Offseason re-watch party: Arizona shuts out Miami in 1994 Fiesta Bowl
With the sports world on pause, I'll try to revisit some of the Arizona Wildcats memories available on YouTube.
Let's start with the 1994 Fiesta Bowl.
The full game no longer appears available, but this 40-minute condensed version does the trick.
Below is my game story from Arizona's 29-0 story from when I was at the Arizona Daily Star, and below that is more info on Chuck Levy's electric 68-yard touchdown run, which you can watch starting at the 19:06 mark of the video:
JAN. 1, 1994
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Miami came all the way to the desert to learn one thing -- you can't outrun the Swarm.
It was everywhere. It was in the backfield corralling quarterbacks. It was at the line of scrimmage, dominating. It was in the secondary, choking off passing routes.
It was vintage Desert Swarm, at the height of its game at the height of Arizona football history.
Wildcats 29, Miami 0.
The UA won its first appearance in a major New Year's Day game, silencing the Hurricanes yesterday in front of 72,260 at the Fiesta Bowl in Sun Devil Stadium. Near the end of the game, the partisan Arizona crowd serenaded the Wildcats with chants of "U of A, U of A," as Miami suffered its first shutout since Nov. 17, 1979.
"We physically took it to them," said UA linebacker Brant Boyer. "It wasn't close."
And that's the thing. It was never really close; Arizona never gave Miami a reason to believe.
"They kicked the living tar out of us," said Miami coach Dennis Erickson.
It was the Wildcats' day all around. From Chuck Levy's 68-yard touchdown run, to Dan White's two scoring passes to Troy Dickey, to Steve McLaughlin's three field goals, it was, as center Hicham El-Mashtoub would say: "The Hurricanes got blown away."
Miami finished a disappointing 9-3, but it was different for Arizona, whose landmark victory capped a landmark season. This is the only time in 94 years of football that the UA has won 10 games in a season.
Things were so bad for the Hurricane offense that it never crossed the UA's 40, and it spent the entire second half in its own territory. Miami rushed for only 35 yards on 20 carries, and quarterbacks Ryan Collins and Frank Costa combined for a miserable 15 of 44 passing, with three interceptions.
"When the DBs were walking out, (Miami) told us they thought the Desert Swarm was just a joke, that it was just print," said strong safety Brandon Sanders.
"But you can't see our speed on film. You have to come out and play, and by then it's too late. I knew they were like, 'These guys are really fast.' They got a taste last year, but a lot of us went to work over the summer and we just got better."
With just under five minutes left, Hurricane linebacker Rohan Marley stood on the sideline, saying to nobody in particular, "Allow us a field goal or something."
Not going to happen.
"The whole first-team defense was standing on the sideline and if Miami crossed our 40-yard line, we were going in," said All-American defensive tackle Rob Waldrop. "We didn't care what any coach said. If we had to call timeout to get our ass on the field, we were doing it."
Not necessary. The UA's second-string offense ran the last 4:28 off the clock, a fitting end to a game in which Arizona controlled the line of scrimmage for 37:20 in time of possession.
Arizona's first play gave a hint to how the rest of the game would play out.
On a play-action fake, White connected with Dickey for 26 yards. The offense was rolling. Seven plays later, White hit Dickey on a slant for a 13-yard touchdown.
In the first half, Arizona ran 11 plays that gained at least 10 yards, totaling 202 yards. For the game, Miami had only 182.
"We came out for that first drive and they were in their base defense," Levy said. "Then they came in with their eagle (defense). They couldn't find a defense to stop us. We practiced for a month on that stuff and we were ready.
"The offense wanted to prove that it's just not defense at Arizona."
White completed his first five passes, helping the UA to a 9-0 lead after the first quarter. In the second quarter, Levy scored on a 68-yard run, bouncing off a tackle at the line, hesitating, and then speeding past defenders into the end zone.
Arizona led 16-0 at halftime, and there would be no letdown. The halftime talk was apparently simple yet effective.
"Don't think about anything, just play the last 30 minutes like the first 30. Don't worry about anything," Waldrop said.
The one worry Arizona players talked about all week was Collins, whose scrambling ability can disrupt defenses. He was never a factor, being sacked twice on Miami's first possession. Collins did try to run at times, but he rarely found open spaces and was forced into 5-for-15 passing with two interceptions.
He was replaced by the less-mobile Frank Costa at the beginning of the second quarter. Collins started the second half, but Costa came on in relief again. Often using a one- or no-back set, Miami tried unsuccessfully to attack the UA with a short passing game.
"The only problem we thought we might have is that if there was nobody there to hit (Collins), he could stop and throw," Waldrop said. "We felt if he had to throw on the run, he couldn't do it, that he'd throw the ball right to us. And he did.
"Every time he came out of the pocket, we wanted to hit him. Every time he stayed in the pocket, we wanted to hit him. Whether he had the ball or not, we wanted to let him know we were there."
On one play in the third quarter, Collins was scrambling to his right near the sideline when he tried to find a receiver over the middle. His throw went directly to linebacker Sean Harris.
Boyer and Akil Jackson also had interceptions, and Tony Bouie recovered a fumble after a catch by Jermaine Chambers. Miami looked helpless, or as one UA player put it, "We made them look stupid."
McLaughlin made field goals of 31 and 21 yards in the third quarter, extending Arizona's lead to 22-0. The Wildcats were so in control of field position that four of their seven second-half drives started in Miami territory.
"When you shut somebody out, it's not just your defense, it's not just your offense, it's your whole team," said UA coach Dick Tomey.
"Because you have to have field position to shut people out, and to have field position you have to move the ball, and I think all those things happened."
Who would have thought that could happen, would happen? It is a victory that likely will become more amazing with time.
"It was a surprise to me that we did it to them like that," Boyer said. "That's the best game we put together this year."
CHUCK LEVY'S TD RUN IS THE HIGHLIGHT
The Hurricanes' defensive front was one of the best in the country, but Chuck Levy and the Wildcats ran over Miami 29-0 in the 1994 Fiesta Bowl.
I asked former Arizona offensive lineman Eric Johnson in 2018 what it was like to block Sapp.
"Yeah, he was in my 3-technique the entire game," said Johnson, who played left guard.
"He was extremely quick off the ball, probably the quickest guy we played all year. He was really good. But he was a sophomore, so he wasn't 'Warren Sapp' yet. He took plays off and we got him pretty good a couple of times. He got me, too. He got a sack, which was the only sack I gave up my senior year."
The game's highlight was Levy's 68-yard touchdown run late in the first half.
"We buried him on that play," Johnson said of Sapp.
True enough. Checking out video of the game on YouTube, Johnson gets the outside shoulder and turns Sapp inside on the play, giving Levy a lane to run off Johnson's left heel. As Levy out-runs the speedy Miami secondary, Johnson has driven Sapp into the turf.
And Sapp wasn't even the most famous Miami lineman to play in that game. His backup was Dwayne Johnson. Everyone knows the movie star as The Rock.
"Finally, Sapp goes off the field and then The Rock came walking out and I'm like, 'Holy cow, where do they grow these guys?" Johnson said. "He wasn't very good. He was just strong."