HANSEN

Greg Hansen: Add Scott fumble to lore of QB jinx

2012-12-04T00:00:00Z Greg Hansen: Add Scott fumble to lore of QB jinxGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 04, 2012 12:00 am  • 

As sure as the Red Sox spent 86 years dealing with the Curse of the Bambino and Cubs fans continue to be vexed by the Curse of the Billy Goat, Arizona's Curse of the Quarterbacks lives on.

I know this to be true because UA quarterback Matt Scott did not make the All-Pac-12 first team and because he will miss his graduation ceremony to play in something called the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.

Just before 11 p.m., on Nov. 23, Scott was running toward Arizona State's goal line, his team leading 27-20, about to finish off the Sun Devils and become the first All-Pac-12 QB in UA history.

Arizona would finish 8-4, Rich Rodriguez would climb into strong consideration for Pac-12 Coach of the Year, and bowl committees in California, Texas and Nevada would step on one another to get the Wildcats to play in their bowl game.

Even better, Matt Scott and his family would be together for the long-awaited Graduation Day.

Just as Scott was about to reach ASU's 15-yard line, UA guard Cayman Bundage was knocked to the ground, impeding Scott's path.

"I still don't really know what happened," Scott told me after practice last week. "Everything happened so fast."

Here's what happened: The Curse struck Scott the way it struck Tom Tunnicliffe in 1983, Alfred Jenkins in 1986, Dan White in 1994, Keith Smith in 1999, Ortege Jenkins in 2000, Willie Tuitama in 2008 and Nick Foles in 2011.

Slowing a bit, Scott jumped over Bundage, momentarily leaving himself and the ball unprotected. At precisely that moment, ASU safety Keelan Johnson delivered a devastating hit that separated Scott and the football. ASU recovered, drove for a tying touchdown and the game's momentum was forever changed. ASU won 41-34.

"I felt like my only option was to (jump over Bundage)," Scott remembers. "But that probably wasn't the smartest thing to do."

Like Tunnicliffe in '83, Smith in '98 and Tuitama in 2008, Scott was named the second team all-conference quarterback. It's a curse, I'm telling you. Oregon freshman Marcus Mariota became the all-league QB almost by default.

I'm convinced of this: Arizona will never go to the Rose Bowl until it has the league's top QB, and although the '12 Wildcats aren't close to that timber, it would've been a breakthrough, a curse-breaker, a precedent that would've put RichRod's team on course to play in Pasadena on New Year's Day.

Some Red Sox fans believe the Curse of the Bambino was finally broken when a Boston cap was planted at the top of Mount Everest. What will Arizona need to do, attach a copper helmet to the Statue of Liberty's torch?

Scott explained his team's relegation to the New Mexico Bowl by saying "it's kind of our fault," but there's more to it. There's The Curse.

In '83, with UA ranked No. 3 in the preseason, Tunnicliffe's senior season was scuttled when the NCAA imposed a bowl ban, making the Cats ineligible for the Rose Bowl and striking a psychological blow from which the '83 team didn't recover.

In '94, holding a 20-17 lead at Cal with 3:45 left, killing the clock, one win from the Rose Bowl, White's pass to Terry Vaughn inexplicably bounced into the hands of Cal's Eric Zomalt, who sped 35 yards for the Rose Bowl-denying touchdown.

It was always something unexpected.

Tuitama's career was truncated by a series of concussions. Foles' senior season, in which he threw for a school record, almost a bazillion yards, was destroyed by a mid-season firing of the head coach. In the talent-rich period of 1998-2000, Arizona had one too many starting QBs, Smith and Jenkins, who split the job and, ultimately, the team and their individual developments.

In '86, Alfred Jenkins was benched by disciplinary issues during a 9-3 season, one that might've been closer to 11-1 and the Rose Bowl had he reached his potential. And during the Desert Swarm era, always on the brink of a Rose Bowl, White was handicapped when, unaccountably, the UA appointed its secondary coach to design an offense and call plays.

If that's not a curse, what is?

It's maddening.

Arizona has been coached by Mike Tuiasosopo, whose nephew, Marques Tuiasosopo was the All-Pac-10 QB in 2000, and it has been coached by Scott Pelluer, whose brother, Steve Pelluer, was the All-Pac-10 QB in 1983.

Arizona has been coached by Willie Peete, whose son, Rodney Peete, was the All-Pac-10 QB in 1988. It has had on its roster quarterback Andrew McDonald, whose father, Paul McDonald, was the 1979 All-Pac-10 QB. And it had Tuitama, whose uncle, Jack Thompson, was the All-Pac-10 QB in 1978.

So close.

On Nov. 23, Matt Scott was at ASU's 15-yard line, first down, clock ticking, game almost won.

And yet so far.

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