Wow. What a horrible time to get writer's block. The Fizz was literally writing itself in my head as Thursday night's football game was unfolding, but now I'm totally stumped. All the great one-liners are gone and all that's left is Arizona 34, Oregon 24. I guess I can live with that, but this writer's block thing is a bit of concern as I am, well, you know, a writer. They say writer's block is due to a lack of creativity or inspiration. This is a problem because after Arizona's amazing upset of BCS No. 2 Oregon, we can rule out inspiration. Have I really lost my creativity? Dear God, I hope not. I guess after reading this week's Fizz, I'll let you guys be the judge.
Congratulations, Wildcats! You played your hearts out and you earned the victory over Oregon last night.
Congratulations, students! You represented our university well and showed the world that you're as passionate about our athletic program as any student body in the country.
Congratulations to super hottie and wildly talented UA softball superstar Taryne Mowatt who delivered the best pre game starting line up announcement in the history of Thursday night college football! Her presentation was so good, announcer Craig James remarked that Taryne should be allowed to come back in the third quarter to again present Arizona's starting line ups just in case Mike Stoops made any changes at halftime. His comment was priceless but that's no surprise as everything Taryne does as a Wildcat is priceless.
Congratulations to Arizona fans providing the greatest storming of a field I've ever seen!
I have so much to say about the game I can hardly contain myself, but I will for a moment to recognize the courage of one of our nation's finest athletes. Dennis Dixon, I'm truly sorry you were injured in the game. The emotions you shared on the sidelines in those first few minutes after you went down, followed by the courage you displayed during the final three quarters in rooting on your team, handling interviews with class, and accepting the fate of your injury was an example of fortitude that we can all learn from. I hope you get back on the field as soon as possible and help lead the Ducks to several more victories before you graduate. And speaking of graduation, your 3.6 GPA is something to be very proud of and I sincerely hope people recognize that you are much, much more than just a superior quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate. Godspeed with your recovery and continue to keep your chin up.
Dixon's absence was clearly evident. In fact, had he not been injured, even though Arizona was only trailing 11-10 at the time, Oregon had already amassed 149 yards on the ground in the first quarter and was showing no signs of slowing down. I felt all week that Arizona was going to find a way to win the game but I have to admit, watching the Ducks go up and down the field in that first quarter had me really nervous. But then Dixon did go down and so did the Oregon rushing attack. Sure, they continued to gain some yards but once Arizona adjusted their defense to solely focus on Stewart out of the backfield while blitzing replacement quarterback Brady Leaf on just about every play, the entire game changed, dramatically. Arizona put the swarm back in the Desert Swarm defense and made several game changing plays that helped them jump out to an insurmountable 31-11 lead at halftime
The biggest thing I noticed during the game and while watching all the highlights, AND while watching the ESPN replay at 12:30 AM (I'm sick, I know), was the poise that Arizona's players displayed all night long. Even on interception returns, players were running at a controlled speed that allowed them to make reads, set up their blockers and identify holes that they then attacked. It was really amazing. Arizona, for the first time in a long time, played with tremendous confidence and poise. Because of this simple fact, I honestly think the Wildcats have turned the mythical "corner." What I'm saying is Arizona football is finally back. I know, I know, fans of conference foes, laugh all you want. You can bring up losses against New Mexico, Stanford, or even the losses to your teams but laugh now while you can because you won't be laughing next season and beyond. Arizona is loaded top to bottom with young players who have contributed mightily to the team's success in recent weeks. And even though Arizona loses nine seniors on defense next year, don't forget that many of the playmakers on Arizona's defense will be returning next season. Of course, players like Antoine Cason, Spencer Larsen, Jason Parker and Wilrey Fontenot will be greatly missed, but studs like Nate Ness (two interceptions against Oregon), Devin Ross, and every player Arizona inserted last night to play the safety positions are all primed to play more minutes next season.
The other thing that gives me confidence for Arizona's future is the final Wildcat drive that put the game out of reach. After five straight punts and a drive-ending fumble that enabled Oregon to trim a 20-point halftime deficit to just seven, Arizona found a way to sustain a clock-eating drive and get into field goal range. On that drive, Mike Stoops did not hesitate for a single second in calling for Arizona to go for it on fourth down with five minutes remaining. On that play, 178-pound freshman tailback Nicholas Grigsby was smacked a yard behind the line of scrimmage and instead of going down, bulled over the linebacker who made the hit and reached for the first down. Soon after, freshman place kicker Jason Bondzio nailed a 46-yarder as if he was attempting an extra point. Under the most extreme pressure and with the prospect of blowing the huge lead looming, Arizona rose up and did what great teams do. They stared defeat in the eye and spat on it.
Before resuming, it's time for a shameless self-promoting plug. I'm not sure how many out there actually read my alter ego's Pac-10 Preview, but last week gdazzo, a basketball editor no less, pulled a Jimmy "The Greek" and not only accurately predicted every Pac-10 winner, but did so in a Nostradamus-like fashion that had him buying lottery tickets all week. Add to that yesterday's column that did not provide a final score for the UA/Oregon game but all but implied a Wildcat victory, gdazzo will be searching for the nearest casino once he lands in Seattle this morning.
Speaking of Seattle, gdazzo's going to try to get his hands on one of those 30-pound Salmon you always see famous people trying to catch from the butcher at Seattle's world-famous fish market. Hopefully, he'll have better success catching the fish than Oregon's Jaison Williams had last night. Even though Williams finished the game with 8 catches for 120 yards, he had a handful of drops that really hurt the Ducks.
Thank goodness Arizona has another bye week before they play in-state rival Arizona State. I'd hate to think of them having to play the Sun Devils in a week after last night's emotional high. The Wildcats actually have 16 days until their season finale and they'll need every one of those days to put this game behind them so they can focus on beating ASU and getting to a bowl game.
Unlike most fans, at least I think unlike most, I'm not one to root against my rival for the simple reason of enjoying watching them lose. Personally, I hope ASU beats USC on Thanksgiving to set up a truly great match up between the Sun Devils and Wildcats in Tempe on Dec. 1. My philosophy is life is about experiences and that game would be a great one so bring it on. Next Thursday's USC/ASU game could very well likely decide the Pac-10 Rose Bowl representative and I'd love to be presented with the opportunity to both dash ASU's Rose Bowl aspirations while also propelling Arizona to bowl eligibility, and most likely a bowl birth. Am I alone here?
Speaking of being alone, apparently Notre Dame's Charlie Weiss spends all of his waking hours in some sort of bunker, rendering him clueless on the landscape of college football, as well as what people are saying about his program. If I were Charlie Weiss I'd come out of my so-called "bunker" right quick because if he doesn't he may get a police escort right off campus at season's end. While I don't really expect Weiss to be fired, I am suggesting that living in that bunker of his has the Notre Dame Coach quickly losing touch with reality. His team is bad and his cavalier approach with the media is an embarrassment to one of, if not thee, most well-respected universities in the world. Rather than being so smug about losing, I'd provide a little insight into what's going on with my football program and how I'm working tirelessly to improve it. If I'm being too harsh here please forgive me, I think it just might be the Fizz talking.
When the Yankee brass said a month ago that Alex Rodriguez would not be wearing pinstripes next season, period, I guess what they meant was…actually, I have no clue what they meant. When I use the word period, there's an inferred finality to whatever I'm taking a stance on. Perhaps the word period means something different on the east coast than it does on the west coast. After all, there are so few similarities between the east and west coasts as it is that just maybe the language we speak is different too. What's really crazy about the proposed A-Rod deal to the Yanks is what does this mean for mega agent Scott Borros. It's been said that A-Rod back-channeled through an attorney to initiate contact with the Yankees to negotiate a new contract without Boros' knowing. If this is true, it speaks to the moral character of A-Rod, or lack thereof, and it also indicates that Boros' aggressive negotiating tactics may have finally worn out there welcome.
Barry Bonds is in real trouble. He's rightfully presumed innocent until proven guilty, but it looks like the government has had a case on him for several years and was just waiting for him to retire from baseball before pursuing an indictment. Today, they got it and now Bonds is on the hot seat.
While A-Rod and Bonds made big time news yesterday, the only real news that matters in the Center of the Universe is Arizona's win over Oregon. Although I wasn't in attendance, I could literally feel the pulse of the crowd through my television. I didn't exercise today but I don't think it mattered because my heart was racing for three and a half hours. I can't ever remember watching a more intense football game. ESPN's coverage was fantastic and you could tell Chris Fowler was very impressed with what he saw from you the fans and our players. During the pre game fireworks explosion that brings our players onto the field, Fowler literally did a double-take, interrupted himself, and smiled like a little kid on the Fourth of July. I fully expect him to provide a lot of commentary about his experience in Tucson during Saturday's College Game Day show.
I have to give a special thanks to my sister and her husband Dave. Thanks to them the Wildcats won last night. As you all know, my Arizona game day attire and my frustrations with finding a magical outfit that will help produce a Wildcat victory has been well-documented in the Fizz. I've had to retire tons of clothes that have failed the cause in recent years and have spent an insane amount of money that has provoked many wife-questioning interrogations on the costs of replacing these items with even more Arizona gear. Tonight, I pulled out all the stops and unleashed a 180 on the superstition gods by donning the "Larry Legend" Boston Celtics T-shirt Michelle and Dave bought me for my birthday. The shirt had yet to be worn, basically being saved for a special sports occasion when I would need Larry Bird's will to win the most. As it turned out, that occasion was last night's game and it would've killed me to have had to retire it had Arizona lost.
Thanks to the play of the Wildcats, the ASU game will be one of the most hyped rivalry games between these schools in a long, long time. Last season, Arizona carried a three-game winning streak into the big game and failed miserably. Although Arizona will again enter the game winners of three in a row, things are different now. Much different. Arizona's senior class has endured so much over the past four years and they now seem determined to go out winners. When Oregon was mounting their comeback and looked like they might actually win, I couldn't help but run through UA's history to try and figure out what the Wildcats had done to inherit such bad Karma. After Bondzio's field goal, those thoughts disappeared and instead I realized that Karma is actually on Arizona's side thanks in part to the hard work these seniors have put into resurrecting the program.
Simply put, because of our seniors, the true spirit of Bear Down has been resurrected. If this isn't making sense, go to the McKale Center and visit the John "Button" Salmon's Statue. Read the inscription and think about how much our senior class has had to overcome. If you don't understand at that point, you must be a Sun Devil.
Bear Down, Everyone! And Bear Down, Arizona!