As the clock wound down on Arizona's 34-27 upset of ASU, former offensive lineman Glenn Parker, the one-time firebrand mascot for the gritty UA teams of the early 90s, the man who has the trademarked A forever engraved on his bicep, was rallying a group of recruits. Behind them was a cascade of red, shouting as a collective beyond lung capacity. Across the way, it was a similar scene, well over 50,000 strong.
You wouldn't know this was a three-win football team from the way that packed house acted. You wouldn't know this was the site of more than a half-decade of frustration and turmoil. You wouldn't know this was the Arizona football program that had become the laughing stock of the Pac-10.
Instead, for one day this was what Arizona football should be, and what head coach Mike Stoops hopes it will become.
In this year's version of the annual rivalry, Arizona needed a lot of help if it hoped to win. That's exactly what it got. ASU committed five turnovers, including some key miscues in the red zone, and failed on downs twice more. To Arizona's credit, it took advantage of the opportunities and delivered by far its best offensive effort of the season.
That's the game in the nutshell, and other than the numerical anomaly of standing as the biggest upset record-wise in the history of the series, its overall impact is hard to gauge. ASU looks like the program destined for Dick Tomey-esque success under Dirk Koetter. While the product on the field is certainly different—Tomey teams were known for tough defense, Koetter is an offensive mastermind—the scenarios have some similarities. Arizona State looks like it could win seven games a year pretty consistently, with a breakthrough season from time to time balanced by as many five-win campaigns.
The verdict is still out on Arizona. There are suggestions the program is coming out of its tailspin. The UA returns nine starters on a defense that gained a reputation for making hard hitting plays. It features youth at linebacker, youth with experience in the secondary, but must find answers up front. Arizona still has a plethora of issues on the offensive end, and much of next year's success will hinge upon its ability to improve with consistency on that side of the ball.
But the real impact of Friday's win might have been the image left in the mind of the recruits in attendance. It was a big weekend of visits for the UA, which has already landed verbals at this stage from more players than at any point in the program's history. Additionally, it is on track to land the school's most heralded class. It's hard to imagine they could leave their visits with a negative impression of the atmosphere at Arizona Stadium.
And that's something we haven't been able to say in quite some time.