the first time since 1938 that Arizona and SMU met on the field (the Mustangs won the 1938 meeting).


On homecoming weekend, the Wildcats hosted UCLA. The Bruins started hot early and led most of the game until Arizona rallied back to get within a score. The Wildcats threatened to take the lead in the final minute. However, the Bruins forced a turnover on downs to seal the win.[9]

Arizona State

See also: Arizona-Arizona State football rivalry

The Wildcats went on the road to face Arizona State in the rivalry game. The Sun Devils led 13–3 at one point before the Wildcats stormed back. ASU fumbled during a punt return that Arizona recovered for a touchdown. In the fourth quarter, Max Zendejas kicked a school-record tying 57-yard field goal with 5:29 left to tie the game and then kicked a 32-yard field goal with 1:43 left to give Arizona the lead. ASU was a final chance, but the Wildcats forced an interception and Arizona escaped with the win and their fourth consecutive over the Devils.[10][11][12][13]

This was the second time in four seasons that the Wildcats denied Arizona State a shot at the Rose Bowl, with the first occurring in 1982 (ASU had to defeat Arizona to clinch a spot in the bowl).[14]

Georgia (Sun Bowl)

Main article: 1985 Sun Bowl

See also: 1985 Georgia Bulldogs football team

Arizona, now bowl-eligible, played in the Sun Bowl, and faced Georgia in the teams’ first meeting against each other. Both the Wildcats and Bulldogs were tied 13–13 when both teams missed field goals in the fourth quarter, with Zendejas’ kick sailing wide late, which led to the game ending in a tie.[15] This was the Wildcats first and only tie in their bowl game history, as none of their future bowl games played between 1986 and 1994 ended in ties (the NCAA eliminated ties for overtime periods that began with the 1995 bowl season).[16]

Season notes

After the season

Arizona’s finish to the 1985 season would continue to lead to an improvement for the Wildcats and set the stage for a remarkable 1986 season which would see Arizona in contention for the Pac-10 title. The team would ultimately finish with a historic rivalry victory as well as a win in the postseason for the first time. Smith would depart as Wildcat coach after the season.[19]


  1. ^ "1985 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. 108. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  3. ^ "Wildcats bowl-eligible for '85, live TV ban still in effect". Arizona Daily Star. June 5, 1985.
  4. ^ "1985 Arizona Wildcats Stats". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  5. ^ 2016 Media Guide, p. 86.
  6. ^ "Smith believes Wildcats will win more games in '85". Arizona Daily Wildcat. April 10, 1985.
  7. ^ "Wildcats take down No. 3 SMU in big upset". Arizona Daily Star. October 6, 1985.
  8. ^ "UA football reacts to SMU death penalty announcement". Arizona Daily Star. February 25, 1987.
  9. ^ "Wildcats rally late, come up short against UCLA". Arizona Daily Star. November 10, 1985.
  10. ^ "UA wins to send ASU on Holiday". Arizona Daily Star. November 24, 1985.
  11. ^ "Cats stomp on Devils' roses: Zendejas' 3 FGs keys UA victory". The Arizona Republic. November 24, 1985.
  12. ^ "Mad Max Beyond Tempe: Late kicks lift 'Cats over ASU for fourth straight year". Tucson Citizen. November 25, 1985.
  13. ^ "The Kick III: Zendejas' late FG, defense lead Wildcats to fourth consecutive win over ASU". Arizona Daily Wildcat. November 24, 1985.
  14. ^ "UA denies ASU's shot at Rose Bowl again". The Arizona Republic. November 25, 1985.
  15. ^ "UA, Georgia finish Sun Bowl in tie". The Arizona Republic. December 29, 1985.
  16. ^ "Cats miss late chance vs. Georgia, settles for Sun Bowl tie". Arizona Daily Star. December 29, 1985.
  17. ^ "Wildcats' Sun Bowl matchup with Georgia will be broadcast live, as TV ban expires". Tucson Citizen. December 17, 1985.
  18. ^ "Mad Max leaves Tucson: UA kicker was the best". Arizona Daily Star. December 31, 1985.
  19. ^ "'86 season a successful one for UA football". Arizona Daily Star. December 31, 1986.