A Win Is a Win Is a Win

I have terrible news for my fellow Sun Devil fans…The University of Arizona almost beat ASU last Friday in the Duel in the Desert. They were oh so close to retaining the Territorial Cup, handing us a second straight loss to them and simultaneously ruining our chances of playing in a bowl game this season. Well as I'm sure most of us have heard at least once in our lives, "Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades." And this old adage certainly applies to football.

Think about it for a second…Do you think that the 2004 National Champion USC Trojans will be looked down upon in a few years for almost losing to a 4-7 Stanford team? Of course they won't. All that people remember is that they WON all of their games that season. And in no way am I comparing our game with Arizona to either game or our season with USC's a year ago because that would be foolish. Instead, I am just showing how trying to take away something from a team that almost lost is ridiculous.

What about some other great teams that were champions recently? The 2001 Miami Hurricanes had an unbelievable collection of future NFL talent (Reed, Portis, Shockey, Johnson, Vilma, Wilfork, McGahey, etc.) and rolled through opposing teams on its way to being National Champions? They almost lost to Boston College and Virginia Tech. But of course that really doesn't matter because well, they DIDN'T. The 2002 Ohio State Buckeyes who went 14-0? They won 7 games by a touchdown or less (Wisconsin, Penn State, Purdue, Illinois, Michigan, Miami (FL), and even …Cincinnati!?!?) yet they still have a nice, shiny crystal ball sitting in their trophy case. They almost went 8-6…but they didn't.

The point is that nearly every college football team plays a handful of close nail-biters throughout the season and it's how you respond to the adversity that defines how successful of a season the team will have. Hell, we were a few plays away this season from being a 9-2 team with BCS hopes, but instead we are a 6-5 team playing in the Insight Bowl. A team's record never lies and unfortunately we lost some very close games and we are where we are (a 6-5 team) in part because of that. In fact, we were just a few plays away last season in games against Stanford and UCLA from being a 7-4 or 6-5 team instead of finishing 9-3.

So no matter how much U of A and some of their fans want to try and make excuses for losing a 15 point lead to us and how they should have won it really does not matter at all. We won the game and they lost. Whether you win by 1 or 21 it all comes out the same on the ledger at the end of the season. Hell, I don't remember them feeling sympathy for us when we brought the much better team of the two into Tucson for the Duel in the Desert last year and lost a heartbreaker.

And I don't want to hear about how we only won because we knocked their starting quarterback, tailback, tight end, and whoever else out of the game (with good, clean hits by the way). Well, Wildcat fans that is part of the game. Injuries happen to effect everyone in football and unfortunately for your team, a few happened during your game with us.

So our friends down south and the members of the local media throughout Arizona can spin whatever they want out of the Wildcats almost defeating our Sun Devils last Friday until ASU came on strong in the second half and won the game. But see all that's important is what I wrote at the end of the sentence…we WON the game. That's all that really matters in football. Sure it's nice to look good while you win and try to embarrass your opponent as well, but the goal of the game is to win.

Perhaps Wildcat fans need to make excuses for why they lost and how they should have won the game in order to reassure themselves that they are headed in the right direction as a program. Well they do not have to talk about all the 'ifs' and 'buts' about the game last Friday to try and prove that they are a better program today than they were a few years ago despite going 3-8 once again. It's clear to me and most other knowledgeable Sun Devil fans that they are making strides towards being a respectable team once again and making a bowl game.

However, they are still enduring the necessary growing pains of a team trying to go from perennial doormat to eventual contender and a consistent threat. Part of that process is learning how to finish teams off and win games consistently. And they are also learning that it can sometimes be harder to play well when you are expected to win, rather than sneaking up on teams as an underdog. Nothing proves that more than the Wildcats' trouncing of then undefeated UCLA and then following it up with an embarrassing effort against Washington at home for Senior Day.

With all that said, I think everyone needs to remember that ASU is still the superior program of the two, and our future looks awfully bright as well. And until the U of A start consistently proving it on the field, they will still be behind our program as a whole. So while they may try to take away as many positives from their season and their game against us, they still were a 3-8 football team who lost to us. "But we almost defeated you scummies," I can hear a U of A fan retort. Well my response is simply this…

There are only two outcomes in college football today: you can either a.) Win the game or b.) Lose the game. That's it folks. And whether you look great doing it or struggle and squeak by narrowly, a win is always going to be a win.

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