University of Arizona football’s never won an outright Pac-12 Conference championship, much like the Philadelphia Eagles and the Super Bowl prior to Sunday’s 41-33 win over the New England Patriots. In 2009, Nick Foles led the Wildcats team that came the closest.
Arizona had better teams in its history than the 2009, which finished an unimpressive 8-5. However, with Nick Foles registering monster numbers in coordinator Sonny Dykes’ offense — and the former Pac-10 in upheaval at the end of USC’s dynasty — the Wildcats came an overtime loss to Oregon away from the program’s first Rose Bowl.
Foles was individually special in that 2009 campaign, as he was for the next two, even in moments Arizona was most certainly not special as a team. And his break out came in a game reminiscent of Super Bowl LII.
Foreshadowing his NFL career, Foles was something of a journeyman in college. He transferred to Arizona from Michigan State, where Kirk Cousins at the inside track on replacing Brian Hoyer.
Congrats to Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, who began his collegiate career as a Spartan! pic.twitter.com/543DB4OOyQ
— Spartan Football (@MSU_Football) February 5, 2018
UA went into the 2009 season replacing four-year starter and program record-holder Willie Tuitama, and Foles initially lost the competition to Tuitama understudy, Matt Scott.
Scott’s struggles in a loss at Iowa opened the door for Nick Foles. He was good in a win at Oregon State and stacked up 384 yards against Washington, but lost on a fluky interception.
Those first two starts showed signs, but the Oct. 17 matchup with Stanford was Nick Foles’ coming-out party.
Some background: Before the Eagles picked Foles in 2012, Arizona never had a professional quarterback. Previous Wildcats signal-callers flourished in college, including Tom Tunnicliffe and Tuitama, but none translated to the NFL.
Indications that the drought would end with Nick Foles first became evident in that Stanford game.
Foles passed for 415 yards, 42 more than in his MVP-winning performance in the Super Bowl. He passed for three touchdowns, the same as in Super Bowl LII. And while he didn’t catch a touchdown pass…
— Forward Mile NFL (@ForwardMileNFL) February 5, 2018
…His prolific passing spread out Stanford’s defense effectively for three quarters, opening up rushing lanes for two fourth-quarter scores on the ground.
The two teams combined for more than 1,000 yards of offense, with Andrew Luck also breaking 400 yards passing and eventual Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart doing what he did all season. Arizona made the closing statement, however, outscoring the Cardinal in the fourth quarter, 14-0, to win 43-38.
It’s one of the best Pac-10/12 games of the last decade, and certainly a Top 10 all-time win in Arizona Wildcats history. Foles’ Arizona career was schizophrenic — his penchant for putting up huge numbers in high-scoring losses birthed The Solid Verbal’s “Nick Foles in A Losing Effort” meme.
Nick Foles is a Super Bowl QB, and since his college career is Solid Verbal lore, here’s the origin story of “…in a Losing Effort” https://t.co/O4aEctsDLx
— The Solid Verbal (@SolidVerbal) January 22, 2018
But through ups and downs, his legacy as a Wildcat is unprecedented and unmatched; especially with a Super Bowl MVP en two. The stakes were higher on Sunday, no doubt, but his performance on football’s grandest stage conjured memories of that October night more the eight years ago.