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Greg Hansen: Short of blizzardy, icy conditions, Cats shouldn't have problem with weather

2012-11-17T00:00:00Z 2012-11-20T10:44:46Z Greg Hansen: Short of blizzardy, icy conditions, Cats shouldn't have problem with weatherGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 17, 2012 12:00 am  • 

SALT LAKE CITY

Dear Mr. Football: Was Utah tailback John White IV serious when he told local reporters, "We can have a blizzard; it wouldn't bother me?"

A: Unless it's the Ice Bowl in Green Bay and your nose turns blue, the most overblown item in football is cold-field advantage. In the coldest game of its Pac-12 years - kickoff temperature 39 degrees at Washington State in 1986 - Arizona rolled 31-6.

Ironically, the coldest game in modern UA football was played at Utah's Rice Stadium on Nov. 4, 1972, when a snowstorm blew through the Wasatch Range, and game time temperature was 34.

The Wildcats roared to a 27-0 lead and most of the small, parka-wearing crowd of 19,238 exited the snow-choked stadium early in the second half.

Before the 1994 Arizona-Utah Freedom Bowl, I interviewed Utah's 1972 QB, Don Van Galder, who told me for a pre-game story: "People would come up to me for weeks and say they had gone home, listening to the fourth quarter on the car radio. It was that bad. My attitude was, 'Hey, let's get 'em next week.'"

Oops.

Utah scored four touchdowns in the final 12:28, winning 28-27, which was then the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in NCAA history. It was called the Miracle of the Seagulls II, as hundreds of gulls (named the state bird for saving Mormon pioneers' crops by eating insects) invaded the bleachers after fans left.

Dear Mr. Football: Did UA's Ka'Deem Carey get celebrity treatment for breaking the Pac-12 rushing record?

A: Aside from an on-field interview by FX, Ka'Boom was mostly ignored by ESPN and everyone outside of Pima County.

When Jim Upchurch set the UA's rushing record, 232 yards, in 1973, school president John Schaefer hustled to the locker room and had his picture taken with the overnight hero.

Upchurch had broken Art Luppino's seemingly unbreakable 1953 record of 228 yards when fellow starting halfback Willie Hamilton left the game in the first quarter with a shoulder injury. What's more, Upchurch was removed from the game, a blowout over UTEP, early in the fourth quarter.

But when coach Jim Young was told Upchurch needed 3 yards to break Luppino's record, Upchurch, a junior transfer from UCLA, returned for two additional carries.

Dear Mr. Football: What happened to the man whose Pac-12 rushing record Ka'Boom broke?

A: Rueben Mayes was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, played in two NFL Pro Bowls and today, at 49, is regional director of development at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eugene, Ore.

At Washington State, Mayes was part of the 1984 RPM backfield with Mark Rypien and Kerry Porter. When Mayes, who rushed 39 times for 357 yards against Oregon that year, played with RPM in Tucson, he gained 52 yards and RPM blew an engine, losing 12-7.

Dear Mr. Football: Minus Matt Scott, did Rich Rodriguez engineer one of his top coaching performances against Colorado?

A: RichRod said his offensive approach against CU was "the simplest game scheme I've used in maybe 20 years."

He won't be that predictable tonight, although there's no real history about how he reacts to a record performance such as Carey's. When RichRod coached at West Virginia in 2004, his tailback, Kay-Jay Harris set the school and Big East rushing records in the opener against East Carolina, gaining 337 yards. A week later, with a leg injury, Harris did not play. Nor did he even gain 1,000 yards that season, finishing with 959.

Dear Mr. Football: What's the big difference between Utah and Arizona?

A: The Utes are loaded with 23 junior college transfers; Arizona has eight JC transfers on scholarship.

The only Pac-12 team of the last 30 years to regularly win with a high number of transfers was Washington State's teams of Mike Price. Ex-Stanford coach Bill Walsh once arrogantly said you could "hose off" Arizona because they had so many JC transfers. But even former UA coach Dick Tomey rarely deployed more than six or eight transfers.

The Utes will ultimately have to make a recruiting transition to the two-star and three-star recruits available to them in California and Texas rather than rely on so many JC players. The only nationally prominent school to use transfers prolifically is Kansas State.

Dear Mr. Football: What do Utah and Arizona most have in common?

A: They might be the most quarterback-poor schools in the FBS.

Sure, Utah put No. 1 overall draft pick Alex Smith in the NFL a few years ago, but before that, the Utes didn't have a first-team all-conference quarterback for 31 years, dating to Don Van Galder in 1972.

Arizona's last all-conference (WAC) quarterback was Bruce Hill, 1975.

Dear Mr. Football: Is this really the worst defense in UA history?

A: Statistically, at 491 yards per game, yes.

But here's a better barometer: Arizona defensive coaches did not select a defensive Player of the Week against Oregon State, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA or Colorado. That's probably unprecedented here or anywhere.

Part of it is that, of Arizona's 110 possible starts by defensive players this season, five have been filled by seniors. "Last week we had no (defensive) guys we thought played winning football," RichRod said.

The translation of these defensive messages is that Utah, which gained just 209 yards against Arizona State in a 37-7 loss, should be able to double that tonight. Utah is apt to score 30 or more.

It's not expected to snow, but I suspect the Wildcats will be frozen by their inability to stop an otherwise undistinguished Utah offense. If Arizona wins this game, two things become possible: RichRod as Pac-12 Coach of the Year and Matt Scott as the Pac-12's first-team quarterback.

That would be Miracle of the Seagulls III. Wildcats 30, Utes 27.

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