|1985 Arizona Wildcats football|
|1985 record||8–3–1 (5–2 Pac-10)|
|Home stadium||Arizona Stadium|
|1985 Pacific-10 Conference football standings|
|No. 7 UCLA $||6||–||2||–||0||9||–||2||–||1|
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. 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.
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. Linebacker Byron Evans led the team with 196 total tackles.
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.
|September 7||Toledo*||W 23–10|
|September 14||Washington State||W 12–7|
|September 21||at California||W 23–17|
|September 28||Colorado*||L 13–14|
|October 5||No. 3 SMU*||W 28–6|
|October 19||San Jose State*||W 41–0|
|October 26||at Stanford||L 17–28|
|November 2||at Oregon State||W 27–6|
|November 9||No. 14 UCLA||L 19–24|
|November 16||Oregon||W 20–8|
|November 23||at Arizona State||W 16–13|
|December 28||vs. Georgia*||CBS||T 13–13|
|1985 Arizona Wildcats football team roster|
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. Two years later, SMU would be punished with death penalty in the wake of a massive slush fund scandal that would damage their program. 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.
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.
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).
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. 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).
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.