Signature Series


November 6, 2005

(at UA 52, UCLA 14)


52-14. Fifty-two to fourteen. Fiff tee too tuh for teen.

Who? Arizona?? The Arizona football team?!? This must be what it feels like to play against a John Mackovic-coached team.

Those who talked to me at the tailgate heard my pregame thoughts. I said I wasn't getting my hopes up for this one. I was already looking forward to Washington and thinking that winning two out of three going into ASU would be pretty nice.

It's never felt so good to be so wrong. On to the joyousness!

It's been said for a while that Mike Stoops needed a signature win. Well, this wasn't just a signature win, it was a limited edition premium release featuring a cloth top, two-tone leather-trimmed seats, and chrome-clad wheels.

Since we're talking about visual elegance, I do believe we have a winner: cardinal red jerseys, navy blue pants. Other uniform combinations need not apply.

I'm so happy for Mike Bell and the rest of our seniors. Yeah, he still gets tackled by invisible men in the open field, but I love the guy.

With his 156 rushing yards (on a scant 16 carries), Mr. Bell now has 798 yards on the season. Even a word guy like me can figure out that he only needs 101 yards in each of the final two games to get to that M-note. Considering the success Mike's had against the two remaining teams on our schedule, I like his chances.

Señor Campana is also sitting on 3,012 career rushing yards, making him only the fifth Cat back ever to run for that many. He also now has a mini-Ortege flip into the end zone on his resume.

But we can't forget about our other senior running back, Gilbert Harris. A career high 113 rushing yards of his own! How do you rack up that many yards on 16 carries if your longest run is only 21 yards? With four other runs of nine or more yards, that's how. The holes out there were huge. This was easily the offensive line's best performance of the season. Although, I suppose you could say that about almost everybody with an A on his helmet this week.

Back to Bell. That very first play, what a call! Willie fakes the handoff with everybody moving right. He then rolls out to the left, sets up and throws it across the field back to Bell who has continued deep down the right sideline for a 51-yard pass play. That really set the tone for the night, even with Casper's tackle.

I am a play action junkie. The seven-yard scoring pass to Wood on first and goal was a thing of beauty. Again it was a hard run fake to the right with Brad dragging all the way across the field back to the left. Build This House With was so open he could have built an actual house with wood or any other material of his choosing and still gotten into the end zone.

With UCLA's comeback ability, that was the most nervous you'll ever be with a 24-point halftime lead. But then we take the second half kickoff and march down the field for another score. The absolute back-breaker was Steptoe's return. I was begging him to fair-catch it when I saw the defender barreling toward him. But Syndric step-toed to the side, wiggled through a pile, juked the teammate who got in his way, and took it to the place of residence.

The defense on Maurice Jones-Drew was outstanding. UCLA's Hyphenated One was averaging 184 all-purpose yards per game coming into Arizona Stadium. We held him to 41 rushing yards, 25 receiving yards and zero, count 'em, zero return yards. That's 66 total yards or almost a third of what you normally get from him. He didn't add to his collection of 18 touchdowns either. For one night he was Maurice Shut-Down.

Nick Folk was nails once again. How about DB Jr. bringing back the coffin corner punt? Keeping the ball out of Drew's hands on returns was huge. Although it does help when you play more than 25 minutes before you even have to trot the punt unit out there. Add in that your two-way kicker had four extra points before his first punt, and things are going your way.

It was one of those magical nights when EVERYTHING goes your way. Wounded duck passes turn into 19-yard gains. Defensive backs stand around before stumbling onto defensive touchdowns. Even meaningless Bruin TDs get taken off the board by the replay official.

If you thought you were seeing things that hadn't been done in a while, you were right. The last time we scored 52 points was 2002 in the last game we liked Mackovic. The last time we beat somebody by 38 was (you guessed it) 1998 when we squeaked by Northeast Louisiana, 45-7. The last time we beat a Pac-10 team by this much? 1983, when Coach Larry Smith put a 45-6 hurting on Washington State.

A 38-point margin of victory isn't just beating somebody. It's pulverizing somebody so badly that CSI has to pull them out of a dumpster. Then when you do it to the undefeated #7 team in the country, it's time to call in the National Guard.

Speaking of heavy artillery, the gameday experience is always cooler when Davis-Monthan is involved. I love recognizing our troops, and the flyovers always send a chill down my spine. I think the voices in the Tucson Boys Chorus dropped an octave when those A-10's went by.

Did somebody say heavy artillery? Tuitama-to-Thomas was at it again. Five completions for 104 yards and a score. That's 15 connections for 337 yards (a 22.5 average) and three TDs in less than three games.

TuiThomas. Open on Saturdays from 7 to 10.

Thomas added a second touchdown on the first quarter end-around. Money's just got that extra gear. When he sees the goal line it's like he hits the nitrous and then Vin Diesel can't even catch him.

Even the music guy was on fire this week. We had a snippet of "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" which appropriately comes from an album called Big Willie Style. Then there was the shot of "TNT" after a Thomas catch, which is as good as you're going to get until AC/DC comes back with "TuiThomas Me All Night Long."

The end of the game had one last bit of drama. Students started hopping the fence when there were still two minutes left on the clock. Horrid visions of multiple sideline warnings leading to a forfeit raced through my head. But then something amazing happened: Nothing. The celebratory throng patiently waited behind the team until the final seconds had ticked off the clock. I don't believe I've ever witnessed such a courteous mob.

In case you're still lost in the euphoria, we just matched last year's win total. Moving forward, we need to-absolutely must-beat Washington. We can't have steps backward this late in the season. Beat the last place Huskies, secure an improved record, then let it all hang out in Tempe.

We cannot dismiss Washington. If we can upset UCLA, then they can upset us. Take care of business. Please.

OK, I'm going to have to shut this down or two hours from now you'll still be wading through ecstatic ramblings. This one is going to spark the warm fuzzies for a long long time. It was definitely a Homecoming to remember.

And maybe, just maybe, winning may have had its homecoming too.



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