November 27, 2006

(ASU 28, at UA 14)
[hoops: at UA 86, Samford 57]

Can you trade three dreams for a nightmare?

I'm not saying I would trade our three November wins for this one November loss. I would much rather have six wins with a loss to the Devils than eight losses and the Territorial Cup. We already had that season two years ago and look where that got us.

But if someone would have told me after the Washington State game that we'd win two more times I'd sure as Wilbur and Wilma's wedding vows would have traded the second road upset for one final home win. Don't you hate it when reality gets in the way of the perfect plan?

Mike Stoops is now 1-2 against Arizona State, the only school in the league with its own gang sign. I know we have much greater goals than to merely win "state championships," but we're not going to get where we want to go until we can start beating our rival on a regular basis again.

Willie Tuitama is now 0-2 against ASU (with two knockouts). Of course, I can't talk, as I am now 0-2 writing about this game. What am I supposed to do with this notebook full of victorious taunts?

New rule on the red jerseys/blue pants combo: Wear them for the big Homecoming upset. Do not wear them for the following home letdown game.

Another item on the list of Things I Never Would Have Believed In 1998: We're 2-6 against the Devils since our 12-1 season. We didn't sell our soul to Sparky for a Holiday Bowl run, did we?

ASU didn't score a single touchdown against UCLA last week. After three minutes, 28 seconds and 80 yards they had one against our Second Best Defense In The Pac-10.

The best part about Nick Folk's botched punt: He actually put a move on the guy in between his two illegal kicks. That would be like signaling a lane change while you run a red light at 75 miles an hour.

The best part about the first quarter: It ended.

I'm really going to miss Syndric Steptoe. In what will probably be his last football game ever, he leaves with a team high six receptions and a touchdown. I really wish we could have sent him out on a higher note as he's easily my favorite Syndric of all time.

The defense really let us down this week. After we finally score and get some momentum we give up a 24-yard run on the very next play. On the first play of their subsequent possession, the Devils run for another 38 yards. They didn't complete a single pass to a wide receiver in the second half. ASU's formula was simply: Run. Run. Throw it to the tight end. Repeat. And we couldn't do a thing to stop it.

The last moment of joy on the evening was when Carpenter threw an interception with just a minute left in the half and then hit Michael Klyce late out of bounds to make the return a total of 57 yards. Two plays later Mike Thomas scooted into the end zone and we had a ball game again.

But then we saw our band tooting away arm and arm with the Sun Devil band and you just knew the sick feeling in your stomach wasn't going away.

We were all set up for the perfect storybook ending. The hotshot young quarterback goes down against the hated gridders from State. In comes the loyal fifth-year senior who is short on talent but, golldarnit, he's got a heart as big as that ol' sawmill over yonder. The theme from "Rocky" is blasting over the loudspeakers. The crowd rises to its feet as our hero trots onto the field and…throws 19 incompletions and two interceptions. Don't you hate it when reality gets in the way of the perfect story?

It was like the last three weeks hadn't happened and we were back at the Washington and Oregon State games where the defense failed early and the offense failed over and over again.

Quite possibly the best play call of the year was when we faked a handoff to Chris Henry and he dove to the ground to throw a block before getting up and sprinting downfield behind the Sun Devil secondary…only to be overthrown by five yards. Don't you hate it when reality gets in the way of the perfect play?

To add insult to injury they fire Dirk Koetter anyway. Hopefully they find a guy who doesn't win 67% of his rivalry games.

Here's your completely fabricated rumor of the week: ASU athletic director Lisa Love knows her team is lifeless. So she fires the head coach before the big game so he can tell his players so they can play inspired ball in a Win One For The Gipper Who Will Now Be Paid $2.8 Million To Do Nothing sort of way.

I know I can't complain about the season as a whole. I set the bar at 6-6 and, wouldn't you know it, the 2006 Wildcats went 6-6. But it hurts to end this way. It's disappointing to see your team accomplish two nearly impossible tasks (beat a Cal team that was undefeated in conference play and an Oregon team that was undefeated at home) and then fail at a normal task (beating a peer at home). It hurts to lose to Those Guys once again.

The worst feeling is knowing that we still have not turned that proverbial corner. The last few weeks we walked up and peeked around it, but the reality is we got comfortable, sat down, and got run over. Now the goal is to get back up so we don't lose ground in the offseason and start taking steps toward the top of the conference next year.

Next year.

Let's just hope reality stays out of way.

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