Missed Fortune

October 16, 2005

(Stanford 20, at UA 16)

I'm speechless so it's a good thing this is typed.

As hard as it may be to believe, there was some good news Saturday night:

-The Pride of Arizona a cappella quartet did a great rendition of our National Anthem.

-The weather was perfect. Cooling cloud cover but not one drop of rain.

-The Ugly Little Monkeys of Tucson put on an excellent show at halftime.

-The blonde student manager showed off her gun again. Have you seen this girl? She helps the kickers warm up at before the second half. Long blonde hair with a great arm. Every once in a while she throws a wobbler, but most of the time it's a nice tight spiral. Check her out the next time it's too painful to look at the scoreboard.

-*kick* Bear Down was born. True, I could only hear the four guys in my row, but it sounded good. If you joined in wherever you were sitting, consider this a virtual high-five. I'm going to stick with this and we're going to get it done. I may have to secure some hardware to educate the masses.

-We just saved a bunch of money on car insurance. More specifically, we got somebody else to pay for repairing the net behind the south goal posts by putting an All State ad on the net itself. Pretty brilliant marketing if you ask me. The net is now hole-free, and the hole in the budget caused by the upcoming plummet in ticket sales is a little bit smaller.

-Even with the new net, the south end-zonies got their hands on four or five footballs and deposited them onto Sixth Street. One fan in particular threw two balls out of the stadium himself. That has to be more impressive than the guy who caught two homerun balls in the same playoff game recently.

-Spencer Larson's bad luck waited until the fourth quarter to return. That could be a record as well.

And, uh, that's it. Everything else was bad. The only way the night at Arizona Stadium could've been any worse was if you went back to your car and found it infested with scorpions.

As my buddy pointed out, we should've just left when the team wasn't there for the pre-game fireworks. How can you be prepared to beat a Pac-10 team if you're not even prepared to run onto the field and jump up and down as things explode?

Yeah, statistically the defense played better this week. I'm just a word guy, but I do believe giving up 195 yards is better than surrendering 724. Twenty points is a smaller total than 42. But we only had two sacks even though the Stanford quarterback ended up with the ball on 35 of 58 plays. We also didn't force any turnovers.

And at this point does it even matter? We've certainly proven neither side of the ball is good enough to win a game by itself. If you end up on the wrong end of the point ledger, does it matter who played badly and who played worse? The Wildcats didn't play well enough to win, at home, against a team it was favored to beat. There's no good news to be found.

Sometimes you reach a point where there isn't any room for rationalization. You can't look at your tattered garments and say, "It's not so bad. I just need a couple patches." You can't crawl out of the coal mine and say, "I'm not so dirty. Somebody hand me a napkin." Sometimes you just have to wallow in your own filth.

We completed 20 passes for 161 whole yards. Eight yards a completed pass. It took 38 attempts to get those 161 yards. That's 4.2 yards a pass attempt. Gilbert Harris averaged 4.7 yards a rush attempt. Maybe we should've just given him the ball 38 times.

We gained 60 yards of offense in the second half. Sixty. In eight possessions. Spread out over 14 minutes and 18 seconds of possession. That's actually remarkable when you think about it. How can you possess the ball for the equivalent of almost an entire quarter when you're not going anywhere?

After Mike Bell scored with 5:23 left in the third quarter, we had six more possessions, each time with an opportunity to take the lead. They went like this:

Three plays, -15 yards, fumble.
Three plays, seven yards, punt.
Three plays, eight yards, punt.
Five plays, -1 yards, punt. (Look at that one again. We actually gained a first down and still ended the drive one yard back from where we started.)
Seven plays, -1 yards, interception. (And then we did it again!!)
Three plays, zero yards, ballgame.

All this against a team that lost to their NAU. On the way home I heard Brian Jeffries say this year's Wildcat squad repeatedly takes one step forward then one step back. Honestly, this was a step forward…off a cliff.

This game was eerily like the last time we played Stanford. In 2002 we were 0-2 in the conference. We were playing a Cardinal team that was picked to finish at the bottom of the Pac-10 (and they did). We knew wins were going to be hard to come by, but we expected to get one here. We ended up committing four turnovers and losing 16-6. You'll remember that season included the players having a sleepover in President Likins' office and we finished tied with Stanford at the bottom of the Pac-10.

I'm not predicting another player revolt, but the rest of the schedule now looks a lot darker, doesn't it? Oregon is now ranked #15 in the nation. UCLA is undefeated and #8. Oregon State just won at Cal. At least we have our old friends the Washington Huskies, the only team on our schedule outside the state of Arizona against whom we have an active winning streak.

So what happens now? It hurts too much to think about final win totals and what this loss does to the overall rebuilding process. All I know is we have five games left and three of them are at home. I will be at each of those three games and I will be there until the final gun sounds.

I still plan on losing my voice yelling at Oregon Ducks. I still plan on cheering for student athletes who play hard and I still plan on looking for improvement in individuals. I will start over in looking for improvement from the team as a whole. I will still love the Wildcats.

My Saturday night ended with leftover Chinese food for dinner. I opened my fortune cookie and read, "German proverb: No trees reach the sky." I still don't know exactly what that means. Isn't finding a German proverb in a fortune cookie like going to a Mercedes dealership and coming home in a Kia?

One thing's for sure: We didn't reach the sky against the Trees.

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