|1990 Arizona Wildcats football|
|1990 record||7–5 (5–4 Pac-10)|
|Offensive coordinator||Rip Scherer (3rd season)|
|Defensive coordinator||Larry Mac Duff (4th season)|
|Home stadium||Arizona Stadium|
|1990 Pacific-10 Conference football standings|
|No. 5 Washington $||7||–||1||–||0||10||–||2||–||0|
|No. 20 USC||5||–||2||–||1||8||–||4||–||1|
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. 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. Safety Jeff Hammerschmidt led the team with 78 tackles. Cornerback Darryll Lewis intercepted seven passes and returned two of them for touchdowns.
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).
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. 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.
|September 8||7:00 p.m||No. 11 Illinois*||No. 23||Prime||W 28–16||53,625|
|September 15||7:00 p.m.||at New Mexico*||No. 20||TBS||W 25–10||22,184|
|September 22||7:00 p.m.||Oregon||No. 18||KTTU||W 22–17||53,283|
|September 29||4:00 p.m.||California||No. 16||Prime||L 25–30||52,731|
|October 6||12:30 p.m.||at UCLA||No. 25||ABC||W 28–21||50,156|
|October 13||7:30 p.m.||at Oregon State||No. 21||Prime||L 21–35||21,653|
|October 20||1:00 p.m.||at No. 15 USC||Prime||W 35–26||68,212|
|October 27||7:00 p.m.||Washington State||No. 23||KTTU||W 42–34||55,520|
|November 3||1:30 p.m.||at No. 7 Washington||No. 23||ABC||L 10–54||70,111|
|November 10||7:30 p.m.||Stanford||Prime||L 10–23||52,609|
|November 24||4:00 p.m.||Arizona State||Prime||W 21–17||55,938|
|December 25||3:00 p.m.||vs. Syracuse*||ABC||L 0–28||14,185|
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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. 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.
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).
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. Washington went on to ultimately win both the Pac-10 title and Rose Bowl.
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. Arizona capitalized on several ASU mistakes which led to the win.
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. Syracuse is now known as the Orange.