One Game, Part Two

October 1, 2007

(at UA 48, WSU 20)


Hope another day.

We walked into the stadium with the possibility that we would be witnessing the last meaningful UA game of the season. We left with a reason to look forward to next Saturday.

The game time temperature wasn’t the only thing that had cooled off since the last time we took our seats. The crowd was smaller and more tardy than WSU’s starting tailback. There was a ton of elbow room in the Red Zone. Looking around during warm-ups I came to the sad realization that we had even lost Face Paint Guy. You know your football fortunes are down when you alienate a guy willing to sew together four years’ worth of Circle K giveaway towels to make a superhero cape.

Speaking of the pregame, I’ve been meaning to say this for three home dates now, but our intro video just rules the world. That dramatic music layered over some of the greatest recorded moments in program history is chill-inducing. No matter how bad the last game was, I feel undefeated every time I see it. Bear Down, video guys.

We finally lost the coin toss but backed into the proper result when WSU chose to defer. The Cats’ best unit took the field first and it paid off with a game-opening scoring drive. The spread offense zipped down the field thanks to 55 rushing yards.

Wait…WHAT?!

Nic Grigsby’s first six rushing attempts looked like this: 7, 9, 10, 18, 1 and 10. That last one came on third down. That’s right, the Arizona Wildcats faced a 3rd and 1, they handed it off to a running back, and he got the first down. WSU should have just quit right there.

But it wouldn’t be a UA game without our fair share of difficulty. Our first half featured zero punts, zero turnovers, one penalty…and a seven point lead. Then after the Cougars took that deferred kickoff and scored to start the second half we were dead even in a game our offense was dominating.

The only first-half possession that didn’t end in a score was the missed 59-yard field goal. The first (and only) Wildcat punt came with less than six minutes left in the third quarter. Add it all together and you have our second game with 45 or more points through five contests. When’s the last time we scored 45+ twice in the same season? 1998.

[Yeah, I know, that’s the answer to everything. But now we’ll see who’s who with the Wildcat trivia. When was the last time Arizona had three 45-point games in the same season?]

Back to the missed field goal, a significant sports moment occurred last week without nearly enough recognition: Nick Folk missed a field goal. The last miss of Nick’s college career came against UCLA on October 7, 2006. After that he went eleven months, two weeks and two days before the sixth attempt of his NFL career was blocked. Jason Bondzio has been better than expected, but I miss Nick the Kick.

[1983. 50-6 over OSU, 45-6 over WSU, and 52-21 over Colorado State in a 7-3-1 season.]

That last touchdown pass to Thomas with four minutes left in the game was probably excessive. But I kind of like being in a position to get accused of running up the score. And I have some more bad news for Washington State fans: Bill Doba is the only coach in Pac-10 history to have lost twice to Mike Stoops.

It was a night when youth was served and the entire bill was comp’d. Ronnie Palmer tried to drop another interception but sophomore Devin Ross stepped in to snag his first career pick. Another rookie, his NateNess, also secured his first INT. Grigsby put up a Trung Canidate-like 262 yards from scrimmage. Rob Gronkowski delivered 115 yards, two TDs, and pain.

Gronk & Grig and think big.

The only thing not big about Grig is Grig himself. They list the true freshman as weighing 178 pounds, but unless his ribs are made of titanium he’s probably closer to 160. Is it really a good idea to lean on him for 39 touches in his third college game? I know the ball isn’t heavy, but most defensive linemen are.

Then again, the guy found the hole on something like 37 of those touches, and when you have someone averaging 6.7 yards a pop it’s hard to blame the play-caller for continuing to feed the machine. Just stay low, young Nicolas.

The only thing more surprising than the gaudy rushing stats was the team’s success wearing blue from head to toe. The blue-on-blue breakthough means we are now 1-3 in the all-navy uniforms since the first time we did it (the 2004 ASU game). Fear the blueberry.

You know what else is scary? Willie Tuitama wasn’t sacked once! This was the Arizona O-line’s first sackless game since Stephen F. Austin last year. I’m afraid to find out how long it’s been since we kept a I-A team from sacking our quarterback. The 3-0 tally also put the ’07 Cats back on the plus side of the sack margin ledger. Sack up!

More great news: Our next game is not on TV. Don’t forget, Mike Stoops is 4-1 in invisible road games. Take us home, Brian Jeffries.

So we survived. There won’t be a coaching lynching this week. The blood-thirsty peasants will have to hide out in their thatched huts another seven days.

But we can’t go crazy in the other direction either. We still have a losing record. We still only have one win against a team from the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision. Maybe this game makes up for the BYU loss, but we still have the gargantuan debt from the New Mexico loss to pay. We’re not out of the loser woods yet.

Washington State was only the first half. You still have to beat Oregon State to win the Keep-Hope-Alive-For-A-Successful-Season Bowl. Lose to the Beavers, lose at USC, and you have to win all five of the remaining games to assure reaching your bowl goal. That remains the reality. Willie Tuitama’s 15 touchdown passes don’t change the win/loss math.

We’re just as desperate as we were before 48-20. At least, we should be, and we better be. If the team doesn’t play like it’s desperate in Corvallis we’ll go back to being depressed.

Desperately.



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