The Arizona Wildcats snapped a horrific losing streak Thursday night by dipping into their past. For one game, at least, Paul Vassallo played Tedy Bruschi and one of the nation's worst defenses channeled the famed "Desert Swarm."
The return of the double-eagle flex was as unexpected as it was effective. Arizona allowed just 37 rushing yards on the way to a 48-12 rout of UCLA at Arizona Stadium. The Wildcats (2-5, 1-4) played with a defensive edge, blitzing and hounding the Bruins' struggling quarterback while forcing two turnovers.
"It was something we thought our players would have fun with and something that we thought would fit defensively with our run game," interim head coach Tim Kish said. "The more we looked at it, the more we practiced it, the better we became."
The throwback defense was just part of a night to remember for the Wildcats, who:
• Defeated a Division I-A team for the first time in 355 days. The 36-point win was the Wildcats' first since Oct. 30, 2010, when they defeated UCLA 29-21 in Pasadena, Calif. The UA lost its next 10 games against major-conference opponents, falling twice to Oregon, USC, Stanford and Oklahoma State and once to Arizona State and Oregon State. None of the games were particularly close, either: The UA lost by an average of 16.6 points.
Wide receiver Juron Criner said the Wildcats willed themselves to win. "We pulled through, pulled together through the adversity, and it happened," he said.
• Led for the first time since Sept. 3. When Nick Foles found Criner for a 4-yard touchdown pass early in the Thursday's game, the Wildcats breathed a sigh of relief. After all, they hadn't led since the final gun of their Week 1 win over Div. I-AA Northern Arizona - a 302-minute span of futility that ranks among the longest in program history. Arizona scored twice in the first 7 minutes 22 seconds, and led 42-7 at halftime.
• Rushed for more than 250 yards for the first time in nearly a year.
Arizona's evolving rushing attack went off Thursday, racking up 254 yards and three touchdowns on 46 carries. The showing was the program's best since last Oct. 30, when it ran for 264 yards and two scores in that win over the Bruins. Tailback Keola Antolin averaged an eye-popping 9.6 yards per carry against an overwhelmed defense Thursday.
"We really owned the line of scrimmage on offense," Kish said. "We just kept pounding their defense and I'm very impressed with the improvement our run game has made."
• Scored 42 first-half points in a conference game for the first time ever. Bolstered by Criner's three touchdown catches and Taimi Tutogi's two touchdown runs, the Wildcats posted their best half in a conference game since joining the Pac-10 (now Pac-12) in 1978.
• Recovered a fumble for the first time since Nov. 26, 2010. In fact, the Wildcats recovered two of them. Defensive end C.J. Parish recovered Johnathan Franklin's fumble with the Wildcats leading 21-7 in the second quarter; Arizona turned the turnover into a Tutogi TD. Shaquille Richardson forced Nelson Rosario to fumble two possessions later, and Vassallo recovered. The Wildcats drove and scored again. The UA entered the game as the only team in the nation that had yet to recover one.
• Made a field goal for the first time in a month, and had a perfect kicking day for the first time since Nov. 26, 2010. Lost amid a streaker, a sidelines-clearing brawl, Tim Kish's first win and Rick Neuheisel's fast-warming seat was the play of John Bonano. The senior place-kicker connected on all six PATs and hit field goals from 22 and 41 yards. The performance was Arizona's best since Nov. 26, when Alex Zendejas connected on both field goals attempts and three PATs in the Wildcats' 48-29 loss at No. 1 Oregon. Bonano, the third kicker used by the UA this season, might be most popular man on campus.
"I loved the kicking game tonight," Kish said. "John Bonano, huh? He's on my good list."
Penalties for brawl
The Pac-12 Conference suspended 10 players, including four Arizona Wildcats, for their roles in an on-field brawl during the UA's 48-12 win over UCLA on Thursday.
Cornerback Shaquille Richardson and nickel back Jourdon Grandon have been suspended for next week's game at Washington, while cornerback Lyle Brown and safety Mark Watley will miss the first half. With Richardson and Brown out, the Wildcats will be forced to start a third-stringer at cornerback.
Six Bruins - wide receivers Taylor Embree, Randall Carroll, Shaq Evans and Ricky Marvray, defensive tackle Cassius Marsh and guard Alberto Cid - will also serve suspensions for their role in the fight, which started with 4 seconds left in the first half. Marsh will serve a two-game suspension, while Embree, Carroll, Evans and Marvray will miss one game. Cid must sit out the first half of next week's game against Cal.
UA interim coach Tim Kish said Friday that the fight was "a black mark in what was a good game for us." The Wildcats snapped a 10-game losing streak to Division I-A opponents with a rousing win at Arizona Stadium.
"We know that players get excited and driven during games, but composure has to be maintained throughout," he said. "We'll learn from this and grow."
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said the fight is "unacceptable behavior."
"I have taken these actions today because it is imperative that we hold our student-athletes and coaches to the highest standard of sportsmanship," he said.
• What: Arizona at Washington
• When: 7:30 p.m., next Saturday
• TV: FSAZ