HANSEN

Greg Hansen: Rodriguez knows rout doesn't always seal next win

2012-09-08T00:00:00Z 2012-12-14T11:24:59Z Greg Hansen: Rodriguez knows rout doesn't always seal next winGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 08, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Dear Mr. Football: If you beat someone, anyone, even Savannah State, 84-0, can you possibly lose a week later?

A: This is my keep-your-money-safely-under-your-pillow-and-don't-bet-on-college football tip of the week: In 2001, Rich Rodriguez's first West Virginia team pummeled Rutgers 80-7.

A week later, WVU lost 24-13 to Syracuse. Not only that, the Orange then lost 59-0 a week later to Miami.

Only three FBS teams have even scored 80 this century: West Virginia in 2001; Wisconsin, 83-20 over Indiana in 2010; and Oklahoma State's 84-0 squeaker over Savannah State.

The Cowboys know how fickle this game can be. Last November, after humbling Texas Tech 66-6, moving to 10-0, creating chatter of a possible national championship, the Okies were a 27-point favorite at Iowa State - and lost 37-31 in two overtimes.

Dear Mr. Football: Does the UA have any insider information on OSU true freshman quarterback Wes Lunt?

A: In the winter of 2010-11, UA co-offensive coordinator Rod Smith, then at Indiana, hung out with Lunt on the Hoosiers' annual Junior Day recruiting event. Lunt, who is from Rochester, Ill., and had received scholarship offers from Illinois, Michigan State, Virginia and Northwestern, among others, must've been surprised when Smith did not ask him to play for the QB-needy Hoosiers.

"We didn't offer him because he's a true drop-back guy," said Smith. "I thought he was good, but we wanted a guy with a little more mobility."

Dear Mr. Football: Does Lunt's college debut - 11-for-11 passing - mean that the Hoosiers blew it and that Lunt will be the Next Big Thing?

A: If anyone has experience with true freshman QBs starting on opening day, it's Smith and RichRod. In 2009 at Michigan, opening day, the Wolverines started much-ballyhooed true freshman Tate Forcier. He was sensational, passing for 179 yards and three TDs in a victory over Western Michigan. Forcier then led Michigan to a 4-0 start, including a star-is-born comeback win against Notre Dame.

But by year's end, Forcier threw four interceptions against Ohio State (and lost a fumble in the end zone) as the Wolverines went 0-7 in the Big Ten stretch drive; he became academically ineligible, transferred to Miami (Fla.), and then San Jose State, never played a down at either place, and failed in a tryout in the CFL this summer.

I'm not saying Forcier got Rodriguez fired at Michigan, but I'm not saying he didn't, either. But I am saying debuts are overrated.

Dear Mr. Football: The Daily Oklahoman reported that it was 127 degrees on the turf at kickoff of the Savannah State game. Were they playing in Yuma? Gila Bend? Can it ever get that hot here?

A: One of the not-so-happy discoveries at the UA-Toledo game - the first in enclosed Arizona Stadium - was that it felt like Stillwater, Okla. No breeze gets in from the north end zone any more.

I suspect the exodus of about 20,000 people from the stadium early in the second half had as much to do with the heat index (it was 93 degrees at kickoff) than the noise of the killer video board and the dawdling pace of a 3-hour-47-minute game. It's often been unreasonably hot at Arizona Stadium. In 1989 against Oklahoma it was 101, and it was also 101 at kickoff in 1986 against Houston, the highest recorded kickoff temperatures in Arizona's Pac-12 years.

But Dick Tomey said the hottest he ever felt during a game was at Penn State in 1999, when the recorded kickoff temp was a mere 83 degrees. But the Nittany Lions' stadium is fully enclosed, there was no breeze, and the humidity felt like something out of the Everglades.

Dear Mr. Football: Is Taimi Tutogi, a fullback/outside linebacker, really the first Wildcat to play both ways extensively since the demise of two-platoon football in 1965?

A: Several Wildcats have played both sides of the ball periodically over the last 47 years, but nothing noteworthy or extended.

In 1967, defensive tackle Mike Moody was switched to offensive tackle and often gets credit as a two-way player.

"After the first game of my junior year, they decided they needed to replace the offensive tackle on the weak side and asked me if I could play offense," says Moody, now an attorney in Anchorage, Alaska. "My senior year, I moved to offensive guard. But I never played both ways in a game. My hat is off to anyone who can do it these days."

Actually, Moody was a two-way player: a football player of considerable skill (second-team All-WAC lineman) and a 3.7 GPA student who earned an NCAA postgraduate scholarship award.

Dear Mr. Football: What is the difference in RichRod's sideline demeanor as compared to Mount Vesuvius Stoops?

A: Rodriguez had angry moments against Toledo - what football coach doesn't? - but he waited to confront his players until they were on the sideline, mixed in a crowd, not on the turf, in full camera view, as Stoops would. RichRod was miffed that receiver Richard Morrison dropped a sure touchdown pass, and fumbled another, but you didn't get news-at-10 footage of the coach scolding him.

"I talked to Richard and it wasn't a nice, quiet, holding-hands moment," said Rodriguez. "None of our kids are screwing up on purpose. He's a good kid; he'll be OK."

Dear Mr. Football: What's the biggest difference between Oklahoma State and Arizona?

A: The Cowboys return all three starting linebackers: Shaun Lewis, Caleb Lavey and Alex Elkins. They have a combined 296 career tackles.

Lewis is an All-American-level player. Lavey was such a good prospect that RichRod offered him a scholarship during Michigan's 2009 season. And Elkins, who was at Texas' Blinn College, a place where Arizona used to get some useful recruits, didn't consider playing for the Wildcats. If you put those three players in Arizona's linebackers-challenged lineup, the Wildcats could win this game.

Dear Mr. Football: Are you saying the UA can't win this game?

A: The Wildcats need to win six of their eight home games this year because it's extremely unlikely they'll win any of the four road games - against UCLA, Stanford, Oregon or Utah. The swing games appear to be Washington and Arizona State. Win those and the Wildcats are apt to finish 6-6 and play in an off-the-grid bowl game in some place like Albuquerque.

Beating the Cowboys has never been part of the equation in RichRod's first season. If the Wildcats play relatively well, keep Matt Scott healthy and don't lose 84-0, it'll be a small victory. Cowboys roll, 43-27. Bring on the Huskies.

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