Best win in Rich Rodriguez’s Arizona tenure is road victory over Oregon

Jul 19, 2015, 5:11 PM | Updated: 5:12 pm

Since Rich Rodriguez took over the Arizona football program prior to the 2011 season, the Wildcats have experienced a bit of a renaissance on the gridiron.

The Wildcats have won 26 games under his stewardship, with notable victories over 10th-ranked USC in 2012 and fifth-ranked Oregon in 2013 along with second-ranked Oregon, 17th-ranked Utah and No. 13 Arizona State in 2014.

But which win is the best? That’s the question ESPN Pac-12 writer Chantel Jennings tried to answer, and in a piece picking one win for every Pac-12 South coach, she chose last October’s upset of the Ducks in Autzen.

By no means did Arizona accomplish every goal it had last season, but knocking off No. 2 Oregon on the road was certainly a great victory, and the best of Rodriguez’s Arizona career. Yes, he accomplished the same feat in 2013, but as the adage goes: It’s hard to get to the top and even harder to stay there. And we’re not saying that Arizona got to the top with this victory (because Oregon handed it back to them in the Pac-12 title game), but to come out and back up the 2013 performance — especially considering the Wildcats were undefeated heading into this game — with another dominant victory was a huge statement to the entire conference, and it was probably a harder feat than coming out and surprising the Ducks the season before.

The only argument may come from UA fans who think a win over ASU trumps all, but otherwise it’s tough to argue with the choice.

As Jennings noted, the ‘Cats were undefeated entering that game but were also unranked due to a fairly weak non-conference schedule.

Arizona was down 7-3 at the half and at the time, Wildcat faithful were probably waiting for the other shoe to drop and Oregon to start playing like Oregon and pull away. However, it was the Wildcats who took charge in the third quarter, outscoring the home team 21-7 to take a 24-14 lead into the final quarter.

Arizona’s lead held up until the Ducks’ Keanon Lowe scored on a nine-yard pass from Marcus Mariota, but the Wildcats responded with a 15-play, 71-yard touchdown drive (with help of a questionable unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Oregon), and then Scooby Wright’s sack/strip of Mariota on the ensuing drive pretty much sealed the 31-24 upset.

It was a great victory, though much of the momentum from it was lost the following game when Arizona lost a close one to USC.

However, as far as regular season wins go, they don’t get much bigger than a road win over the second-ranked team in the country, a team that would eventually play for the national championship.

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