In his brief tenure at Arizona, head coach Mike Stoops has already been under the microscope, and seemingly on the wrong end of some controversial decisions. There was the Wisconsin game, where he could have attempted to try to drive deeper into Badger territory, thus setting up an easier field goal effort for Nick Folk, who as it turned out missed a 47-yarder on a wet field.
There was the Washington State game, where he could have decided to take a knee, but ran a play for Gilbert Harris instead. Harris fumbled the football, and WSU scored a late touchdown to win in shocking fashion.
And in Salt Lake, Stoops decided to forego fourth and five with just over three minutes left and one timeout in his pocket in an effort to play field position with the intent of pinning Utah deep in its own territory. The plan backfired, and by the time Arizona got the ball back, it was too far away from paydirt, and didn't have enough time to make up the real estate.
Some have suggested that Stoops' conservative tendencies belied his off-season rhetoric in regards to playing a more aggressive style. I think he was just playing the odds. Personally, I have nothing against him going for it on fourth and five, but in the same situation, I would have done what he did. Ultimately, the issue isn't the call. The more important concern here is that Arizona failed to execute, and thus, the decision backfired.
The Wildcats had three opportunities to make plays that would have lessened the focus on fourth and five.
Play one: If Arizona reels in a catchable pass on third and five, this entire issue is moot. Instead, receiver Anthony Johnson couldn't come up with the catch, and the UA was forced into a tough spot.
Play two: On the ensuing punt, all Danny Baugher has to do is keep the ball in play and pin Utah inside the 20. Instead, he booted it five yards into the end zone and Arizona's special teams never had a chance to make the play. As Stoops said on his weekly radio show, if he had known Baugher was going to punt it into the end zone, he probably would have gone on fourth and five.
Play three: Arizona's defense had to stop one guy: Utah running back Quentin Ganther, who finished the game with 127 rushing yards. This wasn't the Utah team from last year that fielded a confident quarterback, and it was pretty obvious the comfort level of new signal-caller Brian Johnson is still uncertain. Johnson isn't ready to beat you, so that made Gathner the team's only option. He promptly broke off a 20-plus yard run that pretty much sealed the UA's fate.
It's easy to say Arizona should have gone for it on fourth and five, but that automatically implies the UA would have done something it didn't accomplish in three late sequences: make a play. It's just as likely Utah blitzes and sacks quarterback Richard Kovalcheck as it is that he completes a pass for yardage to a wide open Michael Thomas or Syndric Steptoe. And if the play goes awry, what do we hear. Oh, Stoops should have punted.
In the end, it wasn't the call, but the execution that surrounded it, and that's what will determine the fate of this team this season. It's good to see that Arizona was resilient enough to close the gap. Now it must figure out what it takes to seal the deal when the outcome is on the line…
…I've moved somewhat into the new millennium, or I guess new decade, which is the same thing but not quite as snooty. I purchased a laptop over the summer. As it turns out, this was a good investment, because shortly thereafter my 1986 Commodore 64 desktop went the way of the laser disc. After some fun sizzling sounds and a nice plume of smoke, it finds itself in Obsolete Technology Heaven. As a result, the new laptop has pretty much become the all-everything computer.
Laptops have this thing called Wireless Something or Other. Personally, I think that's a great name, because for me, that's exactly what it is, a something-or-other. And what this something-or-other does is pick up that thing they call the Internet from a variety of locations. I don't have to be connected to a modem-thingy to get on the Internet-whatchawhosit, and that rocks.
This means I could sit in a coffee shop and act all snooty, and talk about things like Nectarine frappachinnos and the impact of granola and Birkenstocks on our socialist economic structure. But wait, I don't like coffee, nor am I a fan of granola or Birkenstocks, but really it's the coffee.
It also presents a chance to be a bit shifty. For you see, it appears hard to contain the wireless signal thingie within the confines of said Nectarine frappachinno producing location. It makes no never mind that it's 1:30 in the morning, and said NF producing place is closed. I think it's kind of cool to sit on the hood of my car, snagging four bands on my wireless thingie signal, and putting this story online.
As I'm typing this a security guard is telling me I have to leave the parking lot. I'm not making this up. I think he's annoyed that I'm typing while he's talking, and probably a bit more annoyed I asked him his name, and what authority he has. No, that's not sitting well. He's saying something about loitering in the parking lot and how the owners don't like it. Who are the owners? I don't think he knows. It's hard not to snicker here, but I inform him I'll be leaving momentarily. I'd offer to bribe him with a Nectarine frappachinno, but I think he's more a coffee-black kinda guy. Nice uniform though.