Have we undervalued Mike Stoops?by Anthony Gimino on Sep. 26, 2009, under Sports
Arizona won a Pac-10 road game when it didn’t have tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive end Brooks Reed, offensive tackle Mike Diaz, offensive guard Vaughn Dotsy and receiver Bug Wright, all out because of injury.
Arizona won a Pac-10 road game when it lost running back Nic Grigsby to a shoulder injury on the first series of the game.
Arizona won a Pac-10 road game when it lost backup running back Keola Antolin in the first half to a leg injury.
Arizona won a Pac-10 road game when it was using a first-time starting quarterback, had two critical replay reviews go in favor of the other team … and Arizona won when it absolutely had to have some Wildcat make a play on defense at the end of the game.
That Wildcat was cornerback Devin Ross, who came up with an interception with 1:33 left when Arizona was protecting a three-point lead.
The 37-32 win at Oregon State — when sophomore Nick Foles emerged as the quarterback of the future — was at once a huge sigh of relief and a positive sign for the rest of the season.
The Wildcats won because they have the kind of overall depth they didn’t come close to having when Mike Stoops took over for the 2004 season after Hurricane Mackovic ripped through the program.
“I think that’s the greatest compliment I can give our coaches and our players,” Stoops said in his postgame radio interview. “We develop players.”
There is lot left in the season, and most of the Pac-10 schedule will produce games just like this one — physical, dramatic, up for grabs. The Wildcats’ season could go any which way.
But if you’re looking for optimism, here are a few somethings to consider.
Since near the end of the 2007 season, Arizona:
- Has won 14 of 21 games.
- Is 9-5 in Pac-10 games.
- Has a 3-2 record against ranked teams.
- Defeated the No. 2 team in the country (Oregon, 2007).
- Won the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl, 31-21 over BYU.
- Has been competitive against everybody, not losing a game by more than 10 points.
The thing that has kept Stoops from more success in his five-plus seasons has been his record in close games. Before the Oregon State game, Stoops was 6-16 in games decided by eight points or less.
He’s now 7-16 in those situations.
“It was an unbelievable team win,” Stoops said.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but to have the kids compete for the full 60 minutes was very gratifying. We had guys step up … all over the place.”
None more so than Foles, who completed 25 of 34 passes for 254 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for a touchdown. Most of all, he showed poise in the pocket, able to feel pressure, scramble for time … and still make the play.
“Arizona was about as efficient as I’ve ever seen them,” said Oregon State coach Mike Riley. “They were sharp.”
Foles made his first career start look as low-stress as a day at the beach.
“A pretty cool guy,” Stoops said. “He is not too up. He never got too down when he didn’t start. He’s a competitor. … We needed his composure tonight.”
Given the circumstances and adversity, it was one of the biggest wins of Stoops’ tenure. But we seem to be saying that a lot lately.
After last season’s win over Arizona State to get bowl eligible.
After the win over BYU.
And now the win at Oregon State to start Pac-10 play.
In all, Arizona has been a very good program for about two full seasons now.
Has Stoops gotten enough credit for that?