Dear Mr. Football: So Utah beat Stanford. What’s next?
A: Connect the dots: Arizona’s four most treasured home victories in history were:
- Defeated No. 1 Washington in 1992; lost at USC the next week
- Defeated No. 2 UCLA in 1980; lost at Washington the next week
- Defeated No. 2 Oregon in 2007; lost at ASU the next game
- Defeated No. 4 ASU in 1986; lost to Stanford (in Japan) the next week
The hangover effect in college football has been a factor forever.
Dear Mr. Football: Did Utah coach Kyle Whittingham really shave a “U” into his head and paint it red after beating Stanford?
A: That was Utah soccer coach Rich Manning, who was so juiced up after the Utes swept Oregon State and Oregon last week, rising to 6-1 overall, that he got a “U” cut and paint job to help inspire his team for a game at Washington.
The Huskies won anyway 1-0. So much for motivational ploys.
Dear Mr. Football: Did Utah name a play after the “Cactus Comet”?
A: The Utes run a play called “Comet,” a swing pass to Dres Anderson that befuddled Stanford and put Anderson’s name into circulation as one of the league’s most feared receivers.
The only play that has stricken Arizona’s defense like that in recent years is Oregon State’s “Fly Sweep,” which worked with such effectiveness that you’d swear Arizona never watched any film of the Beavers.
The “Cactus Comet,” Art Luppino, the singular running back in UA history, is 77 now, but he could have scored on the Fly Sweep against Arizona.
Dear Mr. Football: Dres Anderson? Ring a bell? Is he the new Comet?
A: His father, Flipper Anderson played for UCLA from 1985-87 and caught eight passes for 161 yards and a touchdown against the Wildcats, sweeping them in three games.
Flipper was, as a high school player in New Jersey, 1982, probably the nation’s most highly pursued receiver. He turned down Bo Schembechler, Joe Paterno and Notre Dame to play at UCLA.
But when Dres was a high school senior in Riverside, Calif., three years ago, UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel did not offer a scholarship. No wonder Neuheisel was fired.
Dear Mr. Football: Is it possible that Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott could float the UA a loan at tonight’s game?
A: Scott was paid $3.1 million by the league in 2011, which is almost what the UA (still) owes on the press box/loge facility. Incredibly, UA is paying $263,000 a year on the 24-year-old press box, and those payments won’t expire until 2030, according to my former colleague Jay Gonzales of Inside Tucson Business magazine.
The only guy more flush with cash at tonight’s game will be Utah playcaller Dennis Erickson, who should write a book on his coaching career and call it “I Cashed In.”
In addition to an estimated $22 million he has been paid to coach just about every team in the lower 48 states, Erickson has been paid $9.25 million to NOT coach: $7.5 million by the San Francisco 49ers, $1 million by the Seattle Seahawks and $750,000 by Arizona State. Getting fired is one of the unspoken blessings of being a head coach.
The Utes are paying Erickson a mere $275,000 this year, which is unusually low at the BCS level. My favorite (recent) Erickson story: During last year’s NCAA basketball tournament in Salt Lake City, he was living at the University Marriott on Utah’s tab, at about $200 per night.
It’s the same hotel at which former Utah basketball coach Rick Majerus lived for almost a decade. On the night Arizona beat Harvard, two fans approached Erickson at the hotel bar and asked if he was “a famous coach.”
“I coached at South Albany High School last year,” he said. “We went 3-6. That’s not very famous.”
The fans shrugged it off and walked away.
And it was true. Erickson helped his son, Bryce, coach the South Albany High School Rebels outside Corvallis, Ore., in the fall of 2012. The Rebels went 3-6. Bryce Erickson quit at year’s end. He’s now coaching for the Idaho Vandals, where his father was twice the head coach.
Dear Mr. Football: If Utah has the “MUSS” what does Arizona have?
A: The “Mighty Utah Student Section” is blessed by near-capacity attendance and endurance. Arizona’s Zona Zoo, by comparison, might be the “MASS” – Mostly Absent Student Section.”
Tonight, according to the Daily Wildcat, those who stay until the fourth quarter will be eligible for win cash prizes for $550, $250 and $100 (totaling $1,500).
Strangely, that money remains, leftover and unclaimed, from MASS people who did not stay late enough at the UTSA and NAU games.
This isn’t an issue unique to the Zona Zoo. The mighty SEC this year hired a market-research firm, “Now What,” to determine why students in that league don’t fill all the seats or stay late. It has become a notable problem at Georgia, for example.
Student attendance is even a topic at Oregon. This year, the Ducks give students who stay the whole game a Jack in the Box hamburger (as long as the Ducks score 40 points.) Automatic, right?
Dear Mr. Football: Is there something wrong with being a lefty?
A: I think some of the criticism UA quarterback B.J. Denker receives is because he is left-handed. It just looks wrong, doesn’t it? It’s easy to say his passes are mechanically flawed because it all looks reversed.
But Denker is completing 54.5 percent of his passes. In 1993 Dan White, the QB-of-record in the Desert Swarm years, opened his first five games at 54 percent. I can’t recall anyone saying White was fundamentally askew the way I hear it about Denker.
In his first five games at Arizona, Willie Tuitama completed 57.7 percent of his passes, and he was touted as a franchise-saving QB.
If anyone should be used to lefty quarterbacks doing well, it is an Arizona fan. The Wildcats have been thumped by Pac-12 lefties Todd Marinovich, Paul McDonald, Brock Huard, Matt Leinart, Mark Brunell and Cade McNown.
Denker’s not in their class, and he’s not likely to ever be close to that level. But it doesn’t mean over a game or two, he won’t be able to deliver a big play to beat a team like Utah.
Dear Mr. Football: So that’s it? Denker beats the Utes?
A: If Arizona beats the Utes, it’ll likely be because offensive linemen Chris Putton, Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele, who have 82 combined starts, come of age.
If they’re ever going to be big-time players, now’s the time.
They are being coached by Jim Michalczik, who from 2002-08 was probably the Pac-12’s top offensive line coach, churning out big-game players year after year at Cal. Michalczik has a history of getting it done in a season-turning game like this one.
Utah’s strength is its defensive front. Arizona’s strength should be, on paper, its offensive front.
It should be a game determined by the tackles.
Arizona 27, Utah 23