BERKELEY, Calif. —
Dear Mr. Football: Has Arizona ever lost to a team worse than Cal?
A: In late October 1983, Arizona was ranked No. 16 as it arrived to play at 0-6 Stanford. The Cardinal was about to fire head coach Paul Wiggin. How desperate was Stanford? It started true freshman quarterback John Paye.
Sound familiar? Jared Goff, Cal’s true freshman quarterback?
Paye threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns. Arizona lost 31-22. Stanford then went 0-4 to finish 1-10. It happens.
Dear Mr. Football: What’s the best quote delivered by a Pac-12 coach this year?
A: On the Pac-12 Networks’ all-access “The Drive” program, Cal’s Sonny Dykes comes across as an even-tempered, trusting soul. At times he seems bewildered by the Bears’ lack of success, even though he inherited a dumpster fire that went 0-5 to finish last season, being outscored 212-74.
In one episode, Dykes says to his assistant coaches, “What’s going on? How have we gotten so bad? We’ve got good players.”
But they don’t. According to Dykes’ calculations, only one of 40 players from the Bears’ 2009 and 2010 recruiting classes starts. How bad is that?
Arizona, whose ’09 and ’10 recruiting classes were generally ranked near the bottom of the league, has 13 starters or semi-starters from those years, including useful players such as Sione Tuihalamaka, Chris Putton, Jake Fischer, Fabbians Ebbele and Mickey Baucus.
You don’t get bad by accident in college football.
In this week’s “The Drive” episode, Dykes asked Cal defensive coordinator Andy Buh for an explanation of defensive breakdowns in a loss at Washington. Buh shook his head and motioned to a cornerback.
“He got beat.”
Dear Mr. Football: Is Dykes doomed to fail?
A: After he inherited QB Willie Tuitama from former Arizona offensive coordinator Mike Canales, Dykes successfully recruited/acquired QBs Matt Scott and Nick Foles, launching the most prolific offensive seasons in school history.
Dykes changed the image of Arizona football. Even though he had been gone two seasons before Rich Rodriguez arrived, it was Dykes who reset the template of UA football.
Is he the top offensive mind in school history? He’s close. I still think Steve Axman, 1980-84; Homer Smith, 1996-97; and 1950s head coach Warren Woodson were among the game’s “geniuses” at the time.
Dykes was a home run hitter at Arizona, and yet the Wildcats never went better than 8-5. If he can get Cal to 8-5 before the school’s patience wears thin, it might be an upset.
Dear Mr. Football: What did B.J. Denker do to celebrate being named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week?
A: He drove with three teammates to Phoenix to watch the Zac Brown Band at Ak Chin Pavilion. His goal was to shake hands with the band members. (Shouldn’t they have asked to shake his hand?)
Denker reminds me of Tim Matheson’s character, Otter, in “Animal House.” I mean, he is clearly a popular, personable young man unafraid to enjoy himself and the company he keeps.
He openly refers to himself as “Vanilla Vick.” During Family Weekend, his twitter message was to evaluate the mothers of would-be girlfriends and try to project ahead 20 years. “Choose wisely,” he tweeted.
This isn’t to suggest Denker is a party animal. On a hot day this summer, at the request of Tucson City Councilman Paul Cunningham, Denker spent three hours at Fort Lowell Park giving a clinic to underprivileged kids. He did not get paid. He stayed three hours.
Dear Mr. Football: What happened to Arizona quarterbacks who proceeded Denker as offensive player of the week?
A: Tom Tunnicliffe won the award five times between 1980 and 1983. He’s a commercial real estate executive in Burbank, Calif.
After that, incredibly, an Arizona QB won the offensive POW award just once until Keith Smith and Ortege Jenkins shared the honor in the 1998 “Leap by the Lake” game at Washington.
In 1991, George Malauulu was the POW. He is now a longshoreman near Los Angeles, operating the non-profit AIGA Foundation, which helps to develop young athletes.
Jason Johnson was a POW in 2002; he is the creative director of a Seattle firm that markets, brands and produces travel, sports and lifestyle entertainment. And then came Tuitama, a POW in 2007. Tuitama is now the quarterbacks coach at LaSalle High School in Pasadena, Calif.
Dear Mr. Football: How important is Arizona’s momentum from winning at Colorado?
A: One of the UA’s most celebrated road victories in Pac-12 history was a 28-21 game at UCLA, 1990, when All-America cornerback Darryll Lewis returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown in the final minute.
A week later, at 0-5 Oregon State (a team destined to finish 1-10 and fire coach Dave Kragthorpe), the Wildcats fell flat and lost 35-21. The Beaver QB who beat Arizona that day was Fred Schweer. Brutal.
Momentum meant nothing. When the door to Arizona’s locker room swung open in the basement of Gill Coliseum that day, Lewis was in the first chair by the door. He was sobbing.
Dear Mr. Football: Why is Jeff Tedford smiling?
A: After Cal fired Tedford last season, it paid him a $5.5 million settlement. He took the money, flew to New Zealand for a 10-day vacation and then put his $5.3 million, 8,900-square foot foothills home on the market and moved to Reno, Nev.
Among other things, Tedford has flown to his alma mater, Fresno State, to be the honorary captain for a game, and apparently enjoys the freedom so much he declined a chance to join the interim staff at USC.
Compare that to Dykes, who in “The Drive” this week told Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll that picking up Tedford’s pieces “takes years off your life.
Cal has replaced Arizona as the worst defensive team in the Pac-12, allowing 540 yards per game (the UA allowed 499 last season). No Cal opponent, not even Portland State, has scored fewer than 37 points.
Arizona’s history at Memorial Stadium is haunting. Malauulu tore up his knee there. Foles lost a game when he caught his own pass, then tried to throw another one. Dick Tomey scored 55 points there and lost. Thirty years ago, against a poor Joe Kapp, when the UA was undefeated and ranked No. 3, the Bears rallied for a spirited 33-33 tie.
“The Bear won’t die,” said Kapp, “but the Bear will tie.”
Into the Bear trap go the
Wildcats. Can RichRod survive where his predecessors fell? Arizona 41, Cal 28.