1990 Arizona Wildcats football
Aloha Bowl, L 0–28 vs. Syracuse
ConferencePacific-10 Conference
1990 record7–5 (5–4 Pac-10)
Head coach
Offensive coordinatorRip Scherer (3rd season)
Defensive coordinatorLarry Mac Duff (4th season)
Home stadiumArizona Stadium
← 1989
1991 →
1990 Pacific-10 Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team W   L   T W   L   T
No. 5 Washington $ 7 1 0 10 2 0
No. 20 USC 5 2 1 8 4 1
Oregon 4 3 0 8 4 0
California 4 3 1 7 4 1
Arizona 5 4 0 7 5 0
UCLA 4 4 0 5 6 0
Stanford 4 4 0 5 6 0
Arizona State 2 5 0 4 7 0
Washington State 2 6 0 3 8 0
Oregon State 1 6 0 1 10 0
  • $ – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll

The 1990 Arizona Wildcats football team represented the University of Arizona in the Pacific-10 Conference (Pac-10) during the 1990 NCAA Division I-A football season. In their fourth season under head coach Dick Tomey, the Wildcats compiled a 7–5 record (5–4 against Pac-10 opponents), finished in fifth place in the Pac-10, were shut out in the 1990 Aloha Bowl by Syracuse, and were outscored by their opponents, 311 to 267.[1][2] The team played its home games in Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona.

The team's statistical leaders included George Malauulu with 726 passing yards, Art Greathouse with 482 rushing yards, and Terry Vaughn with 431 receiving yards.[3] Safety Jeff Hammerschmidt led the team with 78 tackles.[4] Cornerback Darryll Lewis intercepted seven passes and returned two of them for touchdowns.[5]

Arizona played all nine other Pac-10 schools in the season for the first time since they joined the conference in 1978. This feat would not be accomplished again until 2006. Also, the Wildcats only had four passing touchdowns all season, as most of their offensive touchdowns were on rushing plays (the team's offensive scheme at the time was a wishbone offense, which was mostly an option attack).

Before the season

Arizona concluded the 1989 season with a 8–4 record and a victory over NC State in the Copper Bowl that was held at their home field. The season ended a decade of resurgence for the football program and entered 1990 with hopes of continuing its winning ways.[6] The Wildcats were ranked 23rd at the start of the preseason.

Beginning this season, the Wildcats’ helmets featured the school's “Block ‘A’” logo, which is still in use as of today. The logo resembled Arizona’s growing stance as a university, and the previous logo, a red “A”, continued to be seen on the top of Arizona Stadium scoreboard until 1992.[7]


September 87:00 p.mNo. 11 Illinois*No. 23PrimeW 28–1653,625
September 157:00 p.m.at New Mexico*No. 20TBSW 25–1022,184
September 227:00 p.m.OregonNo. 18
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
KTTUW 22–1753,283
September 294:00 p.m.CaliforniaNo. 16
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
PrimeL 25–3052,731
October 612:30 p.m.at UCLANo. 25ABCW 28–2150,156
October 137:30 p.m.at Oregon StateNo. 21PrimeL 21–3521,653
October 201:00 p.m.at No. 15 USCPrimeW 35–2668,212
October 277:00 p.m.Washington StateNo. 23
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
KTTUW 42–3455,520
November 31:30 p.m.at No. 7 WashingtonNo. 23ABCL 10–5470,111
November 107:30 p.m.Stanforddagger
  • Arizona Stadium
  • Tucson, AZ
PrimeL 10–2352,609
November 244:00 p.m.Arizona State
PrimeW 21–1755,938
December 253:00 p.m.vs. Syracuse*ABCL 0–2814,185
  • *Non-conference game
  • daggerHomecoming
  • Rankings from AP Poll released prior to the game
  • All times are in Mountain time

Game summaries


Arizona began the new decade at home with a showdown against 11th-ranked Illinois. The defense held the Illini in check to earn a big victory.[8]

New Mexico

See also: Arizona-New Mexico football rivalry

Arizona traveled to Albuquerque and to visit old rival New Mexico. The Wildcats would outplay the Lobos yet again with a big second half to earn the victory.[9][10]

This was the final time that the Kit Carson Rifle was awarded, as it been theorized that using a rifle as a rivalry trophy advocates violence at that the rifle itself may have used to target Native Americans. As a result, the rifle was retired when the Wildcats and Lobos next met in the Insight Bowl in 1997.[11] The rifle currently resides in Tucson at Arizona's football facilities. A small wooden replica of the rifle is on display at New Mexico's campus in Albuquerque.


The Wildcats faced Oregon at home in their Pac-10 opener. Arizona's defense stymied the Ducks’ offense for most of the game. Wildcat cornerback Darryll Lewis had a pair of interceptions, with one returned for a touchdown. Oregon had a chance to win on the game's final play, but the Wildcats stopped them at the goal line to hold on for the victory.[12]


Against UCLA at the Rose Bowl, both the Wildcats and Bruins went in a back and forth battle before Lewis intercepted a UCLA pass and returned it for yet another touchdown to give Arizona the lead late in the fourth quarter. UCLA missed a chance for a tie or win after appearing to score a touchdown as time expired, but was penalized due to their quarterback crossing the line of scrimmage while he threw the ball toward the end zone, and the Wildcats escaped with the win.[13][14]

Oregon State

After narrowly edging UCLA, Arizona stayed on the road and went to Corvallis to face Oregon State. The Beavers, who were winless entering the game, pulled of an unlikely upset of the Wildcats.[15] The loss to the Beavers turned out to be Oregon State's only win of the season.


The Wildcats returned to southern California and took on 15th-ranked USC, who was led by former Arizona coach Larry Smith, who Tomey succeeded as Arizona coach in 1987. Both teams would battle back and forth early on in the game. Later, a memorable moment occurred when Arizona used a trick play on offense and nearly scored a touchdown on it (the play, known as a “Fumblerooski”, was later outlawed by the NCAA in 1993). Nevertheless, the Wildcats put up enough points on the board to hold off the Trojans on its way to an upset win and Tomey finally defeated Smith in his fourth try.[16]

This was the first time that Tomey defeated his predecessor and was also only Arizona's second ever win over USC and first since 1981 (when, coincidentally, Smith was the Arizona coach). It was also the first time in program history that Arizona defeated USC and UCLA in the same season (both occurring on the road).[17]


On the road in Seattle, Arizona visited seventh-ranked Washington. The Wildcats did not have a chance against the Huskies’ dominant offense, and gave up over 50 points in an ugly defeat.[18] Washington went on to ultimately win both the Pac-10 title and Rose Bowl.

Arizona State

See also: Arizona-Arizona State football rivalry

In the annual “Duel in the Desert”, the Wildcats met Arizona State and looked to continue their reign of dominance in the rivalry. Early in the game, the Sun Devils attempted a punt in which the ball sailed over the punter's head and Arizona recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. ASU recovered afterwards and led 17–14 after three quarters.

In the fourth, the Wildcats forced another turnover and regained the lead at 21–17 on a rushing touchdown by tailback Arthur Greathouse. With the game going down to the wire, ASU threatened to take the lead in the final minute trailing 21–17. However, the Wildcats intercepted a pass near the goal line to seal the win and gave the Devils another yet painful loss in the rivalry. The victory also saved their unbeaten streak over ASU dating back to 1982 and was bowl-eligible with their seventh win.[19] Arizona capitalized on several ASU mistakes which led to the win.[20][21][22]

Syracuse (Aloha Bowl)

Main article: 1990 Aloha Bowl

See also: 1990 Syracuse Orangemen football team

Arizona traveled to Hawaii for the Aloha Bowl against Syracuse that was played on Christmas Day. Tomey returned to Honolulu for the first time since 1986, when he was the Hawaii coach before being hired at Arizona in 1987. In the bowl game, the Wildcats had no answer against Syracuse's blitzing defense and the Orangemen's offense put up four touchdowns to pull away and earned a shutout. Arizona ended the season with a 7–5 record.[23][24] Syracuse is now known as the Orange.

Awards and honors

Season notes


  1. ^ "1990 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. ^ "1990 Arizona Wildcats Stats". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  4. ^ 2016 Media Guide, p. 86.
  5. ^ 2016 Media Guide, p. 87.
  6. ^ "New decade, more hope of winning for UA football". The Arizona Republic. April 23, 1990.
  7. ^ "Wildcats introduce new football helmets". Arizona Daily Wildcat. May 9, 1990.
  8. ^ "Big plays lead Arizona past Illini". Arizona Daily Star. September 9, 1990.
  9. ^ "Wildcats beat Lobos in 2nd half". Arizona Daily Star. September 16, 1990.
  10. ^ "Lobos get dominated by Arizona again". Albuquerque Journal. September 16, 1990.
  11. ^ "Arizona, New Mexico to retire Kit Carson Rifle due to concerns over violence". Tucson Citizen. December 15, 1997.
  12. ^ "'Cats stop Ducks at goal line on final play". Tucson Citizen. September 23, 1990.
  13. ^ "Lewis saves another one for UA". Arizona Daily Star. October 7, 1990.
  14. ^ "UCLA drops heartbreaker to Arizona after late QB blunders". Los Angeles Times. October 7, 1990.
  15. ^ "Beavers upend Wildcats". The Arizona Republic. October 14, 1990.
  16. ^ "Offense comes up big for Wildcats in upset over No. 15 Trojans; Smith finally beats predecessor". Tucson Citizen. October 21, 1990.
  17. ^ "Wildcat football does something they've never done before: Defeat UCLA and USC in the same season". Arizona Daily Wildcat. October 22, 1990.
  18. ^ "No. 7 Huskies' offense crushes Arizona". The Seattle Times. November 4, 1990.
  19. ^ "Destiny on UA's side once again; Interception saves day against ASU". Arizona Daily Star. November 25, 1990.
  20. ^ "Cats enjoy nine lives vs. Devils; Late-game heroics keep Arizona's streak alive". The Arizona Republic. November 25, 1990.
  21. ^ "UA stops ASU's late threat, extends rivalry dominance". Tucson Citizen. November 25, 1990.
  22. ^ "Late turnover saves Wildcats, keeps dominant run alive vs. Sun Devils". Arizona Daily Wildcat. November 26, 1990.
  23. ^ "Aloha Bowl a big zero for Arizona". Arizona Daily Star. December 26, 1990.
  24. ^ "Wildcats get shut out by Syracuse in Aloha Bowl, get no Christmas presents from Santa Claus". Arizona Daily Wildcat. January 14, 1991.
  25. ^ "Wildcats 1990 football schedule released, includes all nine Pac-10 opponents". Tucson Citizen. February 20, 1990.
  26. ^ "Win over ASU saved season, Cats bowl-eligible". Arizona Daily Star. November 27, 1990.
  27. ^ "UA's Lewis named winner of Jim Thorpe Award". Arizona Daily Star. January 15, 1991.
  28. ^ "UA offensive coordinator Scherer named James Madison coach". The Arizona Republic. January 23, 1991.