|1999 Arizona Wildcats football|
|1999 record||6–6 (3–5 Pac-10)|
|Offensive coordinator||Dino Babers (2nd season)|
|Defensive coordinator||Rich Ellerson (3rd season)|
|Home stadium||Arizona Stadium|
|1999 Pacific-10 Conference football standings|
|No. 19 Oregon||6||–||2||9||–||3|
Rankings from AP Poll
The 1999 Arizona Wildcats football team represented the University of Arizona during the 1999 NCAA Division I-A football season. Led by head coach Dick Tomey in his thirteenth season, the Wildcats finished with a 6–6 record (3–5 against Pac-10 opponents) and missed out on a bowl game.
After entering the year with high expectations after a dominant 1998 season, the Wildcats were outplayed and blown out by Penn State in the opener and never fully recovered. They were 5–2 and 6–3 at different points during the year, but would lose out, including a rivalry loss to Arizona State to end the season, which knocked them out of the postseason picture.
Arizona completed the 1998 season with a 12–1 record and defeated Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. Many fans have rated the season as the best in school history.
The team entered the 1999 season with many of their offensive starters returning and hoped to improve from the previous season and contend for the Pac-10 title and a chance to finally earn a spot for the Rose Bowl that has eluded them during the decade, as well as being contenders for a potential national championship.
Tomey brought in a top recruiting class to the program in an effort to help the team move one step closer to achieving its goals. By the preseason, the Wildcats were ranked third in the polls, which was the highest in team history to start a season.
|August 28||12:30 p.m.||at No. 4 Penn State*||No. 3||ABC||L 7–41||97,168|
|September 5||4:30 p.m.||at TCU*||No. 15||FSN||W 35–31||34,612|
|September 11||7:00 p.m.||Middle Tennessee State*||No. 19||KTTU||W 34–19||48,573|
|September 18||7:15 p.m.||Stanford||No. 19||FSN||L 22–50||47,273|
|September 25||1:00 p.m.||at Washington State||FSN||W 30–24||26,787|
|October 9||12:30 p.m.||No. 22 USC||ABC||W 31–24||51,418|
|October 16||7:15 p.m.||UTEP*||FSAZ||W 34–21||47,776|
|October 23||7:15 p.m.||Oregon||FSN||L 41–44||55,251|
|October 30||7:00 p.m.||at UCLA||FSN||W 33–7||42,612|
|November 6||1:30 p.m.||Washington||ABC/FSN||L 25–33||56,614|
|November 13||8:15 p.m.||at Oregon State||FSN||L 20–28||33,314|
|November 27||11:00 a.m.||at Arizona State||ABC/FSN||L 27–42||68,102|
Arizona began the season with a trip to Penn State. It was the first ever meeting between the Wildcats and Nittany Lions. Due to the highly anticipated matchup between the top-5 teams (Arizona ranked third and Penn State fourth), ESPN’s College GameDay came to State College the morning of the game. It was the first time that GameDay involved an Arizona game.
In the game, in front of a national television audience (broadcast on ABC), the Wildcats watched as they would be dominated by the Lions in all phases. The only bright spot for Arizona was a touchdown scored in the game’s final minute that prevented a shutout. The blowout loss ended Arizona’s chances for a national title and dropped out of the top ten polls.
After the game, Tomey said that the team was largely affected by the loud atmosphere at Penn State, turnovers, and poor coaching decisions. He also said that it was difficult to beat a team with a legendary coach and that the result would be different had the Wildcats played the Lions at home instead.
After being destroyed at Penn State, the Wildcats stayed on the road for their next game at TCU in another first-meeting matchup. In the first half, the story was the same for Arizona, as the Horned Frogs would lead 25-7 at halftime. By the second half, Arizona began coming back with touchdowns and took the lead late in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats would stop TCU on their final drive to complete the comeback victory, which may have saved the season for Arizona.
After Arizona defeated Middle Tennessee in their home opener in yet another first-meeting game, they hosted Stanford. The Wildcats would score first, but would make mistakes that led to the Cardinal pulling away by halftime. Arizona made a comeback in the third quarter to cut into Stanford’s lead. However, in the fourth quarter, the Cardinal broke the game open to give the Wildcats their second loss of the season and jeopardizing their Rose Bowl hopes. Also, it was Arizona’s first loss to Stanford since 1990, snapping a six-game winning streak. Stanford would ultimately go on to appear in the Rose Bowl.
The Wildcats traveled to Washington State looking to get back into the win column. In a back and forth battle with the Cougars, the Wildcats drove to midfield in the final seconds. Quarterback Keith Smith threw a Hail Mary pass that was caught in the end zone by receiver Bobby Wade as time expired to give Arizona the wild victory. The winning play was known to fans as the “Hail Bobby”.
Arizona hosted USC (ranked 22nd) in their next game. With Trung Canidate and Dennis Northcutt leading the way, the Wildcats took control of the game and seemed to seal it on a fumble return for a touchdown. However, the Trojans scored in the final minute to cut Arizona’s lead to seven, but an onside kick attempt would go out of bounds, and the Wildcats held on for the win. This would be Arizona’s last home win over the Trojans until 2012.
The Wildcats would welcome Oregon for another big test. Arizona would compete with the Ducks all game long, with both teams trading scores, with Northcutt keeping the Wildcats in it with a pair of touchdowns. Oregon took the lead with over a minute remaining in the fourth quarter and the Wildcats had one final chance. Arizona would get into Oregon territory and ultimately miss a potential tying field goal to lose. The loss would end all chances that Arizona had to earn a Pac-10 title and Rose Bowl bid.
The Wildcats’ kicker, Mark McDonald, who missed the field goal, received insults and death threats by fans, and would ultimately leave the team. He had been 1 for 10 in field goal tries, with his only make in the win over USC (McDonald had winning kicks against San Diego State and California in 1997 and was part of the Wildcats’ memorable 1998 team).
Arizona went to the Rose Bowl to face UCLA, who dealt the Wildcats their only loss in the previous season that prevented them from playing the actual Rose Bowl game. The Wildcats had a new kicker, Sean Keel, who was the backup to McDonald. Keel became the full-time kicker after McDonald decided to leave the program after missing a late game-tying field goal in the loss to Oregon and being threatened by fans.
The Wildcats would give up an early score before bouncing back with Keel making his first field goal and Canidate rushed for two touchdowns. Northcutt led the receiving corps and Arizona avenged their loss to the Bruins from the 1997-98 seasons and gave them their sixth win of the year. It was the Wildcats’ first win in Pasadena since 1990 and their first sweep of the Los Angeles teams since the same year.
On homecoming day (and the home finale), the Wildcats hosted Washington, looking for a chance to clinch a bowl berth with a seventh victory. Unfortunately, mistakes would cost the Wildcats which would lead to points by the Huskies. Arizona tried to come back late, but would fall short as the Huskies got revenge on Ortege Jenkins and the Wildcats (who beat Washington the previous year on Jenkins’ somersault touchdown) and officially ended Arizona’s Rose Bowl hopes for good.
See also: Arizona-Arizona State football rivalry
In the annual “Duel in the Desert”, the Wildcats continued to look for a bowl bid as they traveled to Tempe to take on Arizona State. It was the 100th anniversary of the rivalry’s first game between the teams, with both schools holding centennial celebrations.
Despite big plays by Arizona’s offense, which included 80-yard touchdowns by Canidate and Northcutt (with the latter also returning a punt for a score), their defense struggled as they had trouble slowing down the Sun Devils’ strong offense. The 42-27 loss led the Wildcats to ending the season with a three-game losing streak and prevented them from earning a bowl bid. ASU went on to clinch a bowl bid of their own, which was the Aloha Bowl. It was the Wildcats’ first loss in Tempe since 1991.
The 1999 season would become a step towards the end of Tomey’s tenure, as another mediocre season in 2000 in which Arizona would collapse in the second half, would lead to his resignation as coach and the program struggling for most of the next decade. Many Wildcats have often blamed the opening season loss to Penn State as the cause of the team’s fall from success and the program not being the same for several years due to the Wildcats’ inability to get to the Rose Bowl under Tomey and his future successors.