Score one for the Armchair Quarterbacks.
Wherever you find football games being lost, there you will hear the sound of fans saying the same two things: “Fire the coach!” and “Bring in [Insert Name of Backup Quarterback Here]!”
It never works. Coaches aren’t fired after every defeat, and there’s a very good reason the backup quarterback is the backup. Fans complain and coaches complain about fans complaining, and the coaches are usually right.
Except for now. Except for the 2009 Arizona Wildcats.
It turns out Door #2 was the brand new car.
It took exactly one drive against Oregon State to prove the quarterback change worked. Nick Foles’ very first series as a starter was a 15-play seven-minute masterpiece. The Cats covered 71 yards while only going to third down twice, and Foles converted both with pass plays.
It took exactly two defensive drives for the “Here we go again” feelings to return. On OSU’s answering touchdown march the Beavers converted all four third downs including the tip-drill touchdown.
But who wants to dwell on the negatives? Our 3-1 record is tied for the best in the Pac-10!
If you wanted to sum up the rationale behind the change at quarterback in one sentence it would have been this: We aren’t finishing drives. Well, the Foles-led Cats got into the red zone five times…and scored five touchdowns. Add the zero turnovers and this game could not have gone better offensively.
Nick Foles could not have looked any better either. He was accurate from the pocket. He was accurate running right. He was accurate running left. He threw his fastball for strikes. He showed a great deal of touch.
Foles absolutely owned the fade to the corner of the end zone. The TV guy said that’s one of the easiest throws for a quarterback to learn. No way. Mr. Vs. obviously hasn’t seen the last decade’s worth of Arizona quarterbacks attempt that throw. Just because Foles made it look easy doesn’t mean it is.
It certainly looks now like the quarterback decision should have been easy. The coaches aren’t trying to sabotage their careers so how do you miss…that? The word is Foles has been less than impressive in practice. Has he been wearing ankle weights? Do they make him wear his helmet backwards?
No matter. As much as we want that Iowa game back I’m not complaining. The road map to a bowl called for one win from the three-game road swing. We got it.
It’s a good thing too because the Washington game is far from automatic. UW is in the middle of its own three-road-games-in-four-weeks stretch so I expect we’ll see a lot closer to the USC-game Huskies than the Stanford-game Huskies when they’re back at home on the 10th.
Winning on the road is like throwing the fade route. It’s not as easy as Nick Foles made it look. We can’t go overboard with expectations for our new floppy-haired hero.
(By the way, how soon before the first shipment of Nick Foles wigs hit campus? Nick Follicles, anyone?)
We must exercise restraint. While Willie Tuitama’s first two starts produced a road win and a rout of a top-ten team, starts three and four were clunkers. Let’s not act shocked when Nick makes his next (first?) rookie mistake. Foles was changing a lot of plays at the line against the Beavers. It’ll be interesting to see how future teams try to bait him into checking into the wrong play.
(Now, even though I’m preaching caution I do give you permission to dream about a 2010 with Foles, Dean/Criner/Roberts, Grigsby/Antolin/Nwoko and GRONK! Oh my.)
All the talk is about the offense but hopefully the final couple stops can be a turning point for the defense. Just like in last year’s OSU game the Arizona offense couldn’t seal the win and had to punt. Just like last year time wasn’t a factor so the defense had to gain possession of the ball to preserve the victory. Just like last year Devin Ross was tested. Thankfully this year it was a short route instead of a deep one and Ross got his payback.
Devin better get used to being tested. We’re getting really close to teams just ignoring the half of the field patrolled by Trevin Wade. From the first-half pass break-up in the end zone to the second-half interception Wade continues to find the ball and make the play. Fear the Trevidactyl.
While there’s plenty to work on (Hello, Special Teams!) and there’s more than enough to gripe about (Greetings, Instant Replay Guy!) the bottom line is a big road conference win for the Cats.
Somebody take a picture of the standings. We’re better than USC and Cal!
And they might just be jealous of our quarterback.