Schu Strings: Is ASU ahead?

From the departure of their respective old regimes to the onset of new eras, Arizona and Arizona State have been on parallel football paths. Now they're veering in different directions.

On November 15, 2000, Arizona State Athletic Director Gene Smith released football coach Bruce Snyder. ASU was limping through another forgettable year. In Snyder's regular season swan song, Arizona State ousted Arizona 30-17 in Tucson.

That night, Dick Tomey resigned after 14 years with the Wildcats. Arizona State managed a berth in the Aloha Bowl, which it lost after an uninspired performance against Boston College.

Arizona finished the campaign 5-6, losing five straight down the stretch.

On December 2, ASU hired Dirk Koetter from Boise State.

Two days later, Arizona hired John Mackovic. Both programs hoped new blood would lead to revitalized results on the gridiron. ASU's last bid with glory was 1996, when Jake Plummer guided the squad to the Rose Bowl. Arizona was 12-1 in 1998, but lingered around .500 from that point on.

Both programs had to realize patience was a necessary ingredient in the effort to turn things around. Naturally, the first year was a struggle in Tempe and Tucson. It started off well enough in non-conference play. Arizona downed San Diego State in its season-opener August 30. ASU blasted SDSU nine days later.

While successful against less-than-daunting non-conference competition, the league slate proved to be a different game entirely. Throughout the course of the year, Arizona State got ripped by the likes of Oregon, Oregon State and USC. For Arizona, it was Washington State, Oregon and Stanford. Both squads lost close games to Washington.

It had been quite some time since the annual in-state encounter would feature two teams with no bowl aspirations, but that was the situation November 23, 2001.

And on that date, Arizona looked impressive, securing a 34-21 win in the first taste of the rivalry for both men.

There was still a lot of rebuilding in store, but it appeared Arizona might have had the upper hand.

August 24, 2002. Arizona State played Nebraska tough for a half, then got pummeled over the course of the final 30 minutes. It looked like another long year in Tempe.

August 31, 2002. Arizona dominated Division I-AA foe NAU 37-3.

September 14. While Arizona was squeaking out a 23-17 win over Utah, in a game where it dominated statistically but couldn't get the ball in the end zone, ASU was having trouble at San Diego State. That is, until it made a quarterback change. Koetter inserted sophomore Andrew Walter, who delivered two touchdown passes in his first two attempts, and Arizona State rallied for an 11-point win.

The parallel lines began to split.

September 28. Walter and the Sun Devils run roughshod over Stanford to the tune of 65-24. Arizona holds off North Texas 14-9, and loses top rusher Clarence Farmer for the season on a run that sealed the win. A week before, Arizona had endured what became a common theme, the string of injuries that has depleted the unit.

October 19. Arizona State rallies from a 28-10 deficit to upend Pac-10 frontrunner Oregon 45-42 in Eugene. Walter throws for well over 500 yards. Arizona loses 16-6 at Stanford, previously winless in conference play.

All of a sudden, ASU is staring at Rose Bowl possibilities, while Arizona is looking at 10th place in the Pac-10. That's about as distant as parallel lines can get.

And next year, while Arizona looks to make strides toward a push in 2004, expect ASU to be a load. Nine of the offensive starters in the Oregon game are underclassmen.

ASU is still a young team, and a conference title is probably asking a lot. Remember, this is the unit that turned the ball over six times and missed four field goals in a home loss to North Carolina. But it has managed to do many things more capably than Arizona at this stage, such as win close in consecutive contests against Oregon State and Oregon. The UA, meanwhile, couldn't close the deal at Washington again, and couldn't find a way to stop Stanford on third down Saturday.

November 29, 2002. ASU at Arizona. It might be a day Wildcat fans would like to forget.

Red Dragon recently began its theatrical run. This is the second movie remake of Thomas Harris' novel of the same name, but the updated version includes more Hannibal Lecter, complete with portrayal by Anthony Hopkins.

But when I saw Red Dragon over the weekend, I watched it the wrong way. Not as a cinematic adaptation of a very good book, but in comparison to its 1986 predecessor, Manhunter.

This is bad because Manhunter, in my book, is the quintessential 80's piece of cinema. Directed by Michael Mann, who before Ali had gone two decades without making a bad film, Manhunter is a great piece of work on many levels, and visually it had a style all its own, a Michael Mann Miami Vice Manhunter style that remains instantly recognizable.

Red Dragon, meanwhile, looks like a movie that tried to recreate the sets from Silence of the Lambs. Don't get me wrong. Red Dragon is well done. It's a strong directorial effort by Brett Ratner, who is now becoming a Hollywood money machine after three straight box office hits (he also directed the first two Rush Hour films).

Here's a character-by-character breakdown. Will Graham: Edward Norton vs. William Peterson. Advantage: Peterson.

The Graham portrayal is the reason Peterson is the character he is on CSI. Peterson enveloped himself in his role as the psychiatrically traumatized former FBI agent who nabbed Lecter, then is coaxed out of retirement to track down the so-called Tooth Fairy, or Red Dragon.

I think Norton is an outstanding actor, but I had a hard time buying his mental anguish. Perhaps it was the really bad blond dye job. I know not.

Hannibal Lecter: Anthony Hopkins vs. Brian Cox: Advantage: Hopkins.

Cox is very good in a small role, beefed up in Red Dragon specifically for Hopkins. But when Cox played Lecter, Hopkins portrayal had yet to be established in Silence of the Lambs, and as a result, the movie folk didn't know what they had. I don't think Thomas Harris has the grasp on Lecter that Hopkins possesses, and his presence is always welcome in Red Dragon.

Francis Dolarhyde: Ralph Fiennes vs. Tom Noonan: Advantage: Noonan, but just barely.

In Manhunter, Noonan's role is less than that provided Fiennes, but he's much more distant and physically imposing. Dolarhyde is supposed to be a monster among men, and Fiennes just does not possess the physical presence to pull that off. Noonan is immense, and it's that physical advantage that gives him the nod. Fiennes' Red Dragon tattoo is darn sweet, however.

FBI Section Chief Jack Crawford: Harvey Keitel vs. Dennis Farina: Advantage: even.

Farina is vintage Mann, and he plays the role well. Keitel is vintage Keitel, and he does the same.

Tabloid reporter Freddy Lounds: Philip Seymour Hoffman vs. Stephen Lang: Advantage: Hoffman. Both do a great job as the sleazy tabloid reporters, but whereas Peterson and Noonan stand out so much in the original, Hoffman almost steals the updated version.

Style: Advantage: Manhunter in a runaway.

Memorable scene: Advantage: Manhunter in a runaway. When people talk of Red Dragon, perhaps they'll remember the prologue sequence with Lecter and the guests at the dinner table. Perhaps they'll remember Lecter chained in the exercise court. Perhaps they'll remember Fiennes' dangly.

But that's all perhaps at best. Nobody who has ever seen Manhunter forgets the Iron Butterfly In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida sequence.

And on that merit alone, it goes down as the better of the two versions.

Now I have that song stuck in my head, but that's a column for next week. The full-length version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida should be done right around then.


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