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September 23, 2008

(UA 31, at UCLA 10)

We’re undefeated in the Pac-10! Second place in the league is wide open! The USC game is at home!!

OK, things haven’t changed that much in a week, but it’s a start. We played a struggling team and struggled less than they did. We coughed up a gift seven points, but bounced back to score the game’s next two touchdowns.

That third quarter was awkward though. Even with Kevin Craft’s longest completion on the afternoon only going for 15 yards, you don’t want to keep a team close enough to stumble into a big play and a tie game. But then Tuitama threw another pass to the new guy and all was well.

I don’t know what the big deal is with this GRONK! guy. He caught a pass in the fourth quarter…and didn’t score a touchdown. What a let-down.

The armchair quarterback play of the game was obviously calling the timeout to pull the field goal unit off the field late in the second quarter with a ten-point lead. While I was immediately calling for the three-pointer after the 3rd down play came up a yard short, and while I’d much rather have a coach thinking two steps ahead instead of changing his mind at the last second, I think the biggest mistake was the 4th-and-1 play call. No, not running the ball, but how we ran the ball.

We have proven time and again and we’re not a power running team. We run a spread offense, so we have spread offense players. To make matters worse, just one possession earlier we had demonstrated how our running game is supposed to work. Third down from the UCLA 3, we come out in the shotgun with four receivers stretched from sideline to sideline. We hand off to Grigsby and, lo and behold, he finds a lane into the end zone. Just do what you do, and do it well. And be ready to do the doing.

That’s about all there is to say about the UCLA game. Just kidding. You didn’t think the king of uniform statisticians would fail to mention the shiny new pants did you?

Here’s why I keep track of this stuff: Nic Grigsby says, “I grabbed them, and ran to the door of the locker room and held them up. We got real excited.” Mike Thomas added, “Oh man, we were hyped up. The red pants got us fired up.” See that? Not, “We were really confident in our game plan,” or, “We had a great week of practice.” No, it was, “Hey, new pants!”

At a level where everybody is big and strong and fast, every edge counts. If that means busting out a new set of britches, so be it. The white pants are 1-7 on the road under Mike Stoops. The blue pants are a far more respectable 4-5. But the mighty red pants are 1-0. They sure look good to me.

And don’t forget the new horizontally-lined coaches’ shirts. It was as if Stoops was trying to prove a Widcat can change his stripes.

Pretty wild start to the West Coast football season, huh? We’re barely four weeks in and every Pac-10 team but USC has at least one loss. That eases things a bit after New Mexico. You can also count all the Pac teams with a road win on one hand, even after that hand has suffered a power saw accident. USC, Cal, Oregon and us. That’s it.

(Note: You can’t win a road game if you don’t schedule any. Maybe fuel prices will be lower next year, right, Sparky?)

So, since our favorite team isn’t playing this week (and our second favorite team, Whoever’s Playing ASU, also has a bye) do we want Washington to beat Stanford or not?

It’s just like the “Does a bye week make you rested or rusty?” debate. If a bad team wins before playing you the fear is they’ve built confidence and momentum. If your next opponent loses you’re afraid it’ll just make them hungrier and more desperate (a la Los Lobos).

I’m going to go with wanting UW to lose. I was hoping UCLA would get drubbed by BYU before playing us and that turned out pretty well. Arizona fans have seen firsthand how a small win streak can appear out of nowhere thanks to a single victory. We’ve also seen far too often how losing can breed losing (and more losing, and more losing). We want the Huskies demoralized. We want them to give up and start listening to all the coaching rumors.

Of course, most bad teams only lose most of their games. You still have to out-play them on your particular Saturday. Remember, even Mackovic won a game after The Mutiny.

We’d better keep the red pants handy just in case.

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