Quarterbacks are defined by wins. The more dramatic the win, the better the quarterback. There’s a reason they keep stats on late-game comebacks.
With comeback #1, Nick Foles has officially arrived.
It was the missing piece from a successful rookie season. He had led the way to securing a bowl bid and put up decent stats but up until this point Foles had failed with the game on the line and the ball in his hands.
If you don’t count the muff drive Nick Foles was 0-3 on potential game-winnings drives in the final four minutes. Down three at Washington (post-foot) with 2:29 on the clock he took a sack with 43 seconds left and threw an interception with 26 seconds left. Down two with 2:06 left at Cal was the Faux Pass. Tied with 1:54 to go at ASU (pre-muff) was a three-and-out.
Throw in the horrid display of offense in the third quarter of the USC game and you’ll have to forgive us for doubting a bit when the final four minutes rolled around.
To say the game-winning drive came out of nowhere would be an insult to nowhere. After taking a 14-7 lead in the second quarter the Cats had five consecutive drives that didn’t even get to midfield. We had 27 yards of offense in the third quarter. That overthrow of C.Gronk on third down was the type of play that can haunt you for months. The game was tied heading into the fourth but it felt like a two-touchdown deficit.
So, naturally, Nick Foles manufactured a 4-minute, 10-play, 80-yard drive to retake the lead. Of course he orchestrated three third-down conversions. Without question he audibled into a fade route and threw the pass perfectly.
That’s what heroes do.
Heroes also don’t let a little pain get in the way. Nick’s Luke Skywalker glove looked twice as big this week. He couldn’t even hand the ball off with his left hand. To top it off Matt Scott wasn’t in uniform due to injury so if Foles had been unable to finish we would’ve had to turn the game over to a guy without a single collegiate pass attempt.
And did I mention all this was on the road against a team that was 48-2 in its last 50 home games?
The defense deserves a lot of credit too. Don’t brush off the fact that we just won two consecutive road games after scoring just 20 and 21 points. No, we weren’t exactly facing Jake Plummer and Matt Leinart but that side of the ball could have folded after the Oregon game and it has instead done just the opposite.
The Arizona defense did not end the USC game by barely holding on. The Cats made quick work of the final Trojan threat. Sack, incomplete, incomplete, incomplete. We only had to sweat for 54 seconds of game time.
(Well, that’s not entirely true. Arizona continues to make up its own click-killing strategies. Taking a knee too soon, calling timeouts, falling down before contact. Someday Mike Stoops will get over that ’04 Washington State game.)
You could argue the ASU game was merely surviving against a bad team, but don’t even try to dismiss this Trojan team as worthless. USC hasn’t been USC! this year but they still went into Columbus and beat the Big Ten champs. They still throttled Cal and beat Oregon State. They were still ranked coming into the game.
They were still ranked. Is there extra significance to Arizona re-entering the top 25 the same week USC’s 130-poll streak ended? We’ll have to wait until the fall of 2010 to find out.
What we do know is the fall of 2009 is officially a success. Even if Nebraska blows us out in the Holiday Bowl (which, for the Huskers, would mean a score like 11-3) this has been a very good season. Anytime you finish with a winning record and beat USC and ASU (both on the road! in back-to-back weeks!) you have to feel good about yourself.
For you fans of the Territorial Cup you’re going to want to write this one down: In the past 50 years the UA has finished a season with twice as many wins as ASU only three times. 1994, 1998, and 2009. Enjoy every second of it.
Enjoy the day Nick Foles became a hero.
Dream of the day he becomes a legend.