I know now how the sneaky Arizona students felt who changed the gold letter on Tempe’s “A” mountain to red Thursday and then admired their handiwork.
Saturday night’s game at Arizona Stadium, too, was like watching paint dry.
Blame the Sun Devils, who had an opportunity to make this one interesting but instead proved they lacked the manpower. The Wildcats rose to the occasion. ASU barely rose off the sideline bench.
Arizona 31, Arizona State 10.
This game confirmed ASU’s worst fears. Even with much at stake – a bowl game, state bragging rights, pride – it couldn’t find enough emotion to compensate for its shortcomings. Adrenalin can’t make up for an unequipped offensive line, a quarterback who has lost his mojo and an offense that could muster just 162 total yards.
Despite the shouts from Tempe, however, ASU will not get rid of offensive coordinator Rich Olson, a suggestion coach Dennis Erickson called “ridiculous” afterward.
Fair enough. You don’t lose 30 years of knowledge gained in the NFL and college in one season. At the very least, large-scale soul searching is in order because the offense’s lack of innovation was mind-boggling, inexperienced personnel be darned.
“I never thought this would happen to us,” quarterback Rudy Carpenter said. “I thought we could win and manage to do something special this season.”
What’s happened to this series? While it has had its share of dramatic moments, it hasn’t had many great ones recently, not of the Chuck Cecil 100-yard interception return variety, anyway.
The last time both programs came into the game ranked in the Top 25 was 1986. The Wildcats should be pleased with the progress they made this season, but they shouldn’t forget they beat only one team in 2008 with a winning record. Thanks, California.
They do deserve credit for stepping up Saturday night. It guaranteed a winning season for coach Mike Stoops, his first in five years, which in itself is remarkable.
It gave the Wildcats their first victory over the Sun Devils in four tries and shook the monkey off senior quarterback Willie Tuitama’s back.
For Stoops, the victory shed any worry that Arizona Athletic Director Jim Livengood would send him packing. It was a ridiculous thought to begin with. The last thing the university needs is another reclamation project, not to mention footing any part of a buyout.
Stoops caused a stir recently when he put his 5,000-square-foot Tucson house on the market for $1.5 million. Turns out it wasn’t out of job paranoia but a decision to downsize locally and buy a vacation home elsewhere.
That’s his story, anyway, and he’s sticking to it.
For the Wildcats’ sake, it’s good he’s sticking around. This program needs continuity.
ASU needs a lot of things. I have no doubt Erickson still has a lot to offer this program. Many are too quick to suggest he’s lost his edge because retirement is nearing.
I don’t buy it. You don’t win two national titles and successfully rebuild a program like Oregon State unless you have the coaching chops.
He knows this team has work to do. Grooming a new quarterback won’t be easy, nor will landing a top running back who can give this offense much needed balance.
As the game ended, Arizona fans charged onto the field and covered it in a sea of red. It was a much-needed morale boost for an athletic department that has been hit hard, starting with Lute Olson’s retirement.
One player who wasn’t celebrating afterward was Carpenter. His college career has experienced more extremes than most, going from nationally recognized freshman to much-criticized senior.
The Sun Devils’ passing game was anemic Saturday, especially when juxtaposed with the Wildcats’ version. Wildcats fans, and players, successfully climbed the mountain Saturday. The Sun Devils, meanwhile, couldn’t even find their footing.